OGDEN — Fans of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series gathered at Weber County’s Main Library to celebrate the fictional wizard’s birthday this week.
A horde of black, plastic spiders greeted guests at the bottom of the stairs and led the way into library’s auditorium. Children showed up in Hogwarts robes and ties featuring the colors of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin.
The birthday party was part of the library system’s monthly Family Fun Night, held every second Monday and rotated throughout the library’s. Deborah Smith, Youth Services Programming Coordinator at the main branch, said that though Harry Potter’s birthday is actually on July 31st, she couldn’t pass up the chance to have the birthday party when the main branch’s turn to host Family Fun Night fell on the month of July.
Smith adopted the Potteresque name of “Jinx Crimson” for the evening and explained the event to her guests. She instructed the children in the room to pretend they were enrolled in an American wizard school.
“We’re a little more casual here,” Smith said, referring to the children and adults in the room who’d shown up in T-shirts and shorts instead of wizard robes.
“Some people here are more distinguished,” Smith said gesturing to the row of children in full Hogwarts uniforms, before joking, “Those are the European students who know what they’re doing.”
Smith then introduced the course schedule for the evening. A lecture on the “Care of Magical Creatures” from Shawnee Sawyer, a Teacher/Naturalist at the Ogden Nature Center, started the evening off and was followed by classes on “Muggle Studies,” “Potions,” “Transfiguration,” and “Magical Artifacts.”
Sawyer brought the ONC’s resident Great Horned Owl, Winston, to discuss the remarkable attributes of the feathered letter carriers of the Harry Potter universe. Sawyer’s talk was full of humor and interesting information.
“Owls fall into a very specific category of bird. Anyone know what it is?” Sawyer asked and received an immediate response from her knowledgeable pupils. “That’s right, it’s a bird of prey. So, they go to church every week and pray, right?”
Sawyer’s question drew giggles and a resounding “no” from the room. When Sawyer asked what it meant, a boy responded in a deep, growling, inexplicably monotone voice — a cross between Rowling’s villain, Voldemort, and a robot, perhaps? — that it was because “they prey off weaker creatures.”
Bellatrix Lestrange, a.k.a.Jenny Cottam from the group Rocky Mountain Muggles (muggles being people without magical blood or ability), showed up before Muggles Studies to ridicule the idea of studying muggles in a short skit between Cottam and Smith devised to add a bit of dramatic flair to the event. Bellatrix, a minion of Lord Voldemort in Rowling’s books, must be going soft, because she left without a fight when Smith said she wouldn’t let her interrupt Muggles Studies and firmly asked her to leave.
The Muggles Studies class studied the difference between muggle items — tape and a broom — and their uses versus spells used in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Smith introduced the spells “repairo,” “scorchify,” and “forgetto” to accomplish tasks such as repairing a ripped piece of paper, sweeping the floor, and causing amnesia in the mind of a muggle. The library provided wands for students who had forgotten to come prepared to class.
“This is a lot of fun,” said Michael Reis of Ogden, who was decked out in wizard robes in support of his daughters, Elliott, dressed as Luna Lovegood, and Devin, dressed as the house elf Dobby. “My wife heard about it because we come to the library all the time. I really appreciate that they put this amount of effort into events like this to get people to the library.”
Thomas Francis was almost as enthusiastic about the event as his daughter, Sarah.
“It was fun, very fun,” Francis said. “The owl was really cool. I definitely think it encourages the kids to read; gives them a desire to read. Plus, Harry Potter rules. I love Harry Potter. I love it all; it’s magic. Something about it just drew me in. Love the thought process behind the stories, love the books, love the movies, love everything about it. J.K. Rowling is a genius.”
Smith said the library isn’t able to keep Rowling’s Harry Potter series on the shelves during the summer, and copies of the books are always on hold.
“They’re still flying off the shelves,” said Smith, before theorizing on why Rowling’s fantastical Harry Potter stories are engaging to both children and adults. “I like all the magic of the Harry Potter series. Especially the appeal it has to people of all ages. The books are so imaginative and contain so many little, interesting details — references to different works of literature — it’s hard not to love them.”
For more information on library events and upcoming Family Fun Nights, visit the Weber County Library’s website at: http://www.weberpl.lib.ut.us/