Children's Literature, Fantasy, Adventure, Coming-of-Age
Children's Literature: The Harry Potter books are obviously children's literature. In fact, they're probably the most famous children's books of all time. So what's with all the adults reading them? Well, really good children's books can appeal to all ages. The Harry Potter books are considered children's books because kids can and do read and enjoy them, and because the protagonist is a kid. But, beyond that, Azkaban really blows the "typical" definition of children's literature out of the water. Which is why we have all these other genres to cover, so let's get going. But first, here's what J.K. Rowling herself has to say about the whole children's book distinction:
That's such a, such a very hard question to answer, because... without being disingenuous. I wrote what I wanted to write. And I wrote the sort of thing that I knew I'd like to read, I'd like to read *now* as an adult, and I knew that I would have liked to have read it when I was 11. (source)
Fantasy: Sadly, Hogwarts isn't real. We know, it's very depressing. In fact, the only thing "real" in the Harry Potter books are the Dursleys and their little suburban neighborhood in England. Which is even more depressing. But that's a cool thing about the fantasy genre – it creates imaginative worlds that can help shed light on things that are wrong with the "real" world that we inhabit. With the wizarding world, the Harry Potter books tackle lots of real-world issues in a new and inventive way. And like all good fantasy, we totally wish we could go live in the wizarding world after reading a book like Azkaban. OK, so we might pass on the whole soul-sucking Dementors, evil Voldemort thing. But still.
Adventure: A good hallmark of an adventure tale is that characters run around a lot and have various showdowns with evildoers. And we definitely get that here. Harry spends the whole novel rushing around Hogwarts, around Hogsmeade, around the Quidditch field, and around...time? Time travel always complicates matters. At any rate, Harry rushes around and has a series of heroic showdowns, with his friends at his side and against a series of villains, from Slytherin bullies to traitors hiding as rats. This novel has lots of excitement, action sequences, and the adventure staple of all staples: battles between good and evil.
Coming-of-Age: All this fighting the good fight against evil is more than just fodder for adventure; it's also part of another genre: coming of age. Coming-of-age stories are ones in which the hero or heroine undergoes a lot of trials and grows up as a result. We definitely see Harry progressing towards adulthood and maturity in Book 3. Though, really, the entire Harry Potter series is one giant coming-of age saga. So Harry doesn't complete his emotional and character journey yet in this book, which is only number three in a seven-part series.