FREMONT — Saturday morning was a special one for Birch and Hazel, the traveling squirrel mascots for the children’s department at the Birchard Public Library, as they got to help local children participate in the “Sorting Hat” ceremony from the iconic “Harry Potter” books series.
The ceremony was held to help encourage and prepare young readers to “Experience the Magic of Reading,” this season’s theme of the library’s winter reading challenge, which officially begins on Tuesday, explained Lynne Wagner, youth services and outreach manager.
British author J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books and accompanying “Wizarding World” of magical literary fiction across a variety of media are still a cultural phenomenon even a quarter of a century after its initial release, inspiring generations of all ages.
“People are still really excited about it,” Wagner said. “(Rowling) created it, but the ‘Wizarding World’ universe very much took on a sort of life of its own.”
The broad appeal of the magical “Harry Potter” franchise not only led to a series of blockbuster films, but new versions of the books are still being worked on and released.
For example, Wagner said they are eager about each new release of the illustrated “Harry Potter” series, which can appeal to even younger readers and those more visually inclined who want to explore the “Wizarding World.” The first four in the series out so far are available at the library.
Adding more visual storytelling to the magically themed winter reading challenge, each Saturday the Birchard Public Library will be playing one of the eight Harry Potter movies in order.
On Sundays, older readers will be focusing on other literary magical worlds, such as "The Lord of the Rings" series, "The Hobbit" series, "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Princess Bride."
For many readers, Wagner said what magically themed books offer is an escape that truly resonates with them thanks to the extraordinary world-building of the authors.
“We have so much of reality already. A lot of us are reading to escape. We’re reading to experience magic — to see something new, to see new places, new people, new things,” she said. “Authors transport us out of the mundane and the ordinary that we deal with every day into a fantastical place where their everyday ordinary is anything but.”
While Saturday was the “Sorting Hat” ceremony, the scene usually changes weekly for squirrel mascots Birch and Hazel. Wagner suggested keeping an eye out for the small pair throughout the community, too, as they like to travel out and about.
On Friday, Birch and Hazel will be at Spiegel Grove to celebrate National Squirrel Appreciation Day and offering goodie bags for children that come out to celebrate with them.
This article originally appeared on Fremont News-Messenger: Birchard Public Library helping kids 'experience the magic of reading'