Lori Falce: The real magic in the library
The magic of Harry Potter is very real.
The words that are inked onto the pages of four-inch thick books? They have power.
They just don’t have it the way the Rev. Dan Reehill of St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville thinks they do.
Reehill had the books pulled out of his school library after he said exorcists told him the spells and curses are authentic and could summon evil spirits.
That’s his prerogative. It’s a Catholic school. He’s in charge. He can ban any book he wants for whatever reason he wants. Even if he’s wrong. And he is.
I am one of those adults who fell in love with the J.K. Rowling-penned series from the very first page. I read it and was 11 years old again, just like Harry. That was the magic, even though I didn’t have his 11-inch long holly wand with a phoenix-feather core.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve watched so many kids fall in love with books because of a fantasy world created by a struggling single mother in England. Kids who dived into a pool way deeper than their ability and learned to swim through the words like a mermaid in the lake near Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Kids who guzzled the series like butterbeer, then looked up and asked for more.
Yes, there are spells mentioned in the books. “Lumos” turns a wand into a flashlight. It’s from the Latin word for light. I know that because I learned Latin in Catholic school.
The Potter world doesn’t just wave a wand and turn on the light for readers. Like the Sorting Hat that puts students in their dorms based on whether they are clever or brave, smart or hardworking, the books are themselves an incantation that lets kids try on new personas: supportive friend, headstrong hero, quiet nerd.
But it doesn’t make you stay there. The friend can be frustrated. The hero can hurt. The nerd can become strong.
The magic is real, but it isn’t in the bad guys or the Unforgivable Curses. Believe me, I’ve tried the one that’s supposed to make people do what you want. No matter how many times I say “Imperio,” my son will not clean his room.
The magic is the imagination and the inspiration. It is the steadfast message that hard work, love and light can defeat the dark. It is the idea that you can do anything if you hold possibility in one hand and purpose in the other.
Reehill has every right to keep those books from his library. But my Catholic school library took me to Narnia and Oz, Terabithia and Middle-Earth, Neverland and Wonderland.
Because every kid should find magic in a library. It isn’t just in the books about wizards and witches, but those might be the ones that help them realize what is in all of those other pages.
And the idea that you can keep a kid from it? That is, to quote the spell that banishes the things that scare you, “riddikulus.”
Lori Falce is a Tribune-Review community engagement editor. You can contact Lori at [email protected].