Monday, November 26, 2001

In My Own Write
The family that reads together...
By Vasanthi Ramachandran
“The man who is too busy to read is never likely to lead.”

B.C. Forbes

A DIARY which writes back; portraits with curlers in their hair each night; a professor who dies but does not notice it; children flying on brooms playing a ball game called Quidditch and magic hats which tell a person’s character.

Magic and more can be found in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer”s Stone” making the book, the movie and its author the hottest items this millennium.

It is impossible not to be sucked into JK Rowling’s contemporary wizard world that is so real and yet goes beyond anyone’s imagination.

However, though the film has a lot going for it, I would say that there is a lot more of the picturesque stuff that director Chris Columbus (who also did Home Alone) could not capture.

Rowling’s narration using new words, new games and new names is so unique and amazingly-believable. That is the beauty about a good book and a successful author.

In a well-written fantasy, the reader will depart from reality and be absorbed into the fantasy of it.

With the success of Harry Potter, we realise what children really want from books — fantasies, twists and the ability to identify with the characters that they care about. But most of all children want to know that justice prevails, there will be good over evil and that there are clear distinctions between right and wrong.

Though children read mainly for pleasure, we can weave in lessons, meanings and messages with a beautiful narration.

“I wanted to write a book that I enjoy now and would have enjoyed when I was 10,” said Rowling, a single mother whose own life magically transformed from living on unemployment benefits to being one of the richest in the UK.

Rowling came out of nowhere to hit the top of the adult hardcover bestseller list all over the world. Her book has brought a new phenomenon in reading — a book that both adults and children enjoy with the same intensity.

I understand Rowling’s euphoria when she said, “I love writing these books. I don’t think anyone could enjoy reading them more than I enjoy writing them.” Her success is the dream of any writer.

Rowling, wrote on scraps of paper in a local cafe while her three-month old slept at her side. “It was pretty cold and miserable in the flat, so as soon as Jessica fell asleep in her buggy, we’d head for the cafe and I would start writing,” said Rowling.

Her ideas first evolved when she was stuck on a delayed train to London.

“It started with Harry, then all these characters and situations came flooding into my head. It was an excitement I’d never known before. But it took me six years to write the book.”

Rowling clearly possesses both ear and eye for the unexpected, working her own brand of magic with turns of phrase and flashes of humour that are subtle. Undeniably, Rowling’s series plucked an imaginative chord, and children responded with enthusiasm. These vibrations rocked the adult best-seller lists as well and got the attention of the media.

Indeed, what it boils down to is, there is no substitute for reading, even in this era when knowledge could be acquired from other means. Reading is the key that takes us to a world of thought, fancy and imagination that is beyond our everyday experiences.

Sadly, Malaysians hardly do read. They read textbooks merely to pass exams.

A lot must still be down to change this. Reading must be seen as a fun thing - a family activity, if possible.

Well, the Harry Potter series have indeed given my three children, my husband and I a lot of joy. The books have become a conversation topic as well as invoked other fun activities.

Start by reading the first book or catch the movie and you will know what I mean...

* The writer can be contacted at

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