Sunday, September 25, 2011

Harry Potter - For Banned Books Week - September 25

I have read all of the "Harry Potter" books at least two times, but I re-read my very favorite, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, in honor of Banned Books Week. For reasons such as the use of witchcraft and occult, anti-family bias, and lack of consequences for disobedient behavior the "Harry Potter" series tops the list of Most Challenged Books of the 21st century.

Although the librarian, Madam Pince, is but a bit player the among the band of celebates who educates young wizards and witches at the Hogwarts School she has caused much chagrin among those of us who practice the hallowed profession of librarianship, considering all we have done to promote Rowling's books. The only interaction Harry has with the school librarian occurs when she finds him in the "restricted" section of the library, and in tone we can only assume is nasty, she asks:

"What are you looking for, boy?"
"Nothing" said Harry.
Madam Pince...brandished a feather duster at him.
"You'd better get out, then, Go on - out!
 According to The Mary Sue blog, J.K. Rowling explains "that she was unable to present a kind librarian in Harry Potter because otherwise all the mysteries would have been solved in a couple of days." Uh huh. Nice save, J.K.

While that was the only time Harry Potter spoke to the librarian in this book, Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermionie, actually spend quite a bit of time in the library doing research and  homework. Even Hagrid resorts to good ol' library books when he needs to find out more about the care and feeding of dragons. All this is done without benefit of Google. They really could have found out all about Nicholas Flamel in a jiffy if they could have searched him on the net. Of course there was no Google when the first Harry Potter book was published, but today there are over 600,000 hits for our alchemist friend Nick - many of which have nothing to do with the Harry Potter books. Turns out Flamel was a real guy. Who knew?

While "The Sorcerer's Stone" is my favorite HP book, my favorite passage appears in book five: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Fans will recall that Professor Delores Umbridge takes over Hogwarts and immediately begins posting new "Educational Decrees." Decree number 23 forbids students from reading The Quibbler magazine under penalty of expulsion. Wise Hermione finds the whole thing funny and when Harry asks her what she's so happy about she explains: "Oh, Harry don't you see?....If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!" Right on, Hermione!

I must also take this opportunity to put in a good word about the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History at Regis College. As I posted previously, the Museum currently has exhibits featuring Harry Potter Stamps, and banned books stamps (where Harry Potter is also found)! We learned a lot of Harry Potter trivia through reading the displays, and talking to the exhibitor himself, Van Siegling, who was walking about with his magic wand. There were stamps not only with images of HP characters, but with plants, animals, and other magical creatures mentioned in the books. My Spanish teacher self must also mention that the Museum is also exhibiting stamps in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. So many reasons to go!

For a good read about the zealots who would ban Harry Potter I recommend "Harry Potter and the Ministry of Fire" from Forbes magazine.

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