Category Archives: Harry Potter

A Couple of Good Books Conjoined

I’m pretty Africa-focused these days so not good for posting anything else of substance. So here is something that combines two other favorites of mine (and is bound to go viral if it hasn’t already).

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The Stucco Snow was to Die For

So my bucket list is now down one — I’ve been to Wizarding World, had some butterbeer, and lived to tell the tale.

Is it as fabulous as other visitors have told me?  Yes and no.

Yes, the look is delightful —the moving portraits, the lovingly created emporiums and castle, the noises and movements of creatures and books and such, as well as employees-I mean-characters telling you to “move aside, Muggles.” The Forbidden Journey ride was as exhilarating as promised, the butterbeer icily head-ache-producing, but believable,  and it was great fun to see young fans so excited to be there.

No, at least yesterday, because the crowds became overwhelming and then it felt like all you were doing was waiting, waiting, and waiting to shop.  Ollivander’s wand shop, for example,  is a brief sweet performance and then a long shopping opportunity.  Now I am not a snot about merch by any means, but some of the lines I waited in for a very long time (probably 90 minutes for that wand shop) and the payoff just didn’t seem worth it.  I’d expected more amusing entertainments to keep us occupied while waiting, but they weren’t there.  Well, other than the two ladies in line behind us (not park employees, mind you, and not attired in purchases from the park) who were rather intimidating in a way all of the young uns in their Hogwarth robes were not.

Note to Universal Studios: I only noticed the snow was stucco when right up against it during the long and tiring wait for the wand shop.  My recommendation — give us something more fun to look at.

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Harry Potter: Now and Forever or Never More?

With the seventh movie of the first part of the seventh book about to open in the US and the second part to follow this summer — what does the future hold for Harry Potter?  His creator J. K. Rowling excited her fans recently by hinting that she wasn’t ruling out the possiblity of writing more about that world, dismaying Daniel Radcliff who told Sky News:

“Oh God, she promised me categorically that there wouldn’t be another book involving Harry,” said Radcliffe, who has been playing the wizard since he was 11.

Asked whether he wanted to be a part of any future film, he said it was “very doubtful”, adding: “I think 10 years is a long time to spend with one character.”

Ten years is a long time indeed and while Radcliffe may be done what about his character and his story? When the final book came out Rowling, who spent way more than ten years with the character, seemed pretty set that she was done with Harry and his world.  But now she seems to be having second thoughts telling Oprah that “I could definitely write an eighth, ninth, tenth… I’m not going to say I won’t. I don’t think I will … I feel I am done, but you never know.”  At the U.K. film premier she clarified that any further books were unlikely to have Harry as the central character.

If there is another book it, with or without Harry, certainly won’t be out for quite a while and so once the last movie is out it will be interesting to see what happens to our boy wizard.  Will he fade into obscurity or stay in the public consciousness for some time to come?  Will future generations of young readers latch on to his story as enthusiastically as those who grew up with him?  I’m guessing yes. After all there is that theme parkMuggle Quidditch on campusesfan fiction, conventions, and a huge online fan base.  Most of all,  the books are still very popular among younger kids; my fourth graders, for instance, are reading them with great enjoyment and agree with me that they will never go out of style.

So whether or not Rowling ever writes another book (ignoring those debating whether she should or not), I think the series will endure. Harry will hang around because he is one of the great characters of children’s literature and because his stories are good.  Really good.  The sort that will become classics of children’s literature.

Also at the Huffington Post.

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Orlando has just soared in my estimation

NCTE disappointed me recently by turning down a convention session proposal of mine that included the participation of this year’s Newbery winner and I briefly contemplated not attending. However, now that Orlando has the WWHP my whole view of the place has been transformed and I’m so there come November.  Anyone want to join me for a butter beer the weekend before Thanksgiving?

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The Nursery Harry

As I do every year,  I’m reading aloud Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  And as I also do every year, I showed my class The Nursery Alice, Lewis Carroll’s cringe-inducing attempt to adapt his story for “Children aged from Nought to Five.”  After regaling them with a few choice bits I told them I’d take a stab at The Nursery Harry and so, with apologies to Ms. Rowling, here’s the beginning:

ONCE upon a time, there was a little boy called Harry.  Would you like to hear his story?

Well, his parents had died. Isn’t that an awful thing?  And so he lived with his relatives, the Dursleys.

Would you like to know how they treated him?  Did they give him treats and remember his birthday?  Oh, not at all.  In fact, they were horrible to him.  They made him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. Yes, they did!  And kept him a secret from the neighbors. Can you imagine?

Some of my students are trying to do their own Nursery versions of beloved books.  Check out this very clever Nursery Golden Compass.

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Reflecting on the Noughties

Wanting to comment on Betsy Bird’s post about the last ten years I went looking for a moniker and found the Noughties.  Nope, not the Naughties, but the Noughties as in noughts, the 2000s.  While not as familiar perhaps to zero-using Americans, it feels less cumbersome than other indicators (even if it got me thinking of Enid Blyton’s Noddy).

So  anyway, Betsy does a stellar job looking back over these past ten years.  I just want to consider a few of her points and add a couple of my own.

The Rise of the Children’s Book Phenomenon

I’m not sure I totally agree with Betsy on this one.  Setting aside Harry Potter and Twilight for a moment (as I think they stand out in a significant, but different way), the enthusiasm for a series like Wimpy Kid seems not so terribly different to me than the enthusiasm in earlier times for Goosebumps and the Babysitters Club.  What has changed is that we now have a critical mass able to read, write, promote, rant, and otherwise communicate on the Internet, a more populist, if you will, way for authors and readers to connect. And so you’ve got Jeff Kinney moving back and forth between virtual and actual comic, to give one example. My guess is that if the same environment had been available in the heyday of Stine and Martin that things would have been very similar (especially with Stine). As for Philip Pullman’s trilogy, while I love it (he’s up there with Carroll in my personal pantheon of favorite authors), it doesn’t fit for me either in this category.  Rather, it seems very much a part of a traditional of grand children’s books in the tradition of Lewis.  A wonder, but not a phenomenon, at least not as I see it.

That said, I do agree with Betsy about Harry Potter and Twilight.  Most of all about Harry Potter.  That series did indeed change the landscape of our tiny world of children’s publishing in signficant ways.  It caused the New York Times to start a separate best seller list for children’s books and then series books (which caused quite a stir at the time). A remarkable fandom grew and thrived in the ever-developing Internet — the Leaky Cauldron being only the most prominent of a number of fan sites — and, of added significance, Rowling interacted with those fans in smart and careful ways.  The savvy release of the books (starting with the fourth one) was absolutely groundbreaking.  Twilight and its sequels definitely thrived in this new environment and I would guess there will be others down the line.

The Rise of YA Fiction

I agree with Betsy on the signficance of this.  And like her I would note the synergy as the authors and books moved fluidly from print book to website to youtube to television to film.  It is a form or term that seems to be in the process of being redefined — no longer for ages 12 -18, but for true young adults — those out in the world, but still maturing and enjoying these books.  I am very curious about what will happen as the young fans of these books grow up and come into the world of publishing.  I’m guessing they will help shape the world of YA literature in interesting new directions.   I’d love to see YA get its own division in publishing houses, one not part of children’s or adults.  A place where crossover books like Octavian Nothing, The Book Thief, and others would be properly promoted as being for true young adults — teens and twenty-somethings alike.

The Rise of Blogging and Other Online Media

To me this is the most significant aspect of the past ten years.  Not just blogs, but fan sites, author sites, and so much more.  Readers of all ages feel comfortable emailing and communicating with favorite authors in a way that was rare in the previous century.  (In 1995 Scholastic gave me a modem and an AOL account to help launch what was probably the first publisher Internet site — Scholastic Network.  They soon moved from AOL to the Web and never looked back, but I remember running their author and book bulletin boards and it was a new world indeed.)  Facebook, twitter, and more — all very exciting stuff.  Who knows what is next?

The Life and Death of the Children’s Periodical

Betsy notes the passing of The Riverbank Review and Kirkus. Having been published in both I see them as distinctly different situations.  The Riverbank Review was a beautiful journal, filled with lovely articles, columns, and reviews.  It was, to my mind, in the tradition of the small and elegant literary magazine. Over the decades and centuries these come and go.  Some get the financing to keep going and some don’t, sadly.  Now I don’t know how many similar journals focused on adult books similarly bit the dust in the last decade, but I have to wonder if it is any more or less than in previous years.

Kirkus, to my mind, is different. For one thing it was purely a review journal and secondly it was for all books, not just children’s books.  To me the end of Kirkus is part of a bigger trend involving traditional print book review publication. That is, newspapers have been getting rid of their stand-alone book review sections too.  And what with the rise of the online unmediated reader reviews (say those of amazon and bloggers) it will be most interesting to see where reviewing in general will go.

The ebook or Lack Thereof

I think this is another area that is rising and we have to wait to see what happens.  Just last week one of my 6th grade Book Bloggers showed me the Kindle she got for Hanukkah.  College textbooks are starting to become available digitally (which is great because they’ve become outrageously expensive, I think).  As technology makes comics, animation, book trailers, and multi-media (think of Scholastic’s Carman series combining book and video) easier and easier to do I see more and more movement into the digital place.  This doesn’t mean print books won’t be there too, just that the playing field is shifting.

And now in brief, a couple from me:

Self-Publishing

This seems another very signficant development. I mean, what about Eragon?  I remember Christopher Paolini on adbooks promoting his self-published book and reading the first chapter on his website (now long, long, long replaced by one by his publisher).  More recently, reporting about a HarperCollins preview this fall, Betsy noted several originally self-published books they were featuring.  It sure seems easier than ever to publish your own book and it seems evident that the major publishers are paying more attention to those that sell.

The Continuing Evolution of Literary Nonfiction

I’m very impressed with the stellar nonfiction coming out these days and am hopeful that more is on the way.  This year, in particular, has been a great one for this genre.

Interesting times. Interesting times.

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Filed under Children's Literature, comic, Harry Potter, Philip Pullman, YA

That Potter Park

Three rides will form the center of the new park. Universal still will not talk much about the biggest one, a high-tech experience inside the castle called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey that involves the likenesses of the heroes from the films.

Flight of the Hippogriff is described as a family coaster that simulates a Hippogriff (the half-horse, half-eagle beast from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) training flight over Hogwarts castle. Dragon Challenge is a twin high-speed coaster that will feature elements from the Triwizard Tournament.

Interactive shopping is a major component, said Paul Daurio, show producer for the park. For instance, the Ollivanders wand shop will replicate Ms. Rowling’s story line: the wand chooses the wizard instead of the other way around. Other stores will offer Potter merchandise that is unavailable elsewhere, like extendable ears.

The castle itself will be about 150-feet tall but will appear to tower some 600 feet in the air because of architectural and filmmaking tricks, Mr. Daurio said. Over all, the park will resemble Hogsmeade, Ms. Rowling’s all-wizard village.

From this New York Times article on the coming Harry Potter theme park.  Or go to this NPR piece.  And for a bit of fun, go to the park’s  website.

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The Bard’s Babbitty Rabbitty

“Come off it!” said Ron, looking in disbelief from Harry to Hermione. “You must’ve heard of Babbitty Rabbitty —”

“Ron, you know full well Harry and I were brought up by Muggles!” said Hermione. “We didn’t hear stories like that when we were little we heard ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ and ‘Cinderella’ —”

“What’s that, an illness?” asked Ron.

Beedle the Bard, that is.  First mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Babbitty’s story and four others by this wizard storyteller are now available for all us Muggles.  And in case you have trouble understanding them, there’s commentary by one Albus Dumbledore to clarify things.  Yesterday, at the New York Public Library (where I’d been to see the lovely Laura Amy Schlitz tell stories), I stopped by to gaze at Aurthur A. Levine’s copy of this small volume and picked up a copy for myself (rather drab-looking, I have to say, after that gorgeous handmade one of Arthur’s), and read it last night. Illustrated by Rowling herself, it is a very amusing trifle.

Here are a few reviews (some almost as long as the book itself):

Lev Grossman at Time Magazine.

Mary Harris Russell at the Chicago Tribune.

Sameer Rahim at the Telegraph.

Amanda Craig at the Times.

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Rowling wins lawsuit against Web site operator

Rowling wins lawsuit against Web site operator – NYTimes.com
A judge says ”Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has won her claim that a fan violated her copyright with his plans to publish a Potter encyclopedia.

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The Tale of One Bad Tommy

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