Coincidence at King’s Cross?

My son and I started a new book this week as his bedtime read-aloud. We’ve made it through about five chapters so far, and here are some key points:

  • There is a special platform at King’s Cross Station in London which leads to a hidden, magical world
  • Regular humans have no idea this magical world exists
  • Our hero is a nice boy being raised by people who are not his parents
  • He lives in the non-magical world, and doesn’t know that he belongs in the world of magic
  • He is not treated very well: he is considered the kitchen boy, works hard dawn to dusk, goes to a run-down, second-rate school, and sleeps in a cupboard
  • The favorite son of the family is a fat, spoiled boy of about the same age, who has a room overflowing with more toys and gadgets than he can possibly ever use or enjoy
  • The fat boy’s mom speaks to him in baby-talk (“Where does it hurt, my pettikins?”), sees him as sensitive and frail, and gives him everything he wants

Sound familiar?

Psych. This is The Secret of Platform 13, written by Eva Ibbotson, and published in 1994… which, by the way, is about three years prior to the introduction of the Boy Who Lived to the rest of the world.

Coincidence? I’m sure this was all hotly debated when Harry Potter first appeared in 1997 (so I’m a little late to the party). And seeing as I’m only about a third of the way through Platform 13, I’m in no position to state whether the similarities continue. It’s a little hard to believe that two different children’s authors came up with such similar elements within such a short time span without there being… oh, let’s call it cross-pollination.

I had a hard time buying it when the author of a bestselling series of vampire books claims to never have read any other vampire fiction. Really? Do you live in a media-less cave, perhaps? Of course, writers of children’s fiction read other writers’ works, and it’s natural to be influenced by what you’ve read, especially when it’s the good stuff. And as far as I can tell, based on the five chapters I’ve read, The Secret of Platform 13 is indeed the good stuff.

It’ll be interesting to see how the story plays out, and whether the seemingly familiar elements will continue to pop up. Somehow, I doubt that we’ll be seeing a wizarding school, a sport played on broomsticks, or a flying motorbike, but I could be wrong.

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