Bookmarks Issue: 
J.K. Rowling
Award Year: 

A-The Tales of Beedle the BardJ. K. Rowling is best known as the creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series (starting with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), which has collectively sold more than 400 million copies.

The Story: Anyone who has read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will recognize this title from the last of Harry’s adventures, in which the young wizard and his cohort seek clues from a fairy tale that originates from this collection. Now, as in previous books like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, Rowling takes a piece of the Hogwarts universe and brings it into our own. Harry does not play a role any of the tales here; rather, they are presented as a new translation by his friend Hermione Granger and are followed by commentary by Albus Dumbledore, Hogwarts’s beloved headmaster. Like the previous books in the Potter series, the proceeds from the sales of Beedle will support the Children’s High Level Group, a charity founded by Rowling and Baroness Emma Nicholson.
Children’s High Level Group. 110 pages. $12.99. ISBN: 0545128285

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"It’s all the fun of fairy tales straight—which, no matter how old we are, do have a way of reeling us in, with their triads of brothers or needy witches, their fabulous fountains—along with reliving the fun of the Potter books and the enjoyment of Rowling being witty, knowing and sometimes just plain thoughtful about the issues the stories raise." Mary Harris Russell

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"What the book offers in abundance is the best of Rowling herself: Her wit and wisdom, her quirky and sometimes creepy characters, her incomparable talent for delving into the complexities of life without moralizing. … Even those who have never read a Potter book will find resonance in these tales, and gems aplenty." Gail Rosenblum

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Rowling’s fairy tales are more Grimm than Disney—in a good way. (Parents be warned: ‘The Warlock’s Hairy Heart’ is great but terrifying.)" Deirdre Donahue

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"As with the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, Beedle’s tales are fables with fundamental ethical principles at their core, and aimed at teaching children to be thoughtful, brave and good. … Through Dumbledore’s commentary, Rowling also manages to make some quietly pointed and funny remarks on issues such as prejudice and the intolerance her books have elicited from some quarters." M. E. Collins

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"[W]hile this small book is long on cleverness, it is short on charm. It’s a shame Scholastic couldn’t replicate the handcrafted edition Rowling made for her friends. If it had, Beedle the Bard could have been a real gift for fans." Jeff Jensen

Guardian (UK) 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Yet the fairy story is a tricky form, and it is not clear that Rowling’s inventiveness and humour are suited to the genre. … The humour is in Dumbledore’s notes." John Mullan

Critical Summary

It is easy to be cynical about The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Harry Potter fans may see it as a inadequate substitute for the delayed release of the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Muggles—you ordinary, nonmagical humans—may wonder why another Hogwarts book is necessary, even if one of the stories in this collection, "The Tale of the Three Brothers," plays an important role in the final battle between Harry and Voldemort (in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). But critics found much in this book for even nonfans to admire—from the subtle moral messages of the tales to the voice which Rowling allows to emerge in the tongue-in-cheek commentaries. A few critics commented that the collection lacks Rowling’s usual charm and originality, but most fans will be happy to have a few more moments with Dumbledore.