Over my many years of blogging, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive several beautiful books, but when it comes to aesthetically pleasing review copies, it’s definitely a kids’ game. My girls have been sent many magnificent books over the years, and the subject of today’s post, kindly sent by Bloomsbury Australia, is another shining example. With the help of my little assistant Hayley, then, let’s take a look at a reference work that is both informative and easy on the eye – even if you might want to take the contents with a pinch of salt…
What’s the name of the book, and who is it by?
The book is called Quidditch through the Ages, and it’s written by Kennilworthy Whisp (A.K.A. J.K. Rowling) and illustrated by Emily Gravett.
What’s it about?
It’s about how Quidditch was made and how it became popular (Quidditch is a sport where you fly on a broom and try to score – it’s not a real sport, though!).
Did you like it? Why (not)?
Yes, because it was very interesting with the pictures. I also liked what it said about the players and the teams (my favourite team was the Magpies!).
What was your favourite part?
Probably when they talked about the teams, and I liked the picture with all the team logos.
Was it difficult to read?
Maybe a little because it has some hard words, but my Dad helped me!
Would you recommend this book to other boys and girls? Why (not)?
Yes, because I think they’ll think it’s very interesting, and maybe they’ll get interested in the Harry Potter movies or books.
Hayley, thank you very much 🙂
My elder daughter Emily went through a Harry Potter phase at a relatively young age, and it’s now Hayley’s turn to hear all about the events of Hogwarts and the wider Wizarding World, so she was delighted, as you can tell, when Quidditch through the Ages landed on our doorstep. While her sister takes a rather linear approach to her reading, she enjoyed leafing though and reading bits here and there, which is probably a nice way to go about handling books like this (alas, it’s not a method I could ever bring myself to adopt!).
As the name suggests, Quidditch through the Ages, purported to be written by Kennilworthy Whisp, is a guide to the rules and history of the great game. It was originally a short companion book to the main series, published in 2001 with all proceeds going to the British Comic Relief charity event and later to Lumos, a charity Rowling herself founded. The book brings to life a work mentioned in the pages of the canonical Harry Potter books, one that was frequently borrowed from the Hogwarts library.
It follows the familiar path of any description of a sport, with Whisp discussing the evolution of broomsticks, the gradual codifying of rules and the game’s spread throughout the world. It’s all great fun as we learn about how Quidditch developed from wizards throwing a lump of leather in the direction of trees at either end of a swamp, with the game familiar to us all emerging rule by rule as the various balls are added over the years.
However, as you’d expect, it’s Gravett’s illustrations that really make the book. Where the illustrated versions of the core volumes of the Harry Potter series are beefed-up versions of the originals, once you’ve seen Gravett’s version of Quidditch through the Ages, it’ll be hard to imagine it any other way. From the portraits of the ‘celebrities’ endorsing the book at the start (Rita Skeeter: “I’ve read worse.”) and the library card inside the front cover with Ron Weasley’s name on it, to mock wood-carvings and ancient manuscripts used as primary sources for the game’s history, there’s a dazzling variety of pictorial assistance given to the text, to the extent that you begin to forget that it’s all made up.
One excellent example of this is a section discussing rule changes, where the practice of ‘stooging’ (two Chasers barging into the Keeper to clear an easy path to goal for another player) was outlawed in 1884. At this point we have a realistic-looking extract from The Daily Prophet (the newspaper of choice for all discerning wizards and witches), in which we find a report of the new law being announced to an outraged public. To quote the report:
One freckle-faced six-year-old left the hall in tears.
‘I loved Stooging,’ he sobbed to The Daily Prophet, ‘Me and me dad like watching them Keepers flattened. I don’t want to go to Quidditch no more.’
p.66 (Bloomsbury, 2020)
It’s a lovely touch, and it has a contemporary feel, too. VAR, anyone?
I’m sure you’ll all find your own personal favourite picture (mine is a Japanese-style painting featuring the players of the Toyohashi Tengu burning their broomsticks after losing a game…), but whether you’re a die-hard Potter fan or merely an admirer of nice books, Quidditch through the Ages will make a wonderful addition to your library. I’ve been flicking through it for a long time today (when I really should have been writing this post), and Hayley’s had great fun with the book, too. And, if you need any more persuading, there’s a foreword by Albus Dumbledore himself, compete with an excellent portrait of the great man holding Fawkes, his phoenix. Now, if that doesn’t convince you, nothing will 😉