I grew up reading a lot of British juvenile literature, great stuff, but pretty much the same themes as Oliver Twist: a meek and mild child growing up separated from his parents, in a cruel environment eventually discovering his uniqueness and how he can rise above that harsh world. That is the plot outline for many British books, including the Harry Potter series.
Despite trying several times (and Oh God! how I tried), I just could not get into the first book. The writing was weak, the plot obvious themes were nothing new to me.
I like J. K. Rowling as a person and as the creator of a huge cultural phenomenon. The facts that she refuses to be rushed to finish a book, that she will not allow for any crappy merchandize and will tell her fans to boycott such stuff and refuses to allow for anyone to dictate what her creations can or should do in any creative person should be commended. She also seems to genuinely care about her fans especially the young ones as much as she cares about her characters.
I disagree with Harold Bloom's comment on how the kids who are tearing through Harry Potter books are not reading. Are the Harry Potter books grade A+ prime literature? No. The writing is not graceful nor inventive but any child who reads them is exercising his or her mind. Kids are reading more, they are demanding more and Harry Potter has become a gateway to better kids lit books, like Tolkein and C.S. Lewis and Le Guin, L'Engle and Pullman etc.
As any bookseller can tell you, we have seen a huge rise in parents asking us "My kid TORE through the last Harry Potter. Got any recommendations of other books for him? S/He's can't wait for the next one." And we do have suggestions of great stuff. Score one for reading.
I get called the book snob at work because I prefer literary fiction and non-fiction to "entertainments". But I do like thrillers and mysteries and graphic novels and read them now and again. I have always said books are like food. One can't survive on empty calories nor on high fiber bland meals. One needs books to make you a better and smarter person certainly, but one needs junk food now and again to vary the diet, otherwise if you are not enjoying your meal, why bother?