'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 24 January 2010

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them/Quidditch Through the Ages

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them/Quidditch Through the Ages

Author: J.K. Rowling

Publisher: Bloomsbury, A$13.99

Format: Softcover

Language: English

ISBN: 9781408803011 / 9781408803028

For ages: 8+

Type: Junior Fiction

About: Having voraciously read all the Harry Potter books, I must admit it didn’t even dawn on me to pick up a copy of the companion novelettes – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages.

I guess I thought they were really reserved for Pottermaniacs (okay, so I’m also a Pottermaniac but certainly not to the degree of those of lesser age than mine - I do like to mix it up with Italian cookbooks and seventeenth Century history). As both books have been recently re-released with brand new covers, I thought it high time I launched myself into their pages.

And lo – it was fun in there.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a textbook written for the Hogwarts students by Newt Scamander, is a beastly good read. With a foreword by Albus Dumbledore, a brief history of Muggle awareness of magical beasts, Ministry of Magic classifications and a comprehensive A-Z listing of all manner of paranormal creatures, any aspiring wizard would be adequately armed against any manner of beast from the Flobberworm (rating X) to the Chinese Fireball dragon (rating XXXXX).

Pre-warned is certainly pre-armed, but learning more about these various creatures is also quite entertaining and will provide plenty of fodder for discussion over a butterbeer or pumpkin juice.

Did you know, for example, that the centaurs voluntarily requested to be classified as ‘beasts’ rather than ‘beings’ due to their unwillingness to share ‘being’ status with such undesirables as hags and vampires? Did you also know that the song of the Fwooper bird will eventually drive a listener to insanity?

A really lovely thing about this particular edition of Fanastic Beasts is that it has been released complete with legitimate scrawlings by Potter, Weasley and Granger. A true keepsake, if there ever was one.

Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp, I must admit, was not really my forté. I do prefer to watch Quidditch from the sidelines and wouldn’t dream of participating, however I did, nonetheless, find it interesting to read about the game’s rules and how the game formed over the centuries.

Of particular interest was how Quidditch spread worldwide. Did you know that Quidditch was believed to have reached Australia sometime in the eighteenth Century? The Thundelarra Thunderers and the Wollongong Warriors are said to be our finest teams, having dominated the Australian League for the past 100 years.

It was also interesting to see the game morph from the archaic to the modern. For example, the Golden Snidget, a protected species of bird, was first used in place of the Golden Snitch, though its use was soon outlawed when the bird was brought to the brink of extinction (beating the bird to death was how you won the game).

Other Quidditch equipment has also morphed over time, as well as the style of broom used in play – with the Nimbus remaining the ultimate racing broom.

All in all, regardless of whether you are magical, a Muggle or just a wizard wannabe, these textbooks are sure to bring a little bit of magic to your world.

This review first appeared, in part, at Australian Women Online.

Author website

Teachers' Notes for Quidditch Through the Ages

Teachers' Notes for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them