Travis Prinzi has written a book that has made me fall in love with fairy tales again.

I can remember reading Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle when I was younger and longing to be in one of those stories. Those kind of tales made things different. The Characters and their world were altered and changed because of the events that transpired. I wanted that kind of life, those kind of adventures, I wanted to be in those stories.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that fairy tales, well crafted fiction, beautiful stories have this kind of power: to make us want a better world and push us toward working for it.

In Harry Potter and Imagination- the way between two worlds Travis Prinzi picks and pulls at what J.K Rowling meant when she said

We do not need magic to change the world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

Travis asks us to look at one of the most popular book series of our time as more than some books for kids. He invites us too see J.K. Rowling’s seven volume tale as a classic fairy tale with some post-modern twists.

Harry Potter contains element of many genres of story- detective novels, school stories, 19th century British literature, adventure stories. But Harry Potter is primarily a fairy story- not according to the strict definition which distinguishes it from myth, legend, and heroic romance, but insofar as it brings readers into an encounter with Fairie, the magical “land” which Tolkien called himself a “wandered (or a trespasser).”

Travis Prinzi, Harry Potter and Imagination, pg 1

It’s unlikely Rowling would be too troubled even if Tolkien did deny Harry Potter the official status of fairy tale. She’s been quite upfront about the fact that as as far as fantasy goes, she’s attempting to “subvert the genre”. This is precisely what is happening when the postmodern social justice issue trumps, or at least stands alongside the traditional, ontological break between the Wizarding and Muggle worlds, between Faerie and our own world.

Travis Prinzi, Harry Potter and Imagination, pg 28

Navigating us through the streams of literature Rowling pulls from, Travis shows us that Harry Potter is a complex story that should rightly take it’s place in the serious readers library. Even though it is a classic story of fantasy and self sacrifice, Rowling does something unique with her wizarding wold. This is most evident in the characters she creates. Travis devotes the middle of his book to looking at four characters and what they mean for us and for the story: Harry, Voldermort, Dumbledore, and Snape. Travis invites us to see ourselves in these people, and to enter in to the story, experiencing it along side them.

This invitation to experience the story is Travis inviting us to imagine better. What do the themes, situations, conflicts, and resolutions we read about say about and mean for our world? By dealing with Harry Potter a “political fairy tale”, Travis brings to light the true power of this postmodern story: it helps is accurately see our lives and world and challenges us to imagine a better world and work towards that vision. Ultimately, Travis asserts that Harry Potter is a story about self-sacrificial love. It is that love that transforms the wizarding world, and it is that kind of love that will transform our own.

Travis is a fantastic, engaging writer. Even though his book deals with literary theory and things that I imagine professors would sit around talking about, he presents it in an accessible way that is actually fun to read. Harry Potter and Imagination is a must read for anyone who loves the Harry Potter series. You will be enriched and deepened in your love for the world Rowling has crafted… and probably challenged in what you can imagine our world to become.

Travis Prinzi is a author, speaker, and blogger. Be sure to catch him at his virtual pub for all things potter: The Hogs Head. You can pick up a copy of Harry Potter and Imagination at Look for his upcoming book, “I Want to Be Harry Potter” in the fall of 2010.