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LOOKING FOR GOD IN HARRY POTTER
John Granger
Tyndale/SaltRiver
Inspiration
ISBN: 1414300913

In recent years, John Granger, a homeschooling father and self-publisher with an impeccable background in classical languages and literature, has become widely known as an authority on the Harry Potter book series. His expertise is ironic on one level; living in an intentionally television-free household, he knew nothing of Pottermania until after the fourth book released. Even then, he ignored the books, largely because the person who first mentioned them to him was a bit of a New-Ager whose reading preferences ran counter to his traditional Christian sensibilities. On another level, though, Granger's ability to speak and write with authority on J.K. Rowling's series is entirely understandable, given the wealth of classical allusions in her writings --- allusions that Granger immediately spotted when he gave in and read the books after an evangelical Christian recommended them to him.

What Granger discovered is that the Potter series presents a wholly Christian worldview, despite the magic and sorcery and incantations and all manner of evils that make Christian parents shudder. He addresses their concerns from an intelligent and faith-filled perspective, being a parent who shares those concerns and who takes great care to protect his seven children from occult influences. But to Granger, the Christian message in the series is so profound and so apparent that he was surprised to realize that so few Christians recognized it --- and that so many Christians denounced the series, attacked its author, and forbade their children from reading the books.

With LOOKING FOR GOD IN HARRY POTTER --- a rewrite of his self-published THE HIDDEN KEY TO HARRY POTTER, revamped and refocused specifically for the Christian market --- Granger not only sets the record straight but also tells it straight: "Christians, of all people, should be celebrating the Harry Potter novels and the attendant Potter-mania. The Potter books are the most edifying works of fiction written in many years, as any classicist, medievalist, or lover of traditional English plays and novels might tell you…[they] touch our hearts because they contain themes, imagery, and engaging stories that echo the Great Story we are wired to receive and respond to."

Granger first presents a thorough, biblically based defense regarding the use of magic in the series and explains why it should not be a stumbling block for Christian readers. He then examines some of the themes in the books that should resonate with Christians --- the basic conflict between good and evil; life, death, and resurrection; transformation; the dual nature of humankind; prejudice; love; and many more. He offers an analysis of much of the symbolism in the books and the meanings behind many of the characters' names. He looks at the debate over worthwhile versus dangerous literature and writes about the literary elements and theological concepts readers need to look for. In short, Granger covers a lot of bases.

One section from THE HIDDEN KEY that did not make the cut in LOOKING FOR GOD is a delightful look at other books about the Potter series. THE HIDDEN KEY is perhaps the best self-published book I've read to date, and one of my favorite sections was Granger's take on books that are either critical of the series or that attempt to analyze it. He even rated his own book. It probably doesn't belong in this volume, but if you ever come across the first book, it's worth looking at that section.

To me, there's no question that LOOKING FOR GOD IN HARRY POTTER is an important addition to the wealth of commentary on this all-time bestselling book series. In Granger's book, Christian parents will discover a depth and range of insight that will help them make an intelligent, well thought-out decision regarding the value of the series and its use in their homes. Just as important, they may find that they've acquired a new set of skills with which to more accurately judge controversial books in the future.

   --- Reviewed by Marcia Ford (misfit@marciaford.com)

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