I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was in Japan, to pass the time between classes. I wasn’t impressed; while I could appreciate the writing skill and appreciated anything that made children read, I wasn’t particularly captivated by the story. It was compounded by the fact that Harry Potter was still new, and it seemed like everyone else was telling me it was THE GREATEST THING EVER and were immersed in fanfic and such. I simply didn’t care about that and couldn’t connect with it. So, after reading the first one, I quit and never thought about it again.
That is, until now. M loves fantasy, but was more into princesses and fairies. One of my close friends is in a literature club in town that has both adult and YA sections, and they celebrate all types of fantasy literature. In the summer, they have a Harry Potter daycamp–a magic school. She suggested that if M read the books and liked them, maybe she could go.
I brought it up to M, who shrugged and said she’d give it a try, so we sat down at night and I started reading it to her, so we could share it. For the first few chapters, she was interested, but once Harry got to Hogwarts and the magic started, something changed. Her eyes got bigger, she held onto my arm, and listened raptly. Sometimes she stood up on the bed, brandishing an imaginary wand or drinking potions. Other times she hid under the covers and muttered about hoping everyone would be okay, one little hand sticking out, imaginary wand keeping monsters at bay.
Her friends have started reading it too, playing Harry Potter at recess. M was initially enamored of Hermione, but decided really, she wanted to be Harry, but a girl, so she invented Kelly, Harry’s identical yet female sister. “Kelly Potter” is now a fixture in all of her games, equipped with a wand made of pipe cleaners and a robe her grandmother made. Paper cups of water are potions and her school is secretly Hogwarts, for those that can see. Last night I peeked in at her, and she was sitting on her bed, blankets draped over her like a cape, pointing her pipe cleaner at a stuffed animal and staring it down, clearly trying to levitate it.
That magic is rubbing off on me, too. We’re now in the third book, and I’m just as excited to read it as she is. Admittedly I like the later books better than the first ones, as the characters come into their own and the story’s voice gets stronger. But watching M standing on the bed, warding off imaginary monsters or driving a flying car as I read, I love how immersed she is, and how the story is affecting her. I want her to love books, to love fantasy, and to love creative play, and this is giving her all three. Now, I can’t wait for more.