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Hold a magical ‘Harry Potter’ reading group

A new book, “The Kids’ Book Club Book,” shares recipes and other ideas.
/ Source: TODAY

You'd like to start a book club for your children, but you're worried it won't be interesting for them. Relax. A new book, "The Kids’ Book Club Book" by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, gives parents ideas on how to choose age appropriate books and how to make reading books fun for children. The book contains suggestions for serving snacks, organizing activities, making props, and discussing the books' main topics. One of the books the authors offer ideas for is J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." Here's an excerpt on the sixth book in the popular series:

Grades 4 and up
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
J. K. RowlingScholastic, 2005Available in paperback from Scholastic652 pagesFantasy

Series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Scholastic, 1997), also published as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury, 1996); Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Scholastic, 1999); Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Scholastic, 1999); Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Scholastic, 2000); Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Scholastic, 2003); Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Scholastic, 2007)

As Harry Potter enters his sixth year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, nonwizards and wizards alike are threatened by attacks from Death Eaters, followers of the evil Lord Voldemort. When a returning Potions professor, Horace Slughorn, gives Harry a textbook formerly owned by the mysterious Half-Blood Prince, Harry consults the handwritten notes in the book—and suddenly begins to excel in the class. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore uses a memory device, the Pensieve, to show Harry flashbacks of Lord Voldemort’s past. As Harry and Dumbledore explore Voldemort’s life, they are drawn further into their quest to understand his immortality and ultimately to defeat him.

AUTHOR SCOOPHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of J. K. Rowling’s favorite books in the series: “Book Six does what I wanted it to do and even if nobody else likes it (and some won’t) I know it will remain one of my favourites of the series. Ultimately you have to please yourself before you please anyone else,” Rowling writes.

Rowling says she had considered using a chapter much like “The Other Minister,” the opening chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in several other Harry Potter books. When you read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, says Rowling, you should know that “it’s been about thirteen years in the brewing.”

The Pensieve, or memory storage device Dumbledore uses in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, reflects reality and does not give the memory owner’s interpretation of an event. Rather, explains Rowling, the Pensieve re-creates a moment, as if you could delve into your own memory and relive things you hadn’t noticed.

  • One of Rowling’s favorite childhood books was Elizabeth Goudge’s A Little White Horse, originally published in 1946. The fact that “the feasts at Hogwarts are fulsomely described” and that Rowling knows what her characters eat, she says, is due to Goudge’s influence.
  • Rowling says Harry’s maturity has been gradual, but she’s not sorry to see Harry and his friends grow up. “I have always found it slightly sinister when you read children’s books in which the children are not allowed any romantic feelings and are not allowed to get angry,” she explains.

Author website:

Chocolate Cauldrons
Romilda Vane, Harry’s classmate, has a crush on him, and gives Harry a box of firewhiskey-filled Chocolate Cauldrons. When Harry’s friend Ron Weasley mistakenly eats the Cauldrons, believing them to be one of his own birthday gifts, he begins to profess his love for Romilda. It becomes clear to Harry that Romilda has concealed love potion within the chocolates, intended for Harry, and he brings Ron to Professor Slughorn to reverse the spell.

Nur Kilic, owner of Serenade Chocolatier in Brookline, Massachusetts, makes handmade chocolates in the Viennese tradition and created a delicious Chocolate Cauldrons recipe for us to share with Harry Potter fans. These cauldrons can be filled with your favorite candies (instead of firewhiskey), and they are certain to cast a spell on the lucky eater!

NOTE: In order to make a cauldron from chocolate, you need some form of a mold. You can use the plastic cauldrons that party stores sell during Halloween and cut each in half along the seam, from the top edge to the bottom, or you can purchase a plastic cauldron mold online ( We also created cauldron shapes by pouring the liquid chocolate into plastic containers for cupcakes commonly sold in grocery stores.

In candy making, chocolate should be tempered in order for it to release easily from the molds; the process also gives the chocolate a glossy sheen, keeps it from becoming streaked with cocoa butter crystals that might form, and gives it a smooth flavor. In tempering, a portion of the chocolate is melted, cooled slightly, and then the remainder of the chocolate is added and reheated. Temperatures are very critical in the tempering process so a candy thermometer is necessary.

  • 1 pound milk or dark chocolate
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  1. Chop the chocolate on a cutting board with a large knife. Heat water in the bottom portion of a double boiler. The water should be hot, but not boiling. Place half of the chopped chocolate in the top pot of the double boiler. Stir until the chocolate is melted
  2. Remove the chocolate from the heat. Add the remaining chopped chocolate to melted chocolate, stirring until chocolate reaches 88–90° F. Pour the chocolate into a mold until mold is full. Place the mold in the refrigerator 5 minutes, or until the chocolate begins to set along the perimeter of the mold. The center should still be liquid.
  3. Remove the liquid chocolate by inverting the mold over the pot. (You can reuse this chocolate for another mold, as long as it is maintained at 88° to 90° F., and stirred.) Scrape the top of the mold with a spatula. Place the mold with the remaining chocolate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, or until the chocolate is firm. When the chocolate is set, it will release from the mold easily.
  4. Remove the chocolate from the mold. Dust with cocoa powder to give it a rustic look.
  5. Fill with your favorite candies or sweet drink!


Iced Butterbeer
Amber Lowery includes a recipe for iced butterbeer, one of her first Harry Potter recipe creations in Magical Munchies for Muggles to Make, a cookbook she compiled for her library book clubs at the Peoria (Illinois) Public Library. “Harry and his friends drink butterbeer as a special treat when they go into Hogsmeade, or when Fred and George sneak out for after-Quidditch celebrations,” says Lowery. “The students at Hogwarts seem to really enjoy the supersweet frothy drink at a bargain price of two silver sickles each.”

Lowery says butterbeer is a fun recipe that can be prepared for big groups. “Those not adventurous enough to try butterbeer can still have a tasty root beer float,” she adds. Lowery prefers to use Muggle—or nonwizard—root beer.

  • 1–1 1/2 cups root beer  Butterscotch syrup
  • 1 scoop (1/2 cup) vanilla ice cream
  1. Fill a glass two-thirds full with root beer. Add 1 scoop of ice cream. Top with butterscotch syrup.


MAKE IT!Harry Potter Celebration At the Peoria (Illinois) Public Library’s Lakeview Branch, Amber Lowery leads Lakeview’s Leaky Cauldron Book Club, an intergenerational group with fifty members, including children, teens, and adults devoted to reading Harry Potter books. Leaky Cauldon Book Club members celebrated the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with a party, and Lowery shared some of the group’s favorite activities, including sorting hats, and parchment and potion making.

Sorting Hats
Amber Lowery turned ice-cream cones into sorting hats—the hats used to tell new students which house they are destined for at Hogwarts. Having your members sort themselves into houses is a fun way to begin the event, says Lowery, who chose four colors of candies, each representing a Hogwarts house—red for Gryffindor, green for Slytherin, blue for Ravenclaw, and yellow for Hufflepuff—based on book and film references to Hogwarts’ house colors. After filling each cone with one color of candy and covering the opening with a cookie, Lowery asked members to choose a cone. The candies that spilled out when they removed the cone from the cookie dictated their house.

NOTE: The cookies should be slightly bigger than the opening of the cone. Use the pointy sugar ice-cream cones.


  • Sugar ice-cream cones, one for each member (see note)
  • Chocolate-coated candies, such as M&M’s, in red, green, blue, and yellow, sorted by color (approximately 30–40 candies will fill one 13-gram cone)
  • Sugar or chocolate-chip cookies (see note)
  1. Place the frosting in a small plastic bag, and cut off one of the bottom corners of the bag. Pipe an even layer of frosting around the rim of a cone.
  2. Fill the cone with one color of the candies. Center the flat side of the cookie over the opening of the cone and press it on. Carefully turn over. Repeat with each cone and arrange the cone hats on a tray.

Harry Potter writes letters on parchment rather than Muggle writing paper, so Lowery made homemade parchment with her group, and then sent notes to her book club members on their parchment. Using the materials mentioned in the book evokes the spirit of Harry Potter for their get-togethers, says Lowery.

NOTE: A hair dryer will speed up the drying process and make the paper appear more distressed.

The parchment can be used to write secret messages that can be revealed with “Aparecium,” the spell to make invisible ink visible. Dip a cotton swab in lemon juice and write a message on the parchment. Let the paper dry completely. To read the message, remove a lampshade and carefully place the paper near the hot lightbulb. The acids in the lemon juice will darken when heated, and the writing will become visible.

CAUTION: Be careful not to let the paper get too close to the lightbulb.


  • White paper with torn edges, a few sheets per member
  • Tray or bowl
  • Dark tea or cold leftover coffee (about 1/2 cup per sheet of paper)
  • Paper towels
  • Handheld hair dryer (optional; see note)


  1. Tear the edges of a sheet of paper to make the parchment appear older, and crumple paper into a tight ball. Carefully unfold the sheet. Repeat until paper looks severely distressed.
  2. Soak paper in a bath of dark tea or coffee for approximately 5 minutes, or until thoroughly wet. (The longer you soak it, the darker the paper becomes.)
  3. Remove paper, unfold, and lay flat to dry. Brush as much water off as possible, then pat dry with a paper towel. Drying will take approximately 1 hour. If you are using a hair dryer, place the paper on a plate and dry for approximately 5 minutes.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince focuses more on Potions—the class where students learn to brew magical potions—than the previous books in the series, says Amber Lowery. “Harry is helped by a mysterious guide, the Half-Blood Prince, and never before has he done so well in Potions,” she adds. “Making your own potions, such as Felix Felicis, a potion that provides its drinker with liquid luck, is a great opportunity to mix a bit of science with your love of reading.”

Potion bottles are an easy project for any group, and make a colorful decoration for a desk, shelf, or mantel, says Lowery, who recommends creating a few potion bottles before the event for decorations.

NOTE: You cannot drink these potions!

It’s fine if some glue oozes out when you place the cork stopper in the bottle. For extra staying power, put additional glue around the outside of the cork at the top of the glass. The potions bottles can be turned over when they are dry, but over time the cork will absorb the oil and it may become slightly stained. The bottles are available at art- and craft-supply stores. Mineral oil is available at most drugstores.

To make a gold-colored potion reminiscent of Felix Felicis, mix six drops of yellow food color with one small drop of purple or green color.


  • Food coloring
  • 4- to 6-ounce glass bottles with corks (in various shapes and sizes), one per member
  • Mineral oil
  • Water
  • Glitter, and glitter stars and sparkles in a variety of colors
  • Towels
  • Glue
  1. Place 3–6 drops food coloring into an empty bottle.
  2. Fill one-third to one-half of the bottle with mineral oil.
  3. Slowly fill with water to the neck of the bottle (do not overfill). Add a few sparkles, glitter, and/or stars. Wipe the edges and inside of the bottle’s neck clean.
  4. Coat the bottom half of the cork with glue and place the stopper in the bottle. Allow to dry. The two liquids will remain separated and the water will be colorful, with the glitter and stars remaining suspended between the oil and the water.

Topics Discussed

  • Why Dumbledore wants Harry to learn about Lord Voldemort’s past
  • What your favorite bit of magic in the book is
  • Why Draco Malfoy hesitates at the end of the book
  • Where the horcruxes are hidden and if there is one at Hogwarts

Is Severus Snape evil?
We had a brilliant conversation about Snape’s character. So many of the kids thought Snape was definitely evil, but many adults thought he was acting on Dumbledore’s orders. We considered the conversation between Snape and Narcissa Malfoy as well as Snape’s interactions with Dumbledore. We discussed Dumbledore’s plea to Snape at the end of the book, Snape and Harry’s duel, as well as the two facts that Snape stopped another Death Eater’s Cruciatus Curse on Harry, and managed to get Draco away from the battle without injury. —AMBER LOWERY, LAKEVIEW’S LEAKY CAULDRON BOOK CLUB

Excerpted from “The Kids’ Book Club Book” by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. Copyright © 2007 Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. All rights reserved. Published by Tarcher/Penguin. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.