A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
J.K. Rowling borrows from many established stories and myths to piece together her magical world. Kids can look up more about centaurs, elves, giants, hippogriffs, boggarts, magic wands, flying brooms, etc., compare the author's take with other interpretations, and think about how and why she weaves these magical elements and beings into her stories.
The whole series is full of positive messages about the power of love, friendship, and self-sacrifice. In this book, how do you rebel against unjust authority successfully? Not through angry outbursts, but through teamwork, skill, and smarts (and a bit of mischief for good measure). The wise Sorting Hat reminds Hogwarts students that they must unite against evil or they will crumble from within. Hermione reminds everyone not to leave homework until the last minute. Also, respect and show empathy for all creatures.
Positive Role Models
Harry is really angry in this book, at his cruel aunt and uncle, and then at the Ministry of Magic and Professor Umbridge, for calling him a liar and lying to the public about Voldemort's return. He begins the book in trouble all the time for his temper and slowly learns how to channel that anger into something positive: training his fellow students how to fight the dark arts. He becomes a leader and a teacher in this group of students and is proud of his pupils. He also takes the opportunity when it arises to tell the truth to anyone who would listen. Ron learns his own lessons in this book about not getting rattled and building confidence in himself on the Quidditch pitch. Neville also shows the first signs of the hero he will become with his fierce determination to learn and his bravery when faced with the enemy. Adults in the Order of the Phoenix look out for Harry and friends, though the usually reliable Dumbledore is pretty absent from Harry's life in this book until the end.
There's a little diversity at Hogwarts. Lee Jordan is described as having dreadlocks and Angelina Johnson, now Gryffindor Quidditch Captain, is Black. Kingsley Shacklebolt in the Order of the Phoenix is also Black. Harry dates Cho Chang and the Patil twins are both in Dumbledore's Army. Many characters face discrimination in the wizarding world, especially for not being "pure-blood," or in Hagrid's case, for being part giant. Some diverse family structures are described: Harry lives with his aunt and uncle and Neville with his grandmother. Ron's insecurity over being from a poorer family comes up a lot. Women have prominent roles at Hogwarts: Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout are both heads of houses, Professor Umbridge works high up in the Ministry of Magic, plus there are plenty of girls on the Quidditch house teams. Some negative language regarding the body type of Dudley and his father and Malfoy's Slytherin friends Crabbe and Goyle.
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Violence & Scariness
An adult major character dies and is heavily mourned. Another is brutally attacked by a snake and almost dies. Students fight adults and are injured (knocked out, broken nose, broken ankle) and tortured with a curse that causes intense pain. Students' hands scar and bleed during Professor Umbridge's detention. Fistfights and spooky Dementors try to suck out a soul. One teacher is knocked out by a spell, two teachers are attacked by wizards and centaurs, another remembers his childhood of being bullied. A giant is pelted with arrows, an owl gets a broken wing. Stories of giants beheaded and fighting. Stories of men possessed and a hospital patient being strangled by a plant. Many stories about how many died or were tortured the last time Voldemort was in power, including Harry's parents.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Student couples kiss in a tea shop with lots of talk about who's going out with whom. Ron makes a joke about Uranus.
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"Damn," "dammit," and "hell," said rarely. "Effing" said once, spelled like that.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several references to the drunkenness of minor characters (Winky the house elf, Professor Trelawney, Hagrid, Rita Skeeter) and a scene with children in a bar, where it's implied that the shady bartender might be willing to serve them alcohol. A brief mention that Dudley is smoking on street corners with his friends, Professor Grubbly-Plant smokes a pipe, and Mundungus smokes a pipe until Molly Weasley tells him to put it away. Adults drink wine with dinner.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series about an orphan boy at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As in Book 4, a major character dies at the end, but this time it's an adult and he's heavily mourned. Another adult is brutally attacked by a snake and almost dies. Students fight adults and are injured (knocked out, broken nose, broken ankle) and tortured with a curse that causes intense pain. And during Professor Umbridge's detention, students' hands scar and bleed thanks to her special pen for writing lines. There are fistfights, and spooky Dementors who try to suck out a soul. One teacher is knocked out by a spell, two teachers are attacked by wizards and centaurs, and another teacher remembers his childhood of being bullied. Harry and friends hear many stories about how many died or were tortured the last time Voldemort was in power, including Harry's parents. Harry is 15 now and dating, and at one point he's surrounded by kissing couples at a tea shop. Language is pretty mild with mostly "damn." A few minor characters drink heavily and smoke a little. Most readers comment about how angry Harry seems in this book. At the start of Order of the Phoenix, he's in trouble all the time for his temper, but he slowly learns how to channel that anger into something positive: training his fellow students how to fight the dark arts. He becomes a leader and a teacher in this group of students and is proud of his pupils. Parents who want to learn more about the series (and spin-off movies and games) can read our Harry Potter by Age and Stage article.
Is It Any Good?
This exciting installment pits Harry against inept politicians, cruel teachers, and his number-one foe, Voldemort, who is indeed back no matter what the Ministry says. Harry faces so many trials this challenging school year, many thanks to the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and toad-like Ministry toadie, Dolores Umbridge. She seems determined to get that "liar" Harry Potter expelled, or almost worse, off the Gryffindor Quidditch team for good. Harry can't control his temper whenever the aptly named Umbridge is around. He also can't seem to control his own body and emotions, a development both fascinating and frightening. Harry has repetitive dreams of long hallways and locked doors, sudden bursts of feeling that aren't his, and a regular prickling sensation in his scar. He suspects his connection to Voldemort has grown stronger with his return and is proven right when, in his sleep, Harry witnesses -- and is unwittingly a part of -- a vicious attack. Readers will be worrying as Harry does just how deep the connection goes and who will get attacked next.
They'll have to wait a bit to uncover that mystery. The school year is a busy one in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, what with the first real exams looming, Harry's attempts at dating, and super-secret meetings of a Defense Against the Dark Arts club -- Hermione's brilliant idea. And then there are the Weasley twins' rebellious antics that provide one of the most satisfying cheer-out-loud moments of the entire series. If only Harry's fifth year could end on that high note, but when has a year at Hogwarts ever ended peaceably? The inevitable showdown is a nail-biter, and even more exciting because Harry's got a crew of friends along to fight with him – hooray for Neville, Luna, and Ginny. And in the wake of another tragic loss, it's finally time for Dumbledore to tell all he knows. It's a startling revelation that sets up the even more intense showdowns in the Harry Potter books to come. Get ready.
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