Harry Potter: A Journey Through The History of Magic

journey through a history of magic.jpgTitle: Harry Potter: A Journey Through The History of Magic

Author: The British Library

Genre: Fiction/Exhibition Catalogue

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 6th November 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 144

Price: $21.99

Synopsis: An irresistible romp through the history of magic, from alchemy to unicorns, ancient witchcraft to Harry’s Hogwarts – packed with unseen sketches and manuscript pages from J.K. Rowling, magical illustrations from Jim Kay and weird, wonderful and inspiring artefacts that have been magically released from the archives at the British Library.

This spellbinding book takes readers on a journey through the Hogwarts curriculum, including Herbology, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Divination and more. Discover the truth behind making the Philosopher’s Stone, create your very own potion and uncover the secret of invisible ink. Learn all about the history of mandrake roots and dragons, discover what witches really used their brooms for, pore over incredible images of actual mermaids and read about real-life potions, astronomers and alchemists.

The perfect gift for aspiring witches and wizards and any Harry Potter fan. Celebrating twenty years of Harry Potter magic, and produced in association with the British Library to support their major exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic.

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In this family-oriented volume of the exhibition catalogue, Harry Potter’s world is revealed in an interesting and accessible way. The previously reviewed volume, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, contains essays and more facts and images of artefacts that are geared towards the historically minded. In this volume, the same chapters have been condensed for a younger audience, and peppered with some of the more interesting artefacts, such as character portraits by Jim Kay, scans of original drafts by JK Rowling and mostly, historical artefacts that relate directly to things in the book. This edition also has activities peppered throughout, aimed at children to try with their parents. As with Harry Potter: A History of Magic, this book is divided into the following sections that follow the subjects undertaken at school, with a few additional ones In place of the longer introduction and essays in the longer, more in-depth volume: The Magical World of Harry Potter, The Journey, Potions and Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Care of Magical Creatures, Past, Present and Future, The British Library, and JK Rowling.  Each chapter has a brief synopsis of the type of magic, specific to Harry’s world, with real world and Wizarding World examples, presented in less depth but no less interest and magic than in the longer version. In fact, it is hard to decide which I prefer more – as a historian, the other one gives greater insight to the history, whereas this one has a hint of whimsy and fun about it for a younger audience. That said, fans of any age will enjoy both these volumes immensely.

hp20_230For those Harry Potter fans who are unable to attend the exhibition themselves, these books allow them to take the journey themselves, and imagine that they are there. It would be lovely to see this in person, but I can at least experience a taste of it through this volume, and its companion, Harry Potter: A History of Magic. I hope we get more insight into this world through other text books, such as Hogwarts: A History.

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic

A history of magicTitle: Harry Potter: A History of Magic

Author: British Library

Genre: Exhibition Catalogue/Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 6th November 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 256

Price: $49.99

Synopsis: Harry Potter: A History of Magic is the official book of the exhibition, a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and the brilliant curators of the British Library. It promises to take readers on a fascinating journey through the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – from Alchemy and Potions classes through to Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.

Each chapter showcases a treasure trove of artefacts from the British Library and other collections around the world, beside exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive. There’s also a specially commissioned essay for each subject area by an expert, writer or cultural commentator, inspired by the contents of the exhibition – absorbing, insightful and unexpected contributions from Steve Backshall, the Reverend Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake, who offer a personal perspective on their magical theme.

Readers will be able to pore over ancient spell books, amazing illuminated scrolls that reveal the secret of the Elixir of Life, vials of dragon’s blood, mandrake roots, painted centaurs and a genuine witch’s broomstick, in a book that shows J.K. Rowling’s magical inventions alongside their cultural and historical forebears.

This is the ultimate gift for Harry Potter fans, curious minds, big imaginations, bibliophiles and readers around the world who missed out on the chance to see the exhibition in person.

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For twenty years, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hogwarts have charmed the world, adults and children alike. From the very first lines about the perfectly normal Dursleys in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to the final words of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows as a new generation begins Hogwarts, millions of people have been captivated by Harry and his friends. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary, new House editions, and various related books have been published. To coincide with this anniversary, The British Library has curated an exhibit of Harry Potter memorabilia, and related historical and literary items that have been associated with magic across the world throughout history, and influenced the subjects and the world of Harry Potter. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is a journey not just through Harry’s world but an entire historical and literary world of magic and beliefs in magic.

hp20_230From Potions to Magical Creatures, Herbology and Charms, this book has it all. The world of magic is varied, diverse and complex, and the history behind it is fascinating. Covering the power of words – Charms and the origins and ideas behind some of the magical creatures in Fantastic Beast’s and Where To Find Them, such as dragons and their eggs, the phoenix and unicorns, and their real life counterparts and imaginings as shown in ancient and medieval texts, which are part of the curated exhibit, from various museum collections, and give insight into a pre-science understanding of the world that is fascinating and intriguing.

The exhibition catalogue is separated into several chapters: The Journey, Potions and Alchemy, Herbology, Charms, Astronomy, Divination, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Care of Magical Creatures, and Past, Present and Future. Transfiguration is spoken about in Charms, and each chapter begins with an essay relating to the topic, where the Harry Potter subject is outlined, and a brief history given before historical, literary and Harry Potter specific images of artefacts are presented with notes, such as images of drafts of chapters in some books, and information about Fantastic Beasts and The Cursed Child.

Being able to read this book meant I was able to experience the exhibit from the page. Whilst I would love to go over to London and see this in person at the British Museum, the magic is not lost experiencing it on the page. You still get to see the images of the artefacts, and read the essays and notes, and see Jim Kay’s illustrations. It allowed me to immerse myself in the world beyond the books, and imagine being at the British Library, looking at the hand-written pages by JK Rowling that hold the first hints of the magic to come that charmed the world and that continues to do so.

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Book Review and Giveaway: The Gum Nut Babies by May Gibbs

GB-CE.pngTitle: Gumnut Babies Centenary Edition

Author: May Gibbs

Genre: Children’s Literature

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 1916, Centenary Edition 2016

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 272

Price: $39.99

Synopsis: Beautiful new Centenary edition to celebrate the publication of May Gibbs’s first book, Gumnut Babies, in 1916. May Gibbs’s marvellous creation – the Gumnut world, with its tiny heroes and heroines and deliciously villainous villains – has fascinated generations of children since its first publication in 1916. Gumnuts at the races, at the ballet, and dancing at balls are some of May’s exquisitely illustrated scenes that have delighted us all. This beautiful new edition has been produced to mark the centenary of Gumnut Babies and contains the stories of Gum-nut BabiesGum-Blossom BabiesFlannel Flowers and Other Bush BabiesBoronia BabiesWattle Babies, plus Nuttybub and Nittersing and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo. This is the perfect companion for The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

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The Gum Nut Babies by May Gibbs are a staple of an Australian child’s literary diet, and they have been for over one hundred years. In this exquisite edition, each poem is reproduced with accompanying original artwork for each type of Gum Nut and Blossom baby, and the stories of Nuttybub and Nittersing, and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo are reproduced, as May Gibbs wrote them, for a new generation. In these stories, Nittersing and Nuttybub go on adventures around the bush, searching for each other, and enlisting the help of fellow animals against the Big Bad Banksia men, who try to destroy the peace of all the other animals and bush babies, whose fear of the Big Bad Banksia men is perhaps more than their fear of Humans, a threat that is heard about but not seen. Instead, they must find away to beat the Big Bad Banksia men, as must Chucklebud and Wunkydoo in their various adventures.

aww2017-badgeEach pair inevitably becomes separated and they battle the perils of the bush to find each other again in two charming stories, told by one of Australia’s most adored authors. At the back, there is a small biography of May Gibbs, a contemporary of Beatrix Potter of the Lakes District, and author of the Peter Rabbit tales. As I have mentioned in the other reviews for these books, so there will be some overlap, May Gibbs is Australia’s Beatrix Potter, both interested in conservation and their natural surrounds at a time of great change and upheaval in their countries, as the city of Sydney, in particular the area of Neutral Bay, grew up around Nutcote, where May Gibbs lived – her answer to Hilltop.

These books are delightful to read at any age, and I hope will continue to charm and capture the imaginations of children for many generations to come. They are the sorts of books that deserve to stay in print. Published during the last years of World War One, at a time when Gum Nut babies were also used as propaganda to show support for the war, and encourage patriotism in a time when it was waning. However, the Gum Nut Babies of these stories do not go to war, but off on grand adventures that children dream of heading off on.

As a child, these would have been amongst the first Australian stories I was exposed to, and have always been something I have loved. May Gibbs has taken the natural environment she knew and loved, and created a magical world that children and adults can escape to, and spend some time away from the trappings of modern life, and learn about various types of native wildlife and plant life in a fun and exciting way.

This post is part of the May Gibbs centenary celebrations, and the May Gibbs brand is running a giveaway for the next two weeks via my blog to win a copy of this book. Enter below and good luck!

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Buy the book here:

https://www.maygibbs.org/

A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls – Book Review and Launch Write Up

A-Reluctant-Warrior-Kelly-Brooke-Nicholls-1-265x400Title: A Reluctant Warrior

Author: Kelly Brooke Nicholls

Genre: Fiction, Political Thriller

Publisher: The Author People

Published: 28th of June, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 232

Price: $26.99

Synopsis:
When Luzma’s brother Jair unwittingly uncovers the plan by Colombia’s most notorious drug cartel to smuggle an unprecedented cocaine shipment into the US, it puts their family in grave danger.

Jair’s kidnapping by the cartel, forces Luzma to go face to face with vicious paramilitary leader, El Cubano, and General Ordonez, ruthless head of the military – men who will stop at nothing to protect their empires. But for Luzma, nothing is more important than saving her family – not even her own life.

While the story and characters in A Reluctant Warrior are fictitious, they are based on events Kelly Brooke Nicholls witnessed first-hand while living and working in Colombia. During this time, she interviewed thousands of victims of paramilitaries, guerrilla and drug cartels. She knows Buenaventura, where the novel is set, intimately, including the most notorious neighborhoods where foreigners rarely venture. She worked closely with the former Andean Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration to help her realistically map the events in this novel.

Now her gripping novel of one young woman’s terrifying encounter with Colombia’s most notorious drug cartel gives readers a rare glimpse into Colombia’s drug wars and their impact on ordinary citizens.

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aww2017-badgeA Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls is, at its heart, a story about people, and a story worth telling. It is Luzma’s (Luz-Marina Cuesto) of standing up to the cartels, paramilitary and guerrillas in Colombia after her brother, Jair, is kidnapped after inadvertently getting caught up with them and seeing and hearing things he shouldn’t, and the entire plot covers about two weeks of searching for him, and trying to face up to the cartels that ravage the nation and city of Buenaventura. Luzma is yanked unwillingly into the war against drugs and the cartels after Jair disappears and her family is threatened. Working with an American, Rafa, and his contacts in the DEA to find Jair, and capture El Cubano, Luzma also hopes to prevent a shipment of drugs reaching the United States, and will put her life and humanity on the line to do so.

Luzma’s story is a powerful one, and one that needs to be told, because we do not hear enough about what goes in in Colombia, and the drug trade, and related human rights abuses, where people like El Cubano think, feel and say that they can do what they want, when they want, how they want and to whoever they want – because who is going to stop them? This attitude strikes right to the heart of the novel and reveals what ordinary people have to deal with, or turn a blind eye to the goings on if they want to stay alive. It was Luzma’s stubborn drive that kept her going, something that at times, could be frustrating, yet at the same time, showed her determination and strength, and her ability to fight back and fight for what mattered: her family.

Stories like this need to be told – even in a fictional format, because doing so reveals a world that many probably don’t realise exists, or maybe they do and they feel powerless. Luzma’s story gives the people in the situation she finds herself in a voice, and Kelly constructed this voice through interviews with Afro-Colombians like Luzma caught up in the conflict, caught up in trafficking and human rights abuses, and through these very real people, both in Colombia and the DEA, has written an authentic story that is both moving and terrifying in equal parts. It is a story that highlights the inequalities in the world, and the inequalities and abuses throughout history that have brought the characters to where they are in the story, and why they are the way they are. Why some fight, and some turn a blind eye. Why some feel they can take what they want without consequences, and why some are caught in between, scared of the cartels, and wanting to keep their heads down, but at the same time, when push comes to shove, showing their loyalty and willingness to put themselves in dangerous positions.

Though the DEA and other federal agencies become involved. Luzma, and the man who starts helping her at the start, Rafael, are the driving force behind the fight. Luzma is strong, stubborn and determined, but when it comes to her brother, Jair, shows a vulnerability that she winds up using to her benefit to find Jair and towards the end of the novel. Throughout the novel, the human cost of this hidden, not often spoken about war is shown in a myriad of ways.

I can see why this took Kelly almost a decade to write. The amount of research, through interviews and reading, and travel that she did would have taken a considerable amount of time, and constructing the story into what it became certainly would have taken a decent amount of time to achieve the emotional impact that it has on the reader.

A fantastically written novel about issues not often spoken about, but that need to be. I now know a lot more about Colombia and the cartels than I did, and the story is enhanced by Kelly’s own experiences in Colombia that were the impetus and trigger for this story.

ABOUT KELLY

Kelly Brooke Nicholls’ fascination with other cultures was instilled in her early years growing up on a boat in the south pacific islands. She’s been passionate about human rights from an early age and following a stint as a journalist at Australian Associated Press she moved to Latin America when she was 23. From there she was compelled to make a difference and help people affected by conflict, abuse and extreme poverty. She has over 15 years’ senior leadership experience working for NGOs ranging from Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders to a small indigenous-led organisation in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Her extensive time living and working in Colombia has left an indelible mark. She has travelled extensively to places few foreigners have been, researching and documenting the impact of the ongoing war on ordinary citizens and the horrendous human rights abuses inflicted on them.

Kelly wrote her novel A Reluctant Warrior to help shine a light on the way ordinary Colombian citizens have suffered and continue to suffer, despite the advancement in the Peace Agreement. But more than that, she wrote this book to celebrate, support and amplify the message of the brave people who risk their lives to protect and make a difference to others.

Kelly strongly believes that everyone has the ability to make a difference in the world and bring about positive change, and has spent her life helping people achieve that.

Kelly lives on the Northern Beaches of Sydney with her Colombian husband and two sons.

A Reluctant Warrior Book Launch: Gleebooks, 30th June, 2017

 

Just over a month ago, I attended the book launch of A Reluctant Warrior by special invitation of Kelly herself, and was able to arrive earlier to chat with her publisher, Lou Johnson from The Author People. At the beginning of the year, I responded to a job advertisement from Kelly, seeking a Publishing Intern who could work from home to research various places to feature reviews of the book, interviews with Kelly and general websites of interest in relation to Colombia and Latin America for potential readers. It was because of this work that I received the invitation, and so, headed down to Gleebooks at the end of June to attend the launch.

At the launch, Kelly and Lou sat up the front of the function area and chatted about the book, and the inspiration behind the book – in their words, a unique read, and one that Kelly was inspired, and compelled to write after her work in Colombia. She was overwhelmed by the violence she saw – and found herself asking: how do people get to that level of violence? In contrast, she saw those who stood up to the violence – human rights defenders, ordinary people, risking their lives – it was these people that inspired the character of Luzma, and that helped to make the story as accurate and authentic as possible.

For Kelly, the story came before the compulsion to tell it, and in doing so, she feels she has given a voice to the voiceless and the human rights defenders and victims of the fifty-two year conflict that we hear so little about in Australia. At the launch, Kelly said writing this story was about getting people to care, and she wrote it so that anyone could pick it up and read it, leaving it open at the end to ask questions about what might happen next.

Kelly’s discussion about what Colombia, and the port city where the story is set is like cemented the image in the story – from the ramshackle houses that were slapped together, to the constant disappearances and recruitment of young children, to the inability of people to escape, all came together in A Reluctant Warrior and provided a background to the story, and allowed for immersion – all depicted in the novel as it was when Kelly was in Colombia.

This talk at the launch gave greater insight into the book, and as I was reading it over the past few days, doing so after attending the launch made making the connections with Kelly’s personal story and the fictional story more powerful, and allowed me to appreciate it more, even though Kelly and I had previously met and discussed the book and her experiences, hearing more about them gave more strength to the story I have just read.

Following Kelly’s talk with Lou about the book, I was able to chat with Lou about writing and publishing, and it was a fairly busy even – about fifty people were in attendance for the talk and to get their books signed. It was the first book launch I have ever really attended and was a little nervous about meeting Lou, who is such a lovely and generous person who has been helping me to make contacts in the industry I want to work in. People came and went after Kelly and Lou had had their chat, so I didn’t stay for the entire launch as Dad and I had to get back to the Central Coast, but it was a lovely evening and Gleebooks has a fantastic space for a book launches and author events upstairs, with a divine selection of books to choose from.

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Once Upon A Time – Fairy Tales and The Pre-Raphaelites with Kate Forsyth

Kate_ForsythIt is very rare that I get to meet my favourite authors, or in fact, any authors, even though we interact over social media, so when I heard that Kate Forsyth would be at an author event at Kincumber Library, I booked to go before the tickets were all gone. It was a lengthy month waiting to go, but finally the day came to go and listen to Kate talk about her writing and fairy tales – creating a very interesting evening for all. Last night, Tuesday the 4th of July, was a magical evening and it was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have had.

The night began with Kate telling us about her writing journey. Like me, she has always wanted to be a writer and has always loved reading, and at age 7, wrote her first novel, followed by her second and third at ages 9 and 11 – around the same ages I began writing and dreaming up stories, and at age sixteen, she sent off her first manuscript – something I would not have dreamed of doing at that age, as I had only just started thinking of writing novels then. But it has since been a goal of mine to achieve publication, and Kate had many words of encouragement about writing and publishing – to keep writing and trying, and rewriting and getting your work out there, so I am going to try entering a local short story competition, using her words as my inspiration and drive to do so.

IMG_0341At age 25, Kate’s boyfriend, and now husband, gave her five years to get published – five years, where she could polish her work and query it, and learn her craft through study and writing and rewriting. As Kate tells it, the story came, as several of her stories have, from a dream. Using this as a launchpad, she set out to write what would become her first book, with the contract signed two days before she turned thirty, and that book is turning twenty years old this year. I still have my original copy of this book that Kate signed for me after the talk on last night. This book was the beginning of a six-book saga that introduced me to the world of fantasy, and led me into reading Kate’s books for life. This book was Dragonclaw, first book in the Witches of Eileanan series, which is followed by the Rhiannon’s Ride Trilogy. Kate has written forty books, and has had them published into 17 languages across the world, and has cemented her as an extraordinary storyteller, with a broad audience across ages and genres, as evidenced by the gathering at the event at Kincumber Library.dragonclaw

Fun fact: Dragonclaw was published a month before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997, and both just turned twenty this year!

B_bitter-greensDragonclaw’s publication then led to Kate’s career as a full time writer, resulting in that series, and the trilogy that followed, her children’s books which include The Puzzle Ring in 2009, The Starthorn Tree, The Wildkin’s Curse and The Starkin Crown, as well as recent kids series The Impossible Quest and Chain of Charms, as well as picture books and the adult books: Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl, Dancing on Knives, The Beast’s Garden and Beauty in Thorns, all fairy tale infused historical fiction, apart from Dancing on Knives, which has a more contemporary setting – a distinction Kate and I discussed last night – that tell powerful stories of humanity and love against all odds and set against the back drops of very different time periods within each novel, resulting in powerful stories and characters that seep into your subconscious and dreams as you read.

Kate and her siblings have a literary lineage that can be traced back to at least colonial Australia, and Charlotte Waring-Atkinson, who wrote the first children’s book in BeautyinThorns_CoverAustralia: A Mother’s Offering to Her Children by A Lady Long Resident in New South Wales in 1841, the mother of four children, fighting to keep them safe, and loved in a harsh world that tried to separate them, and this book is a testament not only to the literary blood in Kate’s family but to the love, sacrifices, triumphs and moments of grief that Charlotte went through to keep her family safe.

KnivesHearing about Kate’s writing process and literary family was fascinating and she had the audience captured with her words, and very interested to hear about her writing journey, and the moments in her life that affected her and her writing, and introduced her to a love of fairy tales, a love that I share with her, just as we both enjoy reading and watching different fairy tale retellings to see how someone else interprets a fairy tale. The fascination of fairy tales has as much to do with their history and where they came from as what we know them as today – from the oral traditions to the many interpretations that have come about since they were first recorded the early 1800s by Jacob and Wihelm Grimm, whose stories mostly came from Dortchen Wild, their neighbour. During the talk, Kate recounted the childhood incident and subsequent hospital stays that had sparked her interest in fairy tales and desire to write, specifically the fairy tale of Rapunzel. puzzle_ring_med

Most people would associate Rapunzel with the version recorded by the Grimm Brothers, and this is the version Kate began focussing on in her Doctoral research. During this research, she found out more about the fairy tale, and that the first versions pre-dated the Grimm Brothers by about two hundred years, dating back to the 1600s and Giambiattista Basile, and soon came to the story of Charlotte Rose de la Force in the seventeenth century, and her imprisonment in a convent, while she was writing the story. There are three threads, the other two, the witch, and the third, Rapunzel’s perspective, and together, they form an intricate and surprising story, much like Kate’s other books.

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Moving on from Bitter Greens, Kate discussed her latest novel, Beauty in Thorns and the Pre-Raphaelites. Beauty in Thorns, and Kate’s journey in writing it, had been the first time I had heard about the Pre-Raphaelites talked about collectively. The art and poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites was inspired by myth and fairy tale, and a longing to be awakened from the dreariness of accepted art in Victorian times, to bring colour back into the world.

Before Beauty in Thorns and Kate Forsyth’s talk, I had heard the wild girlof individual names such as William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and had read some poetry by Dante’s sister, Christina – my favourite of hers was Goblin Market and re-reading it, I wondered if the characters of Lizzie and Laura in her poem had been inspired by Sleeping Beauty as well, and those in the Pre-Raphaelite circles, though perhaps not as obsessively as the series of paintings of her done by Dante Gabriel had been – an obsession that led him to running back to her after affairs, and burying his only copy of his poetry with her, and seven years later, digging her up to retrieve his poetry. Beauty in Thorns tells the stories of Lizzie Siddal, Georgie MacDonald, who married Edward Burne-Jones and Janey Burden, and the various affairs and love triangles that happened with each other and the models that the men longed to paint. But the main story became the story of Margot Burne-Jones, daughter of Georgie and Edward, whose father longed to keep her from growing up and falling in love an experiencing the pain of adult life, and the contrast in her longing to be awakened like Sleeping Beauty, an obsession that Edward had had for many years, since childhood. Together with Georgie’s story of being the faithful wife, Margot’s story shows how obsessions ate away at these artists, and what their passions did to their families and their great loves, how their obsessions became what finally consumed them in the end. Kate said she structured this story along the lines of Sleeping Beauty, with Margot representing Sleeping Beauty, and Georgie as the Queen, and the paintings were Edward’s way of awakening the world, as the Pre-Raphaelites were trying to do through their involvement in the suffrage movement, for example. I was lucky enough to be an early reader and reviewer for Beauty in Thorns, and it was full of hope, love, tragedy and despair, and everything else that makes Kate’s novels so good. Like her written word, Kate’s spoken word is powerful and weaves a spell on her audience, capturing their attention wholly and completely across the room, not even a gasp at times flying forth from the crowd. And like her books, the talk was over all too soon. It was a lovely evening for all, and Kate was so generous with her time afterwards as well.

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After the talk, she signed books for us all, and spent time answering our questions, and when I approached the signing table, she gave me a huge hug, and we talked about her books, the book launch I had just attended, and my reviewing. Hearing how supportive she was, and getting advice on writing and reading and reviewing – to only review what I like, and not to worry about not reading something I get sent that isn’t my thing, so I am going to try this method, as well as being more honest i my reviews about things I don’t like or am unsure about. I appreciated this talk with Kate, and all the interaction she has with me and her other fans on social media, and hope to attend more events with her soon.

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Harry Potter Anniversary Event: Fairy Tale and Fandom at University of Newcastle, Ourimbah Campus

Harry Potter Anniversary Event: Fairy Tale and Fandom at University of Newcastle, Ourimbah Campus

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On the 26th of June, 2017, the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, and in particular, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was marked in a variety of celebrations around the world, at bookstores and libraries, and in some places, public lectures at university campuses, such as the event held at four o’clock in the afternoon, at the exact time the first book was published and released, at The University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah Campus. It was quite an academic event, as it was a public lecture, and it was very enjoyable, especially as fairy tales and children’s literature is an area I am very interested in.

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This event was a public lecture, entitled Fairy Tale and Fandom, and through four speakers – Dr Caroline Webb, Rebecca Beirne, Dr Elizabeth Kinder and PhD Candidate, Nicole Shipley, who spoke on various aspects of Harry Potter in the fairy tale tradition, its fandom, the way images work and how gender is represented through Harry.

Dr Caroline Webb had, for me, the most interesting lecture, though all were interesting. I enjoyed hers the most as children’s literature and fairy tales are the area I am most interested in, and in particular, retellings of fairy tales, and the use of fairy tale motifs in children’s fantasy literature. Harry Potter takes on the Cinderella story for six chapters – an orphan, living with foster parents who treat him like a servant, who make them cook the breakfast, and sleep in a cupboard under the stairs – the sleeping arrangements illustrating the last vestige of servitude in a modern world where the kitchen is the hub of activity for Aunt Petunia, and where she deems it suitable for Harry to be in there to cook for Dudley’s (or her Ickle Diddykins, as she calls him though there is nothing little about him) birthday, so she can focus all her attention on her son.

harry-potter-20-paperbackThe lectures given were quite academic in nature, especially Caroline’s, and she was very passionate as this is her area of research and teaching in the university. Like Cinderella, Harry is at first passive and acted upon – Hagrid takes him to Diagon Alley and gives him his ticket to Platform 9 ¾, Molly Weasley helps him through the barrier. Yet once at Hogwarts, Harry becomes less passive, and acts for himself whilst at school. From here, it breaks away from the fairy tale tradition and extends beyond the happily ever after of an escape, however temporary, from the Dursleys.

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There was one theme that cropped up in each talk – the idea of Harry as the hero and how he became a hero, and fits into that role. Caroline mentioned that upon entering the Wizarding World of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, Harry becomes the retrospective hero – he is celebrated for something he never knew about, something he didn’t seek out, – but all the same he is a hero, and always has been to the Wizarding World – Harry’s experience of becoming this hero is plagued throughout the book by self doubt, as referenced by Nicole Shipley, and presents him as an atypical hero who does not fit many of the traditional masculine attributes of a hero, because, as Nicole suggests, he first and foremost, a human who cares about people and craves love and family – something that is often missing in male heroes, or is at least not always a consideration. When thinking about Caroline and Nicole’s lectures in combination, Harry’s character is shown to be imperfect, but still fitting in as a hero – just in his own way and on his own terms. However, Caroline’s focus on the fairy tale aspects of the story do not go into as much detail in terms of gender as Nicole’s lecture does.

Once at school, Harry is celebrated by students, and most teachers, and perhaps even favoured by Professor McGonagall, because instead of punishing him for flying without permission, she awards him with a broomstick and a place on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and with house points for taking on a mountain troll instead of punishing him for disobeying a direction from Dumbledore. However, she does not favour Gryffindor in the way that Snape favours Slytherin, and is also harsh on rule breaking at times, and fair in punishments and rewards. It is through Hogwarts and this world that Harry finds his place, and as Caroline says, a way out of the physical and emotional disconnect he experienced with his aunt and uncle.

hp20_230The second lecture had a focus on fandom and fan-made media, introducing us to the term transmedia – telling a story or story experience across multiple platforms. Rebecca mainly spoke about this in general terms, relating to how fans interact with the story in different ways, and what this can mean to them, and how they write their fanfiction. This transmedia phenomenon allows for the creation of complex worlds stemming from the original text, and the question of whether the fans actually own the story is a difficult one to answer. In a way they don’t, because they haven’t created the world and the characters – JK Rowling has and I think that needs to be respected and she needs to be respected as the author. A fan can own a physical copy, and own any transmedia texts they create, but at the same time, they do not have the same ownership over the origin story as the author. This is complex because many would argue that once the story is out there, the author no longer owns it – yet it is only the author who can alter the story if she wishes, whereas a fan needs to create their own story to explore something not explored in the story. I believe there are different ways to own a story, and it’s not as simple as stating that fans own it just because it’s been published. I think it is a lot more complex than that.

raven-20The world of fandom that Rebecca talks about has been spurred on by the creation of Pottermore and other games and collectables associated with the creator, and franchise owner for fans. Even though the computer games follow the story and get the same outcome, fans can act as characters in the story in their own way to get to this goal. The lecture hall was filled with fans, some dressed in house scarves and shirts, some dressed in robes or as specific characters – Harry, Hermione, Luna, Moaning Myrtle and Sirius Black, whereas others weren’t dressed up, but still keenly interested in the lecture, and eager to celebrate the anniversary.

Dr Elizabeth Kinder looked at the specular world of Harry Potter and the role that images play – whether in the Mirror of Erised, and the magic involved that allows Harry to find and get the stone, based on his desire not to use it and do the right thing, to moving photographs and portraits that adorn the castle, and the confusion that Muggle images, such as Dean’s poster of West Ham, give wizards, showing Ron prodding the poster to try and make the players move.

These portraits are shown as having their own agency, and ability to show emotion – and become important later in the books, with Phineas Black’s portrait, although, and rather disappointingly I think, this was not given any attention in the movie, even though I felt it was an important aspect that should have been included. Not many movies do much with the portraits , except with the Fat Lady in the first three, most notably when Sirius Black tries to get into Gryffindor Tower in book three.gryff-20

It is interesting that neither the books nor the movies touch on how a portrait of a deceased headmaster appears in the office in Hogwarts – as they appear upon the death of a headmaster, as in the case of Dumbledore, it would be interesting to know if there is a process. This specular world is one that is not always explored and is simply accepted as a part of the Wizarding World – like many other aspects of this new world for Harry, where Ron simply shrugs as if to say well, it just is that way. And because of the lack of explanation, as a reader, you are forced to suspend your belief and like Harry, just accept it. I think this is what makes these books so magical – that not everything is explained, that sometimes the characters and the readers just accept it for what it is and continue reading. Without this suspension of belief, the experience that the speakers at the public lecture were talking about would not exist as we know it.

Finally, Nicole Shipley’s talk on gender and Harry’s way of being male was also interesting and complemented Caroline’s. In short, she surmised that Harry, rather than being the typical male hero, free from flaws and imperfections and not distracted by love of family usually, is simply a human. He craves love and a family, he has self doubt and is not physically perfect – he is skinny and small with glasses, and yet, he is sporty and strong, and capable of finding a way to be heroic without compromising his humanity, a way of being male with compassion and feeling – aspects not typically associated with the male hero. As the final talk, I feel it summed up what the others had been saying, but in particular, Caroline’s, and together, these lectures gave a great insight into the world of Harry Potter that might otherwise go unnoticed.

As a book that started out for children, it has captured the imagination of adults as well, as has gone from being “just a kids book” to one of the biggest reading phenomena in the world today. Because all adults have been children, we can identify with Harry, self doubt and compassion and a desire for a family are not limited to the world of children. The twentieth anniversary shows that there has been a longevity of Harry Potter.

Between each presentation, there were trivia questions that just about everyone could answer correctly, a costume competition and after the lecture, a screening of the first film, which I had to miss out on to get somewhere else, but it was an enjoyable afternoon all the same. It was nice to celebrate it with friends and catch up with Caroline, and I hope to see more events for the other books in the coming years.