With added input from some of his fifth-to seventh-grade students, a rabbi and private-school teacher reflects on values in the Harry Potter series and finds parallels in the Torah and Talmud.
Taking “life’s eternal questions” as his purview (“Sorry, not witchcraft and magic wands”), Rosenberg begins with personal behaviors (“Breaking the Rules,” “Manners”) and broadens the perspective as he goes to, ultimately, “Death,” “Good and Evil” and “Love.” He makes comparisons throughout—between Harry’s breaking rules for need, not fun and Elijah’s technically illegal “showdown” with the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel; between the trios of Harry, Ron and Hermione and Moses, Aaron and Miriam; the bittersweet repentances of Snape and of David. They are only sometimes a little stretched and, except when he discounts the racist overtones some readers perceive in Rowling’s house elves (but does rebuke her for her treatment of the gnomes), clearly reasoned overall. Closing with 20 pages of generally engaging student essays (“Even though what Harry did was a little ‘braver,’ what Moses did was a little more sensible”) and a gathering of specific Bible references, the author gently eases even less contemplative readers into considering, as one chapter head puts it, “What Really Matters.”
Similar elements drawn from distinctly disparate sources, presented with a beguiling blend of good humor and serious intent. (Literary criticism/religion. 10-13, adult)