Category Archives: Harry Potter

To remain young forever

Or not.

First let me say how boring I often find the Guardian Review. A few short snippets don’t make up for pages and pages on things I have little interest in, or written in such a way that I find I don’t much care anyway. I know that children’s books can’t dominate a section of the newspaper that is aimed at everyone, but I do wish there could be more.

So this past weekend I was suitably – but pleasantly – shocked to find the first four pages set aside for children’s authors to muse on the question of letting child characters grow old.

OK, so it was caused by Harry Potter appearing as an adult in The Cursed Child, but that’s fine. They had an excellent selection of children’s authors, who expressed interesting and varied opinions on letting fictional characters mature, and many of them seemed to have read the Harry Potter books, instead of sniping about something they know nothing about. It was a pleasure to read.

And because they wrote their own short pieces, there was less scope for misinterpretation, which is another of my bugbears.

An adult Horrid Henry sounds perfectly horrid, and a jaded, older Alex Rider somehow lacks the necessary charm we have come to expect, so I’m glad this is not about to happen. But as with most things, people don’t have to agree, and characters aren’t all the same, so what’s right for one will be wrong for another.

New arrivals

New children’s author Horatio Clare won the Branford Boase last night for his book Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, edited by Penny Thomas, with whom he shares the award. Chris Riddell was there to do the honours. I couldn’t help thinking that this is a book I don’t know, but that’s the whole point. This prize is always for a newcomer, which is why I can’t remember anything else Horatio has done. And what a name!

Horatio Clare, Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

You will hopefully understand my need to return to my review from last year, of Here I Am, by Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez. It’s a beautiful, wordless, picture book about a young immigrant, by someone who herself was an immigrant. We need books like this one.

Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez, Here I Am

And do you need Harry Potter? I was amused reading Blind Date in the most recent Guardian Weekend. You just never know whether the two people, new to each other, will like the other person; whether they will be polite, or honest, in the ‘review’ of their date. This time the man said about the woman, when asked if they kissed: ‘She had read only one of the Harry Potter books, which weirds me out a little, so no.’

Finally, another award to another – once – newcomer and immigrant. Judith Kerr has been given the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement award. Unlike the Branford Boase winners whom most of us have not yet read, by now surely most people have read something by Judith Kerr? Either for themselves, or with a child or a grandchild. Or they watched the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad last year.

New is good. Outsiders are good. Not kissing non-Harry Potter fans? Well…

Idiocy

I never did read The Da Vinci Code, and I’m not likely to do so now, either. Dan Brown – or his publisher? – is planning to dumb it down to YA level. What a relief! Because young readers are so stupid, they couldn’t possibly read as complicated a book as TDVC, copies of which I understand litter second hand bookshops to the extent they can’t sell them.

If Dan Brown wants to do something for the young, but I’d rather he didn’t, to be honest, couldn’t he simply write a YA novel from scratch, like all these other people who feel they should give this ‘easy’ genre a go?

Then, who to dislike the most; J K Rowling or presidential hopeful Donald Trump? I’m with the many people who fervently hope this man will not succeed. But he does have the right to speak, even when what he says is so offensive that we’d prefer for him not to.

I think J K is correct in saying that we must be bigger and fairer and allow those who say bad things to keep saying them. Banning them will not help. Trying to re-educate them would, but might prove hard. It is very tempting to be as bad as, or worse, than those we fear and dislike. Lots of people find it pretty easy to disagree with a wealthy and famous author. The Guardian photos of the two make them look like pals, almost. But that is the newspaper’s fault, not J K’s.

To finish with something much nicer and easier, here is the link to the interview with Meg Rosoff on Swedish television, first broadcast on Sunday night. It’s on several times this week, but for those of us outside Sweden, it is available to watch online. Meg is on first, for 15-20 minutes, and she is on good form as ever. I think we should have programmes like this in Britain. You know, a bit about books and not just baking and dancing.

Meg Rosoff on Babel

Personally I’d like to know how to tie a scarf like Meg’s. Once you do, you will still look good, no matter what you wear with it. (Or maybe I wouldn’t, under any circumstances.) Meg’s new glasses are divine. Quite Harry Potterish, in a good way.

How to be Shakespeare

This is such a brilliant idea! Here I have two books from the British Library, by Deborah Patterson, on how to be your own William Shakespeare. Or J K Rowling or Tolkien. Or if you want to set the bar really high, Jules Verne or Arthur Ransome.

We’re actually back in the territory of writing in books, which is so tempting, but which could also lead to some less legit scribbling in all sorts of other books than these two. But my fingers are itching, just looking at the – inviting – pages in Deborah’s two My Book of Stories books.

Deborah Patterson, Write your own Shakespearean tales

In ‘write your own Shakespearean tales,’ she introduces old Will’s plays, with quotes and pictures and All Those Lovely Designated Pages For Writing On! So read a bit about dear Hamlet and then see what you can do about beating Mr Shakespeare at his own game.

Deborah Patterson, Write your own adventures

Likewise, in ‘write your own Adventures,’ we meet some of the classics in children’s literature; Alice, Peter Pan, Dorothy, Toad, Harry Potter, the Hobbit and all those others.

And then there are word games and that kind of thing, so really, you are in for a treat, playing and writing, all in one go.

Why am I so old? I was made for these books!

Village character

Daughter should be on her way to a Harry Potter character. Or is that the Swiss village? You Google Grindelwald and you get the option of one, or the other. To be on the safe side, I went for both. I’m not enough of a nerd, either way.

It’s obvious that Grindelwald is a place name in the German-speaking world. You don’t have to know where. At this time of year it’s a fair guess that it will be snowy.

Because I am not all that Harry Potter-nerdy, I can’t say I remembered much about any character called Grindelwald either. In one ear and out the other, so to speak. Daughter thought it was amusing. That she was going there, not that I’m useless and forgetful.

But thanks to other Harry Potter fans it’s easy to find out. There is a whole wikia, where I assume you can look up anything at all, when you are as forgetful as I am. Which is good. I now know more about Gellert Grindelwald than I ever needed to, and what worries me is how many other characters I might have forgotten as they left the page.

I can’t help thinking how much fun J K must have had when naming her people. I have no book and no characters, but I have an urge to go through atlases and reference books to find outlandish sounding [Swiss] villages to name them after.

See you again, Snape

What a difference three days make. On Monday when I heard that a famous 69-year-old man had died, I went ‘Oh.’ On Thursday when I heard that another famous 69-year-old man had died, equally prematurely, I went ‘Oh no!’

There is no knowing in advance how you’ll react, but yesterday’s news that Alan Rickman has died affected me much more than I would have thought likely. I felt as if I’d met him not long ago, and in a way, I had. It’s just over a week since we watched A Little Chaos, which to my mind was only truly enjoyable thanks to Alan Rickman as the tired King hiding in a garden, ‘forgetting’ he likes pears.

And it was only another couple of weeks before, that we watched Love Actually, to get in the mood for Christmas. Which we did, even though Alan’s character behaves rather stupidly. Hopefully he will learn to be more like Hugh Grant.

More recently than either of these films I paused to look at a spread of photos in (I think) the Guardian, where Alan for some obscure reason wasn’t listed, and I went over the picture credits several times to work out why he was there, and why there was no mention of him.

Galaxy Quest! How can you not adore that crazy film? As a Mr Spock fan, I just loved Alan’s Spock-type character. In fact, I feel the urge to watch it again right now. And the less well known Snow Cake, about an autistic woman, where Alan was very much the right man for the part. Marvin. I always loved Marvin.

You might ask yourselves why I am putting Alan Rickman on Bookwitch, when he was an actor and I’m sitting here listing film titles. The thing is, to me he embodied a couple of important books, more than anything else he did (and I’m no expert; having seen less of his work than many). Before his Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, I had never really thought about the man. Not being the main male character, he just slipped me by in the novel. But on the screen, he made the whole television adaptation what it was. I have already forgotten most of it, apart from his Colonel.

But for me as a witch, it’s Alan’s Snape that will stay the longest in my memory. He was the perfect Snape; a mix of bad while ‘almost’ nice. The thing is, it was only a few days ago that I chatted to Daughter about the Harry Potter actors, and how I had had this dreadful premonition that not all of them would survive the whole seven books/films. The two that flitted before my eyes at the time were Richard Harris and Maggie Smith, and we know how that went. I just didn’t think that any of ‘the young ones’ were at risk.

Alan seems to have been a nice, decent man as well as a terrific actor, and that’s always attractive. There is something good about a man with a conscience and sensible opinions; someone who will do and say what’s necessary at times. Also, I know nothing about his personal life or his family, and that’s how it should be. My condolences to them.

Floods

The Retired Children’s Librarian phoned to ask if we had been flooded. She and her sister had discussed this after seeing the news. I said we were all right.

She asked after everyone in the family, finally checking if I was out meeting authors all the time. (As if.)

Then she said ‘You know the one who wrote Harry Potter [she hasn’t read the books], who has now written some other books? What do people think of them? Because I like them.’

I replied that people who feel they must dislike J K Rowling on principle won’t have much good to say about her Galbraith crime novels, but that those who are not thus afflicted tend to say they like the books. She was a bit surprised that there are people who can’t stand fame and riches in others. And I admitted to not knowing J K personally and that she’s definitely not one of the authors I might see, frequently or otherwise.

Her next question was whether the press here had reported on Henning Mankell’s death, and I said they had, as he’s quite big here. She was a bit surprised, especially when I went on to mention the number of people who try to, or want to, learn enough Swedish/Danish to watch crime on television without subtitles. (I didn’t mention that I think they are doomed.)

Knowing we are safe from the rivers, she hung up, because she needed to phone to order a bus timetable. The internet is so taken for granted in Sweden that they feel passengers can look up their next bus there. Or travel to Stockholm to pick one up. Which would be easy enough if it wasn’t 70 kilometres and almost an hour away by bus. And if you had a timetable.

Let them read crime novels instead.