‘Harry Potter’ author regrets RonMione


Pairing up Harry Potter’s friends, Ron and Hermione, may have been a mistake, concedes author J.K. Rowling. Hermione would have done better with Harry, she thinks now.

In an interview several years ago, Rowling said that she “seriously considered” killing Ron.

It “seemed implausible that the highly intellectual and perfectionistic Hermione would fall for the utterly unintellectual (though not unintelligent) and seriously immature Ron,” writes Volokh’s Ilya Somin. If Hermione didn’t think Harry was right for her, she could have “waited to find a spouse until after high school!”

Ron Weasley sucks, writes economist Eric Crampton. He imagines a Harry Potter trained in science and rationality before enrolling at Hogwarts.

After Ron explains quidditch, Harry asks why catching the Snitch is worth 150 points, when one side usually scores 15 to 20 10-point goals before the Snitch is caught to end the game.

“That’s just wrong. That violates every possible rule of game design. Look, the rest of this game sounds like it might make sense, sort of, for a sport I mean, but you’re basically saying that catching the Snitch overwhelms almost any ordinary point spread. The two Seekers are up there flying around looking for the Snitch and usually not interacting with anyone else, spotting the Snitch first is going to be mostly luck -”

“It’s not luck!” protested Ron. “You’ve got to keep your eyes moving in the right pattern -”

“That’s not interactive, there’s no back-and-forth with the other player and how much fun is it to watch someone incredibly good at moving their eyes? And then whichever Seeker gets lucky swoops in and grabs the Snitch and makes everyone else’s work moot. It’s like someone took a real game and grafted on this pointless extra position so that you could be the Most Important Player without needing to really get involved or learn the rest of it. Who was the first Seeker, the King’s idiot son who wanted to play Quidditch but couldn’t understand the rules?” Actually, now that Harry thought about it, that seemed like a surprisingly good hypothesis. Put him on a broomstick and tell him to catch the shiny thing…

Harry suggests improving quidditch by getting rid of the Snitch.

“But, but if you get rid of the Snitch, how will anyone know when the game ends?” Ron asks.

“Buy a clock,” Harry replies.

A school inspector reports on Hogwarts

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was rated “unsatisfactory” by Ofsted (British government school inspectors), reports Life, Teaching and Other Distractions.

Teaching is old-fashioned. Students are weak in literacy and numeracy and poorly behaved. Students play an “incredibly dangerous” sport. “Looking at the records, the House Championship has been corrupt for some time, with clear preferential treatment given to some houses over others.”

Latino kids don’t see themselves in books

Young Latino Students Don’t See Themselves in Books, according to the New York Times.  Hispanic students make up nearly a quarter of public school students, but only a small fraction of characters in books for elementary students.

The main characters in the most popular books are white with African-American, Asian or Hispanic characters more likely to appear in supporting roles.

“Kids do have a different kind of connection when they see a character that looks like them or they experience a plot or a theme that relates to something they’ve experienced in their lives,” said Jane Fleming, an assistant professor at the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in early childhood development in Chicago.

She and Sandy Ruvalcaba Carrillo, an elementary school teacher in Chicago who works with students who speak languages other than English at home, reviewed 250 book series aimed at second to fourth graders and found just two that featured a Latino main character.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, which compiles statistics about the race of authors and characters in children’s books published each year, found that in 2011, just over 3 percent of the 3,400 books reviewed were written by or about Latinos, a proportion that has not changed much in a decade.

Common Core State Standards’ list of suggested books for early elementary students contains black characters and authors, but few Latinos. More will be added, said Susan Pimentel, one of the lead writers. “We are determined to make this right.”

“Research on a direct link between cultural relevance in books and reading achievement at young ages is so far scant,” reports the Times. I think that means there is no evidence. But that doesn’t stop academics from worrying that kids will feel alienated “if all they read is Judy Blume or characters in the Magic Treehouse series who are white and go on adventures.” (What about white kids who don’t have a magic treehouse that provides adventures?)

At Bayard Taylor Elementary in Philadelphia, a school where three-quarters of the students are Latino, Kimberly Blake, a third-grade bilingual teacher, said she struggles to find books about Latino children that are “about normal, everyday people.” The few that are available tend to focus on stereotypes of migrant workers or on special holidays. “Our students look the way they look every single day of the year,” Ms. Blake said, “not just on Cinco de Mayo or Puerto Rican Day.”

On a recent morning, Ms. Blake read from “Amelia’s Road” by Linda Jacobs Altman, about a daughter of migrant workers. Of all the children sitting cross-legged on the rug, only Mario said that his mother had worked on farms.

However, a book that colors every fourth child brown may be accused of tokenism.

As a reading tutor, I see a lot of books for young children that feature animals — especially cats, bats and rats. They sit on mats and try on hats. Humans are named Nan, Fran, Pam, Sam, Tam, Tim and Sim. It’s not a rich cultural milieu for children of any background. I can tell you what little girls of all colors and creeds long to read: the Pinkalicious series. Sadly, my kids can only handle “tan” and “red.”

A good book is a good book is a good book,” writes author Nikki Grimes in Color Me Perplexed. “The single most important question we should ask when considering a book for our classroom or library shelves is, is the book any good?”

When I was researching Our School (which makes a lovely holiday gift), I saw students from Mexican immigrant families fall in love with Harry Potter books. The kids weren’t British or pale skinned. They weren’t wizards either. They liked the story.

A pop education

After reading From Monty Python to Mother Mary: Nine Weird Classes Offered at ASU This Fall, Darren finds only one Arizona State class that’s “absolutely worthless.”

WST 394, Desperate Housewives: Gender, Family & Pop Culture
A women’s studies class that examines the fictional lives of the wealthy homemakers of Wisteria Lane …

I’m dubious about Harry Potter: Gender, Race & Class, also in Women’s Studies.

And, as a former English major, I wonder about this upper-level English class:

ENG 375: FOX Network, Atlantic Records, Independent Record Labels
Explores leading CEOs and corporations from a humanities perspective.

As Darren writes, taking one offbeat class isn’t a big deal. But you’d think today’s students would be more careful with their tuition dollars — even if largely borrowed — and their time in college.

Young-adult books? Or kids’ books?

What Are Your Favorite Young Adult Novels? asks NPR in its summer books poll. Votes are coming in from adults as well as teens, reports Atlantic Wire.

Readers can choose 10 books from a list that includes “Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat series; Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson; Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making; Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie; the Betsy-Tacy books; the Anne of Green Gables series, Hold Still by Nina LaCour, Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War and I am the Cheese, Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy; and Judy Blume’s Forever.”

In a post, NPR’s Petra Mayer explains she cut A Wrinkle in Time, Little House on the Prairie, many Judy Blume books and Where the Red Fern Grows, as  “too young” for the category, which includes readers 12 through 18 years old. But A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I read in sixth grade, was excluded for being too mature.

The panelists aimed to include books like Catcher in the Rye, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which have been essentially “claimed by teens” but weren’t initially intended for them.

I‘m not sure Catcher and Lord of the Flies have been claimed by teens. They’ve been assigned to teens. (Count me among those who thought Holden Caulfield was a whiny brat, even when I was 16.)

The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (teens with terminal cancer fall in love) are front-runners in the poll, so far. The top 100 teen books as selected by readers will be posted on Aug. 8.

Is Encyclopedia Brown Young-Adult Literature? asks Ed Week Teacher, responding to a Flavorwire list of the 10 greatest young-adult series of all time.

The cultural news site included The Time Quintet, the Redwall SeriesThe Earthsea Cycle, and the Artemis Fowl books among their top picks, but excluded The Chronicles of NarniaThe Lord of the RingsHarry Potter and The Hunger Games because, according to the editors, they’re already “so well established” and don’t need to be on a “list like this…”

Commenters are debating the line between children’s books and young-adult books.

Old books in sexy, new covers

ht romeo juliet ll 120628 vblog Sexy Covers Lure Twilight Teens to Capital L Literature

Penguin

Sexy book covers are luring Twilight teens to the classics, according to ABC News. Romeo “sports a white tank top and a three-day stubble” on the new Penguin edition of Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Publishers hope teens who bought the Hunger Games trilogy, the Twilight series and Harry Potter will give the classics a try, if they’re repackaged as teen romances.

Harper Teen’s new edition of  Wuthering Heights, which sports a red rose on the cover, features a Twilight endorsement. It’s “Bella & Edward’s favorite book.”

Via Instapundit.

Carnival of Homeschooling

This week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by A Life Supreme, honors a creation of the Harry Potter world, the pensieve, which “allows you to take thoughts that you have conveniently removed from your mind (and stored in handy phials up on the shelf) and view them from another perspective at a later time.”

That could be useful.

Harry Potter and the Periodic Table

“Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe sings Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements,” on a BBC show.

Via Cosmic Log and Instapundit.

Hogwarts College?

J.K. Rowling’s magical Hogwarts keeps coming up on campus tours, complains Lauren Edelson, a high school senior, in the New York Times. At Middlebury College, the guide touts the chance to play “a flightless version” of Harry Potter’s sport, Quidditch. A Harvard admissions officer compares intramurals to the Hogwarts House Cup, while the tour guide says the freshman dining hall resembles Hogwarts’ Great Hall.

At Dartmouth, a tour guide ushered my group past a large, wood-paneled room filled with comfortable chairs and mentioned the Hogwarts feel it was known for. At another liberal arts college, I heard that students had voted to name four buildings on campus after the four houses in Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Several colleges let it be known that Emma Watson, the actress who plays Hermione Granger in the movies, had looked into them. I read, in Cornell’s fall 2009 quarterly magazine, that a college admissions counseling Web site had counted Cornell among the five American colleges that have the most in common with Hogwarts. Both institutions, you see, are conveniently located outside cities. The article ended: “Bring your wand and broomstick, just in case.”

While many students are Potter fans, they also see college as a place to learn about the real world, Edelson writes.

Harry Potter's resilience

Given his horrible pre-Hogwarts childhood, Harry Potter should have been clinically depressed, writes Early Ed Watch.

His parents died suddenly when he was a baby, so he was left to grow up in a house with his aunt, uncle and roly-poly bully of a cousin, Dudley. His aunt and uncle barely paid him any mind, but when they did, their growling responses were always negative. He was, in essence, verbally abused and ignored, not to mention half starved. It was a tough way to grow up. And yet he turned out to not only be a hero, but also a thoughtful, kind and productive person. You wouldn’t call Harry happy-go-lucky, but you wouldn’t describe him as depressed either.

The point is that we should be more sensitive to depression in young children, not that J.K. Rowling should have written Harry Potter and the Half-Baked Psychologist.