Bookish Things, Gym Life

Book Club Fun

The ladies at my gym, to whom we refer to as Valkyries, had been bugging me for weeks to start up a book club. I finally pulled my finger out and organised it. I chose three books for them to vote on, recorded myself talking about them (I’d only read one of the three so I used reviews to help inform me for the other two), posted a poll, we voted, we read the book, and met on the last Sunday of July. The book the ladies chose was The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin and we met at the beautiful Riverbend Books and Cafe in Bulimba. I had some notes to help prompt and direct conversation, which included things like themes, characterisation, and plot devices, but I rarely needed them. The conversation flowed beautifully and everyone become more and more confident to share their opinions as the hour flew by. At the end I had organised for Vicky, Event Manager at Riverbend, to do a book chat for us and we used that to vote on our next month’s book: Circe by Madeline Miller.

I don’t want to spend the rest of this blog post reflecting on what we talked about, but rather the impact the actual book club had on me, the Valkyries that attended, and those that were unable to make it..

For those that came:

It was interesting to see their confidence grow. Many had said before coming that they’d never been a part of a book club before and weren’t sure what was expected of them. Throughout the month they shared their reading progress and thoughts (without spoilers and wasn’t that a tough skill for them to learn!). When we caught up they made remarks such as:  “I actually finished the book, and I can’t remember the last time I actually finished a book!” During the meeting I could tell that they were taking it very seriously, but were also having fun. Opinions were respectfully shared and discussed, and I know that I learnt a lot about the women that came. It gave a real sense of community to women that tend to only hang out at the gym.

For those that couldn’t come:

There were a couple that didn’t come because they hadn’t read the book and possibly felt embarrassed. Upon learning this I made it very clear (to everyone) that not finishing the book because life gets busy is no reason to miss out if you’re able to come on the day. Book club can still be stimulating if you haven’t had the chance to read the book. Just hanging out with the women in your community is enough to spark new ideas. Others were unaware of book club and soon became interested in attending the next one! I think I’ll probably need a bigger table next time…

For myself:

It hit me, how lucky I am to be able to talk about books, read widely, and explore new ideas through fiction as part of my job. I’ve been a fully qualified Teacher Librarian for three years now and I have never really stopped to think how lucky I am as a human being. I often remark on how lucky I am to work with the beautiful students at Mount Alvernia College, and how I get to read for my job and discuss books with the students all the time. What I didn’t realise is that I was missing that element of adult connection beyond my work. Getting to share my passion for books outside of my TL job and in my gym owner role is really special. The women that participated said that they really valued being able to have intellectual conversations outside of their own workplaces, and that they loved being challenged to think deeply not only about the book itself, but why they reacted the way they did. I hadn’t realised that I had been missing this interaction and connection with adults too. I love my students, and I love their passion for books, but it’s so lovely to be able to discuss (and for me, actually read) Adult Fiction in depth and without fear of saying the wrong thing. The Valkyries do not shy away from discussing any topic, nothing is off limits, and its so freeing to be able to talk about everything with women that challenge me to be better.

So, I cannot wait for our next meeting. We’re going to try and get in at Avid Reader in West End. I’m looking forward to reading Circe and hearing what the Valkyries have to say!

krystalgagen:

I had so much fun at our @valhalla_strength_sth_bne #valkyriesbookclub at @riverbendbooks this morning! I often forget how privileged I am to be able to read widely and talk about books daily. So grateful to be able to share that experience with my beautiful Valkyries. We voted for Circe next month and I’m super excited.

I asked the Valkyries for some selfies with their books and here are my examples that I gave them for inspiration 😂 Grumpy face was a tester because I was struggling with the steadiness of my hand 😂

#gagensreads#adventuresoftheliftinglibrarian

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Bookish Things, Thoughts

Science Fiction becomes science

Science Fiction is one of my favourite genres, in fact, I’m finding that I’m reading and watching more Sci-Fi than anything else at the moment. I think one of the reasons I love it is because Science Fiction is quite often a precursor to the leaps and bounds of Science.

An example of this is cyborgs. There are so many Sci-Fi stories that have cyborgs in them; a particular favourite of mine is Cinder by Marissa Meyer. In this story, Cinder is half human/half robot and the integration between her two halves is seamless, in fact her robotic parts enable her to do more than is humanly possible.

I have always loved the idea of humans becoming cyborgs. I have had 3 minor surgeries on various joints in my body and am often heard joking about wanting a “new body.” It was with great surprise and joy that I watched the following two TED Talks by Hugh Herr on the advancements he and his team at MIT are making in the world of prosthetics, cyborgs, and human potential.

 

 

 

I’m so excited for what our future holds. If half of what I read in Sci-Fi comes true, then I know that we are in for one hell of a ride!

Bookish Things

Fuzzy Mud – Sachar

When I first started at Mount Alvernia College in 2016, I was asked to take over the Readers Cup team. One of the books that year was Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. Since reading it, I have recommended it to countless students and it is rarely on our shelves. I thought it was about time I wrote a review of it.

Synopsis:

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Tamaya and Marshall are family friends. They’ve grown up together because of the close friendship between their mothers. They walk to and from school together every day; in fact, Tamaya is not allowed to walk to school if Marshall is not with her. One day, Marshall tells Tamaya that they are going to walk through the woods out the back of their school – which is out of bounds. Tamaya tags along because she has no other choice, but during the trek through the woods they get separated, and Tamaya is tracked down by the school bully. To escape the bully, she throws a handful of mud into his face and runs away. After a few days, the bully is still missing, and Tamaya has noticed a weird rash that is spreading up her arm. She becomes really worried for the bully takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of where the bully has gotten to, and what’s up with the “fuzzy mud.”

Thoughts:

I loved this book for how easy it is to read, but also for the mystery that is woven throughout it. The story is told from a couple of different perspectives. There’s Tamaya’s, which is the main narrative voice, but occasionally we get flash backs and alternate storylines that tell the story of the fuzzy mud. The scientists that create it and then unknowingly set it free upon the world try to defend their actions, which have essentially released a self-replicating virus upon the world. I also love the exploration into friendship, bullying, and doing the right thing even when it’s not easy.

A super quick read, I’d recommend this to middle years readers after a good mystery with a little bit of science thrown in.

 

Bookish Things

Murder Most Unladylike – Stevens

I read Murder Most Unladylike because we’ve had an increasing number of students in years 7 and 8 asking for “murder mysteries.” I have no real idea as to why these types of stories are becoming popular again, but as an avid reader of Agatha Christie in my early teens, I cannot complain! And so, it was with great pleasure that I realised there is a new range of Middle Reader friendly murder mysteries available, one of which is the A Murder Most Unladylike Mystery series by Robin Stevens.28953339

Synopsis:

When Hazel Wong moves from Hong Kong to Deepdean School for Girls in England, she finds it difficult to make friends at first. After a rocky start she soon becomes fast friends with Daisy Wells, a typical English young lady. Due to Daisy’s murder mystery obsession, the two friends start their own Detective Agency. After solving a couple of small crimes, such as lost ties or collecting gossip, Hazel eventually stumbles on their first real crime: their Science Mistress has been murdered and Hazel discovers the body.

The body goes missing shortly after Hazel discovers it and so Hazel and Daisy must race against the clock to collect clues to find out who the murderer is. They know it’s someone on staff, but who?

Thoughts:

I did like this story, but I didn’t love it and I think it’s because I’m not it’s targeted audience. The murder mystery was well thought out though. I didn’t see the “who done it” coming and the way that certain off-hand events tied in was very clever – in this sense it is very Agatha Christie.

Hazel and Daisy of the Detective Society are likeable enough. The mentions of Hazel’s “oriental” background and the way the girls in her form refer to her are very apt for the time the story is set in. However at the same time, Stevens has shown sensitivity towards migrants by using Hazel’s voice as a voice of displeasure over the apparently “harmless” comments made by her peers. Daisy is initially portrayed as the perfect English rose, but her depth of character is explored further when Hazel slowly discovers that Daisy is the smartest girl in school but hides it, she loves to play rough when it comes to sport, and has a fascination with murder.

The setting of an all girls school back in the day (I don’t think the year is ever specified), and the description of the teaching staff set the scene for trouble quite nicely. The explanation of the Masters and Mistresses is slightly one dimensional; we never really get to know the staff that well, but I believe this is largely due to the fact that Hazel, the voice of the story, doesn’t know them well enough to make their personalities clearer. We see them as she sees them: untouchable and infallible.

The narrative of the story is a combination of present and past events. We see the murder unfold as the present, but Hazel adds in tidbits of information about the school and characters are reflective chapters. It’s really very clever. The other notable thing about the way in which this book is written is how Stevens has divided the story into parts. I am a huge fan of this as it gives me tangible goals for reading and I think this will only increase it’s popularity among Middle Readers.

Overall, I think this is a very clever murder mystery that is perfect for Middle Years readers looking for an Agatha Christie style novel. It’s easy to read, the main characters are likeable, and the plot twists are certainly shocking.

Bookish Things

Nyxia – Reintgen

I recently read a book that made me realise just how much I appreciate a really good SciFi, and very real male protagonist: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen. A colleague who doesn’t usually read SciFi recommended this to me and it did not disappoint – so much so that I even went and bought my own copy.

Synopsis:

34946083Ten teenagers from low socio-economic backgrounds are offered a chance of a lifetime from global corporation, Babel; embark on a journey to a new planet called Eden, learn valuable skills along the way, earn more money than most of the richest on Earth… but only if they can beat the other recruits and secure themselves a spot in the top eight.

Emmett is one of those recruits, and he is determined to make it to Eden to save his mother from cancer. He is regularly forced to decide between what is right, and what is easy, often forgetting that a life without his humanity is not worth living no matter how wealthy it is. Emmett has no idea about the challenges he is going to face, but he knows that he is going to do everything he can to be in the top eight and land on Eden.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adore this book for quite a few reasons. Firstly, Emmett is so very real. Its not often that I identify with an 18 year old male character, for obvious reasons, but the way that Emmett is written is very clever. You feel his pain, his need, and his drive. You understand what makes him tick and the motivation behind his choices. His ability to be acknowledge the darkness within him and yet fight to be the better man because that’s how his parents raised him, makes you appreciate the pressure that his is under and the manipulative nature of Babel. I just love Emmett.

Secondly, this is such a thrilling read. It was one of those can’t-possibly-put-down-until-finished, read-it-in-one-go reads. The twists, turns and shock values were great. I was worried for Emmett’s sanity, but at no point was I unsure of his fate (clever devices that teen readers wouldn’t normally recognise gave away certain clues for certain events, but I still enjoyed it). Just when you think all is finally well, Reintgen rips the rug out from underneath you with another twist and you can’t help hating Babel.

Lastly, I haven’t read a good SciFi thriller like this in ages. Yes, I love These Broken Stars by Kauffman and Spooner, and yes, I am very much looking forward to Obsidio by Kauffman and Kristoff, BUT, this is a different type of SciFi and it’s been a while. It’s made me realise just how much I love a good SciFi thriller, and how the genre seems to be making a come back with new authors, new ideas, and new stories to love.

Overall, I would recommend Nyxia to anyone from 13 years and up. Yeah, there are a couple of violent scenes but on the whole they are not the most violent I have come across, and they are written in a way that adds to the story rather than just being violence for violences sake (similar to the cleverness of the violence in Hunger Games). If you’re looking for your next great SciFi read, or are interested in trying the genre, I would highly recommend giving this one a go.

Bookish Things, Education, Thoughts

Role Models: Part One

Over the past two weeks I have spent some time at home recovering from an ankle reconstruction and I often found myself thinking about roles models. This came about because of the type of books I’ve been reading, the TV shows I’ve been watching, some of my interactions with our gym members, and what I wanted to say for International Women’s Day this year. In this blog post “Role Models: Part One” I want to talk about Fictional Role Models, and in “Role Models: Part Two” I’ll discuss Real-Life Role Models.

On International Women’s Day (IWD) this year I took my time thinking about the message that I wanted to share within my spheres of influence. I ended up sharing about the importance of role models for women. To that end, my Instagram post ended up being this:

krystalgagen: I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to post for International Women’s Day this year, and then it hit me: books by women, for women. I started going through my personal library for my favourite books and I realised just how many I had (this is not all of them…)

It’s so important to have great role models. Women NEED to see other women succeeding in a wide variety of positions so that they have the confidence to know they can do it too. Books are a great way to give girls confidence.

So, happy International Women’s Day. Celebrate the women in your life, recognise their achievements, and empower them to give anything they want a go.

Here’s to strong women.
May we know them. ❤️
May we raise them. ❤️
May we be them. ❤️

PS. Although Grant is not a female author, his characters were too good to leave out… Amazing role models regardless.

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As I pointed out, fictional role models can often take the place of real-life role models, and I think they are equally as important. Here’s why…

I never had a lot of female role models during my teens and early twenties. My mum was my main role model, and my grandmas, but other than that I was limited to teachers. Our family is close and I didn’t get to watch my parents interact with many adult women who weren’t related to me and I certainly never got the opportunity to find a female mentor during my years of development. My favourite teachers in high school were often males and although they were awesome (so knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects), they were still men. I’m in my late 20s now and I’d say that I still don’t have a definitive role model – some of my friends are fantastic influences on me, but I often find myself searching for guidance. When I was growing up, books taught me all I needed to become the person I am today, and I still find inspiration in characters for self growth. Without these books, I would not have had the opportunity to develop my sense of self, and discover who I am today.

There were two series in particular that I feel really shaped who I am today: Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. Both written by women with strong female characters. Here’s what I learned from these two series:

Hermione in Harry Potter
Hermione taught me that it was ok to be smart. I didn’t need to pretend I wasn’t just to have friends in my corner. Her brains and her kindness are just two of the things I love about Hermione. I know that I personally, as 7 year old girl that was told she was “bossy,” needed Hermione to show me that I wasn’t bossy, but rather I was smart, had great leadership skills, and could still have friends.

Alanna in Song of the Lioness
Alana taught me that girls didn’t have to do “girly” things. Alana wanted to be a knight and she worked hard to get there. She taught me that if I truly wanted something, I would need resilience, courage, and to know that even though some people might disagree with me, if I wanted something badly enough I could make it happen.

I don’t remember there being an abundance of novels available to me that had strong female characters as I grew up. These two series are the only two that really stand out in my mind. And so, this got me thinking about how amazing it is that these days there are a number of books with strong female characters, and what that means for the current generation and future generations.

The books pictured in my Instagram post for IWD 2018 have female characters that:

  • Specialise in technology and are often even better at it than the boys
  • Fight wars for their countries because they love their country
  • Make decisions about their futures based on what they want to do, not on what they are told to do – in fact, often these two things are opposites.
  • Show compassion and kindness, and have it seen as a strength, not a weakness

By reading books with strong female characters that exhibit these characteristics and more, girls, teens, young women, and women are exposed to a range of characters that show them what women are capable of. By having these fictional role models, we can see what women can do if given the chance.

I will continue to read books that have strong female characters, and I will continue to recommend these books to my students, both male and female! However, I will also continue to find and read books with strong male characters as well, because it’s a two way street. Overall, the power of fictional role models is something that I truly believe in. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Bookish Things

Looking back at 2017’s reads

This year I have managed to read 61 books, surpassing my goal of 52. It was no where near as many as I read in 2016, I think I managed over 120, but I have certainly not spent anywhere near as much time reading this year. 2017, among other things, has been the year of Netflix for me! However, I am proud of the 61 books I have read and thought I would do a quick recap of my top 5 from 2017.

Before I get into it, I want to give some quick insight into my 2017 reads feelings overall. I didn’t actually love many books this year. Sure, I had a couple that I had been eagerly anticipating the release of, but there was only one book that really took my breath away. Everything else was just sort of “ok.” For example, I loved Gemina by Kauffman and Kristoff, but it had lost its shock value because it was the second in the series. Same with A Court of Wings and Ruin by Maas. In my humble opinion it was going to need to be something truly amazing to live up to its predecessor, A Court of Mist and Fury, which has to be one of my all time favourite books. Unearthed by Kauffman and Spooner was another highly anticipated release for 2017 and whilst I enjoyed it, I think these authors have been spoiled for me forever, simply because These Broken Stars of the Starbound Trilogy is simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. You can see that even though I enjoyed a lot of the books I read this year, it has been tricky to find the kinds of books that make me say wow. So, I went through my 61 reads for 2017 and picked out my top 5. I tried to avoid those that were continuations of series that I have been reading, and pick only standalone books or firsts in series.

#5  Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

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This graphic novel is very much along the same lines as Smile, and is all about learning to find friends that click with you, not you being forced to fit in with them. I really felt for main character, Shannon. I could recognised some of my own friendship experiences in hers, and some I have since witnessed. This is a great story about learning who you really are and how kindness above all else will help you thrive.

Recommended for all from ages 8 and up!

#4 Geekerella by Ashley Poston

34790383As a Cinderella story, the storyline of this is completely predictable, however… I loved it. The twist on each of the original Cinderella characters is very clever. I adored how in this version our main characters are geeks; fans that cosplay or write fan-fic, and are hopelessly in love with the fictional worlds that we in the real world also adore.

We also get more of a backstory for Prince Charming, or Darien Freeman in this case, that has never really been explored before. In my opinion, Cinderella stories are all about the girl. The fact that this novel is written in alternating chapters between Darien and Elle’s (Cinderella’s) point of view means that both sides of this story are told. I love how Darien’s geeky-ness is hidden behind his superstar facade, which makes him all the more loveable. Elle has the right amount of fiery courage as someone that has been treated as a doormat for her adolescent life for her break for freedom to be believable. In short, Geekerella is a great modern twist on a classic story.

There is just one little thing that bothers me about this book: Editing! There are so many little words missing that it is noticeable and a little annoying. Other than that, a very easy read. Recommended for readers 10 and older!

#3 Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

30233110It look a little while for me to really get into this one; the beginning was a little slow and there are so many words that I struggled to pronounce. It got to the point where my brain would acknowledge the cluster of letters and move on. Once I got into the swing of the story, both characters started to grow on me.

Cyra and Akos live on the same planet, but are from two different worlds. Their lives are divided by a wide expanse of no-man’s-land, and their cultures differ greatly. Cyra’s is a world of brutality and war. Akos’ is a world of peace and farming. Their world’s collide when Cyra’s tyrannical father kidnaps Akos’ brother, and Akos in the process. Cyra and Akos must work together to escape from Cyra’s family.

I really loved the character development of this story, particularly Cyra’s. I also loved how the chapters were split in alternating perspectives, and that when Akos’ story was being told it was written in 3rd person, and when Cyra was telling her story it was in 1st person. I have no idea as to the reasoning behind this decision, and although it was  a little jarring at first, I really enjoyed the change.

Recommended for 13 years and older.

#2 Firstlife by Gena Showalter

28412750I really enjoyed this one, the idea that you needed to choose which life you would live after your first death really intrigued me. There are two sides to choose from and they are quite different, but both are appealing. Both sides want main character Tenley, or Ten, Lockwood but she can’t decide. Soon she’s on the run from both sides, simply trying to make her decision without their influence. She knows she needs to make a decision though because if she doesn’t and she dies, she will end up nowhere, doomed for eternity.

Ten is such a strong, female lead character. She makes decisions based on her own thoughts and desires, and doesn’t let anyone decide anything for her. She uncovers some hidden truths about the two worlds and puts herself in danger in order to show both sides what she’s discovered. I really enjoyed the action packed nature of this story, but also the world building.

Recommended for 13 and up!

#1 Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

28103790I have not been able to stop raving about this book since I read it back in April. I love World War II history, and this book taught me about a naval tragedy that I knew nothing about. In fact, it’s about the worst naval tragedy in history, more lives lost than the Titanic, and I had never heard of it! That in itself was pretty special, but what I really loved were the characters.

These characters were not your typical WWII story characters, they were German citizens, fleeing before the call for evacuation had been made. Because of this, they feared for their lives as it was considered treason to be fleeing against direct orders from the Fuhrer. Each character had a different reason for running, each had a secret, each were scared for their lives. I loved the hints, I loved the intrigue, I loved the storytelling, and I loved characters. As you can probably tell, this book has definitely found a place among my favourite books and I think everyone should read it.

Recommended for readers 13 and up!

Bookish Things

Leigh Bardugo – Author Spotlight

Without even realising it, I have recently been on a bit of a Leigh Bardugo binge, so I thought I’d better blog about it!

Towards the end of least year I started reading her Grisha Trilogy: #1 Shadow and Bone, #2 Siege and Storm, #3 Ruin and Rising. I didn’t love these books, it took me over 6 months to read the series, but I did enjoy them. Her world building and complexity of story was expertly done, but in this series I sometimes felt that there was too much going on and I got a little lost or disinterested.

I was then told by a year 11 student that I “ABSOLUTELY HAD TO GET SIX OF CROWS AND CROOKED KINGDOM BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BEST BOOKS EVER!” (Yes, she really did yell enthusiastically at me; I love book worms.) It’s taken me a while to start this duology, but I am so glad I did. Six of Crows is the first and it tells the story of a band of young thieves pulling off the biggest heist of their careers. It helps to have read the Grisha Trilogy beforehand as there is a fair amount of name dropping and reference to the Civil War explained in those books, but it is not strictly necessary. The twists and turns, the character development, and the cleverness of their fearless leader make you want to keep turning the page. Once again, the complexity of the story, including flash backs, multiple points of view, and twists and turns that rival the best mysteries, are masterfully handled and not once did I get lost. Bardugo has done an excellent job balancing all these features while telling a fantastic story. I am really enjoying continuing the story of the young thieves in Crooked Kingdom, and hope that it lives up to its predecessor.

I realised that I had recently finished yet another of Bardugo’s books, Wonder Woman: Warbringer. I was so excited to get my hands on this one that I didn’t even pay attention to the author until I was half way through and thoroughly enjoying it. (I mean, it’s a Wonder Woman origin story in the form of a novel, how could I not be excited?!) The beautiful thing about the way that Bardugo has told Diana’s (Wonder Woman’s) story is that it is really refreshing. In this telling, Diana does not end up in the classic Wonder Woman outfit, and is not necessarily announced to the world, but is on a mission that isn’t sanctioned by her mother and Amazon sisters, and she must work in secret to right the wrong she has brought upon the island. I highly recommend this for fans of superheroes, and I’m super excited to see what Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker, Sarah J Maas’ Catwoman: Soulstealer, and Matt De La Pena’s Superman bring to the table in the DC Icon Series!

What I’ve realised about Bardugo’s writing over the past year is that, in my opinion, the more she writes, the better she gets, and the more I like it! I am looking forward to whatever’s next from Leigh Bardugo.

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Bookish Things

The book EVERYONE is talking about

33007030Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls has certainly made waves in the literary world. I first heard about this book when Rebecca Sparrow attended the International Women’s Day Breakfast we hosted here in the iCentre and raved about this book! She did such a great job of selling it that almost all of the attendees wanted a copy! Since then I have purchased myself and copy and I absolutely adore it. I was so excited to learn that there was Volume 2 coming later this year!

I thought I’d quickly share my reasons for why I love this book:

  • I am learning so many things that I have never even heard of! The number of women in here that I am learning about is amazing, and they are all so inspiring. One story in particular has made a massive impact on me. It’s the story of the teenage girl that designs and makes a torch that gives light by using body heat for power! I won’t tell you which extraordinary woman it is, you’ll have to get the book to find out for yourself!
  • I love the way that each story is a perfect short story. They are quick, full of facts, have a moral, are inspiring, and the artwork is divine!
  • There are so many different role models! From artists to astronauts, poets to pirates, the variety is astounding and I loved reading every short story. I loved that they broadened my mind, taught me something new, inspired me to do some research and learn more about these extraordinary women!

In my humble opinion, every person (not just girls/women) should read this. Its a fascinating insight into what these extraordinary women have achieved.

 

Bookish Things, Thoughts

The 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter

It’s no secret around school that I adore everything Harry Potter. I…

  • Own multiple copies of all the books and DVDs
  • Own a copy of the audiobooks read by Stephen Fry and listen to them regularly
  • Am a proud Gryffindor, sorted through Pottermore
  • Have a large range of Harry Potter merchandise/clothing, including a cardigan and scarf from Harry Potter World Orlando that I wear to work regularly
  • Can discuss all cannon and fan theories in depth with fellow Potterheads

All of these things might seem crazy to those that live outside the Harry Potter Universe, but for me and, possibly more importantly, my students, it’s a way of connecting. So, how does Harry Potter connect us? Here is my list of 3 ways in which it does!

1. It’s worldwide!

For the 20th anniversary this year, Pottermore has started up a Wizarding World Book Club that fans all over the world can connect through. It’s being hosted on Twitter under the hashtag #WWBookClub and allows fans to respond to questions and replies across the globe. I love that the Harry Potter Universe is so big that they are able to have a worldwide book club! It’s blowing my mind! Some of the responses to the initial questions have really had me thinking deeply and appreciating being able to discuss my thoughts with other Potterheads.

2. It’s for all ages!

As I’ve already alluded to, I am able to have conversations with people of all ages about these characters. Whether they are students discovering the wizarding world for the first time, or adults that have been thumbing these pages for two decades now (how crazy is that?!), everyone is able to have and share their thoughts and opinions.

3. The themes are relatable!

Harry Potter is a boy that did not let his circumstances define who he would become. This in itself is inspiring, never mind the fact that Harry and his friends face issues of:

  • Bullying
  • Family dysfunction
  • Starting a new school
  • Friendship
  • Courage
  • Knowledge
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Standing out for all the wrong reasons and dealing with it
  • Good vs. evil
  • Dark and light
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Loss
  • Love

And so many more… Every one of these themes are themes that people can easily relate to. They occur in almost everyone’s lift experience. Learning about these with Harry and his friends gives readers strength and hope.

What does Harry Potter mean to me?

Well, I was 6 when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. I have very clear memories of my father reading it to me before bedtime, including begging him to read it to me during the day, or how he was unsure how to pronounce Hermione’s name!

When Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published I was 7. I remember being on a family road trip with my mother reading it to me and my brother to pass the time. We arrived home and she wasn’t finished, so I grabbed the book, hid in my room and finished it – it was the very first proper book I’d ever read on my own. From then on, my parents had to buy two copies of the remaining books in the series to avoid arguments between my brother and I.

When I was in year 9, so 14 years old, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out. I remember lining up for ages to collect my preorder and then powering through the book over the weekend so that I wouldn’t have it spoiled for me when I got to school on Monday! Lucky I did too because just before the bell went for first period, someone shouted out the WORST possible spoiler (I won’t mention it here just in case but if you’ve read it then you just have to know what it was) and my entire year level of roughly 330 students groaned. 330 year 9 students were impacted by Harry Potter! That is insane.

I remember picking up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and it not feeling real. “This can’t be the end,” I thought. It was surreal. My first read was so quick and such a blur that I had to reread it again straight away for all of it to sink it. It was done, I was lost, there was no more… and it was amazing.

JK Rowling will always be my favourite author. She is a phenomenal human being and such a talent. She inspired a generation through her work and continues to do so every time another reader picks up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, whether it be for the first time or the millionth time.

I could continue to talk about Harry Potter for hours on end, so I’ll leave it there for now. I hope that if you’re one of those people that thinks Harry Potter is silly, that I may have changed your perspective or at least made you rethink your opinion. To my fellow Potterheads, I look forward to connecting with you through the Wizarding World Book Club on Twitter, and to hearing your own stories and thoughts!