“Harry Potter isn’t real? Oh no! Wait, wait, what do you mean by real? Is this video blog real? Am I real if you can see me and hear me, but only through the internet? Are you real if I can read your comment but I don’t know who you are or what your name is or where you’re from or what you look like or how old you are? I know all of those things about Harry Potter. Maybe Harry Potter’s real and you’re not.”
― John Green
The illustration of Hogwarts is by Jim Kay
Opening the Doors to Wonder
Harry Potter swept the reading world and opened the doors to a greater audience. The success of the Harry Potter series renewed broad-based respect for fairy tales.
From the first book and beyond, J.K. Rowling created an alternate world that readers could relate to. People young and old are drawn in to these robust stories and their engaging, fully developed characters. As with the classic stories from the past, the characters, imaginative twists and turns of the stories, and the fully realized details, combined to enable readers to believe in the magic of an alternate reality. The seven Harry Potter books created an enormous worldwide audience. And provided the substance for wonderful films.
Adults have also become fans of the books and movies, creating a record breaking "crossover" market. And the phenomenon continues to grow...
Click the photo for spring wonder.
Contact With The Lives Of Others
"Rowling's books, by arousing curiosity and establishing contact with the lives of others, even if they exist solely within the confines of a literary work, enable children to develop capacities that readily translate into real-life experience. J. K. Rowling never shies away from the great existential mysteries: death and loss, cruelty and compassion, desire and depression. Harry is anything but sheltered from the evils of Voldemort...he is destined for greatness even though he also posseses the weaknesses, failings, and vulnerabilities of all humans."
Maria Tatar -- Enchanted Hunters -- The Power of Stories in Childhood
Harry Began On A Train
JK Rowling: I was going on a train from Manchester to London and I was looking out of the window at some cows, I believe and I just thought: "Boy doesn't know he's a wizard - goes off to wizard school." I have no idea where it came from. I think the idea was floating along the train and looking for someone and my mind was vacant enough so it decided to zoom in there.
Stephen Fry: And you played with the idea in your head…
JK Rowling: Exactly! From that moment I thought: "Well why doesn't he realise he's a wizard?" It was as though the story was just there for me to discover and I thought: "Well his parents are dead and he needs to find out they're wizards" and on we went from there.
From a Stephen Fry Interview with JK Rowling
The illustration, from the Philosophers Stone, is by Jim Kay.
Hermione...an empowered young woman
"Throughout the Harry Potter Tales, Hermione emerges as the beneficiary of three centuries of girls' book identity. At times the plucky youth, at times the serious student, at times the foolish lover, at times the tomboy, at times the blossoming maiden -- taken together, all these aspects of her personality make her the heir to everyone from Jenny Peace in Sarah Fielding's The Governess, to Jo in Alcott's Little Women, to Alice in Carroll's Wonderland, to all the girl guides, or "new Women" or adventuresome or studious females who fill the range of popular writing well into the twentieth century."
From Seth Lerer writing about Theaters of Girlhood, Domesticity, Desire, and Performance in Female Fiction in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter
“I wrote a strong female character with brains”
- J.K. Rowling commenting on Hermione in a video conversation with Daniel Radcliff
Finding the Right Wand -- an adventure in an alternate reality
First, you go to Diagon Alley where Ollivanders is located..."Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C...
A single wand lays on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window."
You will be helped by Mr. Ollivander, a very old man, who remembers every wand he has sold -- and to whom he sold it.
You will be measured in many ways by a tape measure that works own its on while Mr Ollivander explains that, "Every Ollivander wand has a core of powerful magical substance...We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tale feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same..."
You may have to try many wands before you have the right one.
It seems you don't choose the wand, the wand chooses you...
The fully imagined detail in the Harry Potter books plays a major role in their appeal. The fascinating story of Harry finding the right magic wand takes place in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when Hagrid takes Harry shopping on Diagon Alley, and introduces him to the world of wizards.
The illustration of Harry and Hagrid in Diagon Alley is by Jim Kay
An Alternate Universe
..."J. K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s Oz or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe, which may be one reason the “Potter” books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis...."
From the book review by Michiko Kakatani of Harry potter and the Deathly Hallows in the New York Times
Stories That Opened My Mind
"There are hundreds upon hundreds of reasons for one to fall in love with the world and characters J.K. Rowling created in the Harry Potter series, the aforementioned being among them. For me, these are the stories that opened my mind to the wonderful world of books, novels and novellas, making them very near and dear to my heart..."
From the BookNerd on her Wonderful World of Writing blog
An Older Harry Potter
...Harry is called back into active duty when evil powers return in force... a new book and a play (opening in London) based on the book - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child -- are on their way, arriving in late July. They are based on a story by J.K. Rowling. Here are two links for more information: Pottermore and NPR
The Wizard World in 1920's USA is the setting for a new movie,starring Eddie Redmayne...
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in the UK in November 2016... The book about Fantastic Beasts was used as part of the curriculum for young wizards in the Hogwarts classroom. There will be two sequels...all written by J.K. Rowling.
Support For Children
J.K. Rowling spends time and money on helping people...In 2004 she founded Lumos..."No child should be denied a family life because they are poor, disabled or from an ethnic minority. Lumos works to support the 8 million children in institutions worldwide to regain their right to a family life and to end the institutionalisation of children."
For the real J.K. Rowling, or as close as we will probably get, I suggest the Oprah Interview... Engaging, interesting, and with some excellent documentary scenes woven in...Also, her candid, heartfelt, Harvard speech.
The N.R.A. Reimagines Classic Fairy Tales, With Guns
Liam Stack wrote this disturbing article. Here are excerpts...
"The world of make-believe can be a scary place, but never fear: Thanks to a series of reimagined fairy tales published online by the National Rifle Association, classic characters like Hansel and Gretel are now packing heat.
The group has published two of the updated tales on its N.R.A. Family website in recent months, entitled “Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun)” and “Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns).” The stories have outraged advocates of gun control, but their author, Amelia Hamilton, a conservative blogger, has called them lessons in gun safety...
In the N.R.A. version, Little Red Riding Hood sets off through the forest to visit her grandmother, just like in the original. But the Big Bad Wolf did not scare her this time, because she “felt the reassuring weight of the rifle on her shoulder.”
When the wolf approached her, “she shifted her rifle so that it was in her hands and at the ready.” He fled in fear...
Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, agreed, calling the stories “a disgusting, morally depraved marketing campaign.” He said in a statement that the stories were in poor taste in part because nearly 50 children and teenagers are shot each day in the United States, and suicide by gun is a leading cause of death among children over the age of 9..."
Here is a link to read all of this disturbing article: FairyTaleGuns
The photo of aDaniel Acker for The New York Times
Save The Children
Save the Children works in 120 countries, including the United States, and has helped more than 166 million children — including more than 55 million children directly. Here are excerpts from the story of one child...
Omar said, 'We have to be here very early in the morning because the tankers arrive early, so I get here at six in the morning and leave late at night so that I have time to collect as much fuel as possible'..."
Omar was a good student and loved school; he dreamed of becoming an architect. His life is now about survival.
Here is a link to read all of Omar's painful story: Omar
Top photo, courtesy IRF; bottom photo, courtesy Save The Children.
Importance of Children's Books for Most Adults
"But children's books are extremely important. Most adults don't read many books and if they do it will probably be some form of popular fiction. So a children's classic may be the last, or in some cases, the only, piece of serious literature they have read. As such these books are very influential and so I think it is our responsibility to consider them as seriously and carefully as any other great literature."
From a Guardian article by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Alison Lurie , professor emeritus of literature and writing at Cornell University, and author and editor of a multitude of children's books.
A Classic Video....Harvey the Dog
The Planet Of The Dogs....An Alternate Reality
Here are excerpts from Chapter One of the book...the story of how dogs came down to Planet Earth to help people...
"Far out in the sky, on the other side of the sun, is the Planet of the Dogs. Dogs have always lived there in peace and happiness.
Dogs talk to each other in many ways. They woof, bark, and howl. They use body movement, face licking, smiling, and tail wagging. Dogs can hear what other dogs are thinking. And they always tell the truth...Dogs are very good at sleeping, taking naps, and waiting for someone they love...
Dogs have no worries on their planet because there are no dangers there. There are no bad dogs, no hungry animals, and no mean people. There is plenty to eat, lots of time to play, and all kinds of schools for the puppies to learn interesting things about their planet and each other. It’s a wonderful place to live.
Here is a link to read Sample Chapters of the Planet Of The Dogs series.
This is the world of Yelodoggie, created by author and dog advocate, C.A. Wulff.
"All dogs, deep in their heart of hearts, are yellow. Because yellow is the color of light and joy and happiness, and these attributes are the true essence of dogs". Here is a link to Wulff's Etsy shop where you can see more of these delightful original watercolor paintings and prints celebrating dogs. They make a wonderful gift...
Alternate Realities from Finland
Leena Krohn, a highly regarded writer in Europe, wrote one of my favorite books, Tainaron. I was gratified to see that Joshua Rothman, in the New Yorker, wrote that her newly published book of collected fiction was among " The Books We Loved in 2015". Here is an excerpt:
"I also found myself hypnotized by Leena Krohn, a Finnish writer whose collected stories and novels, rendered into English by many different translators, have just been published as a single volume, “Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction.” Broadly speaking, Krohn is a speculative writer; one of the novels in the collection, for example, consists of thirty letters written from an insect city. (“It is summer and one can look at the flowers face to face.”) Krohn writes like a fantastical Lydia Davis, in short chapters the length of prose poems. Her characters often have a noirish toughness; one, explaining her approach to philosophy, says that when she asks an existential question, “life answers. It is generally a long and thorough answer...”
Here is the link to read all of Joshua Rothman's New Yorker review.
Photo by Mikael Böök.
Under The Sun...two realities
A compelling 5 minute report on DW tv news about a little girl in North Korea brought me a reminder of the power of film. Vitaly Mansky, the producer/director, has made a very poignant film about the life of Zin Mi (the little girl) in both the real world and the manufactured world of North Korea.
Here are excerpts from an informative article by Carmen Gray in the Guardian...
"A new film on life in North Korea has caused a diplomatic row after the director used officially sanctioned shoots to demonstrate how the state manipulates its people.
Authorities are said to have tried to prevent screenings of Under the Sun, a film that follows a North Korean girl as she prepares to celebrate the Day of the Shining Star, the birthday of former supreme leader Kim Jong-il...The film reveals how government representatives seek to construct an image of an “ideal” family, capturing the hectoring of officials as they tell the Koreans what to say, how to sit and when to smile.
“I wanted to make a film about the real Korea, but there’s no real life in the way that we consider,” said Mansky, who spent a year in the country filming. “There is just the creation of an image of the myth of a real life. So we made a film about fake reality.”
Here is the link to the trailer for Under The Sun
"Credit the Disney folks with making what could have been a lecture on stereotypes into one of the more amusing animated kidflicks of recent vintage. When you consider that this is the same zip-ah-dee-doo-dah studio that once made Song of the South ... well, let's just say Zootopia suggests we've all come a long way"...Bob Mondello, NPR
Here is a link to the trailer: Zootopia
"The Witch is a scary movie and a serious one, because it lures us into the minds and the earthly domains, of those who are themselves scared, night and day, that they have forfeited the mercies of God. It takes an original movie to remind us of original sin..." Anthony Lane in his New Yorker review.
Stacy Schiffin wrote an excellent article, relevant to this movie, on The Witches of Salem, also in the New Yorker. Here is an excerpt..."In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft. The sorcery materialized in January. The first hanging took place in June, the last in September; a stark, stunned silence followed. Although we will never know the exact number of those formally charged..."
“Both Rowling and Meyer (Twilight series), they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”- Stephen King
Circling the Waggins by C.A. Wulff
What happens when a group of the most irascible, insane, and ridiculously un-adoptable pets known to man end up being permanent residents in an animal rescuer's home? Challenges abound and chaos reigns!
Here are excerpts from author Tim McHugh’s review…
"Circling the Waggins is a heart-felt and moving story of two women's quest to heal and nurture a wide variety of animals. C.A. Wulff poignantly captures the complex personalities of the mice, dogs, and cats that inhabit her wilderness home as well as the humorous chaos that ensues as they all try to coexist. It is by turns a roller-coaster ride of animal rescue, as well as a keen reflection on the frailty of all life and the healing power of love and letting go."
Tim McHugh, is author of Ivan! A Pound Dog's Views on Life, Love, & Leashes
Dogs Open the Doors to Healing at Good Dog
Good Dog provides therapy dog services to people in health care, social service, educational and community facilities, and at disaster sites around the country. Its highly-trained and fully-certified volunteer teams each consist of a human handler and therapy dog. Good Dog focuses on work in the four divisions of Education, Health Care and Wellness, Research, and Disaster Response. For more on the work of these divisions, click here.
As the largest certifying animal-assisted therapy organization on the East Coast of the United States, Good Dog currently operates in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, and at disaster sites around the country. Good Dog focuses on work in the four divisions of Education, Health Care and Wellness, Research, and Disaster Response."
Here is a link to the Good Dog Foundation Video
Turning Your Pet Into a Therapy Dog
by Jane E. Brody, Personal Health writer for the New York Times
Here is the link to read all of this fascinating and informative article by Jane Brody: Personal Health
The illustration is by Paul Rogers
We have free reader copies of the Planet Of The Dogs series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the books.
Our books are available through independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more.
The Planet Of The Dogs series is also available in digital format at
Librarians, teachers and bookstores ..You can order the Planet Of The Dogs series, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
To read sample chapters of the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs
Meeting A Dog
If you see an injured dog or a dog in trouble , from puppy mills to poison, Sunbear Squad can help you. Sunbear Squad is a leading source for information and guidance in dog rescue and care. Here is an excerpt from their site about meeting a new dog(s)...
"In the western world, we are taught at an early age to greet new people by approaching them with upright posture, looking directly into their eyes and offering a hand to shake or squeeze. It becomes second nature to us, so as a result, many of us animal lovers greet every living thing–except bugs–using those same 'good manners'..."
We must UNLEARN that set of social rules to avoid frightening dogs, cats, and other animals, who will perceive full-front posture, staring, and outstretched arm as rude and threatening (unless they were very well-socialized with humans during the crucial developmental period).
In other words, polite human greetings are bad manners for greeting dogs and cats! In fact the two greeting languages are almost all completely opposite...Here is a link to read all of this article: Meeting A Dog.
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ― Will Rogers