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July 20, 2007

Harry Harry Harry

Posted by admin

This week I feel like I have a third son whose name is Harry Potter. Around our house, around the office and well, just about everywhere you look, it's all about Harry. While the news was this week was all about leaks and early shipments, I wish the focus was where it should be --- on the fact that millions of people will be spending this weekend doing what my husband has titled, "Harrybernating," reading Harry Potter.

You have kids lining up to read. You have teens who grew up on these books eagerly awaiting the ending. Krista, our summer intern at the office who will be a senior in college this year, cannot wait to start reading on Saturday and her friends all feel the same way. They have not outgrown Harry. You have adults who are looking forward to sharing a book with their children. Children who have not yet discovered the series will in the future be able to read all seven books with no anticipation. Imagine that for those of us who waited up to two years between releases.

As for leaks and early released books, the harsh reality is that the world has changed in these last 9 years. It's harder to keep a secret and with the media all scrambling to be FIRST, why would the stakes to get that not be higher now? So the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun can claim those rights and whoever spent an evening photographing the book and putting it up on the Internet can say, "That was ME!" But did any of this diminish the pleasure for readers? I truly think not.

Sure I have done everything I can NOT to learn the ending --- and I will continue to do that. I also will try to read fast lest someone tell me, but even if I do learn the end, the true joy will be reading how the final chapters unfold.

My older son reminded me I read the advance reading copy of the second Harry Potter book on the beach in Sea Island, GA in the summer of 1999, when he was nine. He remembers me passing it to him saying I thought he would enjoy it. He had not yet read the first one. I had forgotten that, but clearly that memory was a special one for him. He showed me the ARC that was stowed on his Harry Potter bookshelf to remind me and chuckled thinking how Scholastic used to make ARCs to spur interest in the title. For the record, he has every version of each book --- hardcover, paperback and audio, except the leather bound editions with just enough room for Book 7. And my younger son has a matching shelf. And we have all the hardcovers in our family room as well.

It's been a fun journey to tonight. We launched in the summer of 1998 just as Harrymania was starting so I feel in some ways we have grown up with him. Our teen readers who were 10 reading the first book, are now 19. And from our Harry Potter poll on, and, we see the enthusiasm has not waned. More than 10,000 people have weighed in.

Today I talked to a mom who has a nine-year-old son. She thought he was ready to start on the books and she was making a plan for this. She was going to give her son the first book on audio and then watch the movie and then see if he wanted to read or listen to the next book. She was thinking about this like she was planning a wonderful event for him. It was great to hear that --- and to think about the future generations who will love reading this book.

So I look forward to tonight as a celebration knowing that I as a reader have been part of something very special these past nine years. The stories that surround these books will be shared for years to come. In a time where so much of the media is caught up in trivial celebrity, it feels quite lovely and special that a book --- and its author --- would get this kind of mention and notice.

As for Harry's legacy of creating a whole generation of lifelong readers? That never was its goal. But think of all the children who read seven books and chatted about them for hours and let's call this a victory. There are a lot of YA and children's fantasy authors who have seen a lot more notice and acclaim for the fact that Harry Potter existed. Another reason to say thanks today.

Enjoy tonight...and enjoy reading these last 784 pages. Trust that for all the insanity of these past weeks, we are going to miss Harry Potter. It's been a great ride.