A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that brilliant plotting and pacing and increasingly rich characterizations will keep kids enthralled. Kids will be upset when a teen character dies, and sensitive readers may have trouble with the idea of a hand being severed and Harry's capture and torture. Since the characters are 14, they're starting to notice the opposite sex; J.K. Rowling handles this well. This fourth book in the series keeps the positive messages of friendship and loyalty going strong. 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.
What's the story?
After attending the Quidditch World Cup, where Voldemort's followers, the Death Eaters, cause a riot, Harry heads to Hogwarts for his fourth year of wizard study. There, Headmaster Dumbledore announces that instead of the usual interhouse Quidditch matches, Hogwarts will host the Triwizard Tournament. This competition between the great wizard schools of Europe has not been held for centuries because of the high death toll. The magic Goblet of Fire chooses one champion to represent each school, but somehow Harry is also chosen, even though he is underage and Hogwarts already has a champion. Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, suspects that this is another plot against Harry's life. As Voldemort is returning to his full power, and complex and deadly schemes are in motion, few people are who they seem to be, and even Dumbledore's protection may not be enough to keep Harry safe this time.
Is it any good?
Rowling is one of the great masters of plotting; throughout the incredible length of this novel, the pace only flags once. Once again the story seems to go in a dozen directions at first, with many seemingly unrelated characters and events, but hardly a word is wasted -- all comes together in a heart-pounding series of climaxes that are breathtaking, brutal, and, at times, moving.
Rowling makes some powerful statements about fairness and diversity, the nature of courage, and friendship. Children ages 8 to 10 who loved the first three books will find this one tougher going -- not just for its length but also for the convoluted plot, un-translated British vocabulary, and some horrific and deadly scenes that may concern parents. Older readers will love the satires on politics, the media, and professional sports. And the heroes' entrances into adolescence -- tentative, funny, and very real -- will have readers squirming in sympathy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they saw coming and what was a surprise. Many kids say this book is their favorite in the series -- if so, why? If not, which book wins out?
Before it came out in 2000, the author warned her young fans that someone will be murdered in the book. For sensitive readers, is it a help to know ahead of time that an upsetting event is coming?
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