Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire J.K. Rowling Scholastic 734 pp., $25.95
I have a confession: I expected this review to be titled "Harry Potter and the Curse of the Bestseller List." Potter-mania has reached such absurd proportions, there seemed to be no way the book (despite its Hagridesque dimensions) could equal expectations. I was wrong.
The chapter on the World Quidditch Cup is far more exhilarating than any Super Bowl game, and the triwizard championship offers plenty of soaring fantasy - and a chance for Harry and the readers to learn about the other schools of wizardry. Rowling also gets in a few well-placed jabs at newspaper reporters and resolves forever the question of how to pronounce Hermione's name (for those not up to page 419, it's "her-my-oh-nee").
As Harry gets older, his world gets bigger and the challenges he faces grow darker and more real - as they must if he is to become a true hero. But what makes perfect literary sense also puts this book squarely in the young-adult realm. In plain English, it's just too scary for kids under 12. (I know, I know, what does some stupid adult know, especially one who would use a phrase like "perfect literary sense.") It's also true that there's no way kids are going to put the books down for a year or two, so at the least, I'd recommend parents read the last 100 pages with anyone under 5 feet.
A final plea: Unless the Dursleys are going to develop as characters, or at least become important to the plot, could Harry please spend vacations somewhere else? At this point, the reader finds herself in the unexpected (and unwelcome) position of feeling sorry for poor flabby Dudley, who keeps getting picked on by all these wizards.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society