Ilvermorny's granite castle may be fictional, but there's a granite tower at the summit.
ADAMS, Mass. — Local author Kristen Demeo has written "Shrouded in The Mist" to show kids the facts behind the fictional Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry located on the summit of Mount Greylock.
When Demeo heard that J.K. Rowling, the author of the "Harry Potter" book series, chose Mount Greylock to be the home of her fictional North American wizardry school, she felt she could harness a teachable moment.
"It connects kids with local history and helps them learn through a subject that may really interest them," Demeo said. "I hope kids realize that fantasy is real and there is a 'granite castle' in the mist up there but there are facts behind it."
Demeo said the book is a detective story that challenges children to engage in the fantasy, yet encourages them to search for the local history that she feels Rowling researched before releasing her short story about Ilvermorny.
Demeo said she connected the castle Rowling wrote about to the War Memorial Tower and the trails the school's founder Isolt may have actually taken to find the summit and the true stories behind them.
She also ran with the idea of a school offering an equal opportunity to all wizards and witches no matter their race, gender, pure-blood, or mud-blood and tied it into Adam's famed daughter Susan B. Anthony.
"She was a person that believed in democracy and equal rights for men and women and education," she said. "So when they are done, they may still have questions because there is real history."
Demeo said she not only covered the local history and the history of the mountain itself but took advantage of every teachable moment she could find.
"I talk about going up there and the forest up there is a taiga boreal forest. The lowest in North America, and on the top of the mountain, the trees have an almost magical look to them," she said. "I talked about the mist and why it looks that way so kids understand why there is a mist."
A taiga is an ecosystem, or biome, of coniferous trees and the Mount Greylock ridgeline is home to the only one in Massachusetts. The state reservation holds some 555 acres of old-growth forest and a biome of hardwoods up to 350 years old.
Demeo said she hopes the book can help educators use fantasy to teach local history. She wants it to open doors for students and expand the fantasy universe to their own corner of Massachusetts.
"It gives them a factual base but with the possibility of fiction existing up there so you aren't denying someone their fantasy but you are engaging them at a moment when Rowling has ignited their interest," she said.
She said adults who enjoy the Harry Potter series may also gain something from the book. She said it is very open-ended and asks the reader to explore the mountain and his or her own community and maybe even figure out how to get to Ilvermorny.
"I want to get people up there to walk it, and experience it, and see what that author was trying to envision and did she do some research?" Demeo said. "I think she did."
Demeo said her book can be purchased at Berkshire Emporium in North Adams, Smalls Shop and the Susan B. Anthony Museum Gift Shop in Adams and H.D. Reynolds General Merchandise in Cheshire.
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