Jim Kay’s Wizarding World 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets begins with an assault on the reader.   Turn to page five and you are forced into Harry’s shoes, suddenly confronted by a large pair of green eyes staring fixedly between the leaves of the hedge.  How many of us involuntarily thought of putting out those eyes to stop their owner from spying on Harry?Those startling pink-rimmed eyes belonged to Dobby the house elf, the first and  least but bravest of Harry’s protectors in The Chamber of Secrets.  Look again at Dobby’s eyes after reading the entire novel and they may appear more watchful than malicious.

It’s the first of many images of wide open eyes (and references to eye sockets) in a story stalked by an unseen beast whose gaze kills.  The terror it arouses at Hogwarts is foreshadowed in the illustration at the end of The Philosopher’s Stone  that shows the reflection of Professor Quirrell lifting up a fold in the back of his turban to reveal the menacing red eye of He Who Must Not Be Named.

At the climax of The Chamber of Secrets, Harry, with eyes shut tight in the dark, senses the stone serpents’ empty eye sockets tracking his movements.  Disarmed by Tom Riddle, who twirls the wand like a cat toying with a mouse, Harry is forced to hear how Ginny was the unwitting pawn in a scheme to entrap and destroy the boy she adores  Taunted by Riddle in a calculated attempt to break his spirit, Harry’s  defiant insistence  that Dumbledore is the greater of the two wizards summons the phoenix Fawkes to the chamber Slytherin built.  What Riddle forgets in his confidence that victory will not  elude him a third time is that Fawkes can blind with the basilisk with its beak and cure any mortal wound it inflicts with its tears.  The help of the phoenix reinvigorates Harry’s strength and will so he give the basilisk its death blow with Godric Gryffindor’s sword and thrust the serpent’s fang into Riddle’s diary, unknowingly destroying the first of the Horcruxes.

At their best, Kay’s illustrations capture the grandeur of an uneven story, one of whose functions is laying down material that will drive the complex plot forward in the series’ successive volumes (not unlike The Subtle Knife or The Two Towers).  From scene to scene, the shifts between low comedy and heroism are not always managed as skillfully as they might have been and some of that awkwardness is reflected in the pictures.

It’s quite noticeable in the illustraitons of Dobby, an crucial supporting character who unites servility with unexpected bravery.  Like Hagrid, he speaks in an awkward dialect that demotes him to a caricature,  when he ought to be more than that most of the time. Dobby is  first compared to “an ugly rag doll” and Kay obliges with a picture of the house elf perched on the edge of Harry’s bed.  His pink slab of a lower lip, enormous pop eyes, huge ears fringed with fine bristles, and filthy feet with long untrimmed nails do not make him loveable, although his resemblance to a Frank Oz creature is unmistakable.  The equally unattractive portrait of Dobby cradling Harry’s filthy sock to his face (here pristine) gives the reader permission to laugh the moment of freedon from slavery.  More revelatory of Dobby’s toughness, loyalty, and misdirected ingenuity, is the vignette of him, the pillow case above his buttocks, intent on the destruction of Aunt Petunia’s pudding.   His appearance is off-putting but funny without being as hideous or ridiculous as in the other two pictures.

Creating portraits that blend the admirable with the risible was perhaps one of the biggest challenges the text presented to Kay.  Moaning Myrtle has a mug right out of a cartoon when a better model would have been Shirley Henderson, who playing the ghost in the film with a crafty yet infantile expression that was delectable.

More satisfying is the second of the two portraits of Mrs. Weasley, holding up a flower pot of Floo powder, her red hair in need of a good hair cut under the crumpled green witch’s hat.  Kay was perhaps justifiably a little cruel in his depiction of an older woman’s body, but Mrs. Weasley’s warm, unguarded expression makes her individual and likeable  without sacrificing the realistic edge.Kay proved he can do gross…  The sketchy picture of Ron vomiting slugs is followed with a full-page spread decorated with more slugs dragging trails of bright yellow bile.  The artist’s attempts to create something like cinematic special effects are more mixed than magical.  Harry’s figure on his maiden voyage on Floo powder should look as if it were speeding out of control instead of frozen in one moment (if indeed that’s posssible).  When Harry bursts through the window in Tom Riddle’s diary, he seems to have fallen into an Abstract Expressionist painting instead of a memory strategically selected by his nemesis.

The October 2016 publication date for The Chamber of Secrets must have obliged Kay to repeat himself, not having the time to realize more of those important but potentially difficult scenes like the magnificent aerial view of St. Pancras,  the brooding view of Hagrid making his way down Knockburn Alley, or the tense interview between Aragog, Harry, Ron, and Fang.  For my money, the three following illustrations are critical to establishing the novel’s mood (and play to  Kay’s strengths) than do the two pictures of Dudley stuffing his face or the crowds of garden gnomes, Cornish pixies, and spiders.Ahitectural subjects are one of Kay’s fortes.  Yet it is easy to understand  why he chose to draw a frieze of high relief figures disporting themselves delightfully in medieval bathrooms instead of the entrance the Chamber of Secrets.  Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom may be in desperate need of remodeling, but that sink cannot have survived intact after a thousand years’ of abuse by school children with magical powers.  More to the point, where is Dumbledore’s office, a scene tailor-made for Kay, which I would have been willing to trade for the four new blocks of Diagon Alley?  Why is there no stupendous view of the Chamber, with its columns, serpentine decorations, and ominous statue of Salazar Slytherin with the weedy beard down to his feet?  The spread with the basilisk’s gigantic moulted skin with small figures of Ron, Harry, and Lockhart in the middle distance is nothing more than a teaser.

Nor is it clear why there are no pictures anywhere of the two most important actors in the drama–Ginny Weasley with her vivid red hair and Tom Riddle.  Perhaps Kay was unable to find the right models in the time he had to complete the set of illustrations.  As wonderful as the pictures of Sir Patrick brandishing his severed head astride his skeletal steed, a rueful Hagrid, or the label for Skelegro are, they are no substitute for seeing the handsome, charming and utterly ruthless sixteen-year old shimmer in and out of focus.  Too many missed opportunities ultimately diminish the novel.  I would have rather the publisher had done away with most of the black pages, which are the equivalent of movie music that tells members of the audience what to feel, instead of trusting their imagination.  Sections with the pages specially patterned with shadowy outlines of snake scales, spider webs, lime green triangles, and imitation foxing don’t add enough to the reading experience to deprive readers of a chance to see Fawkes fly off with Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart, after those tantalizing pictures of soaring birds (and magical cars) in the novel’s opening chapters.  If it were up to me, I’d give Kay the time he needs to draw the illustrations The Prisoner of Azkhaban  that will bring the story to life.

Christmas Dessert Buffet Menu by the Celebrity Chefs of Children’s Literature

smith_little-jack-horner

Little Jack Horner caught in the act by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Poor little Jack Horner…  Surely he deserved something more than plum pudding in his corner.  To make his holidays brighter (and a lot more sugary), here is a dessert buffet of recipes from cookbooks sponsored by some of the most beloved characters in children’s literature.  The recipes were included edited for length, but were not tested in Cotsen’s curatorial or outreach kitchen.

40860pagevi

From Easy Steps in Cooking, or Mary Frances among the Kitchen People, written and illustrated by Jane Eayre Frye. Oakland, CA: Smithsonian Co., c1912. (Cotsen 40860).

DESSERT BUFFET FOR CHRISTMAS

Pepparkakor

ilonpippi1

From Astrid Lindgren, Kaenner du Pippi Langstrump? Illustrated by Ingrid Nyman. Stockholm: Raben & Sjoegren, 1947.

3 1/2 C. flour; 2 tsp. ginger; 2 tsp. cinnamon; 2 tsp. cloves; 1 tsp. baking soda; 1/2 tsp. salt; 1/2 C. dark corn syrup; 1 tsp. grated orange zest; 1 C. butter; 1 C. sugar, 1 large egg, lightly beaten; pearl sugar

Whisk together dry ingredients  in a bowl.  In a small saucepan, warm the butter and sugar, stirring until melted.  Cool to room temperature, then whisk in the egg.  Pour over flour mixture and stir until blended.  Form dough into ball, wrap tightly with two layers of plastic wrap and chill overnight.  Preheat over to 375 degrees With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough on a lightly floured kitchen floor to 1/4 inch  thickness.   Using a star cutter, cut dough into cookies.  Put stars on baking sheets covered with parchment paper and sprinkle with pearl sugar.  Bake until edges begin to brown, about 7-8 minutes.  Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Astrid Lindgren didn’t provide a recipe, thanks to Epicurious for Anna Lindberg’s family recipe.

*****

Blackberry and Apple Meringue

dinner-wind-in-the-willows

From Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows. Illustrated by E. H. Shepard. London: Methuen, 1970. (Cotsen 32085).

1 large cooking apple; 50 g. (2 oz) granulated sugar; 450 g. (1 lb. blackberries); juice of one lemon; 2 egg whites; 75 g. (3 oz) superfine sugar

Heat the oven to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F or Gas Mark 2)  Peel and core the apple and cut into thinnish slices.  Put the applies in a pan with 2 T water and the granulated sugar.  Cook gently, covered, for 4 minutes, then add the berries, return to the simmer and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Tip into a pie dish.  Beat the egg whites until stiff, fold in the superfine sugar, and pile over the fruit, covering the dish entirely.  Bake for 30 minutes, then cool for about 30 minutes before serving with cream.

Arabella Boxer, The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook.  London: Methuen, 1983. (Cotsen 15424)

*****

Hidden Window Dessert

ndthwmbkcvr

Carolyn Keene, The Hidden Window Mystery. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, c1958. (Cotsen in process 7305311).

1 package EACH of cherry, orange, lemon, and lime gelatin; 1 C. pineapple juice; 1/4 C. sugar; 1 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter; 12 graham crackers, crushed; 4 C. whipped cream or other whipped topping

In a saucepan, boil enough water to make 1 cup.  This means you must start with a little more than a cup.  Dissolve the cherry gelatin in this.  Stir well.  Add 1/2 cup cold water and pour gelatin into a ice tray with no divider.  Do the same with the orange and lime gelatin separately.  (Use the same pan, but rinse it each time.)  In the same pan again. boil the pinapple juice with sugar.  Dissolve the lemon gelatin in this.  Add 1/2 cup cold water.  Let set in a large mixing bowl to the syrupy stage.  Fold in the whipped cream.  When firm, cut the cherry, orange, and lime gelatins into cubes.  Fold them into the lemon gelatin mixture.  Grease a springform pan.  Stir melted butter into the crushed graham crumbs and spread on the bottom on the pan.  Pour in the mixture.  Chill 12 hours.  You’ll have many colored windows in each slice of cake!

Carolyn Keene, The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking.  New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978, c1973.  (Cotsen 15426).

*****

Mrs. Tiggy’s Tipsy Pudding

tiggy_winkle

Beatrix Potter’s prickly little washer woman from The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle.

1 large spongecake; 125 ml. (1/4 pint) sweet sherry; juice of an orange; 75 g. (3 oz) superfine sugar; 250 ml. (1/2 pint) double cream; raisins; 100 g. (4 oz flaked almonds)

Cut a hollow on the underside of the cake, keeping the bit for later.  Fill the hollow with the sherry and orange juice; pour the remaining wine and juice over the top.  Refrigerate overnight, spooning the mixture over the cake from time to time.  In the morning, replace the bit of cake in the hollow.  Split the almonds into narrow bits and brown lightly in the oven.  Stick them all over the cake.  Use the raisins for nose and eyes.  Whip the cream stiff and fold in the sugar.  Pile in peaky dollops all around the cake and serve.

Margaret Lane, The Beatrix Potter Country Cookery Book.  London: Frederick Warne, 1983, c1981.

*****

Treacle toffee from Hagrid

b8479a625a8ad5f950bb1c5eb43906ee

Christmas at Hogwarts as imagined by Mary de Grandpre.

75 g. (3 oz) Golden Syrup; 75 gg (3 oz) black treacle or molasses; 150 g. (6 oz) brown sugar; 75 g. (3 oz) butter; 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Line a 6 x 8 inch baking pan with non-stick parchment.  Measure all ingredients into a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until the butter is melted and sugar dissolved.  When the mixture is smooth and nicely combined, bring to a rolling boil.  When the mixture reaches 140 degrees C/ 285 degrees F on the candy thermometer (analog or digital), pour carefully into the pan.  For even pieces, wait until the toffee is cool enough to hand, but leaves a slight impression if poked with a finger (15- 20 minutes).  Cut into the toffee deeply enough to leaves lines and when it has cooled completely, break along the lines.  For toffee that will break your teeth, let it cool completely, then break into pits with a hammer or rolling pin.  Store in an airtight container with parchment in between layers.

With thanks to BBC Food

*****

Boston Cooler

endpaperspread

Endpapers for Johnny Gruelle, Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land. Joliet, Wisconsin: P. F. Volland & Co., c1931. (Cotsen in process 0000).

12 oz. can root beer; 4 small scoops vanilla ice cream

Pour the root beer into two glasses.  Carefully put two scoops ice cream in each glass.  Serve with a long spoon and a straw.

Nika Hazelton, Raggedy Ann and Andy’s Cookbook.  Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, c1973.  (Cotsen 28282).

And happy holidays to all!

For our readers who have not yet experienced a sugar rush, try reading the post on junk food in picture books…