... that the sixth Harry Potter book was published today. I don't even know if it was released in Cyprus. The Greek version won't be available until late Autumn, apparently, though I'm sure the English one will sooner or later.
However I couldn't forget about it for long, as it seems to be the main topic of discussion on many forums and blogs today. Not surprising, I suppose: it has been an astoundingly successful series. Personally I think all the hype is ridiculous - encouraging children to queue up for hours just to get a copy at midnight, or pre-ordering online so as to have the book the day it's published. Not to mention all the extra marketing junk that's grown up around this series.
But I do like the books. Sooner or later, we'll probably get the new one. I know there are some Christians who would consider me a heretic - or worse - for thinking they're good books. But then most of the hype against them is (in my opinion) just as ridiculous as the manufacturing hype surrounding them. I found an excellent, well-balanced article here which talks about positive ways in which Christian parents can use the series. Not by banning them, or insisting they're full of every kind of evil, but by talking about them, seeing the good themes (of which there are many) and realising, most of all, that they're fiction.
Why is there such a huge reaction against these books, yet few people seem to worry about witches or wizards in - say - JRR Tolkien's work, or Terry Pratchett's, or the classic children's book and film, The Wizard of Oz? As far as I understand it, it all started back in 2000 when the satirical online newspaper The Onion posted an article saying that children reading these books were turning to satanism. Not actually a funny suggestion, but it was written in such an over-the-top way (with ridiculous pictures) that nobody in their right mind would take it seriously. The whole site is full of spoofs, some of them in very bad taste - it's not something I generally read at all. But I certainly wouldn't believe anything I read there.
Unfortunately, some people did believe it. Email messages started circulating, blowing the entire thing out of proportion. And then, of course, people who had never even heard of the books before, or hadn't bothered reading them, decided to find out what the fuss was about. Here's a summary on Snopes of what happened. I expect the publishers were delighted: controversy like this was bound to multiply their sales hugely, and that's what happened.
So Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is out, and apparently will answer some questions from the previous novels. I'm somewhat intrigued, and am sure it will be a good read. I expect my sons will enjoy it too. Perhaps I'll read it aloud to them when Dan gets back from Africa in late August. But even if we're in the UK when the seventh and final book comes out, I won't be queuing at midnight for it.