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In Search of Harry Potter Hardcover – July 1, 2008
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About the Author
Steve Vander Ark is the creator of the famed web site devoted to the seven Harry Potter novels and is much-loved by the millions of Potter fans world-wide.
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that voice and personality come through beautifully as he recounts his journey through the United Kingdom searching for places
which could be stand-ins for iconic settings in the Harry Potter series. His wit is gentle, his wanderings logical. Each place he describes has multiple
attributes which call to mind Rowling's descriptions.
As one who has through "sheer dumb luck" visited quite a few of the spots he describes, I find the descriptions accurate and apt, especially
for the American reader whose experience of the UK comes mainly from books and films. The only negative response I had was to the dark
quality to a few of the illustrations. And that is something the editorial staff at Methuen should have fixed. But who knows, maybe it was
Death Eaters spreading gloom ...
A fantastic gift for your favorite Potter fans!
The book provides a detailed explanation of Vander Ark's year long journey through London,the West Country and Scotland searching out locations for Privet Drive, St Mungo's, the Burrow, the Ministry, Hogwarts, Spinner's End, Godric's Hollow and numerous other magical landmarks. The Godric's Hollow section was particularly fascinating complete with a rather stunning find on a gravestone in the little village identified in this book. This little village is likely to be on the map for Potter fans planning a tour to England and Scotland any time soon. The search for Godric's Hollow is illustrative of the meticulous analysis that made Vander Ark's website distinctive. He synthesizes all known elements provided in the books on Godric's Hollow and incorporates the rigorous investigations of John Kearns to narrow down the only plausible location for the fictional home of James and Lily Potter.
There are many charming photographs included to give the reader the comfortable assurance they are welcome company for the adventure. The photographs of Scotland where the author seeks to identify locations of Hogsmeade, the train stations and Hogwarts itself are breathtaking. Throughout the book Vander Ark retells what he learns of the folklore of the areas he explores and provides interesting connections to the series throughout. There is a great example in the Scotland section on a legend of two quarreling giants sourced to a local author Alec Cunningham in "A History of Rannoch". Thoughts of Hermione's magical evening bag being stocked with the Cunningham book immediately sprang to mind as Vander Ark recounts what he learned from the books he purchases after locating Hogsmeade Station in Rannoch. The giants and their legend is an added bonus placing Grawp in the vicinity as we would imagine he might be with Hogwarts so close by.
The 208 page book is packed with vivid description, imagery, legends and folklore that take the reader on a delightful journey through Rowling's magical universe. Vander Ark's book is an engrossing read that is fascinating and often quite humorous. The book itself is a beautiful addition to the collection of any Potter fan. The artwork for the cover by Camilla Engelby is quite exceptional in person. There is a greater depth to the color that doesn't quite show as well in the photograph. I highly recommend "In Search of Harry Potter" for those fortunate enough to be planning a trip to England and/or Scotland in the near or distant future. More importantly, I recommend it for those who aren't planning a trip but would like to feel they too have scoured the countryside in search of the magic that gave Potter fans lovely daydreams, stimulating conversation and yes, even raging debate. In Search of Harry Potter recaptures that magic in every respect.
An armchair traveler will appreciate the energy of Steve and his companions, including essayist Tim Ledbetter (whose work is included at the back of the book) as they sleuth out the locations of the most obscure references in the books. I especially enjoyed the search for #12 Grimmauld Place, which had to be exactly four storeys tall, with both a grassy square in front, and a black door. (Although the serpentine door knocker and resident House Elf were not required.)
In his travels, Steve becomes a "Seeker," looking for the places where the worlds of the everyday and magic seem to collide. Join him on a walk through the Surrey countryside to find suburban Little Whinging, Harry's hometown. That section has my favorite line of the book: "It dawned on me. Little Whinging wasn't boring . . . the Dursleys were." Later he visits busy Charing Cross Road in London to find the door to The Leaky Cauldron. Could it be hidden behind a large potted palm? (Or is that a Devil's Snare in disguise?) While studying an abandoned store building that resembles the facade of St. Mungo's Hospital, Steve wonders which window hides the department of Werewolf Research. And in the North Country, he takes a stroll up an old-fashioned cobblestone street beside a canal, imagining the exact route taken by Narcissa and Bellatrix on their visit to Snape's home at Spinner's End, with an old mill tower in the distance.
I have a dear Norwegian friend whose Scottish husband will be quite happy that the Orkney Islands are covered in such detail, and that they have been ruled out as the location for Azkaban prison.
A few places seem particularly haunted, and that is duly noted, especially the sections about The West Country, the possible location of Godric's Hollow and Queerditch Marsh. Less mysterious but positively charming is the wonderful description of Burrow Hill Farm, near Stoatshead (hint: a stoat is an ermine-like weasel!).
For students, teachers, fans, and tourists in general you couldn't find a better guide to Harry Potter locations. The book is well-designed as a sturdy hardback with quality card-stock pages, as well as loads of color photographs. There is a thorough index of place names, and easy-to-read maps by Camilla Engelby, who also designed the pretty cover.
So slip this little tome into your beaded handbag, along with a painting of Phineas Nigellus or Severus Snape, and be warned that either one of these Slytherins may call you a "dunderhead" if you get lost. But you won't if you follow the instructions found in this book. You can make your way to the Scottish Highlands, where Hogsmeade Station is tucked away just out of sight, where the Muggle road ends, just before the misty Loch. There you might find a wooden sign in the middle of nowhere (possibly posted by Hagrid) that says "Private." Then you know you have arrived where the magic begins.