“What’s Your Favorite ‘Kid Story’?”

Lancelot Shaubert, longtime friend of HogwartsProfessor and author of Tap and Die, sent me an email-request this morning:

John, it’s Lancelot, quick question:

Do you have a great kid story you can share ? I’m collecting them on my site to cheer folks up and to revive the comments section:


Lancelot Schaubert

By “great kid story” he didn’t mean “a story for children” but “a story about kids.” I obliged him with a story about one of my own children, now living in Greece, back when she was only ten years old and her world was Harry Potter, violin practice, and roller-blading. I have shared this story after talks I’ve given during the Q&A, because someone inevitably asks me if I think Harry Potter is good for young people to read.

You can read that story after the jump. Please follow the link above, though, if you have a minute, read the great kid stories there, and write out your favorite.

My daughter Sophia was ten years old, a serious Harry Potter fan (the four books then in print), and really excited about roller blades and her violin. I was driving her to her weekly violin lesson in our family van that seated ten — she is the third of our seven children. Sophia was in the front passenger seat, cradling her violin, wearing roller blades because she wore them everywhere. It was a special time because it was pretty rare for her to sit in the front and alone with dad.

I explained as I joined her and buckled up that I had to make one stop before going to the lesson; I needed to drop off some papers and have a conversation with a man she’d met once. I must have been gripping the wheel differently or made a face during that deliberately brief explanation. She asked me if it was a good meeting or a bad meeting. She’d sensed somehow I was more than a little uncomfortable about this stop.

“It’s going to be an uncomfortable meeting, since you ask. I’ve had a business disagreement with a man I thought was a friend and I am pretty sure he’s not going to like what I’m going to show him and say. I’m not looking forward to it.” I shrugged and smiled over at her. She smiled back and then turned to look at the window.

“Is there a parking lot there?” The unspoken question was “Y’know, for a quick bit of roller-blading while you go inside?” “Yes, there is,” I said, relieved she wasn’t too tuned into my angst. “A big, open space with no traffic to worry about.” She smiled, looked at the cars ahead of us, and held her bow pointing straight up.

I pulled into the parking lot soon after, gathered my papers from the dash, and steeled myself for what I knew was going to be an unpleasant, if short exchange. Sophia had unbuckled as soon as the van stopped, carefully put her violin and bow on the seat, snapped her helmet on, and lowered herself down from the height of the seat on to the empty lot for a quick spin. I headed for the entrance of the small single story building just off the shore where my former friend had his offices.

When I got to the door, Sophia came wheeling up beside me and grabbed the handle of the right door as I opened the left side. Her head was not much higher than the handle and her pigtails and long, red, flowered skirt waved as she came to a twirling stop.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked, a little surprised by her arrival. “I’m going in with you,” she said, toeing off and pulling the right door open.

“Really? Why is that?”

“It’s just like Harry Potter, Dad; friends don’t let friends face bad guys by themselves.” The unspoken part here was “Duh. I know you’ve read the books.”

She marched into the carpeted entry in her mercurial wheeled boots, checked her chin strap, turned and pulled me inside by the hand. We slayed that dragon together and escaped moments later with light hearts and the fiend’s hoarded gold.


  1. John I love this story!

    Sophia Rolling-with-her-dad-friend into conflict with a backstabber…

    With your own personal super hero you are clearly the big winner!

  2. Hey thanks for sharing, John. Grateful for you and happy feast of your namesake

    Was curious if you thought Ink Black Heart was referring to you at different points?

    I haven’t read posts here, not finished yet (lots of dealings with my late father’s estate), but am curious about that

  3. Was curious if you thought Ink Black Heart was referring to you at different points?

    If I did, Lance, I would never admit it — and do what I could to suppress that conversation!

    I suspect, though, you are alluding to the interview with the animators in the second Part of the novel in which they talk about fans who think characters in the novels are phallic symbols, a notion the creators think hilarious and ridiculous. I confess I thought of Peter Pettigrew and the cratylic meaning of his name when I read that (“small penis,” ‘Worm Tail’), not to mention Paul Satchwell, “little satchel” or “small package,” in Troubled Blood.

    Beyond that, I missed any references to HogwartsProfessor type conversations in Strike6, again, probably due to an unconscious determination not to see Rowling’s critique in story of her fandom’s more serious critics.

    The closest thing to a ‘hat tip’ in Rowling’s work to my efforts to interpret her artistry and meaning came in Deathly Hallows at the reading of Dumbledore’s will. Hermione’s middle name, which Rowling had typed in an online interview in 2000 as ‘Jane,’ was revealed there to be ‘Jean.’ ‘Jean Granger’ spends the better part of Deathly Hallows trying to interpret the hidden meaning of the symbols in a children’s book, an effort in which she succeeds — she discovers the Deathly Hallows symbol and traces it to its origin — and in which she fails — she refuses to accept the anagogical meaning of the story qua rationalist.

    Some people think that was obviously a nod to me and something of a dismissal. Most thought I was promoting that interpretation in a fit of beyond-belief self-importance. I’m still not sure what to make of it.

    That experience sure didn’t foster any desire to read Strike6 in search of references to myself…

  4. By anagogical do you mean mystical, eschatological… I’m unsure what you mean she refused?

    I totally understand that hesitation.

    I guess I do see it as a response to fandom. I’m curious to whom she seems to be responding.

    It’s remarkable at present how many right wing AND left wing activists seem to populate the more extremist opinions in the IBH fandom

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