When Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows was published in 2007, J.K. Rowling left millions of fans simultaneously satisfied and aching for more; the seven-book series that spawned a popular movie franchise and endless marketing tie-ins had a definitive conclusion, but the world Rowling created, with its wizards, witches, and hapless Muggles, was vivid enough to live beyond the pages. Hallows didn't leave much room for a sequel, but there's always expansion, and in her first published work since the series ended, Rowling does just that. The Tales Of Beedle The Bard is a collection of the most famous stories in the history of Wizarding; slight by design, it's a bit of fictional methadone for Potter fans still jonesing for their next fix.

Translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger, Tales features "The Wizard And The Hopping Pot," about a selfish young man who learns the value of helping others; "Babbitty Rabbitty And Her Cackling Stump," about a clever witch who outthinks a magic-hungry king; and three other fables, each with a moral for impressionable minds. Accompanying each story is a short essay by Albus Dumbledore; these essays, often longer than the pieces they comment on, provide context and offer insight into the mind of one of Rowling's most complicated characters. Those looking for hints about the future of the Hogwarts mob should take note, though; for obvious reasons, even Dumbledore's most revealing critiques describe events well before Harry's arrival at the school.

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Proceeds from Beedle go to the Children's High Level Group, an organization dedicated to helping "institutionalized and marginalized" kids; that and the collection's brevity make it more of an event than a major entry in the Rowling canon. But the lack of seriousness works to the book's benefit. While the Potter novels were often bogged down by overplotting, Beedle's tales are simple, direct, and, on occasion, surprisingly resonant. Most have traditional fairy-tale arcs, with cleverness and decency ultimately triumphing over adversity, but "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" forgoes the usual comforts in favor of a far darker conclusion. Beedle won't convert anyone not already caught in Rowling's spell, but for the previously bewitched, it's a pleasant reminder of what all that fuss was about.