The Lexicon: An Unauthorized Guide to Harry Potter Fiction and Related Materials Paperback – Jan 2009
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"The perfect accompaniment to any library already strong in Harry Potter fans." -- Midwest Book Review "Midwest Book Review"
About the Author
Vander Ark, who has read the Potter novels more than 40 times, has been interviewed by the Today Show, BBC, the New Yorker and the Guardian. His interview for an A&E television special on the series appears as part of the extra section on the DVD edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Top Customer Reviews
Abbot--Family name on a headstone in the graveyard in Godric's Hollow...
zoological column--The Daily Prophet does a zoological column every Wednesday...
then this is the book for you. It contains virtually every imaginable person, place, thing and event in the tale, with a handy reference to the book and chapter that's the source.
One warning. I wouldn't suggest consulting this book the first time you read all seven volumes. You only get one chance to read a book for the first time. Make the most of it. Enjoy the tale as a whole in a way you'll never be able to repeat. But at some point, you'll want to understand the magical world behind the story. Then you'll want to consult this book, written by one of the premier Potter fans in the world and the host of the popular Harry Potter Lexicon website.
--Michael W. Perry, Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Steve Vander Ark's website, the Harry Potter Lexicon, can be an incredibly useful tool at times, though difficult to navigate. The book is much the same way. A wealth of information is contained in this book, but in most cases, unless you know specifically what you are looking for, you may never find it. For example, there is no rhyme or reason as to how spells are placed in this encyclopedia. The most sensible way would be to list the name of the spell in its alphabetical place (for example, Diffindo) and the common name of the spell ("severing charm") in its place. Each should have a note referencing the other ("see also: 'Diffindo'"). This is almost never the case. Sometimes, in fact, the only information listed about a spell is the proper name. Of course, if you didn't know what the proper name was, and simply wanted to find the digging charm used in Deathly Hallows, you would probably never find it, as it is only listed as its proper name.
Another issue with the book is the fact that not all information about the characters is listed. I understand that it would be impossible (and slightly illegal) to write a complete biography of each character, but there are inconsistencies when listing birth and death dates. The disclaimers on the front, back, and inside of the book make mention of the fact that some information was left out- we can assume that the author was not allowed to "spoil" much of the actual series due to the litigation that hounded the publishing of this encyclopedia. When I noticed that several characters who died in the Battle of Hogwarts did not have their death dates listed, I assumed that the author was not allowed to share this information, for fear of spoiling the last book for readers. And yet, other death dates for characters who perished in the final Harry Potter book are listed. There is no reasoning provided for inconsistencies like this.
Finally, the book has several factual, grammatical, and spelling errors. The biggest one I have noticed so far (I am not quite finished reading the book) is that Fred and George Weasley are listed as being born eight months before Charlie Weasley. We all know Charlie is older- and it seems unlikely that Mrs. Weasley would have been able to give birth again that soon, anyway. This is a mistake that a fan should have caught and corrected easily. Alas, here it is, in this book.
The only true benefit I have been able to find so far is that so much extra information (from interviews, chats, etc.) is listed in the books. Information is culled from a variety of canon and non-canon sources, including the Famous Wizard cards, the Daily Prophet newsletters, Rowling herself, interviews, etc. This was most appreciated.
All in all, I'd say that you're either better off sifting through information on the website or getting this book from your local library rather than buying it. Most of the information is available for free online, from the author of this book, and I think that might be preferable to having a disorganized, sometimes sloppily written, unattractive book on my bookshelf.
This is the book for those times when you just can't remember the differences between a "Hover Charm" and "Wingardium Leviosa," or was it "Levicorpus?" Or when you can't recall whether a detail is from one of the Harry Potter movies or from the books. Was that irritating shrunken head in the Azkaban movie based on anything in the books? Yes, believe it or not - only it was in Chamber of Secrets and it didn't speak with a Jamaican accent.
Just paging through the book is a fun walk down memory lane. I had forgotten all about the students falling ill with "Umbridge-itis," or that there was a Beauty specialist with the delightful name of "Madam Primpernelle." And take, for example, the entry about "Dragon Milk Cheese." The writers of the Lexicon take the obvious literal question of how dragons could give milk since they are clearly reptilian and not mammals, and harken back to a seventeenth century term for "strong beer usually reserved for royalty." Baby dragons must burp alot, huh? It sounds as if the cheese would be tasty.
There are hundreds of such examples of scholarship that enrich and reward the reader, such as Latinate root words provided for spells such as "Cave Inimicum" (beware of enemies) and "Protego Horribilis" (shield us from the frightful). I think children would especially find this fun and useful, since none of that is explained in the books, and most kids (or adults) don't have a Latin dictionary lying around the house.
The paperback cover is quite attractive, with medieval lettering and antique burnishing, and the abbreviations for sources are easy to understand. This is a great addition to the Harry Potter bookshelf, whether at home or in a library.
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