In Search of Harry Potter

by Tom Watson
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I’ve never read a Harry Potter. But JK Rowling is among my favorite living authors. I owe her a deep and simple debt – the love of reading, and literature, and story-telling that all of my children have embraced. Rowling didn’t do it all, of course; there was Seuss and Stevenson, Tolkien and Margaret Wise Brown. But she did cast an enduring spell – thousands of pages worth.

And now my youngest is on the second-to-last Potter, racing the clock till Rowling’s much-anticipated final volume is out. Like his brother and sister, he sometimes dons Harry’s glasses, slips into a Hogwarts robe, and waves a facsmilie wand. (And when he Googles Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, his mother and I know it’s time to install a search-filter). Such is the hold of Harry Potter on our book-filled household

So when I returned from the UK this weekend after a blogging/business trip to Oxford, the kids were waiting with their questions: “So Dad, was it just like Harry Potter?”Truthfully, I don’t know – I imagined it was, having seen a couple of the films, several of which were filmed there amidst the colleges and the gardens. My daughter recognized the cloisters at New College below as the scene of some troll-inspired mischief in one of the films.

New College

I’ll admit, i don’t think the movies are very good – decent entertainment, some good special effects, disjointed story-telling, fine trove of British character actors. That’s about it.

The books, on the other hand, I love. And I haven’t cracked a one. I love them because they’ve instilled a joy of reading in my children in this age of a thousand television channels and video games. They’ve made reading a deep and abiding habit.

And i did find Harry Potter in Oxford. As well as Tolkien and CS Lewis. They were in a pub. i asked the taxid driver for the local they’d famously frequented together for 20 years.

“Oh, you mean the Bird and the Bastard.”

“I thought it went by a different name…”

“Oh sure, it does.”

And there it was – the Eagle and the Child.

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Comments

  • estiv
    April 3, 2007

    Tom, a technical note: you’ve posted an image that’s two megabytes. If you’ve got any readers who don’t have broadband, it’ll kill ’em.

  • April 4, 2007

    Fixed – thanks!

  • Slappy
    April 4, 2007

    Tom, The Potter books are worth reading. Very, very fun and the plot twists and intrigue would make Dickens proud.

    My wife is a librarian and was several years ago working in the children’s department. You can not imagine the impact of these books. Kids who never picked up a book on their own were reading them several times over.

    Each time a new book comes out you almost have to reread all the previous ones to remind yourself and keep up with the story. My wife has read them all at least twice due to this. These books are full of detail and are very well planned out.

    The NY Times was forced to separate children’s literature from the best seller’s list because nobody could break through. Publishers were pissed. Completely unfair when you consider that adults are as much into the books as kids. What book/s have had such impact?

    Our local library has three branches. When the latest super hot pop-novel is released the library orders about 10 copies per branch. The Potter books get about 60 per branch and the waiting list gets long.

    My wife has disallowed my soon to be 8 year old from seeing the movies until he is old enough to read the books first. (I go along with it but am not as adamant as she is.) Why limit the kid’s imagination? The movies do a fair job but like most movies, they can’t equal the books.

    As far as I’m concerned, in children’s literature, Rowling and Seuss are in a league of their own.

  • April 5, 2007

    I like the books, too, but also can never remember them by the time the new one comes out. Or the new movie comes out, which usually leaves me surprised a bit. At this point I’m just too invested in the characters to stop.

    Which of the films did you see? Because I thought the first two were terrible, but the last two were much better, especially the one by Cuarón.