The Potter Effect and the School for Wizards


You may have noticed the buzz in the last week on the Internet about the Potter Effect. I have my own take on this phenomenon. According to The Booklist Reader, the Potter Effect refers to the trend towards longer and longer books for children and young adults. No harm in that. However, the Potter Effect is more far reaching than simply kid’s reading and demanding longer books.
This effect has to do with the way Rowling’s series has shaped the literary experience of a generation. I’ve said it before—Rowling is responsible for encouraging more people to read than any author in the last two centuries—save maybe Charles Dickens. This, too, is part of the Potter Effect. And now that we have a generation of people who have grown up with the series, we are seeing the Potter Effect playing out in other interesting ways.
Here’s an example. My children’s literature students are often surprised to discover that J. K. is not the only, and certainly not the first to include a school for wizards as part of her story. The claim I’ve heard regarding the originality of the Harry Potter books because of its use of a school for wizards is unfounded. Don’t get me wrong. I love Hogwarts, too. It simply wasn’t the first literary school for wizards. Here are my favourites.
1.      HarryPotter, J. K. Rowling
I don’t need to say much more. However, I will say that Rowling does a masterful job of introducing Hogwarts for the first time in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry’s journey by train, his arrival in Hogsmeade, and his trip by boat across the lake in the dark to the school plays on every child’s sense of excitement and apprehension around starting school.
2.      TheMagicians, Lev Grossman
I’ve written recently on Lev Grossman’s series. While more adult than young adult, this series is worth every page. Brakebills College is also a fresh look at the trope of the school for wizards. Highly recommended.
3.      PercyJackson and the Olympians, rick riordan
While technically not a school for wizards, Camp Half-Blood is a summer camp for demigods in training. I’ve always thought of Percy Jackson as Rick riordan’s response to Harry Potter. Did you know that both characters have black hair and green eyes? Check out the series. Again, highly recommended.
4.      The EarthseaCycle, Ursula K. Le Guin
For me, this is the original. I read A Wizard of Earthsea at age eleven, and I had never read anything like it before. The school on Roke Island is a place of magic and learning, its only drawback being it’s a school for wizards, not witches. In other words, this is a school for boys. Still, highly recommended.
A fantasy series with a school is a relatively common trope. The school story in children’s and young adult literature has a long history, going back to Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s School Days. If you want a list of books or series that use a school for wizards, check it out on Goodreads.