A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, as the series progresses and the characters age, it is a better fit for tweens. The violence is more violent (there are many mentions of deaths at the hand of Voldemort and his followers), the mood darker, the consequences greater. A major and beloved character is killed, apparently in vain, and the emotional consequences are great. Harry and Professor Dumbledore piece together memories of Lord Voldemort throughout his life to get a better picture of the enemy they're dealing with, making parts of the book feel more like a psychological thriller. 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.
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What's the story?
Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters, are out in the open now, so much so that Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister of Magic, feels it necessary to inform the muggle Prime Minister. Snape is up to no good, Draco has been given an assignment by the Dark Lord, and a net of security has dropped on Hogwarts. Deaths, disappearances, and destruction increase as Harry's penultimate year at Hogwarts begins. Most of the book is spent watching Harry learn -- about Voldemort's past, about new potions and spells, about Snape and Malfoy, and even about Dumbledore. The three heroes squabble and bicker, though Harry seems to have mellowed since his furious rampage through Book 5 -- and there's a lot more kissing. And once again, the new teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts knows more than he's telling.
Is it any good?
This series remains compellingly readable, breathlessly suspenseful and exciting, and now -- with the arrival of this installment -- powerfully emotional. Don't even think of reading HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE without having read its predecessors. As J.K. Rowling begins pulling together the threads and characters from the previous books, even fans may have trouble remembering all the references.
As the protagonists age, so do the books, growing darker, more violent, more complex, and much more emotional. While young kids will still want to read it, and will probably be enthralled, this is clearly aimed at tweens and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can also talk about the popularity of the Harry Potter series. Which book is your favorite? Which is your least favorite? Do you like/watch the movies as well? They even made a Harry Potter theme park -- do you want to visit?
On a related note, has the popularity or marketing of Harry Potter made you more interested or less?
The Harry Potter books are considered fantasy because of the magical elements, but draw all kinds of fans -- many who have never read fantasy books before. The sixth book in particular ups the romance and dark psychological thriller elements. Which aspects drew you most to the book?
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