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New Book Helps Kids Learn from Harry Potter

Now that Harry Potter fans are back in school having finished the latest novel in the series, a new book is helping parents and teachers use Harry's popularity to educate young people. "It's amazing how many ways parents and teachers can reach young minds simply by working with the Harry Potter books," says historian Elizabeth D. Schafer, an expert on children's literature and the author of Beacham's Sourcebooks: Exploring Harry Potter, available September 15 at bookstores nationally, online booksellers, or at 

Schafer, a Ph.D. in the History of Science and Technology, says that aside from being great entertainment, the Potter books offer unlimited opportunities to teach kids about all kinds of subjects, from science and geography to history, literature, and mythology. For example, Schafer recommends these educational activities for Harry Potter fans:
· Learn about the criminal justice system: Stage a mock trial and put Voldemort on the stand. 
· Go to an arboretum or botanical garden to see willows, oaks, and other trees that figure prominently in the Potter books. 
· Visit the zoo to see owls, eagles, snakes and other animals suggested by the creatures in Harry's world. 
· Polish and paint a stone to look like your idea of the sorcerer's stone. 

"The Harry Potter books, unlike so many childhood manias of the last twenty or thirty years, are a good thing," says Stephen King, best-selling author of The Green Mile and a Potter admirer. "Elizabeth Schafer's book will help enrich the Harry Potter experience, and that is a very good thing."

Resource for Potter Fans

Although not approved by J.K. Rowling, Exploring Harry Potter is the first authoritative, comprehensive study of Harry and his world. Part literary criticism, part teaching guide, part Potter compendium, the book helps readers understand and appreciate Harry Potter's themes, characters, settings, science, language, history, and even sports and food. Chapters cover the history of magic and alchemy; parallels between the novels and mythology; the origins of Rowling's clever character names; the geography of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, and more. A few examples of character names explored in the book:
· Fawkes, Dumbledore's pet phoenix, is named for Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the British Parliament in the 17th-century Gunpowder Plot. 
· Argus Filch, Hogwarts' caretaker, is named after a mythic Greek watchman who was covered with eyes. 
· Harry's archenemy Voldemort is French for "flight of death."
· Hogwarts professor Minerva McGonagall is named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and war. 
· Hedwig, Harry's snowy white owl, is named for a medieval saint. 
· Nicolas Flamel was a real fourteenth century alchemist who tried to create a philosopher's stone to turn metals into gold. 

The Harry Potter books contain countless references to mythology, literature, history, and more. Exploring Harry Potter helps kids understand these references. A few highlights:
· Harry's forehead is branded with a lightening bolt, a symbol of the Greek god Zeus. Being singled out by a marking also alludes to The Scarlet Letter. 
· Harry pulling Godric Gryffindor's sword from the basilisk's mouth reminds of King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone. 
· Ginny Weasley is like Sleeping Beauty when she seems lifeless in the Chamber of Secrets where Harry, like a prince, rescues her. 
· The idea of not speaking an enemy's name, as in Voldemort, has a historical precedent in the banning of the MacGregor name after a 1603 Scottish massacre. 

Other highlights include a timeline relating Potter characters and situations to real people and historical events, an interpretive biography of Rowling, and a discussion of Pottermania. Exploring Harry Potter features questions to generate discussion between parents and children, Web sites for Internet research, lesson plans for teachers, and resources for librarians. A wealth of additional information, activities, and an exhaustive bibliography are available on the Internet at 

Exploring Harry Potter also offers extensive recommendations for further reading. Among the less familiar titles Elizabeth Schafer recommends for Harry's fans:
· Time for Andrew by Mary Downing Hahn
· Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde
· 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey by Kathryn Tucker Windham
· Midnight Magic by Avi
· Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise

Karen Cushman, winner of the prestigious Newbery Medal for children's literature, says: "What a great idea this series is and how well done! This is not so much a book as a treasure chest of history, mythology, geography, ideas, games, and resources about Harry Potter and beyond. I wish there were one of these for every book I love."
News, photos provided by Newstream
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