Harry Potter: a personal history

Cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneWhen I was 7, a substitute teacher read the class the first two chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I thought it was a bit rubbish and told my mother so when I got home. “I think I’ve heard about it on the radio,” she said. “It’s meant to be quite good.” Oh. I gave it another try, this time borrowing it from the library. I read it so compulsively that I finished it on a family visit to a friend’s for dinner, surfacing at the end to ask if there was a sequel. I was hooked.

That was in 1997. Over the next few years the world caught up in the same kind of madness, and I slowly caught up to Harry in age. By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the seventh and final volume) was published I was a teenager on a gap year — I still have a photo of myself in a bookshop in France on the day it was released. Like a lot of people, Harry Potter was my first experience of fandom, sharing my fiction affliction with millions of others around the world. There are a thousand stories like mine.

My relationship with the books is a lot more complicated now than it was in the beginning, but they shaped so much of my growing up that I still love them anyway. From making Harry Potter paper dolls with my best friend to writing a fan letter to J. K. Rowling (and getting a reply!), buying my first merch (Hedwig sweatshirt) in Germany in 1998, getting spoiled for who died in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because for once I didn’t read fast enough, dressing up for a launch event at the local bookshop in 2005…

Somehow, as of today, it has been 20 years since Harry Potter was first published. Time for a re-read and a chocolate frog, I think.

Celebrating 20 years of Harry Potter

“Happee Birthdae Harry” as Rubeus Hagrid so aptly said twenty years ago.

Yes, its hard to believe, but this year, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its first publication, and my generation of twenty-somethings can now, finally, feel old.

Together we and Harry Potter went through school (admittedly with less owls and enchanted halls on our end), and gradually ‘grew up’ through both good and bad experiences (though again, less trolls and horcruxes’ were involved), losses, and gains. Harry Potter really was the story of our generation. I remember my father bringing home the first Harry Potter book with a casual ‘the woman in the shop said this was quite good’ (yes – they hadn’t quite taken off at that stage).

From then on, as each book in the series was released, there would be a flurried, exciting day where me and my two sisters would charge down to our nearest bookstore and buy a copy each (the only way to avoid an ugly scene). We would then spend the next day (and night) with our noses buried in its pages, never emerging until the very last sentence had been read. One year we were so immersed in the latest installment we let our log fire go out three times, and forgot to eat any food until dinner time (a very monumental thing for us).

Twenty years on from our first introduction to Rowling’s incredible world, I not only feel old, I also feel oddly proud that ‘Harry Potter and Philosophers Stone’ is every bit as good to me as  when I first read it all those years ago. Reason enough, I think, to break out the butterbeer and cauldron cakes.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

As a young girl I loved magic books (what kid doesn’t) particularly E Nesbit’s ‘Phoenix and the Carpet‘ and CS Lewis’ Narnia. I also loved boarding school stories like Enid Blyton’s ‘St Clare’s’ series and Anthony Buckeridge’s ‘Jennings’, so finding an author who so beautifully married together boarding schools and magic was simply the best thing ever.

Not only that but Rowling was also incredibly funny. There are passages which still make me gwarff out loud like Lee Jordan’s ‘impartial’ quidditch commentary:

“So-after that obvious and disgusting bit of cheating-“
“Jordan!” growled Professor McGonagall.
“I mean, after that open and revolting foul-“
“Jordan, I’m warning you-“
“All right, all right. Flint nearly kills the Gryffindor Seeker, which could happen to anyone I’m sure…”   .

And Ron’s pragmatic reply to Harry’s question:

“what if I wave my wand and nothing happens?”
Ron: “Throw it away and punch him on the nose.’

Some comic relief and cosy moments at the Burrow actually manage to transform these books into go-to comfort reading for me (except for the last book I guess- and the end of the fourth and the sixth and, well, a few other moments…).

Cover of The phoenix and the carpet  Cover of The chronicles of Narnia: Complete collection

And of course the stories are damn good. Who doesn’t love a story which features the underdog (in this case an unloved orphan) transforming into a honourable hero with the skills and courage to save the (wizarding) world. In addition, as the story grew both in intricacy and character development, so did Rowling’s first generation of readers. The stories’ growth really couldn’t have been better timed. There were always strong themes of sacrifice and loss running through Harry Potters story but, somehow, Rowling managed to introduce more intricate, often darker ideas like Horcruxes, the death of Dumbledore, Snapes’ heartbreaking love for Lily, and the supremely evil professor Umbridge’s ‘takeover’ of Hogwarts, just as her audiences were growing in reading level and maturity.

Rowling always celebrated important character traits too such as loyalty and knowledge, themes which will make her stories timeless. Ron and Hermione sacrifice a happy, normal life to follow Harry on his quest; Snape sacrifices his own name and safety to avenge Lily and keep the mission going and, in the end, Harry makes the ultimate sacrifice, his own life, to rid the world of Voldemort.

Knowledge is celebrated through Hermione, the cleverest witch of her time and Dumbledore the epitome of wisdom. It is doubtful if Harry’s quest would have progressed as successfully had it not been for Hermione swotting up on virtually every wizarding book under the sun including material on horcruxes, and had it not been for Dumbledore’s private lessons with Harry in which they discussed Voldemort’s past.

Cover of Harry Potter and the chamber of secretsCover of Harry Potter and the goblet of fireCover of Harry Potter and the prisoner of AzkabanCover of Harry Potter and the Order of the phoenixCover of Harry Potter and the Half-blood princeCover of Harry Potter and the deathly hallows

And who couldn’t love the world Rowling managed to create? An amazing world of Quidditch, pet owls, wizarding schools, and so so much more. Somehow, Rowling still managed to also ‘keep it real’ by having very real themes of love (in many forms), and painful loss. Perhaps this is part of Harry Potters huge appeal – that perfect mix of magic and reality.

Rowling also includes some great hat tips to ancient mythology. Like St Patrick or Herakles, Harry Potter has power over serpents (though admittedly Harry takes a somewhat more passive approach to Herakles and has a reasoned chat to his snakes rather than killing them in either hand from his infancy). Cerberus, the 3 headed dog like guard of the underworld, even makes an appearance as Hagrid’s beloved pet ‘Fluffy’, and there are frequent references to Rowling’s own personal favourite of mythical creatures – the phoenix, the ultimate symbol of renewal celebrated in Greek, Roman and many other mythologies. Also, like all mythological heroes, Harry is on a ‘quest’ which only he can achieve. Wise as Dumbledore is, and loyal as Hermione and Ron remain to the bitter end, Harry still must go on his own and leave his companions to confront the essential menace and conquer the root of all the evil.

Cover of The tales of the beedle bardCover of Quidditch through the agesCover of Fantastic beasts and where to find themCover of Harry Potter and the cursed child

I also love Rowling’s clever use of latin within spells and potions (For a start, ‘accio’ sounds so much more impressive than ‘fetch’ and ‘felix felicitis’ far more meaningful than ‘lucky day’), and one has to admire the hidden meanings dedicated Potter fans manage to unearth behind seemingly innocent phrases. Take Snape’s first question to Harry:

“Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Some dedicated Potter fans insist that what this really means is ‘I bitterly regret Lily’s death’, because, according to Victorian Flower Language, asphodel is a type of lily while wormwood means ‘absence’ and symbolizes bitter sorrow. Just as rabbis take a passage in the Torah and discuss its complexities and multiple meanings for many days, so it seems, do Potter fans for a snarky question from Severus Snape. There exists a sort of Harry Potter midrash. Who knew?

With a gripping, intricate story, quite literally magical setting, strong characters, and great humour, there is so much to love and celebrate about this incredible series. Rowling has helped to inspire a whole generation of bookworms and after twenty years, more beautiful reprints, and more spin off movies, it looks as though she will continue to work her magic for new generations to come.

Further reading

Helen
Central Library Peterborough

Te Rerenga Kōrero – Wheowheo ana te haere!

Kia ora. To encourage the use of Te Reo Māori Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori – The Māori Language Commission publish weekly Māori phrases that can be used to support or cheer someone on.

Wheowheo ana te haere!
They went at full speed!

akina te reo rugby

New Books – 23 June

Hi there, some great looking titles in the box this week.

CoverKatey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Futurama, Married with Children) has written an autobiography! Grace Notes tells the story of Sagal’s amazing and challenging life (not the least having a baby, told as a series of essays. Christina Applegate hails the memoir as “a beautiful poem…you will be transported…and healed.” Follow Katey Sagal on Twitter @KateySagal

CoverWildlife enthusiasts will love this biography The Durrells of Corfu. Those who loved reading Gerald Durrell’s stories of the exotic island and equally exotic pets will enjoy this. The author, Michael Haag, was family friend of Lawrence Durrell, Gerald’s father. The book includes photographs, excerpts from stories and an epilogue on Lawrence Durrell’s writing.

CoverClive Cussler’s new book Nighthawk is the 14th installment of the Numa Files (National Underwater and Marine Agency Foundation). A highly advanced spaceship disappears over the South Pacific. Kurt Austin and NUMA scramble to find it, and its unstable cargo before other nations can discover it. Great reviews. Keep track of his series with Fantastic Fiction.

CoverThe Other Hoffmann Sister by Ben Fergusson, is an Historic novel about a German family, set in Southwest Africa. When her sister Marguerite later goes missing after their return to Berlin, the mystery haunts Ingrid, but her search is interrupted by the onset of World
War I. His second novel, the story is described at atmospheric, accurate, elegant and engrossing.

CoverA Dog’s Way Home is another novel from W. Bruce Cameron, author of A Dog’s Purpose (recently on film). There are many wonderful tales of great animal journeys. In this story, Lucas has to give the dog he found as a puppy, as pitbulls are banned in Denver. Yet the bond between Bella and Lucas is so strong that Bella attempts a journey of 400 miles across Colorado wilderness.

CoverFamiliar Things is a bit of a gem. South-Korean writer Hwang Sok-Yong, is being hailed as ‘the most powerful voice in Asia’ (Kenzaburo Oe), this book as a ‘great political book’ (Critiques Libres).  Flower Island is a landfill, home to the poor who have been driven out of the city. Yet against the stark backdrop of reality, Ancient Spirits are about to reveal themselves…

Alice Grundy feeding Topsy the horse: Picturing Canterbury

Alice Grundy feeding Topsy the horse, 1920. Kete Christchurch. PH13-174. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. CC-BY-NA-SA-3.0 NZ.

Alice Grundy feeding Topsy the horse in the paddock next to 48 Milton Street.

Date: 1920.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any further information about this photo? If so, please share it with us by leaving a comment.

Fun with Farts – Old MacDonald heard a fart

Miss Manners would probably be spinning in her grave*, but seriously, I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard as when I read Old MacDonald Heard a Fart! I took it home the other night, to read it to the Beecrafty family, but it seems not everyone enjoys a fart book as much as I do! Maybe I shouldn’t have read it at the dinner table, because of course it prompted a raucous fart-noise competition between myself and the Young Lad, and Mr K left the room in disgust. But if you’ve got kids who appreciate a bit of scatological humour, this picture book is a must!

There’s just so much to love about this book. As you probably already guessed from the title, it’s an irreverent, noisy version of the farmyard classic. It has lovely, vibrant, and expressive illustrations, with lots of little details and things to spy. I had to giggle at the Elvis rooster and the Jurassic Pork poster on the stable wall. The Ziggy Stardust unicorn in a Dalí landscape is really something, too.

But best of all has to be the instructions on how to create (verbally, I promise!) each fart sound. The Young Lad and I had great fun contorting our lips into the correct formations to make all the gross noises. Although he was quick to demonstrate his own favourite technique – I didn’t know what an accomplished fart noise creator he was. The next night, he was most indignant when I said I couldn’t read it again as I had taken the book back to work!

The story of this story is also quite something. Debut author Olaf Falafel tweeted that he needed a publisher for his new book, and before two weeks were up, he had a book deal! Isn’t that twitterising a whole lot better than covfefe?

So to paraphrase Olaf Falafel (that can’t be his real name, can it?) If you have a child, know a child, are a child, or act like a child** you should definitely go to a library and borrow Old McDonald Heard a Fart!

But wait, there’s more! Remember that book deal I told you about? It’s a three book deal, so there’s more like that on the way.

Cover of In One End and Out the OtherAnd there’s even more! I just couldn’t resist putting together a list of Poop and Parp related books

*If Miss Manners was dead, which she’s not.

**I’m guessing I fit the last category as well as the first!

Old MacDonald heard a fart
by Olaf Falafel
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008242794

Podcast – Child poverty and the Budget 2017

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

Co-host Sara Epperson of CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) joins Sally Carlton to interview Paul Dalziel, Professor of Economics, Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University, and Helen Leahy, CEO of Te Putahitanga, Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency for Te Wai Pounamu, on the Budget 2017 as viewed through the lens of child poverty.

  • Part I: Paul Dalziel
    Budget 2017 in its economic context; key elements of Budget 2017; putting Budget in layperson’s terms
  • Part II: Helen Leahy
    Budget 2017 and its implications for whānau; family vulnerability and resilience
  • Part III: Discussion
    Government-civil society partnerships and the importance of holistic approaches to family wellbeing; pros and cons of statistics-based funding models; prioritising economic growth against other types of growth

Transcript – Child poverty and Budget 2017

Mentioned in this podcast

Find out more in our collection

Redesigning the Welfare State in New Zealand: Problems, Polices, Prospects Cover of Child poverty in New Zealand Cover of From innocents to agents Cover of The child poverty debate Cover of Twelve thousand hours Cover of Wellbeing economics Cover of The New Zealand project Cover of Children of Rogernomics Cover of Economic futures Cover of For Each and Every Child Cover of The New Zealand economy

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

World Refugee Day – 20 June

World Refugee Day is 20th June.

“I’ve met so many who have lost so much. But they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world. They ask for little in return – only our support in their time of greatest need”

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

Find fiction and non-fiction about refugees in our collection.

CoverCoverCoverCoverCover

Refugee organisations

Christchurch refugee services listed in CINCH, Community Information Christchurch.

Red Cross Refugee Services helps empower people from refugee backgrounds to achieve their goals and contribute to their new home in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Christchurch Resettlement Services exists to support people from refugee and migrant backgrounds living in Christchurch to settle successfully in New Zealand by providing a range of professional services that build on strengths to promote wellbeing and resilience.

National Volunteer Week 2017

Volunteering is a rewarding way to make a difference in your community. Here is some information from Volunteering New Zealand on National Volunteer Week 2017.

This year’s theme is:

Live, laugh, share — Volunteer
Kia ringa hora: Me mahi tūao

National Volunteer Week (NVW) 2017 will be held from 18 to 24 June. This positive message is about celebrating what volunteers bring to their communities. It is important to recognise volunteering and the place it has in  keeping our communities strong and healthy.

Volunteering New Zealand

Local voluntary organisations

Volunteering Canterbury
Supports and promotes the work of volunteers and voluntary organisations. Search volunteering opportunities and register online.
Student Volunteer Army
SVA was set up following the quakes of 2010 and 2011. Its focus is on encouraging young people to volunteer.
Gap Filler
Gap Filler creates activities in the vacant sites of our city and welcomes volunteers.
Places to volunteer
Search the libraries’ CINCH database for information about volunteering and voluntary organisations.

International organisations

Red Cross

The international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the world’s largest humanitarian movement. New Zealand Red Cross has a team of over 20,000 volunteers. Volunteer for Red Cross New Zealand.

Volunteer Service Abroad

Volunteer Service Abroad sends Kiwis to aid projects in different parts of the world. They offer long-term, short-term and youth volunteering opportunities in countries within the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms)

Volunteer on organic farms with people who are looking for volunteer help. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Wwoof.org has a directory of WWOOF networks in different countries.

More information

  • Volunteering resources at your library.
  • givUS New Zealand funding information for voluntary organisations from hundreds of schemes.
  • giveME Search for awards, scholarships and grants for school, study, research or professional development.

International Volunteer Day is observed globally on 5 December.

School holidays! Holiday programmes, events, and activities – July 2017

Find out what’s on this school holidays for Christchurch children. KidsFest will be keeping Christchurch kids busy in July (read our post for more info). Check out the holiday programmes and activities at our libraries and learning centres, and shows and performances for kids.

Library and Learning Centre holiday programmes and activities

Our libraries and learning centres offer a variety of accessible, safe and affordable activities for children during their school holidays. Programmes and activities are aimed at children between the ages of five and 15 years:

Activities include origami, beebots, craft stick harmonicas, knitting, and board games. Some sessions require booking.

Christchurch holiday programmes and workshops

The following organisations are running holiday programmes or workshops for kids or teens in the July 2017 holidays:

Search CINCH, our Community Information Christchurch database, for more Canterbury holiday programmes.

Find an OSCAR programme (Out of School Care and Recreation) and view this map of OSCAR programmes in Christchurch.

Shows, movies, and performances

Kid friendly movies on in the holidays include Despicable Me 3, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, and Long Way North.

Things to do, and places to go in Christchurch

Margaret Mahy Playground - new slide and towers

Most of these venues are free but some have a entry fee. There is more information on their websites.

Margaret Mahy playground

For more events and activities, search Be There and Eventfinda.