by Michael P Coleman
Some of my fondest memories of my eldest daughter growing up are the times we shared with Harry Potter. And it wasn’t just Harry: Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, Draco, Snape, and of course Volde…oops…HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED were all a part of a wonderful shared reading experience between the two of us.
I remember rushing to get caught up on the first couple of novels early one summer, as Janet anxiously awaited the publication of the new one, The Goblet of Fire I believe. Yes, we enjoyed the movies, too, but it was really all about the books for the two of us.
And it wasn’t just us. JK Rowling’s wizard world created a publishing phenomenon that we hadn’t seen in generations. Pre-orders for the novels broke records worldwide. I remember waiting for a plane at the airport one day immediately after one of the book’s release. Almost everyone at my gate was reading a copy of the almost 900 page hardback.
Back in the day, people lined up by the thousands at bookstores to count down to a midnight release of each novel. Many of those fans dressed up as their favorite characters for the events, and I will admit to attending one or two of them myself. (No, I didn’t dress up…but I wanted to.)
My daughter’s all grown up now (sniff), but I felt a tinge of excitement last spring when I read that an eighth tale in the series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, was on the way. I wondered whether the fervor would continue, almost 10 years after the publication of the last novel. Also, this 8th installment was to be a “script book”, not a traditional novel, and it wouldn’t be written by Rowling. I wondered whether kids (of all ages) would still have a hunger for Harry.
I hadn’t pre-ordered a copy, but as last Saturday’s sun set, I couldn’t resist heading over to Barnes & Noble at Arden Fair in Sacramento. Simply put, the store was a glorious, packed to the gills madhouse. I’d say Harry’s back, but I’m not sure he ever left. Literally hundreds of people — of all ages — were in the store two hours before the book went on sale, and dozens of others joined us before midnight when an announcement was made and a riotous cheer erupted throughout the store. Literally.
Barnes & Noble manager Erik Stevens said he wasn’t surprised by the level of excitement about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
“This crowd is very similar in size to our last midnight release event,” Stevens told me. “That said, this title set pre-order records for us. We’ve ordered additional copies, so tonight, everyone will get a book.”
That was great news for me, as I stood there with my little yellow numbered ticket, which gave me a place in line after the hundreds of red ticket-holders who’d preorder the book.
While I waited, I wondered what was behind the enduring appeal of these characters.
“There’s a lot of heart in these stories,” Stevens continued. “Some of these young parents were kids who read the books as they were growing up. And many of these parents read the books themselves to their kids years ago. One customer told me that for her, the memories of these release parties is a part of her association with the stories, so she wanted to recapture a little of that excitement at tonight’s event.”
That customer was in the right place Saturday night. Barnes & Noble hosted Harry Potter trivia games and other events during the evening, and there were Harrys, Snapes, Hermiones, and a Volde…a HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED or two in the crowd. In case customers had left their costumes behind, an assortment of wands and even a Sorting Hat was on sale!
While Jacynth Bucknor from New York wasn’t in costume for the event, she was waiting as anxiously as the rest of us for the clock to strike midnight. The vacationing mom was picking up the book for her 18 year old son.
“He’s been reading Harry Potter books for a long time,” Bucknor remembered. “He started reading at about six or seven. When he started reading the first one, I picked it up because I wanted to know what he was reading, and I really liked it. I loved Rowling’s creativity. She grabs your attention, and makes you want to read more.”
If you’ve got the hankering to read more, you’ll be in good company with the millions who’ve picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child since its release last weekend. Over two million copies were sold during the first 48 hours after its release, and the book’s on track to be the best seller of 2016, so it’s safe to call it another blockbuster. The stage production is playing to a sold out house in London well into 2017, and Rowling hopes to bring it to other countries worldwide.
I’ll wrap up reading the new book this weekend, and without giving anything away, I’ll say that, for me, the magic’s back. Set about twenty years after the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it’s great to see Harry, Hermione and Ron raising their kids, who more than continue the traditional of magical mischief. And I’ll also say that, you know, if Harry’s there, Volde…HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED can’t be far behind.
Also, if you’re a fan, this may really be our last shot at Harry. Rowling has said that with Cursed Child, Harry’s story is finished.
So grab a book, settle into your favorite chair, and take another trip to Hogwarts!
Pick up a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at Barnes & Noble or retail everywhere.
This blog was written by freelance writer Michael P Coleman. What he DIDN’T tell you was he bought a replica of Harry Potter’s wand, complete with illuminating tip, at Barnes & Noble, and he’s used the “Lumos!” spell every night this week in his living room. Swear to God. Follow him on Twitter — and pray for him.