Translating Hagrid’s Accent

I love this fascinating look at the complications of translating Harry Potter into an international bestseller and maintain its sense of British-ness and wordplay.

Also, I totally didn’t realize that that was how Quidditch got its name.

No matter where you may live and what languages you may speak, we can all feel part of the wizarding world.

Links Galore

A few cool links for your Thursday:

Growing up with Harry Potter

From this New Yorker article about JK Rowling and her new novel:

“[Harvard scholar of children’s literature, Maria] Tatar’s students grew up with the books. “You can’t imagine what happens when I just say ‘Harry Potter,’ ” she said. “They’re transported. And they start to speak Harry Potter among themselves, and I feel like an alien.” Many of her students report that, as children, they learned about learning from the books’ depiction of Hogwarts. “It reshaped their understanding of what education was about—and what adults were about. They could recruit these adults and have them help landscape their lives.””

I grew up just before Harry Potter really took hold, and I remember lots of books and television shows that didn’t feature adults. Parents were generally absent and teachers were pretty nonexistent. I like Rowling’s presentation of adults like Dumbledore, Snape, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. They’re not perfect by any means. They have their own flaws and concerns. But Harry depends on and learns from them in very different ways. I think it’s good that kids growing up have a sense of what it means to relate to adults.

And then something I find a little alarming:

“In Edinburgh, I met Alan Taylor, a journalist and the editor of the Scottish Review of Books, who despaired of Rowling’s “tin ear” and said of her readers, “They were giving their childhood to this woman! They were starting at seven, and by the time they were sixteen they were still reading bloody Harry Potter—sixteen-year-olds, wearing wizard outfits, who should have been shagging behind the bike shed and smoking marijuana and reading Camus.””

First of all, who’s to say that these activities are all mutually exclusive? You only have to look at Tumblr to see that. Second, some of us we not hooking up at underground music concerts at 16–and that’s okay. Why does Taylor assume that there’s a “right” way to be a teenager, and that that way must involve a cliched form of rebellion?

There’s a lot in this article, so make sure to read the rest.

Happy Birthday, Harry (and Jo!)

There are plenty of fictional characters who have birthdays. But the only one I remember is Harry Potter’s–July 31st, aka today. Okay, so Harry’s birthday figures pretty heavily into the plot, but I think it also has to with how Harry Potter is more than just a fictional character. He and Rowling’s other characters are parts of our lives.

At her Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, Anita Silvey has a great post up about Harry Potter and why the series won so many readers. One point she makes:

“Not only does Harry have loyal and wonderful friends like Ron and Hermione, but he also encounters intriguing adults—Albus Dumbledore and Professor Snape for instance. After I read Harry Potter, I had a new life goal—some day I want to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. Millions of other readers have projected themselves into the stories in entirely different roles.”

The reference to adults in Harry Potter is a good one, and it’s not brought up often in children’s literature. It’s not only important to craft compelling young protagonists; the adults around them should be compelling as well. It provides even more opportunities for readers to connect with the series, and for readers’ opinions to change over time.

July 31 is also JK Rowling’s birthday. These days, it’s easy to think of Rowling as a wildly successful and beloved author. But Silvey points out that the path to publication was rough for her, too:

“Almost every publisher in England rejected the manuscript of Harry Potter; she had to persevere for years with a story that seemed to be only of interest to her. Finally, she found an editor new to the field in a small publishing house: Barry Cunningham of Bloomsbury Press was willing to take a chance on her book. For around $1,000 dollars he acquired the rights to publish the first book about Harry Potter, and when he called her in for an editorial meeting, he told her that she needed to get a job, because “Nobody, absolutely nobody, ever makes any money in children’s books.””

I have no idea how anyone could pass on Harry Potter. I was hooked on the first page! Still, it’s a great reminder that a) not everyone is going to love your book, no matter how amazing it is, and b) even the most awesome books get rejected. If Rowling decided to quit after a few rejection letters, we’d have been deprived of a fantastic series and a rejuvenation in children’s literature as a whole.

If you still want more HP fun and trivia, check out these ten facts you might not have known. And raise a glass of butterbeer in honor of Harry Potter, the boy who lived!

PS–One summer a friend and I decided we wanted to get an ice cream cake. We didn’t have any friends who were having birthdays and it was after the 4th of July but way before Labor Day. So we decided to celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday and asked the Dairy Queen people to write “Happy Birthday, Harry” in icing. Made the treat that much sweeter.

Chapter by Chapter in Harry Potter

Holy cow, I’m on the WordPress Freshly Pressed list today! Thanks to WordPress for the opportunity, and to all the readers who have stopped by to check out last week’s Friday Fifteen. If you liked that post, it’s a regular feature so you should check out the Friday Fifteen archive. So many fifteen-word reviews!

Back to normal book business. One lovely feature in the Harry Potter series is the illustration featured at the beginning of each chapter. Now Redditor ajcfood has put together each chapter illustration in one giant composite:

Click through to see the larger image. Wouldn’t this make a fantastic poster? It really gives you a sense of the scope and narrative of the series.

Mary GrandPré is the artist behind it all (she also does the covers). Her work provides a glimpse into each chapter, and connects beautifully with Rowling’s magical stories. Check out this interview with GrandPré in which she talks a little about her process.