Harry Potter and the Book That Better Not Ruin It All: Trusting in the Writer

It’s the eve of Harry Potter’s birthday, but the big gift is for us. Tonight at midnight, we’ll be able to get our hands on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child–the script that is essentially the eighth book in the series. For those of you out there who are like me, and quite literally grew up with Harry, this is a very big deal.


I read the first book in high school before anyone knew who Harry was. I still remember when I realized JK Rowling was a female writer, and it was an extremely empowering moment for a young girl who aspired to be a writer herself.

I read the last book as a married woman. By then, everyone knew who Harry was. I stayed up all night and read the book in one sitting, both wanting desperately to know how it ended and not wanting to say goodbye.


I take the Harry Potter series very seriously. I wrote my college senior thesis on Harry as an archetypal hero. I truly believe that the series brought back the golden age of reading.

So it may surprise you to know that I’m not sure I want to read the eighth book.

Rowling gave us a glimpse into the futures of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the epilogue of the final book. And when I closed the book, I was satisfied.

All was well.


I’m not sure that I need to know what life is like for Harry nineteen years later. We live in a world of sequels, trilogies, series…but I believe that sometimes saying the end is the best and strongest decision for a story.
I feel similarly about the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which brings us back to the wizarding world–this time in America–long before Harry was born. Leading up to the movie, Rowling has shared information with us about the American version of Hogwarts. I just can’t get excited about it. I think the names sound a little ridiculous, the concepts too strained. It’s like Rowling is trying just a little too hard.

Why is she trying? My husband would say that it all comes down to money, but I disagree with him. I think that sometimes, when you’re a writer, it can be hard to let go. You live the characters, you breathe them and dream about them. And even though the best choice would be to let the story rest, you just can’t. I imagine that as she penned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it was a bit like visiting very old, very good friends.


And that is why, ultimately, I will read the eighth book. I’ll take my time with it, not like my marathon nights of reading for books past, and I will trust in the writer. Because I owe it to the little red-haired girl who so looked up to the red-haired Rowling, and I’ll trust her to bring me home to Hogwarts.

Will you be picking up your copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at midnight? Do you enjoy stand alone novels, or do you have to know what happens next?

No matter what quiz I take, I always end up in Hufflepuff.


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I Have a Weakness for Books

I have a really bad habit I’m trying to break: I always finish a book I start…even if I think it’s miserable.

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My husband thinks I’m crazy. My answer was always that I was waiting for the book to get better…or for the twist at the end…or for something. Occasionally I was rewarded. Most of the time I was not.

Since I’m trying to live more intentionally this year, I’ve decided to stop finishing books I don’t like. I feel pretty dastardly about it too. There is just something…cruel about not finishing a book. I don’t know if I think this because I’m an writer and I want people to read all my words, or if I’m just crazy.  But honestly, life is too short for books that don’t speak to you.

In the same vein, I’m also a bit of a book hoarder. I buy books with covers I like at clearance sales. I take in stray books when friends are cleaning out their houses. And I may have been known to buy a used copy of one of my favorite books  even if I already have a copy at home. I just like books.

As you can imagine, I have books all over the house. My bookshelves have long been filled and now the books are creeping into piles in every room. A lot of these books I don’t LOVE. It was bad when it was just me…but now that I have a junior bibliophile in the house, it’s officially out of control.  And so I’m going to start purging, and creating a library of books I truly adore. So that when people walk in my house and look over my shelves, they’ll only see books that really matter to me.

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(Frankly, this is something I could do in every room in the house. But baby steps, right?)

Do you finish books you don’t love? Is there an area in your life that would benefit from a purge?

Holly Jolly Books for Kids 

  
I love Christmas. I love children’s books. So you can imagine how gleeful I get when Thanksgiving ends and I can pull out our holiday books, many of which I admit I owned before I had a kid. 

Here are our favorites this year:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: JC is obsessed with this book. We read it at least once a day. We listen to the audio book. We watch the movie. There is something so charming about the rhymes and rhythms of this book, and it packs such an important lesson into simple prose. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Oh, good grief: know how many times I’ve read this book so far this season? I don’t mind, though, because I love it. I love that Charlie Brown feels a little blue at the holidays–because I think we all do, sometimes. 

The Night Before Christmas: So, I might like this one a little more than JC, although he loves the description of Santa. I adore the language in this poem, especially this line: “as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly/ when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky”. It’s one of my favorite lines of literature ever. 

How Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas: This is a super cute addition to the series that puts dinosaurs in real life situations: how do they eat? Go to school? Say goodnight? All the books crack JC up, but especially this one.

Eloise at Christmastime: Lets be honest: if you read this book as a kid, you wanted to be Eloise just a little bit. It’s been a great launching pad for looking up pictures of New York City and talking about Christas traditions. 

What are you and your little one reading this season? Any suggestion? 


Read Me A Story: Favorite Kid Books Right Now

Last week passed in a blur of late night fevers and kiddo tylenol. JC hardly ever gets sick, so even a minor stomach bug like the one he contracted last week seem major. And while I didn’t do anything last week but care for him–no blogging, no writing, no laundry or house cleaning–being stuck on the couch with a sick kiddo was the perfect opportunity to read some of our favorite books and discover some new ones. On the hot list at my house right now:

The Berenstain Bears: There are always a handful of Berenstain Bear books in rotation at our house, but our current favorites are Too Much Vacation and Messy Room.

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Disney Bedtime Favorites: JC loves to hear stories about his favorite Disney characters outside their movies, so the “collection” stories are always big hits. The bedtime stories all end with the characters falling asleep. Some of the stories are a little lame–like the one we read last night about Princess Aurora singing her fairy friends to sleep–but for the most part they are pretty good stories.

The Minion Movie Junior Novel: I’m not sure which part of this chapter book JC likes best: hearing the movie retold, or hearing me try to talk like a minion. 

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10 Minutes till Bedtime: This simple countdown book has been a favorite for a while now.  It’s hilarious, and every night JC finds something else to look at in the busy pages: the baby hamster and his funny phrases, the hamster that is stuck on something different on each page, or the hamster that bounces his soccer ball off different things (including the hamster host). It always amazes me how the simple books are the ones that offer so much.

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The Paddington Treasury: Before we jumped into the full Paddington chapter books, I introduced JC to him through this treasury. It is beautifully illustrated and I find JC going through it on his own often. The stories are a little on the short side, but that just means we get to read more than one.

What are your kids reading right now?  What are your favorite kid recommendations? 

Where Do They Get This Stuff? Oh Wait, I Know.

(Alternate titles to this post included, When Books Go Bad and The Bad Habits of Good Books.)

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About six months ago, I introduced The Berenstain Bears to JC. I was really excited about this for 2 reasons. One, I loved the books and videos growing up. Two, I knew I could use them to help facilitate discussions about everything from being kind to other people to visiting the dentist for the first time.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the bad habits he would pick up from Brother & Sister Bear and their friends.

For example, in The Blame Game, Brother and Sister blame each other for every broken vase, spill and accident that occurs in the Bear Family Tree House–until Mama Bears loses her cool and there is a big talk about working together to clean up instead of pointing fingers.

Sounds all warm and fuzzy, right? Well, it was until JC started imitating Brother and Sister whining. He thought it was hilarious. I did not.

Then when he realized he did not have a sibling to blame things on, he invented one. I believe I have mentioned Ansel, JC’s imaginary little brother who is the bane of my existence, before.

JC picked up obnoxious taunts and teases from Too Tall Grizzly in Double Dare. He spent a week jumping out from behind things and scaring people after we read Trick or Treat. 

It wasn’t that he wasn’t getting the moral of the stories–I know he was because we talked about them. It’s just that he was also getting the bad behavior, too.

I figure that he isn’t learning anything that isn’t typical kid behavior. And when the Bad Berenstain Bear behavior pops up, I have a lesson at the ready. And every now and then one of the many good qualities of the Bear Family will stick, and it reminds me why I started reading the books to him in the first place.

What are some surprising places your kid picked up bad habits?

National Tell A Fairy Tale Day

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Once upon a time…

All the best stories start out that way, right? I love fairy tales, so I can totally get behind Tell a Fairy Tale Day, which is February 26th.

Fairy Tales in their original form, as brought to us by The Brothers Grimm, can be pretty dark and were written to teach lessons to children. Don’t wander off by yourselves, a witch in a candy house might eat you. Watch who you let your hair down for. And for heaven’s sake, don’t take apples from strange old people. 

Despite their dark beginnings, I have a soft spot for these first-version fairy tales. Do I read them to JC at night? Noooo. But I will one day. For now, we stick to the more G-rated versions.

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Not only do I love a good, old-fashioned fairy tale (and we tell a lot of those in my house!) I love all things inspired by fairy tales. I mean, come on. Look where I got married.

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Disney aside, you’ll find plenty of fairy tale-esque things scattered through my home:

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I also enjoy (for the most part) the retellings of Fairy Tales. I’m an avid watcher of ABC’s Once Upon a Time and all the fairy tale incest you’ll find there. Rumpelstiltskin as the Beast and Peter Pan’s son AND Tick Tock Crocodile AND the evil queen’s adopted son’s grandfather? Count me in.

I enjoyed Maleficent, the retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Into the Woods. There seems to be an abundance of young adult novels that center around the retelling of Snow White and other fairy tales, but I haven’t delved into them yet.

I have read a handful of other YA fairy-tale themed books. The Grimm Curse (Once Upon a Time is Now) by Stephen Carpenter (he also produced the NBC series Grimm which I watched a couple of times and couldn’t get into) is a story about the last living descendant of the Brothers Grimm who discovers that fairy tales are happening in real life a small town in the Northwest. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer was a cute story about twins who fall into a book of fairy tales–it had a good twist at the end. Peter and the Starcatchers by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry is one of my favorites–it’s a fun origin story of Peter Pan.

Speaking of Peter Pan, two of my favorite retellings are derived from the story of Neverland. The movie Hook is my favorite version of Peter Pan. It does such justice to the original story while creating a whole new level to the tale.

The other is the movie Finding Neverland, which is a very sweet and sad story. If you haven’t watched them, I highly recommend both of them.

Of course, fairy tales are being created all the time. Some of my favorite fantastical books that aren’t based on classic fairy tales:

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Between the Lines by Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult (the sequel Off the Pages is coming out in May. You can read an excerpt of it here).

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

And finally, two of my favorite Instagram accounts–@theredwritinghood and @thequotethief–post beautiful pictures with fairy tale/book quotes. Check them out! Some of my favorites:

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@theredwritinghood

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@thequotethief

I think what I love most about fairy tales is their ability to transcend–generations, genres, and medium.

What is your favorite fairy tale? Do you like retellings or do you prefer original stories?

Books in Real Life: ‘All You Need for a Snowman’

Even though we don’t get much snow in Atlanta, we can dream about it, right?

This month I chose Alice Schertle’s All You Need for a Snowman to highlight for my Books in Real Life post. It’s a great book, especially for groups, but a lot of the activities that go along with it can be applied to other winter books.

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One of my favorite ideas to go along with this book is a build-a-snowman station.This is a great activity to do with a handful of kids or to leave you kids to their own devices. I was surprised at how long this kept JC occupied.

I made a batch of our favorite play dough:

1 cup flour
1/3 cup salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoons cream of tartar
Food Coloring (if so desired)

I put it all in a pan, turn on low heat, and mix until it stiffens up. Let it cool for a few minutes, and then knead the color in. I always think it isn’t going to work because it starts out so runny…but it always does!

Then I set up a little box of “snowman fixings”…little twigs, buttons, fabric scraps, etc. 

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And the finished results:

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Here is a quick and healthy snack idea for when you read the book. Decorate clear cups with snowman faces, tie a little scarf around them, and fill with freshly popped popcorn. Perfect to snuggle up and read the book!

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Leslie over at Teach Junkie has a free download that goes along with the books that includes some great descriptive writing sheets. If you have younger kids, they can also be used as coloring pages. You can find the download here.


What are your kids reading this month? These are some of our current top requests.

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