Harry Potter grips the imagination | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Harry Potter grips the imagination

Anyone for Quidditch?

All you need to play is a healthy imagination, and, oh a Nimbus 2000 wouldn’t hurt. Confused? Then you must be one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t stepped into the world of Harry Potter. Either that or you’re just a hopeless Muggle.

Just in case you are a Muggle – in other words, totally in the dark about magic and wizardry – here’s a small synopsis.

At age 11, after suffering in silence under the care of his gluttonous and overbearing aunt and uncle, Harry discovers he is a wizard, and not just any wizard, mind you, he’s a celebrity. His fame was cemented when Harry was just a baby and he survived an attack by the evil Lord Voldemort – or to most of the wizarding world “He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named.” Harry’s parents were killed, but he survived intact with only a lightning scar on his forehead to mark the event.

After discovering his magical and fascinating past Harry escapes from his relatives, the Dursleys, and heads off for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, located somewhere in the north of England. To get there one must go to the train station and take the Hogswarts Express at platform nine and three-quarters. The platform and train are invisible to the Muggle eye, so it’s a little tricky to catch.

Once among Hogwarts’ hallowed halls, Harry starts to come into his own. He becomes a star player on the Quidditch team – a game played about 50 feet above the ground on flying broomsticks (Nimbus 2000 is a top-of-the-line broomstick). He makes steady friends, and attends classes like Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions and Herbology with Professor Sprout. But in the midst of all the fun there is always something sinister lurking around the next corner. In each of his three years at Hogswarts Harry is faced with a life and death test.

Harry’s trials and adventures have captivated the imagination of children and adults alike. For proof of Harry’s charm look no further than the New York Times best-sellers list. Harry has held on for more than 40 weeks, he has been translated into 28 languages, and there are more than 7.5 million books in print.

Harry’s creator J.K. Rowling stunned the publishing world with the popularity of her first book “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and the phenomena has only grown from there. With three books out and four more planned, Rowling is proving that lightning can strike more than once.

“It’s incredible. I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” said Kingsbury Middle School librarian Toni Samuel. “Every kid wants to read them, boys and girls alike. We’re having a book fair, and I can’t even tell you how many we’ve sold. I’ve reordered, and reordered.”

Harry Potter is the gateway, Samuel explained.

“After they finish the series they want to read something like the Harry Potter books. I have a display ‘What to read after Harry Potter,’ with other fantasy books,” she said.

Kingsbury Middle School teachers have placed the Harry Potter series on their “Reading Counts” program. Children can log onto a computer and take a multiple-choice reading comprehension test on books on the list. Cathy Ricioli, a fifth-grade teacher at Kingsbury, said when asked what book they wanted to read next, her class voted unaminously for Harry Potter.

“We only had one or two copies in the library and there was a waiting list a mile long, so the students asked me to read it to them,” she said. “Now a few have bought the book so they can read along. I’ve watched some of my students finish all three of the books.”

El Dorado County’s South Lake Tahoe branch library said all the books have a lengthy waiting list and spend little time resting on the shelves gathering dust.

“They are very, very popular. All ages are reading them, and by golly it almost seems like the adults want to read them more,” joked Sally Neitling, branch supervisor.

Christine Sowers, a teacher at Al Tahoe Elementary, said the series not only hooks children on reading, but gives them a taste of real literature.

“I was so happy to find a replacement for R.L. Stein, which is a good read but I wouldn’t call it literature,” said Sowers, who is teaching an enrichment course using the “Sorcerer’s Stone.” “This one is just absolute literature. The class has really enjoyed it and they want to continue reading.”

Cassy Smith, 10, isn’t really into discussing the finer literary points, but she knows what she likes.

“My favorite part was when he went to the chamber, you know, and he almost died and Dumbledore saved him. And also when Harry, Hermione and Ron went to go get the dog, and it almost killed them, and they killed the troll that was also good,” Smith said.

“I was thinking I would like to try (Quidditch) once,” she added. “I liked it when the Slytherin team all shows up with Nimbus 2001s and they were making fun of Harry’s Nimbus 2000. You know Draco Malfoy bought them for them.”

Perhaps the most amazing part of the Harry Potter event is that Smith, 10, would have no trouble carrying on a Potter conversation with Bill Hansbol, 70. The great-grandfather is reading the second in the series, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” right now.

“They’re just fun,” Hansbol said. “I read a lot of science fiction, so they weren’t that far off for me. I’m sending the books to one grandson this Christmas.”

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