FORTUNE's Cultural Cheat Sheet
(FORTUNE Magazine) – A lot of kids (probably yours) think the four Harry Potter books are the greatest thing since The Phantom Tollbooth. They're definitely worth reading yourself, but in case you don't have the time, here's what you need to know from a 16-year-old's point of view.
1. J.K. Rowling is a woman. Why does she use initials rather than her full name? Does she want to hide the fact that she's a woman? I doubt it. It's probably just some British thing--her picture is on the back of the book. The text that goes with this picture is annoying, though. "J.K. Rowling was a struggling single mother when she wrote the beginnings of Harry Potter on scraps of paper at a local cafe." You could think of this as sexist, demeaning, or just bad writing.
2. A movie version of Rowling's first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, is in the works. Rumor has it that Steven Spielberg wanted to direct it but that Ms. Rowling rejected him because she wanted creative control. Why didn't they write that on the back of the book?
3. The books are released in Britain first, and then in a different version--minus some of the British sayings--in America. I am totally fine with this. Otherwise we wouldn't understand the story.
4. Although Harry Potter books are virtually omnipresent here and overseas, no one has taken advantage of the merchandising possibilities until recently. Now Harry Potter will be plastered on everything from puzzles to T-shirts to mugs. Thanks, but I think I'll stick to the books.