20 Years of Harry Potter: My Thoughts

20 years ago today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released.

I didn’t read it straight away. A friend recommended it about a year later, just after Chamber of Secrets had been released. I say recommended but actually she just would not stop talking about it. She seemed obsessed! I read both Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets over that summer holiday.

And I was hooked.

These books were an escape. In a sense, all books are an escape, especially fantasy books.  But this was actually a story of an escape. Harry was living this rather miserable childhood of neglect and loneliness that I could relate to. I wasn’t shut in a cupboard, of course. But I felt trapped, certainly. I’d always felt the odd one out (in fact, I still do most of the time). But Harry escaped. He discovered a whole other life was available to him.

Now, obviously I never expected a giant to knock down my door and tell me I’m a wizard. But I suppose it gave me hope. Hope about a potential life after the miserable years spent at my childhood home.

From Prisoner of Azkaban onwards, I read each one pretty much as soon as it came out. I never went and queued at midnight to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible (now I wish I had!) but I always managed to get them pretty quick and then be engrossed for days, even weeks as they got a bit longer.

The later books provided more than just an escape for me. They were probably the first books I read about that darkness in humanity: intolerance and prejudice. The fear and subsequent hatred of anything unlike ourselves. They can certainly teach a few things about friendship, loyalty and love.

The last book was released about 10 years ago. I was 17. I had left home and was sleeping on a friend’s sofa. I’d left those miserable years of childhood behind but at the time, I was feeling like adulthood wasn’t really shaping up to be much better (don’t worry, it got much better!). A new Harry Potter book was just what I needed! It provided that escape again (even if it did have me weeping on a few occasions).

My copies of books 1-6 were left at home when I ran away. Even the copy of The Deathly Hallows that I bought after I left was lost somewhere during the years of moving from place to place. In bouts of depression, I often found myself wishing to read them again.

Last Christmas, my husband bought me the full set of books. I read all of them in about four months. They made me remember the good bits of my childhood. Sitting in a rare hour of peace and solitude and happily reading my favourite stories. The funny bits still make me laugh and the sad bits still make me cry. I expect they always will. I’ll certainly be reading them again at some point.

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The Harry Potter series also got me interested in fantasy as a genre. It got me interested in writing stories myself. J.K Rowling’s personal story is pretty inspiring itself, especially to me now, being 27 and still not having written a complete novel! But also because she found herself in a difficult situation and pulled herself out of it through writing.

It isn’t just me she inspired with her books either. I’ve heard countless accounts of people who’d had tough childhoods (much tougher than mine), people who’d lost parents or really lost anyone and found that these books helped them.

So from myself and everyone else who found hope and joy in the story of The Boy Who Lived, thank you Joanne Rowling. You have my eternal gratitude.

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A Happy Halloween

Yesterday was Halloween and we had a great day. It was definitely the highlight of our half term.

We baked special Halloween cakes with chocolate and orange sprinkles on top.

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We made bats and pumpkin lanterns from card to hang around the house.

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We watched a spooky film, Nightmare Before Christmas. I haven’t seen this in years and Pip never had before. She was singing the songs for the rest of the day so I think this film will be watched again soon – it’s rather handily both a Halloween and Christmas film!

We went to a Halloween fancy dress party at our local leisure centre. Pip dressed up as a spooky fairy and had a brilliant time.

We played with glow sticks, taking it in turns to hide them and then the others have to find them.

We read some of the spooky story we picked at the library earlier this week: The Little Ghost by Otfried Preussler. So far, we’re both really enjoying this book.

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I hope you all had a Happy Halloween too!

Reading with Pip: A trip to the library

We haven’t been to our local library for a while. We sometimes go to Cardiff Central Library in the city center if we’re in the area anyway and even that’s a rarity, if I’m honest. Pip has a large collection of books at home, plus she borrows one from nursery every Friday. But we should make more of our local facilities, especially when they’re only a ten minute walk away and free to use.

Today we had been planning a trip to the Cardiff Story Museum but it was raining heavily outside so I decided somewhere closer to home would be better. So off to the local library we went.

It has a reasonably sized children’s area, filled with soft blocks that are supposed to be used to sit on. They seemed to remind Pip of the kind of large soft blocks you find in soft play centers and consequently she spent almost our entire visit jumping and climbing and hiding. I managed to find some books I thought she would enjoy and she selected a few from the pile I gathered.

I think most of the novelty of a library visit for Pip is in the process of borrowing and returning the books. Having her own library card in her own purse to look after and using the special machines that scan books she wants to take away with her. I like using the library because it gives us a much wider variety of wider material without using any money or taking up much more space at home.

On this visit, we brought home 4 books. A Charlie & Lola book called ‘I will not ever never eat a tomato’, a very funny book simply called ‘Socks’, a rhyming book about the alphabet called ‘ABC’ and a book called ‘Wow Dinosaurs’ which was really too advanced for Pip in terms of reading but I knew she’d like the pictures and I could translate the language into something simpler for her to understand. It turns out this was a pretty good plan – after we arrived home, we spent ages talking about how life on earth began and how the dinosaurs became extinct.

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I plan to visit our local library much more in the future, perhaps once a fortnight. Do you visit your local library?