Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

9781338099133_p0_v5_s192x300  Scripts can be tricky and the new play – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – offered some challenges in the reading.  The only modern script I remember liking is Lily Tomlin’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe – still among my favorites on my bookshelf.

I’ve always been a fan of J.K. Rowling’s creation of the boy wizard series, buying first editions as soon as published, but I’ve never liked the movies.  Despite the talented actors who grew up with the stories, something about seeing Harry amid all the magical effects on screen did not seem as exciting as reading about him and imagining the possibilities.  In this case, I suspected the reverse – reading the script may not be as satisfying as seeing the play.

Rowling and her fellow writers, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, deliver a clever addition to the Harry Potter saga, with Harry a faltering forty year old, married to Ginny, with a son named after two memorable characters from the series, Albus Severus.  The disconnect between father and son fuels the plot, and other progeny join the adventure as Harry once again battles the villain Voldemort, but the trick this time is time travel.

Trying to change the past has its consequences, as readers appreciate from so much fiction warning us of its terrors – notably the classic Ray Bradbury story imagining a careless time traveler who changes the present by stepping on a butterfly in the past; nevertheless, Rowling manufactures a new twist on trying to improve the past – with dire results.  The action is fast, despite three trips back to Harry’s childhood, and fans of Harry Potter will enjoy the references to the books series.

The ending is not predictable, offering a moral lesson.  All ends well, with everything and everyone back in place, and good conquering evil, possibly preempting a sequel – or not.  Young Albus seems destined to reinvent the adventures of his father – the book has the subtitle of “Parts One and Two.”

Related Review:  The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Happy Birthday J.K. Rowling

Joanne (Kathleen) Rowling, (the first syllable rhymes with ‘row’ your boat)  creator of Harry Potter, celebrates her birthday today.  Her manuscript for The Philosopher’s Stone, the first in the series, was turned down a few times before Bloomsbury agreed to publish it in 1997, when she was 32 years old.

Rowling said her inspiration came while she was waiting…

“It was after a weekend’s flat-hunting, when I was travelling back to London on my own on a crowded train, that the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head… I didn’t have a functioning pen with me, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one. I think, now, that this was probably a good thing, because I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours…”

JK Rowling bedroom

Now one of her childhood homes is for sale – with her inscription on the window sill (Joanne Rowling slept here…)  – JK Rowling Home.

I read all the Harry Potter books as soon as they were published, and promptly forgot each one until the next.  Of course, the movies help to keep the fire burning – with the last in the series now finally out.

If you have not read any, dip in anywhere – not necessary to read them in order. – or better yet – listen to them on tape.  My favorite was The Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry’s Patronus, his mystical protector, saves the day.    Expecto Patronum and Happy Birthday! 

Checklist for Writers

“What makes a good children’s writer?

  • must have a genuine and powerful wish not only to entertain children, but to teach them the habit of reading
  • must like simple tricks and jokes and riddles and other childish things
  • must be unconventional and inventive
  • must have a really first-class plot
  • {tell} stories that contain a threat
  • {use} new inventions; unorthodox methods; eccentricity; secret information
  • know what enthralls children:  action, suspense, being spooked, finding treasures, ghosts, chocolates and toys and money, magic, being made to giggle, seeing the villain meet a grisly death, {seeing}the hero be a winner
  • know what bores children: descriptive passages and flowery prose

Your story, therefore, must tantalize and titillate on every page and all the time that you are writing you must be saying to yourself ‘Is this too slow? Is it dull? Will they stop reading?’ …{If your answer is yes}, you must cross it out and start again.”

Roald Dahl presented this philosophy of writing at a lecture in 1990;  J.K Rowling paid attention (Harry Potter was first published in 1997).