NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Below are Purdue University experts who can discuss issues related to the next book in the popular Harry Potter series and the return of Oprah's Book Club.
Harry Potter Can Help Children Deal With Grief, Professor Says
In each book of the Harry Potter series, death has played an increasing role in both the plots and in Harry's development and growth. From Harry's parents to a school friend, author J.K. Rowling's books don't shy away from death.
Heather Servaty-Seib, a Purdue University assistant professor of educational studies and an expert in grief and mourning in children, says the books can serve as a valuable tool for teaching children about death.
"I appreciate the fact that Rowling discusses issues of death and dying, as it is important for children to be exposed to the topic prior to experiencing a death in their own lives," Servaty-Seib says. "Parents can use the deaths in the books as teachable moments to begin conversations about grief and bereavement with their children."
As the series has continued, some people have been upset that the books, the fifth of which comes out on Saturday (6/21), are becoming "darker." Servaty-Seib says this idea is mostly because of an increasing presence of death.
"This troubles me, because death is not 'dark,'" she says. "It is a natural and inevitable aspect of the human experience, and not something abnormal or evil."
Servaty-Seib can discuss issues surrounding death and dying, as well as the impact of the Harry Potter books on children.
Mature Marketing Builds Harry Potter Franchise
A Purdue University marketing professor says a key element of the continuing success of the Harry Potter series has been maturity - the increasing maturity of the target audience and of the marketing campaign.
James Oakley, an assistant professor of marketing at Purdue's Krannert School, says, "The Harry Potter story is an amazing study in marketing. They've taken a book and built an enormous franchise."
The first Harry Potter book was aimed at a young audience, Oakley says. "The subsequent books have grown maturity-wise in both style and building in jokes aimed at adults that go right over the heads of the young readers.
"The publisher spent a fair amount on marketing. But expanding the market to adults was more due to word-of mouth."
And that, he says, is the best marketing of all.
Oprah's Book Club Refreshes Classics
Oprah Winfrey has the power to redefine what is a literary classic with her new book club, says a Purdue University English professor.
"Never underestimate the power of Oprah," says John Duvall, editor of Modern Fiction Studies journal. "I think she has the potential to broaden the horizon of what a classic means. Through her book club, she has the power to bring classic African-American novelists, such as Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston, to a mainstream contemporary audience."
Oprah has revised her monthly book club, this time featuring classic authors, such as William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. The first author was to be announced today (Wednesday, 6/18).
"In her first book club, every time she featured an unknown contemporary novel it was like winning the lottery for the author because within days that book sold hundreds of thousands of copies," Duvall says. "If this new book club has anything like the impact of her original one, then it has the potential to revive the classics and inspire people to read important older books that still speak to our times."
Duvall can talk about the impact of Oprah's Book Club on reading, as well as about her selections.