Potter fans give magic a go at JCC camp

Nathan Brown, 10, fingers his latest creation: a Monster Book of Monsters, a fuzzy, magical book/creature from the mythic world of Harry Potter. Brown carefully glues brightly colored puffballs and furry, brown cloth onto his book until he’s satisfied that it’s sufficiently magical.

Like Nathan, Harry and his pals are given monster books during a class at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The books, which are actually real, live monsters, teach them how to get along with the wizarding world’s more difficult creatures.

To make sure the book doesn’t bite him, Harry strokes its back before opening it, explains Dana Meyerson, another camper. Dana doesn’t pet her book, though.

“Well, of course it’s not actually alive!” she giggles.

While their books may not bite, the third- through sixth-graders at Hogwarts Camp are learning the same magical skills during the two-week session at the Albert L. Schultz JCC in Palo Alto that Harry did during his seven years studying wizardry.

The camp is run through Children Learning through Arts Programs (CLAP), a nonprofit performing-arts organization.

“We pretty much do all the classes that Harry Potter does,” Brown says, citing their classes on potions, spells and wand-making.

Chase Matityahu, a 10-year-old with curly light brown hair, suddenly shouts, “Revengio!” — a spell he concocted recently to give you one free hour to get back at your enemies. Other spells include “bedious,” to get your bed made, and “winguitate,” to make you fly.

JCC Sports, Camp and Recreation Director Tracy Schuleman says Hogwarts Camp, now in its second year, has been wildly successful. The ALSJCC hosted the camp for two one-week sessions during June and August — the first session was filled (20 campers is the maximum) and the second session was nearly full. AsidefromHarry Potter camp, Schuleman’s specialty camps include an Iron Chef camp, a computer camp and a spa camp. She explains that if a child begins at the JCC at 3 years old, by the time he’s 7 or 8, he’s bored. Specialty camps like Hogwarts keep campers engaged.

Adam Weiss, a 10-year-old camper who’s read all seven books, speaks enthusiastically about the character development in J.K. Rowling’s final Potter book.

His favorite characters are Harry and Lord Voldemort, the series’ villain. “I like evil characters also, because they’re powerful,” he says.

Though many characters die in the last book, Weiss feels it was the most compelling and suspenseful in the series.

Gabe Schacter-Brodie, 9, agrees wholeheartedly. He and his friend and fellow camper, Hanna Oberman, 10, waited together until 12:30 a.m. at Kepler’s Books and Magazines in Menlo Park the night the seventh book was released.

“It was one of the best books I’ve read,” he says sincerely. “It was just really exciting.”

The campers will put on a Harry Potter play complete with costumes the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 10. Hanna will play Harry and professor Filius Flitwick, Hogwarts’ Charms instructor.

Dana’s favorite character is Hermione, Harry’s female sidekick, and Ginny Weasley, the tough younger sister of Harry’s best friend Ron.

“I like how she’s strong,” Dana says of Ginny.

As the only one in her family to have completed the seventh book, Dana says it’s not easy to keep from blurting out how the story unfolds.

“It’s pretty hard to keep all the secrets,” she squeals. So as not to ruin the book for those who haven’t finished it yet, she says, “Whether Harry dies or not, the ending was very, very satisfying.”

Noa Oberman, Hanna’s 8-year-old younger sister, is still in the middle of the fourth book. But she can’t put it down.

“They’re so suspenseful, it’s like you can never really stop.”

Camp Director Amy Connors passes out scripts for Friday’s production of “Train to Hogwarts,” an early scene from Potter’s adventures. Her voice is commanding yet kind, and her energy is contagious. The kids flip through their scripts and eagerly begin practicing their lines.