Who in the world is this kid, Harry Potter, that I keep hearing about?
His picture was on the cover of Time this fall, a nerdy looking, skinny
11 year with glasses. Turns out he is a student in Hogwarts School of
Witchcraft and Wizardry, somewhere in England, and the friend of
millions of kids worldwide.
He is the fictional creation of a young Scotswoman named J. K.
Rowling. Some six years ago, she was at a low point in her life, newly
divorced, with an infant daughter and out of work. She was working on
adult novel when, as she said, "Harry Potter strolled into my head fully
But I really didn't pay much attention to Harry until the Muggles
started complaining that he is teaching their children Satanism and
Finally my friend the philosopher put a copy of "Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer's Stone" into my hands and suggested that this was a book I
really needed to read. Thanks, Terry. This is a wonderful fantasy in
the same class as "The Lord of the Rings," "The Wizard of Oz," and "The
Narnia Chronicles," books that have been stimulating kids' imaginations
for decades. And the kids are going wild over the Harry Potter
series. As of September, the third volume had just come out and there
were 7.5 million of the series in print in 28 languages.
Young Harry Potter is a wizard, but doesn't know it when the first book
begins. After spending his first ten years with a particularly cruel
Muggles family (Muggles are non-magical people without imaginations)
that hates him, he finds, much to his surprise, that he has been
admitted as a student in the Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
His instructions for getting there are to take Platform 9 3/4 from
King's Cross Station in London and board the Hogwarts Express, which
departs every September.
The Hogwarts School is not quite like the average American school.
Standard equipment includes a magic wand, and a broomstick for flying.
Otherwise, however, the kids are very much like the ones we know. Some
are nice and some are not. Harry is funny, loyal and brave and he
acquires two wonderful friends, Ron and Hermione.
I would not dream of spoiling the plot for adult readers (the kids have
already read it), but there is this one great game I can't resist.
It is called Quidditch. It is played by two teams of seven kids each,
all of them riding top quality broomsticks. Harry's is a Nimbus Two
Thousand, the very best because he is the Seeker. The game is played
with six baskets up in the air, and four balls. The red ball is called
a Quaffle and the aim is to get it through one of the six hoops. The
two Bludgers rocket around and try to knock players off their brooms.
The fourth ball, the size of a walnut, is called the Golden Snitch. It
is very fast, and it is Harry's job to catch it. After all, he has the
Now how can any kid or aging ex-athlete resist a game with 14 kids
swooping around in the air on broomsticks?
The Muggles in our country are concerned that Harry and his pals will
lead impressionable children into a dark world of witchcraft and
wizardry. I wonder where they were when Dorothy was skipping down the
yellow brick road and ran into the evil Wicked Witch of the West. Sure,
there is a villain in the Potter books. Yes, there is the struggle
between good and evil, which is the basis of every good novel that has
ever been written. Yes, we have to make choices in life. Harry's
dangers exist in a world of wizardry, but every kid has challenges and
has to make choices between right and wrong. Let's let them feel the
magic of imagination, of wonder.
Time magazine says that, "Rowling's secret is as simple and mysterious
as her uncanny ability to nourish the human hunger for enchantment."
Lighten up, Muggles. You can't keep Harry's wonderful adventures from
millions of kids - and adults. You're too late.