Whimsy Scribble

A Word About The Cursed Child

Lifestyle, Scribbler's SuggestionsMichela Mastellone-Schottman1 Comment

Yes, I'm an adult and yes, I want to take a moment to briefly reflect on the newest Harry Potter book. I'm a true Harry Potter fan. While I've never dressed up for a book release and I have little interest in the world of Harry Potter fandom, I was 11 years old when the first book came out: the perfect age to get hooked. Since then, I have read the entire series multiple times (as well as listened to the audiobooks all through more than once), and within the last few years have had a full Harry Potter movie marathon with a friend. 

I don't want to get too much into my feelings about Harry Potter in general as I know that people have some very strong feelings related to the books vs the movies. All I will say is that regardless of how you feel about Harry Potter, the book series provided something very important to a huge number of children and young adults. While I was always a big reader and had a few series I loved and related to, I don't know how common that is for all kids and I think it is really valuable to learn how to read a book with such intensity that you are absorbed in the world and can extrapolate personality traits of the characters and can easily imagine yourself transported into their world. The Harry Potter series provided that to a generation in need of something a little more updated than the Redwall series. I imagine too that there must be a benefit to a child being able to conquer reading a 700 page book on their own.  I hoped that Harry Potter would continue to be that door into the literary world for kids, but unfortunately I'm not sure how true that is. More and more I hear of people younger than I that have never actually read a Harry Potter book and have only seen the movies. I enjoy the movies, sure, but they are not particularly great as stand alone movies - they are much better in my opinion to be viewed as supplements to the book series. A movie is a great option when you need a fix of that magical world without the time commitment of reading a book, but it is certainly no substitute.

And so here is where my opinion on the most recent book comes in (or should I say script?). For those who are unfamiliar, the newest book: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is actually a script for a play (yes, a play not a movie, which I will get to...). It is in the same Harry Potter world, but it picks up where the final book leaves off: 19 years later with adult versions of Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione along with their now Hogwarts aged children. 

A major concern for me and other Harry Potter fans I've talked with was how the newest book would fit into the already well established magical world of the series. Well, it certainly fit in, but I will argue that it is simply because nothing new was created. I feel like the story fell back on magic we had already been introduced to as a way of not only avoiding thinking of an equally incredible NEW magical phenomenon but also as a way of not needing to actually explain anything. The script largely focuses on past events we are familiar with from the series (the Triwizard Tournament for example) and chooses to make a time-turner the magical focus, something all Harry Potter fans became very familiar with during the third book. In this way, much of the Cursed Child felt like it was just pulling bits and pieces from different books and somehow poorly summarizing the entire series into this one odd stage show. 

So about this stage show....I don't really get it. The script is written for the stage. In fact, there are even credits listed in the back of the book for what I assume is the cast and crew of the London play. I briefly looked at the play's website and it's even stranger than I thought - it is actually split into 2 plays intended to be seen on the same day or consecutive evenings. I had originally thought that perhaps a Harry Potter play would start to become a staple in elementary schools, but there is no way that this play was ever intended to actually be accessible for people to preform. They must have an extraordinary budget to be able to follow the absurd stage directions in the script. There is an entire scene which consists of nothing but stage directions of multiple moving staircases, and many times magic is written into the stage directions, such as a green beam shooting out of a wand and someone flying backwards.

Not only is it an impractical play, but while reading the script, all I could think about was how it did not read like a play at all, but rather a movie. The more I thought about it, the more I noticed how many of the scenes mimicked scenes from the Harry Potter movies. At first this annoyed me as I felt like I was reading scenes I had already seen in the movies, but then I started to think of that as a benefit of the book. Maybe this is the bridge that kids need between the movies that they love and the magical book series. While I dislike that the script format doesn't allow for too much elaborate description, I imagine that many people have never read a script. Perhaps reading this script, which pulls so much on visual discriptives we all have from the movie series, will prompt kids to try out the book series next and let their imaginations do a little more work. 

So overall, the book is nothing special. There is a mildly interesting Harry Potter type adventure that pulls the story together, but it is far less exciting or developed than the missions I've come to expect from Harry Potter. While this is technically being referred to as the 8th book in the series, I think true Harry Potter fans might be better off thinking of this book fitting in more with the other books related to the series, such as The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Certainly Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is worth reading as it won't take you much more than a lazy afternoon to get through it. While I was definitely a little disappointed with the story itself, I still have high hopes that it might help bring a little love back to the original book series.