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Bethan is queen of Potter queries

A Year 6 bookworm has won a seat at JK Rowling's press conference in July. Geraldine Brennan reports.

Bethan Roberts, a book-mad Year 6 assistant librarian at a small Lancashire village school, has claimed The TES's seat at JK Rowling's press conference to launch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in July.

Her application, selected from 123 Pottermaniac missives, was a joint effort by St Joseph's Roman Catholic primary school, in Barnoldswick, near Colne, which has 128 pupils and six teaching staff including the head, Catherine McDonald.

"I have only been at the school four years so I couldn't hope to say everything that was special about Bethan," said Mrs McDonald.

"I told the staff to go home at half-term and think about it."

The school's 200-word supporting statement for Bethan included contributions from deputy head John Devlin ("Every conversation I have with Bethan makes me hopeful for the future"); teaching assistant Paula Haythornthwaite ("Bethan would ask the one question no one else would ask"); and teacher Anne Lowes ("Bethan is a wonderful wordsmith").

Her 17 Year 6 classmates also cheered her on.

"They know they can trust Bethan to tell them all about it afterwards," said Mrs McDonald. "She won't miss a thing."

Bethan's father, Alan Roberts, who teaches secondary science at Habergham high school, in Burnley, has read all the Harry Potter books to the Roberts' four children.

Bethan graduated from hearing them read ("I was in Year 2 when I really started to understand") to reading them herself. "There is always a queue in our house when the new one comes out," she said. "We've ordered it and we all want to read it."

The TES asked schools to submit one question that their nominated pupil would like to ask JK Rowling, and Bethan has something that's been bothering her about Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: "Do glasses protect you from the Basilisk's stare and, if so, why does Moaning Myrtle die?" (For those whose knowledge of the second Harry Potter book is a little hazy, Bethan points out that Colin Creevey survives after looking at the fearsome Basilisk through a camera lens.) "I hope she finds out," said Mrs McDonald. "We'd all like to know."

We hope to publish more Potter fans' questions and a report on the judging on July 15, the day Bethan will join 69 other child reporters at Edinburgh Castle, including the TES Scotland correspondent, Ailsa Floyd of Lochgilphead high school, in Argyll and Bute, to hear JK Rowling read from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on the stroke of midnight at Edinburgh Castle.

First, Ms Rowling has a few weeks to chew over this query from Joshua Reynolds of Year 8 at Tredegar comprehensive, in Blaenau Gwent: "In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, during the wizard duel between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort a phenomenon occurs, namely priori incantatem. This effect apparently happens when a wand meets its brother and two spells are cast at the same time. During this phenomenon Voldemort's wand appears to produce images of people that have been murdered by him.

"They appear to be connected to Harry, either through his dreams, visions, friendships or family. Since these are now visible, the question arises: where have they been resting? A wizard afterlife, a grave, a spirit world?

"Therefore, where do wizards go when they die?"

And Emmie de Falbe, a Year 6 pupil at Mount House school, in Tavistock, Devon, wants to know: "Are Cho Chang and Harry really in love or something - or is it just on and off?" Easier to ask, perhaps, than to answer.


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