The Reading Magic of Harry Potter

From the Washington Post this June, the story of a High School graduate with learning disabilities whose life as a student was going nowhere until he met your favorite boy wizard:

A major breakthrough came in middle school. Thaller’s mother would read him chapters from the Harry Potter series at night. He was so impatient for her to get to the next chapter that he started reading ahead, pushing himself to understand the vocabulary and follow the story.

After years of unsuccessful attempts, he could read. “From that point on, he blossomed,” said his mother, Kate Thaller.

Now he loves to read. A plush chair in his room is his favorite spot to thumb through science-fiction novels and history books. “I could sit here for hours every day,” Josh Thaller said.

He continued to struggle mightily with math and science but he graduated “on time” and has been accepted at Lynchburg College, where he will major in history, his passion.

What’s your favorite Potter Reading Renaissance and Rebirth story? Please share it here, especially if you are the subject of the story or know the reader turned on to a life of reading by Harry Potter. The theme of Harry Potter’s Bookshelf is that these books are the Gateway to a Life of Edifying Reading; the real world makes the case as forcefully as does my survey of the Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures.

Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: Why Buy It?

With the publication of the paperback Deathly Hallows, the release of the WB Half-Blood Prince film, and the summer’s biggest Harry Potter convention all in the next few days and weeks, we are beginning to see the Harry Haters crawling out of their dark hiding places appearing in the news. My favorite was this piece about the Harry Potter Alliance website, ‘What Would Dumbledore Do?’ (H/T to Perelandra). I was shocked to learn there was a Same Sex Agenda hidden inside the Hogwarts Adventures. I have to dread the inevitable exegesis of Daniel Radcliffe’s sophomoric “coming out” as an atheist. You know how important the faith position of a 20-something actor is for understanding the meaning of the drama in which he plays a thespian’s part…

But there is something positive, edifying, even intellectually challenging and stimulating you can read while you wait for the stock players to come out this month to sing the songs they always sing at public Potter events. You can pick up a copy of my Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures (Penguin/Berkley, 2009) beginning tonight at midnight if you’re lucky enough to be living near a bookstore having a Midnight Madness party (I think there is a 24/7 B&N superstore in the Florida Keys doing something like that). Why is Bookshelf worth your hard earned cash to purchase and your valuable time to read? Here are three reasons: [Read more…]

Guest Post: HogPro in Bellingham, WA!

Last week I traveled to Forks, Washington, for Literature Inspired Fan Events’ (LIFE) Summer School in Forks: A Twilight Symposium. (For more about that wow event see Forks High School People magazine, or MTV news.) On my way home, I visited Stephen Schumacher in Port Townsend, the friend who insisted I write up Hidden Key to Harry Potter in 2002, and Mark Shea in Seattle, a Harry Potter supporter in the Catholic blogosphere. Library Lily, a HogPro All-Pro, created a bookstore speaking event in Bellingham, her hometown, which allowed me to visit Don Holmes, a dear friend who encouraged me like a father when I needed that desperately. I begged Library Lily to write up the event so you could hear about from someone other than the croaking toad himself and she submitted this report (also available on her weBlog, A Light Inside):

The Hogwarts Professor in Bellingham

The Hogwarts Professor (John Granger) spoke at Village Books Monday night, much to my excitement. As a regular commenter at the HogPro website, I had once mentioned living in Bellingham, and John said he had a friend in town that he wished to visit and asked if I would be willing to set up an author event at a local bookstore. [Read more…]

Chamber of Secrets: Harry’s Eye-dentity

Today at lunch I was talking with my family about the talks I’ll be giving at Summer School in Forks: A Twilight Symposium (Register today, if you haven’t already!). The first one will be Bella Swan at Hogwarts: The Important Influence of the Potter Novels and Potter Mania on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. I’ll be discussing the similarities and differences in how Mrs. Meyer and Rowling use story voice to win reader buy-in and identification, apply Gothic touches for a ‘fallen world’ backdrop, build a school setting, blend genres, foster a ‘shipping controversy, push the pervasive message that choice is the life-defining value, and develop a theme of hidden magic in which supernatural reality is just out of sight.

At lunch, though, what I talked about was eyeballs, because both these authors hang much of their meaning on their use of eyeballs in an exploration of ‘vision.’ [If you want to read about this as it applies to the meaning of Harry Potter, see chapter 5 of my The Deathly Hallows Lectures, ‘The Seeing Eye.’] My children have heard the Deathly Hallows eyeball lecture enough times that they can verbally reel off the five eyeballs in the series finale without straining and they were curious to hear about the Twilight eyes. I made an aside to my eight year old, Zossima, about Harry being a story symbol for spiritual vision, hence his ability to see but not be seen under the Invisibility Cloak. The Z-Man responded, “Just like in the Flying Car in Chamber of Secrets.” [Read more…]

New Dinosaur Dragon: ‘Dracorex Hogwartsia’

I kid you not. It seems the bones of this dinosaur resembled a dragon sufficiently that the scientists involved named it

Dracorex hogwartsia in honor of children’s author J.K. Rowling. “The shape of the dinosaur’s skull, with its long muzzle, bizarre knobs and horns, surprised the scientists,” she said. “But the skull looks strangely familiar to anyone who has studied dragons! Dracorex has a remarkable resemblance to the dragons of ancient China and medieval Europe.”

(H/T Nicole!)