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I love Harry Potter, although I fear I can’t keep up in conversations with the most ardent fans.  Nonetheless, I am excited about the next movie.  And I can’t wait to read this new book on Harry Potter and History, which was edited by Nancy Reagin, a professor of history and women’s and gender studies at Pace University.

From the publishers website:

“Harry Potter lives in a world that is both magical and historical. Hogwarts pupils ride an old-fashioned steam train to school, notes are taken on parchment with quill pens, and Muggle legends come to life in the form of werewolves, witches, and magical spells. This book is the first to explore the real history in which Harry’s world is rooted.

Did you know that bezoars and mandrakes were fashionable luxury items for centuries? Find out how Europeans first developed the potions, spells, and charms taught at Hogwarts, from Avada Kedavra to love charms. Learn how the European prosecution of witches led to the Statute of Secrecy, meet the real Nicholas Flamel, see how the Malfoys stack up against Muggle English aristocrats, and compare the history of the wizarding world to real-life history.

  • Gives you the historical backdrop to Harry Potter’s world
  • Covers topics ranging from how real British boarding schools compare to Hogwarts to how parchment, quills, and scrolls used in the wizarding world were made
  • Includes a timeline comparing the history of the wizarding world to Muggle “real” history

Filled with fascinating facts and background, Harry Potter and History is an essential companion for every Harry Potter fan.”

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Thanks to everyone who came out to hear me speak about Harriet Hosmer at the Watertown Free Public Library on Thursday.  It was great to talk about HH in her hometown.  If you are interested in her and ever find yourself in the area, it is certainly worth stopping by and seeing the library’s Hosmer collection of sculptures and artifacts.

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Thanks to everyone who came out to hear me speak about Harriet Hosmer in the Syracuse University History Department and at the River’s End yesterday.  And thanks also to those who tuned into the Stonestreet Cafe. (Remember if you missed the show, it will eventually be archived on the site.  Although, unfortunately, that version won’t include the wonderful music Julia selected, including Nina Simone and Celia Cruz.)  In the biography, I discuss how having a great network of friends was critical to Hosmer’s success.  And I feel very lucky this week to have so many people willing to support me as I bring work of Hosmer and my biography to the public.  Carol, Bill, Mindy and Julia, I am lucky to know you all.

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It was a joy to read Betsy was a Junior for the Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge.  It may be my favorite of the three I have read (the other two being Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself).  I may feel that way less because it is a better book, however, than the fact that the more I know Betsy and her crowd the more I like them.

Maud Hart Lovelace’s attention to detail really makes these books sing.  For some reason, the line “Petticoats this year were sheath-fitting to the knees, then foamed out into lace” really struck me.  I had always lumped petticoats into some sort of of uniform old-fashioned garment–and thinking about them changing styles year by year really brought me into the Betsy’s room as she and Tib prepared for the dance. The girls always have so much fun preparing for these events–even though they love boys, their friendships are more important to them.  Just as Mr. Big said to Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, before he went off the get Carrie in Paris.

The descriptions of food always make me hungry.  My favorite in this volume might have been the menu for the junior-senior dance, with its “highly intellectual flavor” thanks to Joe.  I would also love to have a peach pecan sundae at Heinz or a Domestic Science roast chicken.  And of course one of Mr. Ray’s onion sandwiches.

Tony’s dark turn in this book surprised me–I wasn’t expecting that one of Betsy’s friends would  take to hanging out in pool halls, coming to school drunk and hanging around with “perfectly awful girls.” But that, and Julia’s struggles with a sorority off at the U and her longing to go to Europe to study singing, gave the book a depth I liked. Even though Betsy, so far, is so focused on her friends and family in Deep Valley, the rest of the world is seeping in.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the books.  While I am anxious to see how Betsy’s last year in high school turns out, I also really want to read Carney’s House Party.  My great grandmother went to Vassar, about 10 years before Carney would have been there.   I recently found a trove of letters between my grandmother and her classmates from the 1960s.  Vassar was organizing its centennial, and my grandmother was trying to make sure that 100% of her class donated money.  The letters are fascinating, giving a detailed portrait of the women who had graduated from a women’s college at the beginning of the century.   So I want to see how Carney liked the school.

I’m looking forward to reading the other participant’s experiences.  And thanks to A Library a  Hospital for the Mind for hosting.

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