In this review, I will not write according to my system, but will just share my thoughts on the three books.
Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp (5 Stars)
Broom sports emerged almost as soon as broomsticks were sufficiently advanced to allow fliers to turn corners and vary their speed and height.
This has, without a doubt, to be the best book I’ve ever read!
After an introduction by Albus Dumbledore – you can just hear his humour in every word – the book leads through the history of Quidditch. Starting at the very beginning of the game, which happened according to a contemporary witness on Queerditch Marsh, over the introduction of different balls, to the present national and international league. Every of the ten chapters includes historically accurately placed and articulated sources, a vast array of individuals who witnessed or were responsible for developments, and there is always room for an anecdote, or a joke.
Rules are of course ‘made to be broken’.
It even has a little world history lesson, showing the changing government system of the wizards from a council to a ministry, and by introducing the topic of gender equality and feminism’s women suffrage movement.
And I’ll tell you, Pru, Chief Bragge would have lost my vote if I’d have one.
Your loving sister,
Modesty, of course, is not quite modest and reserved, and she is only one example of the inventiveness, accuracy, and (hidden) characterising of the naming of people, places and teams.
Even with its comic side – the proceeds of the book go to Comic Relief after all – the book is very serious about the vastness of the Harry Potter universe. The details of the historical procedure of broom development, the inclusion of actual muggle history facts, and the inventiveness of the anecdotes give the wizarding world a realism that is hard to understand as mere fiction. – If I wasn’t convinced before that Hogwarts was out there, I am now!
Please read this book for enhancing your knowledge of the Harry Potter universe, and also to just have a good time.
Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (4 Stars)
Muggle sightings of the Yeti have been so numerous that the International Confederation of Wizards felt it necessary to station an International Task Force in the mountains on a permanent basis. Meanwhile the world’s largest Kelpie continues to evade capture in Loch Ness and appears to have developed a positive thirst for publicity.
This book gives a fantastic insight into the magical creatures. Unfortunately only 88 pages of lexicon entries, they made me wish for several more. The book makes out to be from A to Z, however is only from A to Y, omitting X on the way. No magical x-ray tetras (yes, I had to look this one up!) or zebras.
Many of the creatures appeared in the Harry Potter series – check your knowledge which of these you remember! –, and are derived from different peoples’ folklore, particularly Greek Mythology. Alone for that fact it is worth reading! Also, remark on the creativity of name giving. Extraordinary!
Rumours that a colony of Acromantula has been established in Scotland are unconfirmed.
– Confirmed by Harry Potter and Ron Weasley
The funny and cheeky notes made by Harry and Ron were a delight, though I had hoped that there would be even more. They did, at several times, light up the lexicon speak of the descriptions. A real treat was the final page, after the information about the author, which really looked all school-book!
…there have been no recorded sightings of Basilisks in Britain for at least four hundred years.
– that’s what you think
Except for the comments by Harry and Ron about the accuracy of sightings, there have been other hints at the book series.
Although wingless, [the pixie] can fly and has been known to seize unwary humans by the ears…
Apart from that, the book seems almost more interested in the beasts’ connection to Muggles than actual facts about them. Frequently, the territories established for the beasts’ accommodations to keep them from being witnessed by Muggles, recent or historical sightings by Muggles, and Muggles’ interpretations of magical creatures in culture, literature and folklore fills the description.
A glance through Muggle art and literature of the Middle Ages reveals that many of the creatures they now believe to be imaginary were then known to be real.
Interestingly, Muggles were once fully aware of the existence of the Diricawl, though they knew it by the name of ‘dodo’.
Mooncalves perform complicated dances on their hind legs in isolated areas in the moonlight. These are believed to be a prelude to mating (and often leave intricate geometric patterns behind in wheat fields, to the great puzzlement of Muggles).
Still, I feel that the lexicon speak was kept at a minimum, and the single articles were kept varying, giving different amount of detail about the beasts. Reading about the single creatures never got boring or repetitive.
I found it really interesting that the articles sometimes included the history and experimentations, leading to the appearance of these beasts in the world. At times, I even felt that the remarks were a bit daring, suggesting for example how to secretly breed a Basilisk without the Ministry being able to prove it.
I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as Quidditch Through the Ages, but for the fan (and supporter of Comic Relief), this is definitely a must-read. I have also a little tip for the easily depressed of you readers, proposing a reason and a solution, if you ever feel down:
When the victim stops walking and sinks to their knees to weep at the pointlessness of it all, the Pogrebin will leap upon them and attempt to devour them. … Kicking has […] been found effective.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by Beedle the Bard (4 Stars)
“hope springs eternal”
– by Alexander Pope
After reading Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I had the highest expectations of this book. I was not disappointed.
I started enjoying this book as soon as the introduction began, which was written by Ms Rowling herself. It has a very academic and slightly pompous style in writing and arguing, but I find that shows even more the variety she is capable of. I also quite enjoyed her wording and approach of how she has been given authority by the magical world, and her considerations to her Muggle readers.
The fairy-tales – this book, as were the others, was too short – come as expected as they are surprising.
The Wizard and the Hopping Pot is a fairy-tale so obvious that it hardly needs explaining. A young wizard, whose cauldron forces him to stop being egoistic and superior because of his magic, and instead help Muggles with his power. Yet, Dumbledore’s notes call anyone out as stupid who takes this tale as a simple, enjoyable story, with the lesson of kindness. From the view of a strictly pure-blooded wizard, this story is a disgrace, sharing magic with Muggles. To others the details are too graphic for a children’s story, and the resulting sweetened version, which is quoted in part by Dumbledore, is as ridiculous as it is hilarious.
The Fountain of Fair Fortune marks the beginning of the feud between Lucius Malfoy and Albus Dumbledore, and it is so iconic, it brings you right back to the Chamber of Secrets. It is the story of finding forgiveness and being able to forget and leaving the past behind, and of finding friends and love. It is, not surprising, the story of a different kind of magic than those of wizards and witches. The critical point is the end, in which the Muggle proposes to the witch, and she accepts. Apparently, this was enough for Mr. Malfoy to ask Dumbledore to remove this story, a danger to all pure-blooded families and the future of wizard-kind, from the Hogwarts library, which, of course, Dumbledore wouldn’t.
This exchange marked the beginning of Mr. Malfoy’s long campaign to have me removed from my post as Headmaster of Hogwarts, and of mine to have him removed from his position as Lord Voldemort’s favourite Death Eater.
The Warlock’s Hairy Heart is a magic Romeo and Juliet story – with some room for interpretation. It was one of the more shocking fairy-tales, with no sweetness and no happy end. And, for that, it is a proper and terrifying threat against using dark magic.
…it speaks to the darkest depths in all of us.
Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump troubles me. The most basic interpretation that offers itself to me makes this a story against Muggles learning and even knowing about magic, because of their (hrm, our), selfishness and need for superiority and oppression of others. At the same time, I feel like this story also preaches and vamlidates these feelings of superiority for wizard-kind, by demonstrating how much more clever the witch, who is not at all portrayed in the best light, nor as possibly one of the cleverer ones of her kind, is than the Muggles. Let’s read it as a conclusion that magic is not for everyone.
The Tale of the Three Brothers is, of course, the best-known of the tales (to the Muggle reader). From that perspective, it is utterly amusing how Dumbledore muses about the possibility that the three objects might actually exist – him being already in possession of the Elder Wand, quite possibly the stone, and having handed down the Cloak of Invisibility to Harry.
…humans have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them…
As with the other books of the Hogwarts Library, the focus of this one was, again, much on the awareness of Muggles of magic, or the attempts to conceal magic from Muggles. I wouldn’t have minded a more magically-oriented approach. Additionally, this book deals strongly with the need for purity of some wizards and wizard families.
So-called pure-blooded families maintain their alleged purity by disowning, banishing or lying about Muggles or Muggle-born in their family trees. They then attempt to foist their hypocrisy upon the rest of us by asking us to ban the works with the truths they deny.
Overall, this is a wonderful little book. The fairy-tales are mostly what you expect. However, I have to admit that I expected something else when the book advertised to have notes and comments by Dumbledore. I feel like they weren’t notes on the text, they were interpretations, historical backgrounds and anecdotes connecting his life to the tales, in full sentences. I am not complaining though. They were really nice to read, connecting new information with information gained or interpreted from the book series.
The writing style of the fairy-tales was appropriate and the wording of Dumbledore’s notes was very elegant, academic, articulate, chosen.
In the end, however, this book is only for real, hardcore fans who want to read every word of the world of Harry Potter outside the official book series. For everyone else especially Dumbledore’s part could be a bit “duh”, things unnecessary or the reader already knew and concluded.