Is there a statute of limitations on "Harry Potter" spoiler alerts?

Maybe I'm being unreasonable, but I really don't want my kids to learn all the secrets of the "Harry Potter" books before they read them.

Now both my 8-year-old and my 4-year-old know what happens in the sixth "Harry Potter" book – even though my 8-year-old is still reading "Harry Potter" No. 5.

Spoiler alert: If you don’t want to know what happens in "Harry Potter" Book No. 6 ("Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"), stop reading now.

OK, thank you. For the rest of you, let’s debate this question: Is there a statute of limitations on spoiler alerts?

I ask because my 8-year-old son is only reading "Harry Potter" Book No. 5 ("Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"), published in 2003, but he already knows that Dumbledore gets killed off in Book No. 6, published in 2005. His best friend, who has read the whole series, told him the news. And, since my boy announced the fact in the car when driving home from his friend’s house, his 4-year-old brother also knows. (It’s not as big a deal when you can’t read, but still.)

I don’t know if it’s reasonable for me to feel so annoyed, to try to deflect the information with a lofty “Well, you won’t really know until you read it for yourself.” Dumbledore met his doom a full six years ago, after all. How long is it supposed to be a secret?

But I still feel there’s a code of honor when it comes to plot twists, especially when we’re talking about a classic story. (Our family didn’t see the screen version of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” for instance, because it didn’t seem fair to rob the 4-year-old of seeing the story unfold for the first time on the page someday.) I forced my older son to go slow on the "Harry Potter" series, holding him at the earlier books long after his friends, because I felt he was too young to understand the story. I still think he’s too young to appreciate it or get the plot nuances, really, but he’s enjoying it – and he’s glad that he’s finally allowed to read what his friends are reading.

His friend is also almost 9, and I know she didn’t mean any harm. She just wanted to share her excitement about a series she also loves. And I guess it’s natural for kids to want to tell secrets – to revel in important knowledge. Isn’t that – and isn’t true friendship – part of the attraction of the "Potter" books themselves?

I’m going to ask my son to keep the knowledge to himself around others who haven’t read the series, though. I’ll hope his little brother soon forgets what he’s heard. And the next time the friends are playing, maybe we can steer the conversation to secrets we wouldn’t mind him learning. I’m still not sure about books, but after all these years, I do think the statute of limitations has arrived for the Tooth Fairy.

Seattle writer Rebekah Denn blogs at

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