Science at Hogwarts (and Its Muggle Equivalent)

Hogwarts-scienceOne of the really fun things about taking a closer look at science in children’s fiction is finding in in pretty much every book. Or at least, in most fantasy books.

Today, I’ll start going deep(er) into some of the books that I’ve read, and see what kind of science-y stuff I can find.

First up: the Harry Potter series.

Harry Potter is all about magic, obviously. But it’s also full of science. Hogwarts is a school, after all. They have to have science subjects, right?

So, let’s start with just listing all the science subjects that Harry and the rest of the gang take in their 7 years at Hogwarts. Or rather, a better way of going about this is to list some of their subjects, and then, the direct and indirect equivalents in Muggle science. Here goes:

  • Herbology – Botany
  • Potions – Chemistry
  • Astronomy – which, according to the Harry Potter Wiki, is “one of the only fields of study at Hogwarts which has a direct equivalent in the Muggle world.”
  • Care of Magical Creatures – Zoology, Veterinary Science
  • Flying – Aviation, Physics
  • Transfiguration – Material Science

When you look at these subjects closely, you’ll see that there are actually many similarities between the Hogwarts classes and Muggle science. These include the subject matter, equipment used during class, and even the exercises that are given to the students in order to master the subject.

I think one of the reasons why kids (and adults) like Harry Potter so much is that the world, though fantastical, seems completely relatable. We can all imagine ourselves sitting in Snape’s Potions class and sweating over a cauldron. Harry, Hermione, Ron and the rest of them probably feel like most of us do (or did) in Chemistry class.

Why is that?

Could it be partly because the concepts and methods are familiar?

The way the teachers teach is the same. Students have to perform experiments, as we do. They study and memorize and complete homework. They have to take exams and finals, and they fear failing them. They’re graded differently, but none of us would be happy with a P (Poor) or worse, a T (Troll) in any of our Muggle classes, would we?

But how is the science itself different (or the same)?

I think it’s safe to say that Hogwarts science, like our science and like the magic in this story world, has rules. Are they the same as the rules of the equivalent Muggle science? If they’re not, how are the rules bent? Are there alternative or derivative rules instead?

I think it would be fun to imagine how scientific concepts work in the magical world beyond Platform 9 3/4.

So what I think I’ll do in subsequent posts is to dive a little more deeply into each subject and see if I can tease out the science behind Potions, Transfiguration, etc.

Want to join me? Make sure you come back next time!

[image: Rstoplabe14 via Wikipedia]

Why Talk About Science in Children’s Fiction?

beakersI was a writer before I became a scientist. Or maybe it was the other way around.

It seems, thinking about it now, that my inclination to write has always existed side by side with my fascination with the natural world. I was always drawn to stories with a hint of discovery, facts about living creatures and natural phenomena, and other interesting bits of science in children’s fiction.

It appears to me that science always exists, in one form or another, in fantasy books. Obviously in science fiction, it’s there. But even in stories that aren’t strictly sci-fi, you can often find some idea that has roots in scientific truth.

Harry Potter contains some principles of science applied to a magical world. Science is in the Hunger Games too. The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Yep, it’s there.

[Read more…]

What is Middle-Grade Fiction (aka Books for Tweens)?

Books for tweensBooks for tweens. Middle-grade fiction. Literature for intermediate readers.

You’ve probably heard one or all of these terms. They come up in library and bookstore shelves, writer’s blogs, publishing industry news feeds, and so on.

What do these terms actually mean? More specifically, how do you determine whether a book is meant for tweens (or middle-graders or intermediate readers)? And why should you care?

Books for Tweens, Middle-grade and/or Intermediate Readers

The words tweens, middle-grade (MG), and intermediate are used to describe the same subset of readers of a certain age. They’re often used by different groups of folk interested in books for children.

“Books for tweens” is a general term, a everyday term. Everybody knows what the phrase means: books for kids who are almost but not quite teenagers.

Those involved in various aspects of the publishing industry (writers, illustrators, agents, editors, publishers, etc.) call this audience “middle-grade.”

The phrase “intermediate readers” is something I’ve seen in a bookstore. I think this way of shelving books is meant to distinguish MG literature from both early readers and longer works. (Note: I seldom use this phrase, preferring “middle-grade” or “tween.”)

There are many factors that determine why a book is considered middle-grade (MG) and not a chapter book or young adult (YA). The reader’s age, and the book’s theme and cast of characters are just some of the things that influence a book’s category.

[Read more…]

Sleigh Table at Yarrow Golf and Conference Resort