The Boy Who Lived: A True Story of Harry’s Magic

Healing Words for a Premature Child‘ is a story that ran this morning on the front page of The Roanoke Times in Virginia. Long story short, an English teacher has a baby boy ten weeks premature (all of 3 lbs., 1 ounce). She decides to read to him, a barbie doll strapped in an incubator and to multiple tubes, and chooses a 4100 page series of books she’s always wanted to read but hadn’t had the time. If the results don’t move you, I suggest you seek counseling.

A more objective reader than myself, say that rara avis who has not read about or heard of the boy wizard, might say (a) it wasn’t Harry but the mother’s presence and love that helped the little guy and (b) other books would have done just as well. I will yield on the substantial part of (a) — mommy and her sacrificial love are the magic here — but (b) leaves me scratching my head. I cannot think of another book or series of books that would have engaged mommy and fostered her already overwhelming care for baby as the Harry Potter novels obviously did.

Narnia? The Lord of the Rings? Little Britches? Little House? C’mon. Ms. Rowling, writing as a mother about children, love, and death, has written a classic for all of us that I think must have special resonance for the hearts of readers in neo-natal emergency rooms.

Your comments and corrections, please.


  1. It’s very cool that he’s doing well now…

    And I think you might be right. I love Harry’s emphasis on the importance of family.

  2. scientifically, the sidebar on the left of the article does say words, pictures, sounds, etc., are developmentally important. this is corroborated by numerous studies and not just in infancy but also those documenting the benefits of parental literacy– children whose parents are educated hear on average almost twice as many words a day as those whose parents are uneducated, thus gaining a developmental step up.

    however, our lives are not merely tissue and synaps, but soul and spiritual experience (humans are ‘wired for God’ as you’ve said, John). the biological wonder of that child’s birth is only wonderful because it is how God creates a new, integral, body and soul little tiny person. and the parental love of that mother for her son mirrors God’s love for us. it was her love that saved her son, just like Lily Potter’s, albeit in different ways. would she have been as inspired by reading the dictionary, even if it’s all just words that matter? or an academic paper? or one of the books she has her high school students read? the Potter series offers a rich worldview of life, death, love, sacrifice, redemption, etc. couple that with this woman’s love and it’s no wonder the little one is doing well.

    Now, I *do* think other books could have similar effects– Lord of the Rings is too dense and has too many words no longer in common usage. But Narnia perhaps could do it. ๐Ÿ™‚ But Narnia and Potter have a lot in common as I see it, both in themes/messages, and sometimes plot points (Stone Table-Deeper Magic and Harry’s willing death that lead to life, anyone?), and in some ways writing style. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ultimately, they offer life in a culture of death, and not cheap living like Moldywart, either, but eternal.

    anyway, I’m a sap and I loved the article. ๐Ÿ™‚ best

  3. Arabella Figg says

    What a touching story! Thanks for the link.

    I’m doubt the subject matter had meaning for the baby, but it certainly did for Mom. And busy doctors and nurses sneaking a listen certainly testifies to how compelling the series is.

    But I don’t feel we need a proactive defensive attitude regarding how Harry critics *might* respond. It’s very possible Mom could also have found comfort and meaning in another series. But she sure gave Jacob a great start!

    Luscious Badboy is stretched out in the autumnal sun by the window. He must be three feet long…

  4. Point well taken, Arabella. Please overlook the failing in charity born of rhetorical laziness; a Harry Hating straw man remains, alas, a straw man. Thank you for the gentle rebuff. I have rewritten the second paragraph.

  5. Can readers say “love, commitment, sarcrifice, and family?! All the things LV could not begin to understand. Thank you, John, for bringing it to our attention. I doubt Jacob’s mom will stop at one complete reading, do you? I wonder, is there any way to let her know about “Five Keys…” and “Looking for God…” to augment her reading? They would be great additions to her professional library, don’t you think?

  6. John, thanks for the link. What a great story. I know some of what the mother was feeling–our oldest daughter, Sarah, was born 6 weeks early. She was healthier than some premies, but still had a 17 day stay in the hospital. It’s the hardest thing to go home from the hospital without your newborn. Any time I woke during the night, I called the hospital to see how she was doing. And my husband and I took turns going during the day, and then went in the evening. (That was when they actually had visiting hours and enforced them, plus as I’d had a C-Section, I had to wait for my mom to drive me to the hospital.)

    I didn’t read to Sarah then, but I wish I’d thought of it. We spent time sitting by her and just talking. The first five days after Sarah was born, my husband would stop by my room to see how I was doing, then spent all the rest of his time sitting with Sarah. They have a very special bond–I am convinced it comes from those first days.

    Yes, it might not have made a difference to little Jacob what book his mother was reading to him, but as others have mentioned it made a difference to her. And when you are reading something aloud that has special meaning to you, you read it differently than something that has ordinary or no significance.

    (And Sarah, as a footnote, is now almost 29 and healthy, after her very tenuous and rocky start. She was 5# 2 oz at birth (large for a premie), but lost a bit and came home at 4# 10 oz.)


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