‘Potter’ creator Rowling makes magic for LAUSD kids

first_imgHOLLYWOOD – J.K. Rowling, perched on a golden throne and bathed in spotlights, didn’t seem so different from the 1,600 screaming kids who sat before her Monday morning. The “Harry Potter” scribe, with a sensible sweater over her attractive, floral-print dress, didn’t come across as a mega-wealthy, famous author from the other side of the world. She was a formerly single mother, a kid whose family didn’t understand her visions of magic, a dreamer. She was one of them. For an hour, Los Angeles Unified School District students from South Los Angeles to San Fernando listened to the immensely popular author read and discuss the fantastic world of wizardry that spilled forth from her mind. They got to speak with her, have their questions answered and walked away with signed copies of “Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in the “Harry Potter” series. “She doesn’t talk to you like she’s a billionaire,” said Melissa Jimenez, a 17-year-old senior at San Fernando High School. “She talks to you like she’s a real person.” The students of Van Nuys Middle School gushed over the writer, holding her up with lavish compliments but still seeing her more as a peer than an icon. “Harry Potter changed my life,” sixth-grader Shavaree Buffington said. “Now we get to meet her.” “She was a single mom. She writes and takes care of her kids,” Serenity Toledo said. “I like to write and type a lot, too.” “We like the same things she does,” Christopher Edwards said. “Reading Harry Potter and writing.” “We’d all like to be successful like her,” Julia Cocilion said. They continued their list with cacophonous glee. Harry Potter spoke to them because he attracted action. Because he used magic. Because he feared death. Because he wore glasses. And, they learned during the program, Rowling faced the same real-world struggles that Harry encountered at Hogwarts and that they saw in their own classrooms. “At one point in my life, everything had gone wrong,” she said. “Judged by any external standard, though I try to avoid the word, I was a loser. But I didn’t feel like a loser.” Through hard work, luck and the help of friends, she assured them, they could succeed as she had. Hazel Kasusky shared the same dream. The 15-year-old Sun Valley resident and Polytechnic High School student feels an affinity for Potter’s wizardry ally, Hermione Granger, whom Rowling based upon herself. All three have parents who don’t always understand what’s going on at school. Each has a guy they consider a close friend. They’re all a bit bookish. The worlds of Kasusky, the seventh-year Gryffindor witch and the 42-year-old multimillionaire author didn’t seem so different, after all. “It’s all about magic, right? But a human thought of it,” Kasusky said. “She put it all together. I can see myself in there through Hermione.” [email protected] (818) 713-3738160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Following the summer success of “Deathly Hallows,” which tallied more than 8 million sales in just its first 24 hours on shelves, publishing house Scholastic Corp. sent Rowling on a three-city American book tour. After Los Angeles, she heads to New Orleans and New York City. Scholastic Corp. wants to hook a new group of readers who missed the Potter craze and will hand out copies of the first book in the series to school districts, including the LAUSD, which is expected to get about 5,000 copies. For Monday’s event, the district selected 15 high schools, 15 middle schools and 10 elementary schools to send 40 third- through 12th-graders who distinguished themselves in an essay contest. “You wouldn’t think high school kids would be so enthused, but they are,” said Pam Hamashita, principal at Canoga Park High School. “We had a Harry Potter day on a Saturday and they all came out. They’re really excited.” As Rowling sat onstage at the Kodak Theatre, reading about her hero’s departure from his miserable family, high schoolers with pink-and-black-spiked hair sat as equally riveted as young students dressed in Hogwarts robes and witches’ hats. She held the massive crowd in near silence, broken only with laughter at times. last_img read more