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238 of 243 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference
I am an adult Harry Potter fan, and I found this to be an excellent guide to the historical events and figures behind the characters in the books. I learned about the real Nicolas Flamel, for instance, and about many mythological creatures similar to those in the Potter books. Surprisingly, it is a much better guide than the 500-plus page volume, "Beacham's...
Published on September 8, 2001

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54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why "The Magical World of Harry Potter" isn't worth reading
Don't be fooled, all ye who are not Scholars! This book is one of the most incorrect books I have ever read! But, David Colbert cleverly disguises ignorance with eloquent words! (I'm not ignorant, by the way, in case you were thinking...).
1. Firstly, I'll touch on a less important mistake; the table of contents on the back of the paperback edition is faulty - it...
Published on March 11, 2004


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238 of 243 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference, September 8, 2001
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (Paperback)
I am an adult Harry Potter fan, and I found this to be an excellent guide to the historical events and figures behind the characters in the books. I learned about the real Nicolas Flamel, for instance, and about many mythological creatures similar to those in the Potter books. Surprisingly, it is a much better guide than the 500-plus page volume, "Beacham's Sourcebook...Exploring Harry Potter" by Elizabeth Schafer. Schafer's book seems at first glance to be a well-researched guide to the ideas and figures behind the series, but I found her analysis and conclusions to be somewhat forced. It strikes the reader as more of an adult reference book than "The Magical Worlds..." does--this one can definitely be enjoyed by young readers-- but Colbert's guide is much more grounded in fact, sticking to explaining who the historical figures were and what events are related to the Potter books. Each chapter is short, explaining one name, creature, or idea. This made it very easy to explore in short stretches, without having to start from the beginning. It doesn't pretend to offer a deep analysis of Rowling's motives or thought process, but does give us the background to further appreciate her work. Think of it as a quick course in mythology and history as related to the Harry Potter books. I find myself referring to it repeatedly, while Schafer's book sits on my shelf. A must-read for any Potter fan interested in learning more about his magical world!
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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVED THIS BOOK! IT'S INSIGHTFUL AND A FASCINATING READ!!!, May 18, 2001
By 
A Harry Potter Collector (New York, New York United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (Paperback)
This wonderful book covers a broad array of fascinating topics related to our favorite wizard and hero, Harry Potter. "The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter" reveals the actual historical and mythological backgrounds of the magic spells, magical beasties, locations, good wizards and the nasties that make up J.K. Rowling's world(s). Before I read "The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter", I had no idea that J.K. Rowling infused the Harry Potter stories with SO MANY inside jokes and hidden meanings. Rowling was brilliant in creating and intertwining everything in her stories. David Colbert, the author of "Magical Worlds" was equally brilliant in explaining it all clearly and concisely. David Colbert discusses Harry's relationship to people like Ovid, Shakespeare, Dickens and Flaubert in a highly informative yet lighthearted and irreverent way. Reading in bed at 2:00 in the morning, I was laughing out loud. The book is beautifully illustrated.
Now that I've read "The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter" I have an incredibly greater appreciation for the richness and depth of the Harry Potter epic. Whether you are simply a curious Muggle or a die-hard Harry Potter fan, this book is a MUST READ. It's as good a read as the stories themselves!
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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proof that Rowling is one exceptionally intelligent lady, September 16, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (Paperback)
First of all, DON'T READ THIS BOOK UNTIL YOU'VE FINISHED ALL FOUR HARRY POTTER BOOKS! I was surprised there wasn't a warning that the book contains "spoilers".
Before reading Colbert's book, I was in awe of Rowling's mastery of storytelling and truly impressed by her craftsmanship. Now, after reading Colbert, I am... well, I don't even think there's a word to describe how magnificently astonished I am.
It boils down to this: I thought I was clever. I saw a lot of references to mythology, Latin, etc. I DIDN'T EVEN CATCH A TENTH OF THE REFERENCES. The fact that they are so seamlessly hidden is striking proof of great writing.
Colbert is one of those people who reads too much and is much too smart for his own good. In other words, I envy him terribly! Here he has compiled a fascinating collection of historical & mythological tidbits into a very easy-to-read, easy-to-comprehend book. Interesting to adults, understandable for kids.
On the downside, this means he only teases the reader with enough knowledge to make them want to go out and research some more. Some may find this annoying, but I think that was the point--to inspire young and old alike to do a bit of research. I think Rowling would probably prefer it this way.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you always (?) wanted to know about wizards, etc., June 17, 2001
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This review is from: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (Paperback)
David Colbert is an editorial director at HarperCollins Publishing Company. I think he missed his real vocation; he should have been a middle school teacher. Mr. Colbert has an amazing gift for catching and holding youngsters' (and us oldsters', too) interest through forays into scholarly erudition that actually sound like fun as he presents it. Have you ever noticed that so many of the names and terms in the Potter books have Latin bases; or wondered where the legend of the manticore originated; or wanted to know more about the influence of magic and legend on the writings of Shakespeare, Flaubert, Dickens, and John Donne, among others? It's all here, and lots more, in this fact-and-fancy-packed and fascinating book. Pottermaniacs from 7 to 97 will love it.

(Although I'm still wondering about what kind of spray will work on that nasty Peeves the Poltergeist...)

Judy Lind
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54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why "The Magical World of Harry Potter" isn't worth reading, March 11, 2004
By A Customer
Don't be fooled, all ye who are not Scholars! This book is one of the most incorrect books I have ever read! But, David Colbert cleverly disguises ignorance with eloquent words! (I'm not ignorant, by the way, in case you were thinking...).
1. Firstly, I'll touch on a less important mistake; the table of contents on the back of the paperback edition is faulty - it says there is a section on snakes; there is not! But that could merely be dismissed as an accident. It also states, "AND MORE!", when there is just one more (true, but rude). He also names each of his chapters with a question (i.e., "Why are mirrors magical?"), but often times does not answer the question!
2. Secondly, his information is faulty. He did not do he research he should have; for example, he says the grindylow and the jenny greenteeth are the same thing, when they most certainly are not! The grindylow, or grundylow, is a Yorkshire water goblin. Jenny Greenteeth, for one, is individual. She is an old hag that supposedly lives in Lancashire who LIVES IN A TREE hanging over a river. When travelors come by, she reaches out her spidery arm to catch her victim, which she devours with her green teeth.
3. He gives several bogus etymologies (historical roots of words). But the one that really gets my dander up is HIPPOCAMPUS (a horse of the sea). He states, "This sea horse gets its name from the Greek word for horse (hippos) and the latin word for ground (campus)." For those of you not educated in etymology, I would like to point out the first fatal flaw - Latin and Greek NEVER go directly together to make a word. Sometimes, a Greek word is Latinized and THEN is put together, but never without the Latinization. Second, however, is a flaw that even the most unscholarly would notice if they thought about - a sea horse's name meaning, "horse of the land"? Does that make any sense - at all? No. Third, all he would have had to do is look it up in a decent dictionary to find out that, though he was correct about "hippos", he was NOT correct about "campus" - that part is ACTUALLY from GREEK "kampos", meaning, "sea monster" - and thus we have, "equine sea monster".
4. The book is filled with useless information that just takes up more pages. It also shows a lack of imagination - for example, he takes up a whole page whith an excerpt from Tolkein about Shelob, the giant spider, when speaking about the "ancient history and legend" (what????) of acromantulas (J. K. Rowling's giant spiders).
On the whole, this book is just a waste of time. I would expect a lot more from David Colbert, who STUDIED mythology in Colledge - though, considering the book states he researches by "reading randomly in the library", it's not too surprising his book is so inaccurate. I recommend "The Sorcerer's Companion", by A. Z. Kronzek and E. Kronzek (father and daughter), which, though it does have its share of mistakes, is much more accurate, is more extensive, and is MUCH more lively and informative.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant companion to the Harry Potter books, August 12, 2001
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This review is from: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (Paperback)
"The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter" is a fascinating look at the myths and legends that provide inspiration for the content of J.K Rowling's work. Filled with facts and trivia, David Colbert's book provides detailed background information on the magical spells, creatures and people that together make up the world of our favourite wizard. This book is a must-have for all Harry Potter fans and a brilliant cure for those of us still suffering from deprivation as we wait for book five. Adults and children alike will love "The Magical Worlds" as we discover "Why would chocolate help after escaping a dementor?" "Why would Voldemort put the dark mark on the Deatheaters?" and all those other questions you never realized you were desperate to know the answers to. Beautifully illustrated with clear explanations, "The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter" is the perfect companion to the first four books in the series. Impossible to put down, this book answers a great number of questions and will definitely increase your enjoyment of the Harry Potter books.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Harry Potter fans., August 1, 2001
By 
Conrad B. Senior (Easton, CT United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (Paperback)
.
There are so many weird creatures in the world of Harry Potter it can be confusing to the average reader. Colber's book de-mystifies Basilisks, Egyptian spells, and more. It is an excellent reference and supplement for those who love the world's of Harry Potter.
I especially like the Latin, and Persian translations of names which make the Potter stories more interesting and explain what the names mean.
After reading about the historical reference to a real book--the "Malleus Maleficarum," written in 1484, I find myself incredibly curious about this book. According to Colber, this was, for two hundred years, the most popular book after the Bible.
There are lots of gems hidden in the book.
A must read for Harry Potter fans.
Conrad B. Senior
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and fascinating !, July 11, 2001
By 
Wednesday "Wednesday" (Torrance, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (Paperback)
It's fun and fascinating! David Colbert's book entertained me with delightful stories about mythical creatures, real history, ancient mythology and his own speculations on Potter's world. All too brief and lightly illustrated ( it is a very fast "read"), it left me wanting more. It also left me even more delighted with the talents of J. K. Rowling. The weaver of these wonderful tales has woven even more mythology and fact into the Potter books than I had realized. I had not know that Nicholas and Pernelle Flamel were real people (delighted that she had "made" him successful and brought him into the 20th cantury)and had forgotten from Greek mythology, who "Argus" was. While there are a few omissions (no werewolves ?), and a few intepretations I didn't quite agree with (don't we all have an opinion ?), I would recommend the book highly to any fan of the Potter series.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book! I LOVED IT!, May 21, 2001
This review is from: The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (Paperback)
"The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter" delivers what the title promises -- an in-depth, insightful (and thoroughly entertaining!) look into the incredible worlds J.K. Rowling has created in her wonderful Harry Potter series. "Magical Worlds" provides amazing background details derived from actual history as well as both ancient and modern mythology. It's rich in details and extremely well written. The author, David Colbert, very effectively and amusingly puts Harry Potter's worlds into a real world perspective. Who would have known J.K. Rowling had such a sly sense of humor? I didn't until I read "The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter". I read "Magical Worlds" with my child (10 years old, female, another Harry Potter fan!) and she enjoyed it just as much as I did. What's more, now she knows who Ovid and Flaubert are! I highly recommend this book!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Day, Great Choice, May 23, 2004
By A Customer
Yesterday was our grandson's birthday and we gave him three choices for spending the day: a museum, a movie or a bookstore. To our delight, he chose the bookstore. He's read all the Harry Potter books published to date, but that didn't keep him from heading to that section anyway. He was convinced that a miracle would occur on his birthday and that there'd be a new Potter. It's great to be young and trusting! At any rate, he discovered The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert, began thumbing it and held it up, saying, "I knew there'd be something good!" The rest of the day was spent reading and eating birthday cake. He pronounced both excellent. That evening he quizzed us on what he had read and it was clear this book will hold him until the next Potter appears. Our thanks to the author for the reading experience and the curiosity it created in other books on history and mythology. I can't recommend it strongly enough.
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The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter
The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert (Paperback - March 21, 2001)
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