I’ll confess: we’re a Santa household. There’s a special time in life when magic is more possible than at other ages, and since our daughter is right in that period, my husband and I are perfectly happy to help the magic exist. That is why, speaking of magic, “Santa” brought her the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone last year.
Confession number two: I was the one who slipped the book into Santa’s sack. One of the exciting parts about parenting is getting to share your passions with your child, hoping that they’ll find the same spark of joy and wonder, so when I spotted it on the table of books at Costco, I put it in my oversized cart without hesitation. I had a feeling that Harry Potter would be up my daughter’s very imaginative ally, and the large size and colorful pictures would make it perfect for bedtime reading.
However, there’s a reason that I’m writing in October about last year’s gift from Santa: it took us 10 months to read it. When planning the present, my mind was full of visions of us curled up with a fuzzy blanket, reading in front of a fire. I forgot to account for the whims of a four-year-old. It wasn’t until February that she was interested in even starting it, and there were a lot of stops and starts along the way.
Every so often, I would ask, “Do you want to read some Harry Potter?” Oftentimes, the answer would be a no, and I would have to resist the urge to try and persuade her into it. Forcing someone to experience something does not dispose them toward loving it, and tiny children can often be people pleasers, liking things (or pretending to) because they are the favorites of people they love. An even worse scenario than disinterest would be her deciding she hated the book because her mother couldn’t shut up about reading it.
Sometimes, though, the answer would be “Sure,” and we’d read some of the book as a bedtime story over the following few nights until the routine was disrupted by the various events of life. Around the beginning of September, she seemed to get more into it. Maybe she matured and was able to appreciate the story better, or maybe the excitement of Norbert the dragon pulled her into the story, but we excitedly raced toward the ending. And even though I’ve read the book more times than I can remember, it all became brand new again and even more magical than before.
That was the part of the whole experience that I didn’t expect. I knew she would enjoy the story, but I didn’t realize how much it would bring back the “first time” experience for me. When she giggled at Ron, it was as if I was reading his words for the first time again. The revelation—spoiler alert for a nearly 20-year-old book—of it being Quirrell/Voldemort and not Snape who was trying to get the Sorcerer’s Stone caused a gasp so honest that the twist felt new again for me. Even the confusion of Hermione’s name was present; it wasn’t until we were close to the end and she asked “Whose ‘mione’?” that I realized she’d been hearing “Her mione” instead.
I know that we aren’t going be able to read all the books together, at least all of the illustrated ones. Even if Scholastic does continue releasing illustrated versions of all seven books, she’ll be 10 by the time the last one comes out and will likely not be as interested in story time with Mommy. I’ll be sad to not be able to experience the whole story with her, but since she was asking me to retell her the story on the drive to preschool this morning, I have a feeling that she’ll finish the series long before the last illustrated book is released. That would turn the bittersweet feelings into pride in her discovering the magic of reading.
What I do know is that the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets illustrated edition is out in stores, and I have a pretty good idea what Santa may bring this year. I also have a pretty good idea that we’ll finish that book a lot sooner than next October.