My interest in purchasing a product (movie, book, game, whatever) tends to be inversely proportional to the hype surrounding the product's release*. Partly for this reason, I have yet to buy a single one of the Harry Potter books, even though the storyline seems pretty interesting (judging from the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which I received as a gift).
I may be ready to break down and buy some of the Potter books after reading this essay by Jonathan Last. Last argues that Book 5 in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is a radical departure from the "Hardy Boys" mystery style of the earlier books—instead, it is clearly a historical allegory of 1930s England, with headmaster Albus Dumbledore as Churchill, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge as Chamberlain, and Voldemort as Hitler. The book is unapologetic in its condemnation of the appeasement of evil.
Three cheers to J.K. Rowling for sneaking our kids an education they likely won't get in school!
* The only recent exception being the Lord of the Rings movies—but maybe this isn't really an exception after all, since my interest in LOTR long preceded the current movies and their hype. Ditto for the upcoming Narnia movie, which I am definitely planning to see in the theater, hype or no hype.