Quidditch makes young ‘Potter’ fans dance at library
July 19, 2014
By Neil Pierson
New: July 19, 11:18 a.m.
Sara Jensen’s job is to get children interested in reading, and she found an effective book series to accomplish that task.
Dozens of children have been coming to the Sammamish Library since January, when Jensen, a children’s services librarian, began leading a book club on the “Harry Potter” saga.
About 30 boys and girls, most between the ages of 10-13, attended the book club’s June 19 meeting. They were there to talk about the sixth book, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” but a guest leading a special activity might have been the real reason behind the attendance surge on the first day of summer vacation for Lake Washington and Issaquah district students.
Jensen connected with the International Quidditch Association to bring the wizarding world’s favorite sport to life. Not just in books anymore, quidditch is a real-life sport based on the descriptions of “Potter” author J.K. Rowling, although players don’t use flying broomsticks to zip around the playing field.
Eric Andres, who founded the Emerald City Admirals – a Seattle-based quidditch club for men and women ages 18 and up – came to the library to talk about the sport and organize a friendly demonstration game among the kids.
The popularity of the “Potter” books have created an explosion in quidditch clubs – there are more than 300 collegiate teams in the United States alone, Andres said, and at least 100 more at the high-school and middle-school level.
Teenagers can play organized quidditch with modified rules designed for maximum safety. But the full-scale version played by adults isn’t for the faint of heart, Andres explained. It’s a high-speed, full-contact game played on the ground, rather than in the sky. Players have to hold a broomstick between their legs at all times.
Some of the rules laid out in the books have stayed the same: Teams are comprised of seven players – three chasers, two beaters, one keeper and one seeker.
The chasers use one ball, the quaffle, to score 10-point goals. The beaters use other balls, known as bludgers, to knock opponents from the game. The keepers defend the three goals, or hoops, at their end of the field.
The game is designed to be gender neutral; teams must have at least two men and two women on the field at all times.
Other rules have changed, most notably the awarding of 150 points to the team whose seeker catches the walnut-sized snitch.
“We do have a snitch, and if you catch it, it does end the game, but it’s only worth 30 points,” Andres explained.
Instead of a magical flying snitch, real quidditch requires a “snitch runner,” a referee who attaches the ball to their back and tries to hide from and avoid the players at all costs.
Real-life quidditch has also borrowed concepts from other sports such as soccer and hockey – yellow and red cards for serious rule violations, and man-advantage power plays for lesser violations.
Andres said the Emerald City Admirals are one of a number of community-based teams throughout the country. They’re not affiliated with any school, but have gained popularity because recent college graduates have wanted places to continue playing.
The book club talked about “The Half-Blood Prince” before its quidditch lesson. Every child in attendance had read the book at least once, and two girls claimed to have finished it at least 30 times.
There were a series of questions involving various events and characters within the book, and most children were able to provide feedback at least once.
Jensen said meetings typically include 30 minutes of discussion and 30 minutes of activities. For example, club members constructed dragon eggs based on their use in the Triwizard Tournament, depicted in the fourth book, “The Goblet of Fire.”
Jensen said the books seem to speak to children in unique ways, from good-versus-evil themes to Potter’s ability to overcome obstacles.
“All the stories related to his friends and school, it mirrors their life on some level,” Jensen said, “but then it also has elements of fantasy that are absolutely enchanting. So they love the fantasy, but yet they can relate to all the different social aspects of Harry Potter.”
‘Harry Potter’ book club
When: 4:30 p.m. July 31
Where: Sammamish Library, 825 228th Ave.
What: Discussion and activities on “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in the series
Who: Ages 10-13
For more information, contact Sara Jensen, children’s services librarian, at 425-392-3130 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.