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The Lion and the Unicorn 27.3 (2003) 416-425

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McGonagall's Prophecy Fulfilled: The Harry Potter Critical Library

Observing the delivery of the infant Harry Potter to his Muggle aunt and uncle at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Hogwarts professor Minerva McGonagall predicts, "I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future--there will be books written about Harry--every child in the world will know his name!" (13). What a remarkable coincidence it is that McGonagall's prophecy of "books written about Harry" is uttered in the first book to bear Harry's name! But it wasn't long before the appearance of books about Harry with names other than "J. K. Rowling" on the cover.

In January 2003, after two and a half years with no new Harry Potter book, the publication date of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was finally announced as June 21, Midsummer's Eve. In the meantime, readers eagerly awaiting the fifth book in the Harry Potter series could, instead, read about Harry & Co. in several kinds of nonfiction books: biographies of or interviews with Rowling herself, collections of young readers' writing about the books, reader's companions or guides, volumes exploring questions of morality and spirituality in the series, and books offering analysis of the series' literary and cultural merits. Readers of about-Potter books, like Hogwarts students, can be sorted into various groups--in this case, generally by age or reading level and whether their interest in the Harry Potter series is general or specialized.

The very youngest readers (or listeners) will enjoy collections of writings, mostly letters, by other young Harry Potter fans. Notable examples are Bill Adler'sKids' Letters to HarryPotter: From Around the World and Sharon Moore'sWe Love Harry Potter! These books will also be enjoyed by some adult readers for the insight they provide into why children love Rowling's work.

Among readers Harry Potter's age and slightly younger (9-12), biographies and reader's guides or companions are by far the most popular types. The first two books about the Harry Potter series were biographies of J. K. Rowling hurried to press in summer 2000 to coincide with the July 8 release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. These books, Marc Shapiro's J. K.Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter and Sean Smith's J. K. Rowling: A Biography, appeared in August. I did not examine Rowling biographies for this review, but, as nearly all 12-15 [End Page 416] similar books published to date were completed without Rowling's cooperation, I advise that they be read with skepticism. The exception is Lindsey Fraser's Conversations with J. K.Rowling (2001), a question-and-answer format book that also features excerpts from Rowling's published or broadcast interviews. Generally, the biographies and "interviews with" books are marketed for readers ages nine to twelve, and, in reader reviews for online booksellers, enthusiastic young fans have found plenty of errors in most and often complained that the slim volumes (most under 100 pages) are "not long enough."

The first reader's companion to the series was Elizabeth D. Schafer's Exploring HarryPotter, the initial volume in a series called Beacham's Sourcebooks for Teaching Young Adult Fiction. Schafer's book went to press just before the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000) and consequently, Schafer's speculations about that book are based primarily on Rowling's public interviews. Some proofreading errors (the plural of "kibbutz" is "kibbutzim," for example) and factual discrepancies (Draco Malfoy's sidekick is Crabbe, not Crabb) suggest that the book may have been rushed to appear as soon as possible after book IV. Schafer's book is intended as a companion for teachers, librarians, researchers, parents, and students. It includes a synopsis of the first three Harry Potter books, including chapter-by-chapter vocabulary words and study questions; a biography of Rowling and overview of...


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