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Potter beating the dickens out of some classics

Once there was a girl who refused to read the Harry Potter books.

All her friends read Harry Potter.

They read ``Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,'' in which Harry discovers his true identity, leaves his miserable Muggle aunt and uncle and enrolls at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

They read ``Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,'' in which Harry returns for his second year at Hogwarts and thwarts the insidious schemes of the evil Lord Voldemort.

They couldn't wait to read ``Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban,'' just published and supposedly even better than the first two.

The girl's friends talked about Harry Potter, and they asked her why she wouldn't read the books. She told them she had nothing against Harry Potter, but first she wanted to finish reading ``A Wrinkle in Time.''

The girl's parents worried because she wouldn't read Harry Potter. ``What's wrong with her?,'' they asked each other late at night, during commercial breaks. ``How will she get along in the world?'' ``How will she fit in?''

They read Harry Potter. Her father said he wished the books had been around when he was a boy, maybe he would have learned to like reading novels. Her mother said the books were just what all the callers to ``The Connection'' had said they were. Magical. Enchanting. Funny. Why did her daughter refuse to read them?

When the girl's parents got together with other parents they all talked about how much they loved the Harry Potter books. They all agreed that the author, J.K. Rowling, is a genius and that it's wonderful that she's inspiring children to read.

The girl's parents didn't mention that their daughter was the only one in her class who hadn't read Harry Potter.

One night, they saw a psychologist on TV who said that the Harry Potter books were a priceless opportunity for family bonding. She said parents and children should read the books together and then talk about the nature of good and evil, justice and mercy, right and wrong.

The next day the girl's parents tried to explain to her that if she would only read Harry Potter they could bond together as a family and talk about crucial life issues. ``Later, maybe,'' the girl said, ``after I finish reading `Great Expectations.' ''

``What's that?,'' her father asked.

``It's a novel,'' the girl said, ``by Charles Dickens.''

``And you could be reading Harry Potter,'' her father said.

The girl's little brother read Harry Potter.

``We don't know why your sister won't,'' his mother said.

``Weirdo,'' said the little brother.

``Don't talk about your sister like that,'' his mother said.

The girl's mother suggested to her that maybe if she'd read Harry Potter she and her little brother could talk about the books instead of fighting all the time.

``Maybe,'' the girl said, ``after I finish `The Catcher in the Rye.' ''

This alarmed her mother, who remembered reading ``The Catcher in the Rye'' when she was in high school. She took her daughter to the family doctor for a diagnosis of her reading habits. The doctor said it was just the start of adolescence.

``But she's only 11,'' her mother said, ``she should be reading Harry Potter.''

``Don't worry,'' the doctor said, ``she'll have plenty of time to read Harry Potter when she has children of her own.''

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