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Brother's Wish to Help His Sister Is Winning Formula in Essay Contest

In the Harry Potter competition, the 8-year-old Camarillo boy writes of a magical cure for autism. He earns a trip to London.

June 11, 2003|Lynne Barnes | Times Staff Writer

Daniel Boyce likes Harry Potter.

And he loves his little sister.

So when the 8-year-old Camarillo boy heard about an essay contest asking kids what magical power they would choose if they went to Harry's school, it wasn't hard to come up with an answer.

Of all the powers taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Daniel wrote, he would choose the ability to make a magic potion to cure his 5-year-old sister, Suzie.

Suzie is autistic.

Daniel's essay, one of 12,000 submitted by children nationwide, was among the 10 chosen by publisher and contest sponsor Scholastic Inc.

The prize is fairly magical: a trip to London for Daniel and his mother, Nancy, to hear Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling read from her newest book at Royal Albert Hall on June 26. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" comes out June 21.

Daniel is looking forward to the trip, in part because he'll get to check out some Harry Potter locales.

Prior to this, the farthest the Dos Caminos Elementary School second-grader had traveled was South Dakota, where he visited Mt. Rushmore last summer.

His mom is happy about it too, but for different reasons.

"He spends so much time sitting at therapists' offices" while Suzie, who has been diagnosed with mild to moderate autism, a neurological disability, is undergoing treatment, Nancy Boyce said. "We don't get to do anything that's just special for Daniel."

For instance, because Suzie wouldn't have been able to handle the crowds at a recent recital at Daniel's school, the family was unable to attend.

For the record, Daniel's favorite Harry Potter book is No. 2, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," and his favorite character is Harry.

Daniel's teacher, Cheryl Parker, said Tuesday that she had first read the essay last week after receiving a copy of it in an e-mail from a school librarian.

"When I looked at it, I thought of Daniel," Parker said. "He's a gifted little boy and a real Harry Potter enthusiast."

The winning essay wasn't Daniel's first crack at serious writing, Parker said. Her students regularly write brief narratives and letters, assignments that Daniel thoroughly enjoys, along with his other favorites -- reading and math.

After Daniel and his family learned of his contest win last week, Daniel told his classmates and then read the essay to the entire student body during an assembly, Parker said.

He even answered a few questions posed by the principal about the essay, she said.

Principal Paige Fisher said some students were teary-eyed, but everyone clapped with enthusiasm after hearing the story.

"It was just so well-received," Fisher said. "I think it is a tribute to his sensitivity and not just for the fact that his sister has autism, but for the fact that he wanted to come up with a potion to fix everyone."

When he gets to London, Daniel wants to check out King's Cross rail station. That's where the boy wizard and his friends catch the train to Hogwarts from a track invisible to those who aren't bewitched.

Closer to home, he's looking forward to reading his four-paragraph essay to the board of the Pleasant Valley Elementary School District.

In it, he says he'd like to make a Laughing Potion that Suzie could drink so the sound of loud laughter wouldn't bother her and a Crowd Potion so she could go to places like Disneyland without crying.

But best of all, he said, "would be the Autistic Cure Potion. I would give some of it to Suzie, and then give the rest to other kids with autism. If Suzie didn't have autism we could go to the same school. She could just be a normal kid."


Times staff writer Holly Wolcott contributed to this report.

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