Balance and Harmony: The Creation of a Sand Mandala at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre – 12 August to 2 September

From Saturday 12 August to Saturday 2 September at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre, Tibetan monks will be constructing a sacred cosmogram grain by grain with crushed marble coloured sand, representing a world in perfect harmony. There will be events including public talks and activities for children.

Balance and Harmony: The Creation of a Sand Mandala will open at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre with a ceremony on Saturday 12 August at 10.30am when the monks will perform a consecration service and pour the first grains of sand after being welcomed by local iwi.

The monks will slowly build up the mandala, labouring over their work for hours at a time as they place one grain of sand after another to realise an intricate symbolic design in vivid colour.

After painstakingly placing the elements of the cosmogram, the grains will be brushed away, signifying the impermanence of all things. This ancient art form was an integral part of Indian Tantric Buddhism.

Events

Explore all the events related to Balance and Harmony: The Creation of a Sand Mandala:

Public Talks

Compassion, love, and patience
Sunday 13th, 20th, 27th August 11am to 12pm
Free to attend, no bookings required.
The Geshes (monks) will give talks in the library on how to cultivate compassion, love and patience from their training and perspective. This will cover ways to increase wellbeing and reduce internal emotional conflict. Known as the ‘four noble truths’ this will be discussed for practical everyday use, not from a religious perspective.

Inner Harmony and balance
Saturday 19th and 26th August 2pm to 3pm
Free to attend, no bookings required.
While the Sand Mandala is being created we will be hosting public talks by the Tibetan Monks. The Geshes will talk from their training and perspective on inner harmony and balance.

Children’s Activity: The Creation of a Sand Mandala

Sunday August 20th and 27th  2pm to 3pm
Please contact us to secure a place – phone 9417923 or email 
Here is a unique chance to attend a children’s mandala making programme. The Tibetan Monks will draw a lotus flower and children will have the opportunity to use the proper tools to fill it in with sand. There will also be mandalas to colour and iPad mandala apps with library staff. This activity is not suitable for pre-schoolers – to get the most of this activity children must have the motor skills to manipulate the tools. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

The winners of the My Very Own Hungry Caterpillar colouring-in competition

We’re happy to announce the winners of the My Very Own Hungry Caterpillar (for ages 0 to 12 years) competition. It was a difficult task to judge, as the entries were outstanding.

WINNERS

These prizewinners get family passes to The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show at the beautiful Isaac Theatre Royal.

Winner - Isabel Edwards-Stieller
Winner – Isabel Edwards-Stieller (4 years)
Winner - Kimberley He
Winner – Kimberley He (3.5 years)
Winner - Amber Hicks
Winner – Amber Hicks (4 years)
Winner - Ruadhri Whitty
Winner – Ruadhri Whitty (6 years)
Winner - Gisele Zhao
Winner – Gisele Zhao (5 years)

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Congratulations to our two Highly Commended entries who will each receive a library goody bag.

Highly Commended - Daniel Choe
Highly Commended – Daniel Choe (8 years)
Highly Commended - Sophia Choe
Highly Commended – Sophia Choe (11 years)

FINALISTS

Congratulations to our talented finalists! We have certificates for our finalists; they are ready for you to pick up at Papanui Library after 9am on Saturday 22 July – please contact us at LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to organise delivery if you are unable to pick-up.

Finalist - Sacha
Finalist – Sacha (7 years)
Finalist - Jumana Adamji
Finalist – Jumana Adamji (7 years)
Finalist - Sophie Stead
Finalist – Sophie Stead (8 years)
Finalist - Jireh Tseng
Finalist – Jireh Tseng (10 years)


See all the winners and finalists on our Flickr set for My Very Own Hungry Caterpillar colouring-in.

Remembering our most colourful author: Margaret Mahy

23 July marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of one of Christchurch’s most famous locals, Margaret Mahy.

Image result for margaret mahy glenda randerson
Portrait of Margaret Mahy by Glenda Randerson Christchurch City Libraries

One of New Zealand’s most prolific writers for children and young adults, Margaret’s writing has touched lives over many generations. Her stories and poems are full of magic and fun with a moral tale in the weaving.

Many of her tales have been brought to the the screen. The Changeover, filmed locally, will be released on film on 28 September 2017.

It’s hard to pick a favourite. Down the Back of the Chair comes to mind, followed closely by The Great White Man Eating Shark. Kaitangata Twitch and Maddigan’s Quest are a great stories for Young Adults, both made into TV Series.

Cover of Down the back of the chair Cover of The great white man-eating shark Cover of Kaitangata Twitch

Margaret Mahy has been an inspiration to writers. She established a retreat for authors in Governor’s Bay, and in her video A Tall Long Faced Tale she tells how publishers would often ask her to rewrite a story up to eleven times! Take note.

The Margaret Mahy Family Playground on 177 Armagh Street won an NZILA Award of Excellence for 2017.

I was lucky enough to meet Margaret at the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand School Journal. There she was, in her famous rainbow wig, for all the world holding court at the National Library of Wellington. She signed my journal. I’ll never forget it.

More information:

Use your library card number and password to access articles on Margaret Mahy:

The winners of The Very Hungry Caterpillar “Craft yourself a creature” competition

We’re happy to announce the winners of the Craft Yourself a Creature – A Family Challenge! (all ages) competition. It was a difficult task to judge, as the entries were outstanding. The prizewinners get family passes to The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show at the beautiful Isaac Theatre Royal.

WINNERS

Winner - North, Evers, and Roxana
Winner – North, Evers, and Roxana
Winner - Imogen, Joseph, Lily-Mae, and Nicola
Winner – Imogen, Joseph, Lily-Mae, and Nicola
Winner - Adrian, Helena, Kees, Imri and Evelyn
Winner – Adrian, Helena, Kees, Imri and Evelyn
Winner - Jayde
Winner – Jayde
Winner - The Manson Family
Winner – The Manson Family

FINALISTS

Finalist - Te Puna Oraka ELC Family
Finalist – Te Puna Oraka ELC Family
Finalists - Charlotte and Liz
Finalists – Charlotte and Liz
Finalists - Hannah and Mum
Finalists – Hannah and Mum


See all the winners and finalists on our Flickr set for Craft yourself a creature.

Congratulations to our talented finalists! We have certificates for all our finalists; they are ready for you to pick up at Papanui Library after 9am on Monday 17 July – please contact us at LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to organise pickup or delivery.

These entries are on display at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre during the July school holidays as part of KidsFest.

P.S. If you want another chance to win family passes to The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show , there’s a colouring competition for kids on until next Wednesday 19 July: My Very Own Hungry Caterpillar (for ages 0 to 12 years)

Carmen interests: Archie and Jack MacDonald

NZ Opera’s production of Carmen, Bizet’s tale of love and betrayal, gypsies and bullfighters, opens at the Isaac Theatre Royal this week and amongst the cast is a chorus of ten Christchurch schoolboys.

So what’s it like to be 12 years old and in a professional production of one of the world’s most popular operas? I asked twin brothers Archie and Jack MacDonald about how they got into singing, choirs, and their advice for other youngsters who might want to sing on stage.

How did you both get into singing and performing? Is that something you’ve been doing for a long time?

Archie: Well, we got into our first 2 big choirs [Christchurch Schools Music Festival special choir and the Christchurch Boys’ Choir] in year 5 but we’ve just been in heaps of school choirs and have always loved playing guitar and singing with our big sister, and it’s just sort of been a passion that we’ve always had all of our life.

Is singing something that you’ve always done together?

Jack: Yeah, I don’t think we’ve ever been in a choir that the other one hasn’t been in. And we busk together too. Either in the Riccarton Bush Market or the Re:Start Mall.

How much practising and rehearsing do you have to do for Carmen?

Archie: There’s quite a lot, particularly in our own time at home. We’ve been given a [music] file just to rehearse and get it all sorted… We’d do some at least every day for the last 2 weeks.

And for Carmen you’re singing in French. Is that a thing that you’ve done before?

Jack: We’ve sung in different languages before but not as much as in Carmen, so it took a few hours just to figure out the pronunciation and write it down in our music, and then there’s the notes and you have to put them all together and that’s hard but we’ve got the adult chorus to help us…  when you’re acting as well, you’ve got to know what you’re singing about so that you can have facial expressions and act how you would if you were saying it in English.

Don Jose and Carmen
Don Jose and Carmen. Image credit: Marty Melville

And what’s it been like being part of an opera production?

Jack: It’s been fun. Last year we were in Evita with Showbiz but this is like another step up. We’ve got different costumes from everyone else and we’re running around [the stage] teasing soldiers, running up stairs and things – it’s been full on but fun.

Is it good to have other kids around (in the children’s chorus)?

Archie: Yeah, it sort of takes a little bit of the pressure off. Definitely a solo act is a bit trickier and a bit harder but everyone’s really supportive and it’s just great, ya know? But it’s a bit more fun with more boys.

It must be very nerve-wracking going in for an audition.

Archie: Yeah, you can never really take that away from an audition. You always want to get in and have heaps of time with whatever you’re auditioning for.

Jack: Yep, just being by yourself in front of someone and singing is quite hard… but then you feel good coming out of it.

So what’s the most fun thing about singing?

Archie: Definitely performances.

Jack: Yeah, performances in front of a crowd.

Is it more fun with an audience? What’s that like?

Archie: When the lights go up you’ll just see a crowd sitting in front of you and you’re just like “I’ve gotta do this. I can’t really muck up.” So yeah, it sort of boosts you a wee bit more and you’re really wanting to work hard.

Jack: Well, you feel nervous but then when you go off the stage and you’re done you’ll feel happy, like after an audition and you’ll think that you’ve done your job well. As long as you give it everything and work hard.

Children's chorus, Carmen
Children’s chorus, NZ Opera production of Carmen. Image credit: Marty Melville

Is music something you’d like to do for a job one day?

Archie: I’ve always thought it would be a lot of fun to be involved in music but I’ve never really seen it as necessarily something to base everything around, as in, have as my job but it would be heaps of fun to just stay involved. I’ve really got a taste for how much fun it really is and I’d love to keep that going for as long as I can, really.

Jack: Yeah, I really like cricket but then getting into a good team as a job, that’s gonna be hard so I have to have something else to work on… I’m sort of still thinking about it.

Do you have any advice for other kids who want to be on the stage performing and singing?

Jack: Give it everything and enjoy it. And just work hard.

Archie: I’d probably say don’t hold back, just go for everything that sounds fun. Never think “there’ll be some people who are better at this role than me”, because it’s great to have an experience of just an audition. It sort of gets you a bit more used to things and less nervous for later on in life. The more you do things, the more you get to enjoy it, the more hobbies you get to have when you’re older. So just really get into it. Take every opportunity. Absolutely anything really. Go for anything and everything you like the sounds of.

Being in choirs seems to have been a big part of it for you.

Archie: [Christchurch Boys’ Choir] has taken us from having not too many musical opportunities to just singing with so many amazing groups and heaps of cool opportunities coming up.

Jack: It was only Boys’ Choir that was in Evita. We sang at the Crusaders vs Lions game (we sang Conquest of Paradise) and now Carmen. And they’re after boys to audition for Sister Act. Whenever we’re backstage we’re always singing and stuff because we’ve all got decent voices we can pick out a harmony while we’re sitting there… I really recommend the Boys Choir as a really top thing that will get you into heaps of things like this, end of year concerts, concerts in between, or maybe one thing a year like performances with Showbiz.

Archie: (about end of year Battle of the Bands at intermediate school) It was pretty cool because with the Boys’ Choir we’ve got audiences much bigger than a school of 500 people and we’re a bit more confident with that sort of thing. If we weren’t in the choir or involved with any productions or anything that’d sort of be massive and our hearts would be pounding. It would be crazy, you know, really nervous. It’s quite cool just to know, we were very confident going into that and it’s because we’ve just sung in front of so many people…

Archie and Jack will perform in the children’s chorus as part of NZ Opera’s production of Carmen, Isaac Theatre Royal on 13, 15, 18, 20 & 22 July.

Find out more

Carmen (highlights) streaming music Cover of Kickstart Music 3 : 9-11 Yrs : Music Activites Made Simple Cover of Is singing for you?

Wednesday 19 July – Leighs Construction CSO Presents: Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead

The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra brings together music and mystery these school holidays with Leighs Construction CSO Presents: Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead, in association with Eliot Sinclair.

https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/leighs-construction-cso-presents-the-composer-is-dead/christchurch

Kids (and adults) love the Lemony Snicket books A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the new TV series starring Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf is getting even more people hooked. The musical murder mystery The Composer is Dead full of that distinctive Snicket wit and black comedy, and it also introduces kids to the instruments in an orchestra:

The composer is dead? Who killed him? The clever Inspector interviews and interrogates each section of the orchestra. What were the violins doing? Where were the woodwinds? And why does the brass section sound particularly brassy tonight?

Christchurch thespian Michael Bayly narrates the tale, and David Kay conducts the orchestra.

David Kay conducting the orchestra

Music featured includes John Williams’ Suite from Harry Potter, Ravel’s Bolero and Ginastera’s Malambo, and a brand new work Schismata by Christchurch composer Hamish Oliver.

Thanks to the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra for information on this event. They also bring wonderful classical music into libraries for kids, with the free monthly Music Trails through the library. The next session is a woodwind ensemble at Shirley Library, Wednesday 2 August, 10.30am.

More Lemony Snicket

Find Lemony Snicket books in our collection, including the book of The composer is dead.

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Of marmalade, memories, and me: A tribute to Paddington Bear

I’ve always been interested in old-fashioned toys, and find it really interesting learning what toys have been popular at different times. There have been some fascinating playthings through the years – no, fidget spinners, I don’t mean you! – but of all the toys I’ve seen, it’s always been the humble teddy bear which held a special place in my heart.

With a history dating back to just the start of the 20th century, I found the story of these furry creatures fascinating, and there was something about their personality and stature that just clicked in my little brain. As far as I was concerned, the teddy bear was my ‘spirit animal’, and quite definitely ‘the’ thing to collect. Toys, ornaments, mugs, books – if it had a teddy bear on it, I wanted it. When I got a membership to Victoria Street’s original ‘Not Just Bears’ shop for my 10th birthday, I was in teddy bear heaven.

I don’t collect teddy bears anymore, but with a background like this, you could guess how I felt when I heard that Michael Bond, creator of one of the most famous literary teddy bears of all, had died. I felt like I had lost a friend, and it was as if a little bit of my childhood had gone with him.

Cover of A bear called PaddingtonPaddington Bear. He of duffle coats, marmalade sandwiches, and a never-ending sense of mischief. The bear from deepest, darkest, Peru, who finds his English family on the platform of London’s Paddington Station. A bear who had been there through the many different stages of my life. A bear I had grown up with, and who I feel is just as important now as he was when I first met him.

My parents have a photograph of me in a costume parade back in my first year of primary school. There I am, dressed up as a nursery rhyme (more specifically, Mary from ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary’ with a garden growing out of my hat), and I am holding hands with my friend Katie. Gumboots, duffle coat and luggage tag, floppy hat, and a smudge of a black bear nose – she was a perfect Paddington. I remember listening to Paddington stories as books on tape as Katie and I played together at her house – we loved hearing about his mishaps, and pretending it was us getting in to all that mischief. When we were expected to be well-behaved and stay out of trouble, Paddington could do what he wanted.

As I got older and was able to read the books myself, I was kind of jealous of how independent this bear was. There are lots of different Paddington stories, and I love the fact that in all of them Paddington sees something that needs doing, and does it. Things don’t always go the way he plans, and he might end up needing the Brown family’s help to achieve what he sets out to do, but he always gives things a go, and it is always him at the centre of the action. Everyone else is just a supporting part. When I was wanting to be more independent and getting frustrated that I couldn’t go down to the park unless I was with my friends and home by teatime, Paddington was off on his own, exploring and doing what he wanted.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and I am working at a children’s bookshop when a Paddington Bear treasury comes in. A beautifully-illustrated hardcover book, this brought back a rush of memories for me. It instantly became one of my go-to recommendations for people looking for books for young children, but with so many Paddington Bear fans out there already, I didn’t really have to work too hard to recommend it – that bear really did sell himself. I loved seeing the looks on customers’ faces when they realised they could relive their childhood joy, and share these stories with their children. I had loved Paddington when I was little, and now I could introduce him to a whole new generation of fans.

Moving on to Christmas 2014, and I am mentoring a young child through Big Brother Big Sister. This was a child who had heaps of stuff going on in their life, without the opportunities to do so many of the activities many of us take for granted. As a special treat I suggested the two of us go to see a movie, something the kiddo hadn’t done before, and Paddington was the movie of choice. I’m not mentoring this young person anymore, so I don’t know if they still remember the movie’s plot, or if they’ve read any of the books that the movie was based on, but that really doesn’t matter. For me, the best part of going to see this movie was looking over at the seat beside me, seeing a child totally engrossed in a new experience, and knowing that regardless of what happens to them in the future, they will have a memory of doing something new and fun with someone who cares about them at this moment. Sharing books and stories is as much about making memories as it is about actually reading, and now Paddington Bear is makes me think fondly of being with a particular person at a particular time of my life. Hopefully it does the same for them, too.

Cover of Paddington's finest hour Cover of Paddington helps out Cover of Paddington and the grand tour Cover of Paddington at large

And here we are in 2017. When I think of Paddington now, I see him like a child who has ended up in care for reasons outside of their control. Sent away, to live in a different environment with a new whānau that he doesn’t know… in other words, some of the same challenges New Zealand children might face if they can’t stay in their own homes. Paddington manages to thrive in his new home, despite the difficulties he faces, and in this way he shows our kiwi tamariki that they too can get through these difficult times. It is really important for children to be able to see characters like themselves in books, and if children can look at Paddington as a role model during challenging times in their life, then I think this bear is just as relevant now as he was when Mr Bond first introduced him to us in 1958.

Cover of Paddington's cookery bookSo join me in celebrating the life of Mr. Bond, and the wonderful, colourful, character which he has left us.

Check out the Paddington books we have available, and share his stories with your own friends and family over a nice cup of tea, a marmalade sandwich, and some of Aunt Lucy’s Sweet Potato Mash. Apparently it’s a hit with the bears in the Home for Retired Bears back in Lima, Peru.

School Holiday Survival

The school holidays are fast approaching and I have to keep my children entertained for two weeks, oh please help me!! I have actually come up with a plan, so I thought I would share it in case you need help too.

  1. KidsFest – thank goodness someone thought of the parents! I will book children into lots of fun activities and sweet talk their Grandparents into taking them.
  2. Send them outside to play in the freezing cold so I will have heaps of washing to do because it is so muddy (You should see them after football – the mud club).
  3. Put them in front of screens. I know it sounds bad, but hear me out on this one. No playing pointless games with some random character wandering around eating pizza (I think that is what my children were playing). I will set them up with educational activities from the library eResources for kids, they may even enjoy it too!
  4. Give them something to read or listen to – but with a difference. eBook or eAudiobook, or even eMagazine. My kids have just discovered eAudiobooks and love them. It is brilliant – they are so quiet, especially in the back of the car where they would usually fight. OverDrive and Borrowbox have a great selection and it was super easy to download to an iPod shuffe.

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