Harry Potter re-readathon: The Deathly Hallows

9781408855959_309031We did it! We completed a series! The blog is alive! Alive with the sound of pages ruffling and words shuffling about on the spot waiting to be read. I am proud of this.

Here we are, on the last stop of our journey. The Deathly Hallows.

This book is painful. It hits you right in the gut so many times. With every grave injury or character death, I felt a crack splinter into my heart. It takes its toll – a mark of good writing.

It’s amazing to compare this to The Philiospher’s Stone, the two books are so different and yet they still feel like the same series. True, The Deathly Hallows is a much older, more experienced, and hardened brother to the sweet, innocent Philosopher’s but they are still brothers.

Speaking of brothers, I adore the Tale of the Three Brothers and I wish more folksy fairy tales were included in the body of the series. It added so much to the story and it felt like a real tale. I am a sucker for stories within stories.

Another thing I love about this book is that we get to visit the Ravenclaw common room and its wonderful riddle entry system. I identify as a Ravenclaw (if I haven’t already made that abundantly obvious) so I was so happy when the common room popped up in the books. It’s so wonderfully appropriate, I just want to curl up in there with a good book.

I am, however, still waiting for an epic Ravenclaw protagonist.

We get more helpings of McGonagall, who is just as bad-ass as I wanted her to be. It goes without saying (yet here I am saying it) that I am very much here for more McGonagall, in all of her forms. I am so glad she survives to pass her sass on to future generations of Hogwarts.

Like most Potter fans, however, I feel a great sense of exasperation towards the epilogue. I don’t think it was necessary and I think Harry needs to drastically improve his choice of names. There is no way Ginny had anything to do with that monstrosity. I refuse to believe otherwise.

I don’t quite know how to end this. I’d never thought this far. So I a just going to end it with this:

I bloody love these books. Thank you, J.K. Rowling.

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Harry Potter re-readathon: The Half-Blood Prince

9781408855942_309034I am nearing the end of my nostalgic Harry Potter not-quite re-readathon posts (the actual not-quite re-readathon having taken place this time last year, cue whistling) and I am so happy about how excited I still get about these books (I wear my Ravenclaw jumper with pride – it is my favourite and I never want to take it off but if I do, I have a hoodie to wear in its place because I am just that invested). Even if I did hide my excitement for a number of years to hide my shame at not finishing the fourth book in one go.

This book makes me happy for many reasons but one of those is Ginny Weasley. I’d long seen the internet shouting about how great Ginny was but having only read to the middle of book four, and watching the films, I didn’t quite understand why before. I thought it was excellent but I didn’t understand. Now I do. Ginny Weasley is the greatest injustice in the films and I am so sad that I did not know that until last year. Well, I knew through tumblr but I didn’t really know.

Even though I think I got more out of this from reading it as an adult than I would have if I’d read it when I was younger, I wish I’d had Ginny in my life while I was in my teens. She is just the sort of role model I needed. If only I had a time turner. (Though, I can imagine so many ways that could go wrong. It’s probably for the best that I don’t have one. I can definitely see the world crashing down around me as soon as I caught up with the present. Or I would go too far back and just cease to exist in the present. I wonder if it works that way, I don’t even know.)

I also missed out on the hilarity that was Ron Weasley and Lavender Brown. I just… It’s great to see a ridiculous romance in teen fiction. There are too many all-important, way-too-serious romances in YA. Yes, some teens do have wonderful and meaningful and their-world-will-end-if-it-ends scenarios but a lot of teen relationships are ridiculous and over the top and incredibly cringe-worthy. It’s nice to see that teens in books also have those relationships. Perhaps, if I’d’ve read this book back then wouldn’t have been quite so ridiculous. I mean, I probably would be. But you never know.

I find it hard to pick a favourite book out of the last three in the series. I love them all whole-heartedly, as I always hoped I would. I did feel a sense of dread getting to the end of this one (which is unsurprising considering what happens at the end of this one), I knew I only had one more book before I had to stop reading them. I wasn’t ready for Harry Potter to leave my life. (My worries were unfounded, I later saw Fantastic Beasts and recently visited the House of MinaLima so the world of Harry Potter is still very much in my life – hooray!) It’s always nice to get that invested in a series.

I know I am preaching to the choir with these posts and that I was very late on the boat but at least the boat wasn’t so far out to sea that I could no longer catch it. There is still a community to be a part of and I think there always will be. This makes me happy.

In which we visit the House of MinaLima

img_3664Be still my beating heart. This weekend, myself and fellow graphic design enthusiast (and former production gremlin as we have been affectionately known), Becca, ventured into London on a mission for cake and beautiful graphic design. We succeeded on both counts.

I am going to start this by saying that if you love Harry Potter, go to the House of MinaLima. If you love graphic design, go to the House of MinaLima. If at all possible. (Though, it is supposed to be closing in early February but there has been a petition to keep it open permanently so we shall keep all of our fingers and toes and cross-able appendages crossed, arms, legs, everything.)

It really is a spectacular display.

img_3681

The exhibition is exceedingly popular (and for good reason), as we approached, me giddy with excitement and practically bouncing down the street, we saw the queue. It wriggled around a street corner, unfortunately blocking the entry way to a pub much to their chagrin though the MinaLima staff were trying their hardest to make sure visitors left a gap, and people were joining it at a pretty constant rate. If there’s anything we British are good at, it’s queuing so we dealt with it in a way expected from Millenials; we took selfies. Even the American and French tourists we saw seemed to be in good spirits despite the long wait to get in. We were dancing about in the queue for around forty minutes (all of which were incredibly chilly).

There’s something about the magic of Harry Potter that makes queuing that bit more exciting, and makes people more happy and willing to do it – so many queue for a few moments pretending to be running through a wall in King’s Cross station, for example. The mood in the queue (how many times can I type the word queue in this little section?) was for the most part jubilant. People were excited. It may have been freezing cold but there were giggles and exclamations of joy to be heard all around. Some people left, not interested enough to stick out the chill, but those who remained seemed to bubble with energy, getting closer and closer to boiling point as they neared the door.

Once inside we were instructed to start on the first floor but before we got there, I noticed my first little detail and I knew I was going to love everything. There was a door next to the stairs, and instead of simply reading ‘No Entry’ or ‘Staff Only’ this door said ‘No Entry. Trolls in the Dungeon!’

Perfect.

img_3701The House of MinaLima is covered in design. Covered. Even the stairs had Hogwarts letters pasted to them, and the walls newsprint. The folks at MinaLima have committed wholly to not just creating an exhibition but creating an experience and it’s pretty mind-blowing.

The first floor is reserved for items from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, including wanted posters and the delightfully styled advertisements seen throughout the film. Plus all of the New Salem Philanthropic Society paraphernalia. I want all of it. I am hoping that they will release a series of t-shirts with the designs on. That would make me incredibly happy, already owning one courtesy of LootCrate.

img_3704We had a little bit of a wait before we could ascend the winding staircase once again to reach the second floor but the waiting is more than worth it. I think the second floor was my favourite.   

I had heard, from the radios held by the staff members, the word Marauders several times while looking around the first floor. I had assumed it was just code for the visitors until I reached the second floor. The entire floor is made up of a section of the Marauder’s Map and it is incredible. I had imagined wonderful things but I had never imagined I would be walking on that map.

img_3685Along with the wonder of the map are labels from potions, labels from Dumbledore’s memories, the Whomping Willow as it appears on the map, Hogwarts letters hanging from the ceiling as if they’re falling and lots of other lovely papery coloured things. Muted colours. It was very calming.

Until you venture behind the door. Behind the door is the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes section and it explodes with colour. Even the walls and floor are brightly patterned. I was squeaking with delight on a near permanent basis.

img_3683The third and last floor had two rooms, one larger with a fire place from which hundreds of letters cascaded, and the covers and designs of all of the books Harry and the gang use in their Hogwarts career.

I adored this part. I love books and I love book design and I love designing books so seeing the covers as I had never really seen them before was a wonderful experience. Not only that but enclosed in cases on the walls (which looked delightfully Victorian) were actual copies of the books as used in the films. Most were battered and worn as if they were old and it took all of my willpower not to beg the nearest staff member to let me hold one.

img_3682The second room has Harry’s Undesirable No.1 poster and the wanted posters of Bellatrix and Sirius, as well as many front pages of the Daily Prophet. For such a small room, it is quite imposing.

In terms of the building’s structure, the third floor was my favourite. It’s so old that the floor is warped into waves and it feels light a building right out of Diagon Alley. I can imagine the amount of careful thought that went into choosing just the right building. They got it spot on.

img_3686Even if I was absolutely terrified of walking back down the stairs.

I present this statement with the adjacent evidence: look at my face in this picture. This picture represents both my absolute terror at being stood on the stairs and having to then walk down them (stairs are a problem for me) but also my absolute wonder at all of the beautiful design and pretty much being inside the world of Harry Potter. I tried so hard in this photo. I don’t hate it (which is surprising considering it’s not one I took myself). I am getting better at liking photos. I am proud of myself.

img_3702Luckily for me, not many people were wanting to come down and no one was currently wanting to go up, so my descent was not traumatising (for the most part, I was incredibly nervous the whole way down). It was so worth the stairs. I was so nervous when I was in the queue, despite my excitement, I had read on the website about the uneven stairs and I had been thinking about it ever since. But I was determined not to let it stop me and I am so glad my determination won out.

img_3695The gift shop was last. There was a sale on. It would have been rude not to buy anything. Rude. I wanted to buy a print but couldn’t quite justify the spend right there and then and didn’t feel like I could make such an important decision about which one on the spot. I am not ruling out buying one online though. In fact, I probably will. Instead, I opted for the two sets of Hogwarts postcards (each with book covers and such inside) and an original MinaLima design on a t-shirt. A Parliament of Owls. I had to. I also intend to buy their Murder of Crows design, and am hoping for a Tiding of Magpies to be sold as apparel too. Not to mention their exquisitely produced editions of Peter PanThe Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast. I am a sucker for their design and I am not ashamed.

Much to my surprise Miraphora Mina was actually there. I was too chicken to say anything to her (I had no idea what to say) but it made me so happy to be in the same place as one of the creative minds behind all of that incredible work. From what I heard of someone else’s conversation with her (they were inquiring about work experience) she seemed very down to earth and willing to help budding designers. Excellent.

I hope they are able to keep it open, I would love to venture back there again and I would love more people to be able to see it. It’s incredible and it was an afternoon well spent.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Order of the Phoenix

9781408855935_309037Phew. We are past my problem book. That’s a relief. The sense of relief I felt when I closed Goblet of Fire was paled only by the excitement of finally being able to read further into the series. I had waited years for this moment.

It was actually quite daunting. What if I didn’t like it? What if I’d built it up so much in my head that nothing I could read would compare to that build up? Had I ruined it for myself? I’d watched my friends fall in love with the last few books and I was so worried that I had missed it, that somehow by not reading them when they came out my enjoyment of them would cease to exist before it had even considered existing. Luckily, I was worrying for nothing.

I love the later books in this series. Even if I do get a little frustrated with Harry. But what’s a bit of frustration between friends, eh?

This book has a special place in my heart for one main reason: we actually find out what’s happening by way of prophecy. Before this book, each story seemed more separate. Goblet of Fire led us to this, and Order of the Phoenix dumped us head first into the crux of the story.

We lost even closer friends than Cedric, and our hearts were all but ripped out of our chests. (Just you wait… I could hear the pages whispering to me as I read. I knew what was coming, of course but that’s for later entries.) J.K. Rowling, I have realised, is ruthless. Maybe not the upfront kind of ruthless, but a quiet kind that sits in the back until just the right moment. That kind.

I cannot write this post without mentioning Dumbledore’s Army. This book is a gift because it gave us Dumbledore’s Army. A group of young people who want to learn, who want to defend themselves and who are afraid but don’t let that fear get in their way – a lesson we could all learn from. We get to see a lot more of the supporting characters in these scenes, which brings me to my next reason that this book is a gift. Luna Lovegood. Little Luna, lovely Luna. There is nothing I dislike about Luna, she is my tiny fave, and she should be protected at all costs. The fact that she is in Dumbledore’s Army is so lovely and poignant, especially considering she doesn’t have many existing friends that we know of – not that that bothers her. It is heartwarming to see her being accepted.

There is a third reason that this book is a gift (I know, three reasons in one book – I could list more, don’t tempt me), and that is sassy!McGonagall. I love McGongall. She is easily my favourite teacher, and not-so-easily my favourite adult character (alongside Molly Weasley).

Even though the story takes a dark turn, we still get humour in the scenes with McGongall and Umbridge (I do not like Umbridge), and for that I am thankful.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Goblet of Fire

978-1408855928_309033 I have been putting this post off, as you might have guessed, and as I mentioned in my last post. However, I said it was to be my next post and so it is – even if it did take me months to pluck up the drive to write it. I have wanted to blog. I have wanted to post things but I haven’t wanted to write this particular post. So I avoided it. No more – three of my resolutions are linked to this blog (my next post will be about these – hooray for planning) and I would like to try my hardest not to fail them.

So here goes.

You might be asking yourself why I avoided this post even though I finished my re-readathon around this time last year, well, to answer that question we have to travel back in time. We have to go back to the year of Goblet of Fire‘s release, then the next, and the next, and the next…

My experience with the Goblet of Fire was a trying one for one simple reason: every time I reached page 362 of the original hardback, my brother would steal the book to read. Every. Single. Time. It was always that page. Eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t face reading those 362 pages again to get to page 363 and beyond. But I didn’t want to randomly begin reading on page 363 just in case I forgot any of the details. It was a horrible cycle, one which I never want to repeat with any other book. Luckily mine and my brother’s reading habits are no longer the same, and even if they were we live in different places so his access to my current read is pretty much nonexistent.

So that’s my confession. This is the last actual re-read, though I will still call the others re-reads for consistency. When I was a child, I never got past the fourth book and pretended I wasn’t that into the series as a cover. I lied. I love it wholeheartedly (especially now that I have a Ravenclaw jumper and hoodie to show off my pride, and a subscription to The Wizarding World crate from LootCrate, which I recommend). It’s a good thing that I have never really been bothered about spoilers.

The Goblet of Fire is my least favourite (tied, perhaps, with Chamber of Secrets), probably through no fault of its own. Part of me is glad I waited until I was an adult (and over the trauma of having to read the first 362 pages on a loop) to finish it. I feel like, even though it is my least favourite, I enjoy it a lot more now than I would have before. It is a book of change, and the book where everything gets a little more real. To re-purpose a line from later, the story opens at Goblet of Fire‘s close. From here on out, the novels are less stand-alone and it becomes clear that there really is a longer, deeper plot developing.

It also takes us somewhere a lot darker than the previous books, with the death of a loved character and the horrific manner of the spell which restores He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to his former glory (well, sort of).

In comparison to the first three books, my nostalgia is less joyful but the real joy now comes from my appreciation of the series as an adult and for that, I am thankful.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Prisoner of Azkaban

9781408855676_309040Be still my tiny-child heart. The memories. For a long time, as with most Harry Potter fans, The Prisoner of Azkaban was my favourite. It’s one of the more standalone-ish of the series, and it’s early enough in the series that, while it deals with difficult things, it is still quite lighthearted – the darkness of the later books seeps in over the edges of the pages, but not so much so that your hands come away blackened and your heart hurts.

For now, everything is going down the ‘happily-ever-after’ route. Everything has ended well so far. (Besides things which happened before the books started and Wormtail making his escape, of course, but even Wormtail escaping doesn’t seem too dire a thing at this point because he’s so pathetic and weedy. Feeble.) Things are looking up. Harry has friends, and family, and friends who are family. He has Hogwarts, which is potentially the best place anyone could ever be.

Of course, knowing, as I know, what happens in later books this makes me want to tell him to turn back and quit while he’s ahead; but I remember little-Emma being filled with a sense of wonder and possibility, I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Even the bad guys on the Wanted posters are turning out to be good after all!

Oh, little-Emma. How naive you were. Now you’re a seasoned Elou (of a ripe quarter of a century), you know that very little stays wondrous and new and happy and always ends well. That fact and lack of naivety makes me love this book more. This book is the last time we see Harry as a child, truly a child. Sure, he had to time travel, met a werewolf and was attacked by dementors but he’s only just touching on the horrors that await. He’s only just being pulled into the story-proper.

I can’t lie to you, reader, the nostalgia is strong with this one.

I re-read this book so many times. More than any of the other books in the series. I read it over, and over, and over, and was still thrilled when it ended well as if it was still my first read. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, it still felt exactly like the first time I was reading.

Our old copy is damaged, very damaged, from my and my brother’s constant re-reads. (It makes me cringe, I try to keep my books as nice and neat as possible now-a-days.)

I am pretty sure that there is no spot of that old copy which is not covered in my fingerprints.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Chamber of Secrets

The Chamber of SecretsHoo boy, I was supposed to post these every week for seven weeks, since I read the whole series in about 14 days. But alas, life happened, as it often does, but I have resolved to be more regular in my blog updates and book reviews and various other things. So I am posting this from the past. Hooray for queued posts! Anyway…

The Chamber of Secrets was never my favourite. Possibly because it sits between the first book (much excitement because it’s the start of the series) and the third which, until recently, was always my favourite. It’s pretty hard, then, for the book between those two to be quite as exciting. That said, it does have the joy that is Gilderoy Lockhart and his failure at life. (Or perhaps it’s not a failure, not until the obliviate mishap anyway.)

Though it was never my favourite, Riddle and the diary always fascinated me. I loved the idea of having a book that could interact with me, and I mean really interact with me, not a choose your own adventure or an enhanced ebook type deal. A really real book, which really did talk to me and respond to my words and actions. Who doesn’t want a book that tailors itself to them and them alone?

I often ignored the fact that the diary was evil. Or rather, I didn’t care that it was evil, I just thought it was cool.

Now that I am older, wiser, and more dashing (the crowd sniggers), I see it in a different way, even though I would  still like a really real interactive book. I can see now how creepy and twisted the Riddle in the diary is, and how much that scarred Ginny (especially when it is mentioned in later books). There are all sorts of mental manipulation techniques in the Potterverse and arguably this is the worst. Especially when you consider the life-sucking part.

Shudder.

I can now see what little-me overlooked, the ever so subtle setting up of the latter half of the series, though if older me hadn’t already known about horcruxes, I never would have guessed what relevance the diary would have had to future events. At first the series was seemingly less connected, the first three books had clear openings and endings and most things were left resolved, excepting the looming threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but once you go through them again, you see that it isn’t quite as cut and dry as it at first seemed. I like that. I like that a lot.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone  2For Christmas, along with (I presume) many thousands of other people, I received the beautiful complete box set of all of the Harry Potter books with lovely illustrated covers by Jonny Duddle. I can’t lie to you, at this point I want every single box set of Harry Potter books there is in existence because they are all glorious but that is another post entirely.

Since Christmas, on my daily commutes and when I have been walking past the often crowded lunch table at work, I have been seeing so many, many people reading Harry Potter. It is beautiful. Naturally, as I have now got all of the books with matching designs (if they don’t match, it’s very hard to concentrate), I’ve been reading them too!

There is something great about nostalgic re-reads, especially if you haven’t read a book since around the time it came out, like me. I think the last time I read The Philosopher’s Stone was the year that The Goblet of Fire was released. Almost sixteen years ago. When I was 9. Good lord. Since then I’ve watched the film countless times, it’s so easy to forget things that weren’t included in the film when you haven’t read the book since you were 9.

Like Professor Binns, who I forgot existed entirely, and the fact that Dumbledore is at one point seen sporting a bonnet. A bonnet. (This is an image I definitely plan to doodle.) And the entirety of what happens in the novel before Harry is dropped off outside the door of number 4 Privet Drive.

What I did remember, however, was my first experience with the world of Harry Potter, which I may have mentioned before. Read aloud by a wonderful primary school teacher with a wonderful name (Ms. Chodyniecki) who read each character using a different voice. Hagrid’s was my favourite. I am also pretty sure that the aforementioned teacher stuck a plastic Halloween witch’s finger to the end of a stick and used it to point at things on the board – excellent tactic.

I am now on book three of my re-read (blogs will appear for each book, hoorah!), I want to speed through them but I am forcing myself to take it slowly and give it the time it deserves – who knows what other memories it could unearth. Now, at a nearly ripe 25 years of age (just over a month until that milestone), I am enjoying the Harry Potter books more than ever and if any of you out there, in the great beyond of the internet, haven’t read them in a very long time, I would highly recommend you do so too!

Transmedia: Harry Potter and Wonderbook

Children’s, how I love thee.

Oxford Brookes University was involved in the creation of the Wonderbook technology, specifically the skin recognition software or coding, I’m not quite sure, used in J.K. Rowling’s Book of Spells.

Today, we of Children’s Publishing hopped on a shiny, blue U1 bus and land-rocketed off through the winding countryside to Wheatley campus to view a demonstration and have a go on the game ourselves. (I say ourselves, I didn’t play but instead sat in the audience quietly squirming and working up the courage to inform the room that it was, in fact, the move button that has to be held down when casting a spell.) Hilarity ensued as the game was experienced for the first time and ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ was yelled enthusiastically at the screen.

This may not sound like much of an academic experience. Can it be that you can have fun while learning? Surely not, I hear you mutter. Welcome to the world of Children’s, where the lessons are fun and sometimes involve all-new technology! Once we were done with the demonstration we discussed Harry Potter and its vast storyscape. Before we began the discussion, I’m not sure any of us realised quite how big the franchise was and how much it relied on transmedia.

For those who may not be quite so publishing-savvy transmedia storytelling is a way of telling a story across multiple medias or platforms. A book may be coupled with video content, or expanded with a video game. Each different media is not retelling any part of the story but instead adding more depth and continuing the story. Book of Spells, for example, does not follow Harry and his companions but instead places the player in that world and expands on the overall mythology of the series.

I found this idea fascinating, the whole concept of transmedia demands to be explored and is something I would much like to look into (or even work with) further. I would like to know the limitations of this approach to storytelling, in theory there aren’t any but without researching this I can’t say for certain. That said, I am not sure how much I engage with transmedia on the user end of the spectrum. When I read, I do just that: read. If I am taken with the story, once I am finished, I will bound over to tumblr and search the tags for interesting tidbits like fan-made graphics but this isn’t transmedia. This is ‘fanmedia’ – a term which I may have made up.

When I read The Hunger Games and then watched the film, I flocked over to the website to find out which district I would belong to (I got my Panem ID) and I read all of the fictitious news bulletins – I did this because I knew they were there. I had seen it, again, on tumblr and decided to give it a go but I wouldn’t’ve gone looking for it otherwise.

I’m going to make an effort to seek out transmedia more, I might write more about my findings here. A project, perhaps.