In Search of Harry Potter Hardcover – 6 Nov 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.
Top Customer Reviews
and the BINDING!! It's a lovely handful of book.
It's also a lovely read. Essentially, a travelog of Harry Potter-inspired places and items around Britain with Steve's fun and honest commentary as he searches and re-searches things Harry Potter in the UK.
I think it would appeal a great deal to non-UK residents to see the sorts of areas and building and so on that might have inspired the books' background.
For those of us for whom these places are more everyday and familiar, it is a lovely reminder of the fun of discovering the Wizarding World and learning to look for the weird and wonderful amongst the everyday. There are loads of photos and the Scottish section is horribly nostalgic and makes me want to cry a lot for the fact of not being there and living amongst those hills any more. I had a fabulous adventure to take photos of the area where Hogwarts is supposedly sort of situated and I'm so glad to be reading someone else's madness on a tour of Harry Potter.
It's not only a great book for those who haven't been to Britain, as the descriptions are very informative, but those who live in Britain will no doubt enjoy recognising the locations they've visited and be inspired to visit those they haven't already.
Steve also interweaves little tidbits about the Harry Potter books that make you go "hang on a sec ...".
If you're into Potter, buy this book. If you're not into Potter but are into Britain, buy it anyway.
If not its a very good read anyway...
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
As a UK resident, I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement at the places suggested by Vander Ark. He's got it spot on in most cases and his enthusiasm and inspired guesswork carry you through the book at an energetic pace.
His excitement on finding little clues and in following up on them is catching and I found myself wanting to visit these places too. I had been hurrying past a disused hospital almost every day for 2 years until I read Vander Ark's book and his persuasive view that it might be the inspiration for St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries - now I look at the hospital with fresh eyes and I no longer scurry past, but instead stare at it and think "what if"...