I read all four Harry Potter books shortly after the fourth one was released. I, being admittedly something of a cultural elitest, had avoided them on the grounds that they were popular, and therefore couldn't be any good. But then a couple of friends reccomended them very highly, and I thought I'd give it a try. I love them. I think they're wonderful, but that's really not the point.
I remember reading an article in the newspaper, talking about the public reaction to the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Kids were lining up for several hours to buy it the day it came out.
I have been a staunch defender of them ever since.
Think about it. Young kids, say, ten or eleven years old, or even younger, are standing in line for over an hour to spend twenty dollars on an eight hundred page book.
I would hardly call this a non-issue. Whatever its faults, whatever various religious groups may say about the morality, these books have kids reading. And loving every minute of it.
And yes, there is good characterization, interesting plots, clever ideas. J.K. Rowling is a superb storyteller. I can't remember the last time I picked up a book that drew me in and kept me interested from page one as effectively as all four Harry Potter books. While no, I would not suggest that Rowling has supplanted Shakespeare as the greatest English writer, I would not hesitate to dub Harry Potter "great literature." And what's more, I think these books have done more to stimulate thinking in young children, to enhance literacy, and to develop a love of reading in young children than anything else in the past fifty years. That's a pretty big accomplishment.