J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 759 pages, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic) 2007
Story: The last installment of the Harry Potter series continues with Harry’s quest to avenge his loved ones already claimed by the war. He feels personally responsible for those who stand in between him and the Dark Lord. Voldemort regains full power and the trio goes on the run. Friendships are tested and families are torn apart as the war finally reaches the front door.
Main Character: Harry Potter, the boy who lived. Voldemort serves as a foil to Harry, a slightly unconventional hero that chooses to embrace destiny rather than merely being a victim of it.
My favorite characters include Sirius Black, Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Lupin, and Severus Snape!
Audience: Anyone and everyone!
- #1 The books are full of instances of racism between “pureblooded” wizards and those of “Muggle” lineage. Muggle is a term J.K. Rowling created to describe people with no magical talent. Some wizards believe that Muggles should not be allowed to learn and practice magic and feel those who come from Muggle families or half-blooded families are not as good as those who come from old wizarding stock. “Mudblood” is a term that those people use to perpetuate the hatred of half-bloods, the term means “dirty blood.” Ask students to identify relevant issues in our own history. Use this terminology to start a discussion about racism in our society and talk about the power that certain words have in a culture.
- #2 Use the above discussion to point out the danger of using such words in a literary work, discuss books that have been banned for including racist terms, even if they are used within the context of the times. If you have a school that supports controversial literature as an appropriate topic and medium for students to be familiar with go as far as you can to introduce these books to students. If you are not allowed to bring them into the classroom at least let them know that they are out there and are an important part of our literary history.
- #3 Talk about the Harry Potter series as a whole and discuss how it has influenced society. Harry Potter is translated and enjoyed all around the world, what made the story such a success? What elements make the story universal?
- #4 J.K. Rowling was a single mother when she began writing Harry Potter on a train (which explains the Hogwarts Express and its importance in the stories) Since writing one of the most popular series of all time she has found great success and financial stability. One thing that she has contributed to society is charity work, especially for children. She is an advocate in ending child abuse in addition to teaching children the value of literature and improving their self-image. As a class, discuss how individuals or groups can contribute to society through volunteer work.
Above and beyond? Allow students to pick an area of interest and create a volunteer project around it. You can use this project to your school’s advantage if you suggest ways to expand your class library or materials through a book drive, bake sale or other activity students develop and execute with limited adult assistance. Children could ask parents to donate books, goodies or time to help. Magazines of all types (and newspapers) can be good for educational collages as well as desk protection during messy art projects. (If there are inappropriate additions you can always send them on to your local thrift store)
You can try can food drives, can redemption drives, cooperative gardening, art festivals, educational/patriotic/historical plays, carnivals… Use your imagination and the resources you have at hand to create a magical atmosphere of community involvement and empowerment through education and civic action!
Here is a photo of my friend and I dressing up for the release of the 7th Harry Potter book at Barnes & Noble. Dressing up or acting out scenes is another great way to make sure children get into the story. With this book, however, that rarely seems to be a problem. Almost everyone I know that has tried Harry Potter loved it and read through the series quickly. Characters are built over time so that they seem like real friends, teachers and allies. I recommend this entire series for children… and all the way up :)