In our nerdy home, it wouldn’t be the Christmas season (November 1-December 31, as far as I’m concerned) without a bit of Harry Potter. The banners, feasts, and thoughts of the warm, fuzzy sweaters of the Weasley family—along with the fun rivalry of most of us being in different houses—all add fun and ritual to our season. And each year, the folks at Insight Editions keep coming out with book after book of interesting background material, bonus features, and lots of trips back into the world of Harry Potter and everything that makes up his incredible universe.
This season, Insight Editions has added to our wish lists with the books Exploring Hogwarts: An Illustrated Guide, A Hogwarts Christmas Pop-Up, and Magical Places: A Paper Scene Book. (Last year brought A Pop-up Guide to Hogwarts, Creatures: A Paper Scene Book, and Imagining Hogwarts: A Beginner’s Guide to Moviemaking!)
This larger-than-your-bookshelf book gives us a fun, cartoon-y look into the dazzling, complicated, and awe-inspiring place that is Hogwarts. The setting for much of the action in the books and movies, Hogwarts is the center of it all. It’s where all the witches and wizards learn(ed) to hone their skills. It’s where even the adults in the films were educated. This book takes us on an entertaining tour of it all.
The book includes over 300 illustrations of students, creatures, artifacts, professors, locations, and events, along with some movie stills. Each two-page spread tackles a focused topic, such as the library, Triwizard Tournament, professors’ offices, classrooms, plot lines, common rooms, the Room of Requirement, and the castle as a whole. Little snippet paragraphs are strewn throughout the pages giving behind-the-scenes details, movie plot points, and reminders of Wizarding World facts. Some pages have fold-outs to extend the page.
This book is so much fun to read. Everyone will learn something, and the jolly colors can’t help but make you smile. Go through this book with your kids (or your fellow fans) and see what depicted movie scenes you can spot. What are your favorite facts? What parts spoke to you the most, that you return to time and time again? Which illustrations strike your fancy?
Check out a new video that lists “9-3/4 Things You Didn’t Know About Hogwarts”—it’s a bit of a trailer for the book.
Okay, hold onto your Santa hats. This pop-up book isn’t just a pop-up book. It’s an advent calendar. With a pop-up tree—set in the Great Hall, of course—and 25 removable ornaments, you get to count down the days until Christmas in Hogwarts style! Each of the ornaments is hidden behind little doors in the floor, representing many items from the books and movies. I definitely have my favorites.
This quite-heavy book also includes a little mini book tucked and hidden behind a larger door in the floor. It contains 96 pages of behind-the-scenes details from the movies. The first section covers Christmas in the Wizarding World, showing how Christmas was integrated in seven of the movies (missing only the last one). The second section covers the ornaments, one by one. It would be fun to read the applicable page each day, with one person reading the text and the other finding and hanging the ornament on the tree, reliving Hogwarts Christmas as a family. And not to give too many spoilers, but there are quite a lot of fun artifacts and characters represented in the ornaments, such as Spectrespecs, Fawkes, Hermione’s Time-Turner, a Golden Snitch, and the Hogwarts Express.
This is one book that will be kept with our Christmas decorations and brought out every year. It’s an easy and fun way to integrate a bit of Harry Potter into the season.
Magical Places: A Paper Scene Book by Jody Revenson, Illustrated by Scott Buonchristiano
Those who love animals might be more intrigued by last year’s Creatures book in this series, but the new Magical Places book speaks more to me. To enter and be surrounded by such wonder and whimsy can feel truly magical. This book includes gorgeous scenes representing different locations from the Harry Potter movies, each folding out and lifting up into three dimensions, showing the depth and detail of the place in paper cutout glory. Each location is covered in two two-page spreads. The first spread for each has the name and an intricate, laser die-cut paper scene; the second goes into how the location was designed for the movies, some of the spots where the location was used, and additional depth on a things relating to that place. Some also include maps or diagrams and even some behind-the-scenes movie secrets you may not have noticed. The book includes Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic, and Hogsmeade. Though the book is short, there is much to study, read, and get side-tracked by, doing deep internet dives to learn more about the snippets you find in the book.
This is not a book for little kids to look through by themselves, but together you can explore these magical places. Point out little details in the paper cutouts and how the creators used depth to make the images feel real. If your kids have seen the movies, see if they remember the facts, characters, and architectural details for each location.
Harry Potter and Christmas go hand in hand. This year, if you celebrate, will you get a sweater with your initial on it? A puffskein for a pet? A vat of Sugar Quills? Or maybe some amazing books from Insight Editions, such as these. I heartily recommend all three, though each one definitely has a different feel. If you’re into tradition and marking the season, A Hogwarts Christmas Pop-Up is perfect. If you love facts and behind-the-scenes information, go with Exploring Hogwarts. If you’re into art and magical places, you can’t go wrong with Magical Places (it’s right there in the title).
Exploring Hogwarts: An Illustrated Guide, Magical Places: A Paper Scene Book, and, last but certainly not least, A Hogwarts Christmas Pop-Up (my favorite new book of the season!) are the perfect gifts for your favorite Harry Potter fan this year, whether for Christmas, birthdays, or to add to your family’s holiday decorations. Exploring Hogwarts and Magical Places are available now, and A Hogwarts Christmas Pop-Up will be out on October 22.
Note: I received samples for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.