Category Archives: Great Books to Read

Pottermania: What a Fun Ticket to Ride It’s Been

We all have “I remember when” things we can say, that vary depending on our age, when it comes to historical events that we’ve experienced.  The day Kennedy was shot, the first moon walk, personal computers become a household item, 9/11…history-making events and milestones are happening all the time.  But not every generation can say they grew up amidst the worldwide excitement and hysteria over something creatively great, as it’s being created.  For example, lots of people will continue to love the music of The Beatles, but only some can say they grew up looking forward to every Beatles record release or being one of the first in line at the record store to buy those releases, or saw the Beatles in person, “live in concert”.  And many people will continue to love J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and watch the movies on DVD, but only some will be able to say they were at the book store the day (or week) one of those books was released, and only some can say they got to look forward to, and experience, a new Harry Potter movie release almost every year.  I’m so thankful my kids can count themselves in this latter group, and so glad to be a parent who has experienced it right along with them.

I mean, think about it—does phenomenal, ground-breaking creativity with massive appeal like this happen all that often? Yeah, in addition to the Beatles, there was Elvis, and there was Michael Jackson—but did any of their work cross generations (at the time) like Pottermania has? While kids grooved to the Fab Four, “The King of Rock ‘n Roll”, and Jacko, parents were not exactly thrilled…and though Star Trek and Star Wars has its following, I see more males into them than females, and more parents of boys than parents of girls.

But this is different.  More adults and children, parents and grandparents, males and females, are Potter fans, often together enjoying the books and movies.  (Yes, non-fans, they’re that good!) While our family is not what I’d call “fanatical”, we are fans.  Emmie once dressed as Hermione for Halloween, and when she was 8 years old, she carefully wrote a letter to Emma Watson in England (who portrays Hermione in the movies), and heard back from her about six months later (the letter included two autographed photos!).   Allison read every book, and introduced us to “Potter Puppet Pals” and “A Very Potter Musical” on YouTube.  We’ve all enjoyed family outings to see the movies when they’re released.  And we will never forget our day at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Florida last fall, where all of us, including our exchange student, tasted “butter beer” (it’s like cream soda, Dr. Pepper and whipped cream mixed together) and walked the halls of Hogwarts. (“Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”, a “ride” inside the castle, is hands-down the best theme park attraction I’ve ever experienced—talk about overwhelming, profound joy!  And I’m usually a wimp when it comes to rides!)

Allison is attending her first (and unfortunately, the last)
midnight Harry Potter premiere tomorrow night and has been deep in thought lately, trying to figure out a costume to wear.  While I’ll be passing on that experience, I know it will be electric to get that first glimpse among so many die-hard fans.  “I think I’m going to cry when the credits roll at the end,” says Allison.  I can understand.  But again, I can also thank God my kids had the privilege of being kids during the era of Potter.  What fun!!! What great stories they can tell their own children some day!! There may be more dangers in the world now than when John, Paul, George and Ringo hit the stage, but maybe this generation will be inspired to eliminate those dangers thanks to the courage, ethics and love shown by Harry, Hermione and Ron.

The Secret Life of Real American Teens

Since I like to read (when I can find the time!) and so do a lot of other people I know, I thought I’d post mentions of good books on this blog once in awhile, especially those that pertain to the subjects discussed here: parenting, kids, teens, life… It’s always a gift to receive a good book recommendation, especially for one you might not find staring at you in your local bookstore, so here’s a gift for you today:

My friend Bob Nelson, who teaches at a nearby high school and has been teaching high school psychology for many, many years, wrote and published a great book a couple years ago that I’ve been thinking about lately, as my older daughter starts preparing for high school in the fall (the same one where Bob teaches). 

It’s called 
Homeroom: A Shelter From the Storm and it’s still available at

Book Cover

I didn’t know quite what to expect when I read it– I first read it because, well, just because I know Bob and thought it would be neat for my book club to read a book and then have the author come speak to us (which he did). The surprise I received when I read it, and what any reader will receive, is a unique peek into the minds and worlds of real teenagers.  (And normally it’s hard to look into that world too closely at all, so I thank Bob for this candid glimpse!)

And what a glimpse it is. Though Homeroom is fiction, many of the characters are based on real kids that Bob has taught and it involves true events from Bob’s classroom, which at one time was very much like the “Homeroom” in the book for one period a day– a class where kids just hung out and talked. Set their own format, their own agenda.  Met kids from all walks of life. Reinforced teen stereotypes but more often than not, shattered those stereotypes by finally getting to know the people behind the labels (but not in a simplified way like The Breakfast Club– after all, we never got to see what happened to Molly Ringwald and pals after detention).  It is very touching and heartwarming to think that real teens reached out to each other in the ways that Bob describes– I read part of it on a subway in Washington, D.C. while chaperoning Girl Scouts on a summer trip, and wondered if they saw me crying over it!  Bob does a good job of transporting the reader outside the classroom and into the teens’ lives– a “magical” date involving an unlikely couple is an especially beautiful scene, worthy of a movie.  While the book has a recurring italic flashback to a kid who’s thinking about shooting up the school a la Columbine, don’t let these disturbing images keep you from the heart of the story– real kids experiencing real high school life, with all its trials and tribulations.  I think even well-read, “in the know” adults will be surprised at just how pressure-filled that life is, and how simple gestures of friendship can sometimes make a life-or-death difference. It was great to be able to go to Bob and ask, “Was so and so real? Did such and such really happen?” and find out that more times than not, it really did happen.  When asked what high school life has been like for kids in the years since he wrote the book, Bob said, “I think it’s harder for kids now, the pressures they face are even greater.”

I think I’m going to beg him for a sequel.