When it comes to Harry Potter, I feel the reading public treats these books like something wonderful and great instead of what they are - plot-driven children’s books. It just makes me sad that caring about good writing makes me a snob. (or an elitist, depending upon which comment you agree with more.) I care that published authors and their editors don’t take the time to improve upon the writing at least enough so you don't cringe as you're reading. But the truth is they don't have to - the books will sell even if the writing is mediocre, even if there are glaring errors in syntax, even if the sentences don’t exactly flow.
Yes I am glad children are reading. But what are they going to read in between these extravaganzas put on by the publisher to sell more books? Perhaps some Sweet Valley High?
I don't have a lot of favorites when it comes to Children's Literature, but since Mrs. R asked I would highly recommend CS Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle. And I don't know if it's still the case, but I remember the Newberry Medal at least would single out one book a year that was usually good. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor are two that stood out for me as a child. Oh, and of course Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan – all by EB White.
Paula had a good point about writers being too in love with their prose to get to the story. This is often a problem in serious contemporary "literature" these days (I blame over-workshopping in the MFA programs that have appeared at practically every university in the country). It's all about balance, and I think Rowling misses the balance by a long shot, albeit on the other end of the spectrum.
Like any art, writing is up for interpretation. If I wrote here "I think the Mona Lisa is rubbish, it doesn't deserve the wall space" would you all still freak out on me? I don't think so. So everyone simmer back down and stop being so angry. I still hate the books and probably won't read them until I have to read them to Jack. Then we'll see if I change my tune.
(And Jen, I was actually shocked at the response I got to this. I did expect some controversy regarding my divorce with kids post considering the divorce rate in our country and I was looking forward to hearing different perspectives. Oh well, I guess I didn't quite understand the Harry Potter zeal had reached such a fevered pitch.)