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SU Professor: Potter Casts Spell Over Young Writers

SALISBURY, MD---For fans of the Harry Potter series—movies and books—this summer is bittersweet:  The latest movie installment Order of the Phoenix, one of the darkest and most difficult in the series, has been getting glowing reviews by critics.  Yet in less than two weeks the final book in the saga will make its debut and author J.K. Rowling sees no more in the immediate future.

Don’t expect book seven, The Deathly Hallows, however, to be the last Harry Potter story ever written.  According to two Salisbury University professors, Drs. Ernie Bond and Nancy Michelson, children are creating Harry Potter stories of their own on the Web, with popular “fan fiction.”   Bond doesn’t expect that to abate any time soon.

The two education professors, writing in the acclaimed anthology Harry Potter’s World (4.5 stars—, edited by Elizabeth E. Heilman, note that the Harry Potter series has not only inspired children to read, but also to write.

“Rowling did a great job in connecting with teens and pre-teens in issues those age groups would find appealing,” said Bond, such as “friendship, school bullying, family and community,” all in a milieu of high fantasy.   “Harry is an orphan, so he and his friends have to save the world rather than rely on grown-ups to always save them.  That can be very appealing to young readers,” the SU children’s literature professor added.

Fantasy is appealing to child readers and child writers.  “When children enter into that world, although it is fictional there are laws, constraints and relationships that determine how people interact, said Bond.  “Once readers are caught up in that world they want to know more about it.  Kids want to know what will happen next.  And kids want to play with the rules which they’ve discovered, so writing more about this fictional world is a natural response.”

Go to these Web sites and Bond said kids will be writing stories for the Daily Prophet, the newspaper which unites the wizarding world; kids will create maps because they want to know more of that imaginary place; and they’ll write scenes and stories that build on the emotional lives of the main characters.  Often the writers are teenage girls attracted to the character of Harry’s close friend Hermione.

Bond, who has read the Harry Potter books to his own children, said it’s not unusual to have characters die in children’s literature, so the death of two characters in the last book and an important death in the latest movie should not come as a huge shock.

He doesn’t want to predict the plot to The Deathly Hallows but will speculate that Severus Snape may turn out to be on the side of good after all and that Harry’s protector, Albus Dumbledore, may return in some fashion.

“Though, then again, the unpredictable nature of these stories is part of the appeal,” he added.
In a few days we’ll know for sure.

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