A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two is the script of a play performed first in London in 2016. The story takes place 19 years after the big Hogwarts battle in Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, the concluding Book 7 of the core Potter series. It's hard to assign the best age for this play for a few reasons. The play format may be a hard transition for some readers who aren't used to slowing down and imagining characters on a set. Also, with near constant references to the past, readers need to be familiar with the entire Harry Potter series to keep up. We recommend Book 7 for ages 12 and up because of its intense battles and themes. While many of these themes are still present in this play, they get a lighter touch because of this dialogue-heavy format. There's still some violence, however. A student dies from a killing curse, a boy's mother dies from a long illness, Dementors suck out souls, a curse inflicts pain, an arm is broken and repaired magically, and some magical fighting with wands results in minor injuries. Flashes to the past or alternate presents talk of muggles blown up and tortured, and there's much talk of the death of the student Cedric Diggory from Book 4 and the death of Harry's parents at the hands of Voldemort when he was a baby. Despite Harry Potter hogging the title, the main characters here are his son, Albus, and Draco Malfoy's son, Scorpius. Their friendship keeps them grounded most of the time, but Albus' need to be something more than the weird middle child and his impulsive streak cause the pair to make a string of serious mistakes. Even as only an imprint of his former self in a talking portrait, Dumbledore offers the best advice to floundering parents Harry and Draco about teaching kids resilience instead of constantly trying to protect them from harm.
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What's the story?
IN HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, middle child Albus Potter just doesn't fit in at Hogwarts. For one thing, who could imagine a Potter in Slytherin? And how could anyone imagine his best friend would be a boy named Scorpius, a Malfoy? Albus' dad just doesn't get him and doesn't get what it means to be in the shadow of the famous Harry Potter -- Albus never wanted any of that. The night before the train back to Hogwarts, Albus overhears his father arguing with a now elderly Amos Diggory. Amos heard a rumor that a Time Turner was found and implores that they use it to go back and save his son Cedric, whose murder was ordered by Voldemort decades ago. Harry won't even hear him out or admit that the Time Turner exists. Albus, sure his father is lying, thinks it's unfair and wants to be the one to help. On the train to Hogwarts, Albus and Scorpius make a break for it, intending to find the Time Turner in his Aunt Hermione's office and go back in time to the Triwizard Tournament. If Cedric doesn't win with Harry, he can't be killed and Amos gets his son back. But, of course, with all plans to alter time, even for the right reasons, things can go horribly, horribly wrong. Like, Voldemort-never-died horribly wrong.
Is it any good?
Once readers get accustomed to the more sparsely detailed play format, most will come away happy to have spent more time in Harry's world. Reading scripts is a slower business, taking time to imagine how each scene is set before digging into the dialogue; a lot happens with only a few stage directions and scene changes. This story really plays with time, moving forward in Albus' first few years of Hogwarts, exploring Harry Potter's nightmares of the past, and eventually visiting scenes from past books and scary alternate presents. (Voldemort is back? Nooooo!)
Seeing it all come together onstage would be a marvel. Getting to the climax of the story without actors in front of you is still nail-biting. It's always hard to imagine how any time travel screwup can really be fixed, and the stakes are pretty high here. Mix that with a bit of humor (one alternate present isn't so kind to Ron and Hermione) and some poignant parenting lessons (even for Draco!), and there's quite a bit to take away from four acts. Plus there are plenty of "how on earth would they do that on a stage?" moments to ponder until readers get lucky enough to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child performed onstage.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Harry Potter world in play form. Was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child easy to follow as a play or much harder? Did you feel as engaged as you were with the book format? Did you have to change the way you read the play versus the novels to take it all in?
How have Harry, Ron, Hermione, and even Draco changed as adults? Are you still interested in them as adult characters, or has your focus shifted more to Albus and Scorpius? Parents reading along: Who are your favorite characters?
Does this script make you want to see this play performed onstage? Are there some stage directions in the script that seem too hard to translate to a stage -- such as, say, transfiguration? How do you think they did it in performance?
- Authors: J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
- Publication date: July 31, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 19, 2020
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