Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"The most remarkable literary phenomenon of our time"

Like the rest of the world I've been eagerly waiting for the movie of the 7th Harry Potter book to come out. I'm especially glad that they're breaking it into two movies instead of trying to whittle the story into just one - I only wish they weren't being released so far apart. But thinking about it reminded me of how we first came to know Harry Potter, so forgive my rambling reminicences (and feel free to add your own in the comments).

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)It must have been 1999 when I saw an article in the newspaper talking about a book (of all things!) which was causing something of a sensation. The second book had just been printed in the United States and the third would be out soon. It was about an orphan boy who finds out he's a wizard and goes off to a boarding school. It's not like that basic storyline hasn't been used a million times before, but the article made the book sound very good. I read the article to Jamie and a few days later she saw the first two in a store and pre-ordered the third thinking it might make a nice gift for Braiden for Christmas. After all, we've always been eager to encourage reading in our kids. We hid them away and then almost forgot we had them when Christmas came.

In the meantime, though, I remember seeing stories of parents insisting schools ban the books. Semi-hysterical people were claiming the books were dark, loathsome, and EVIL. How silly such hyperventilating sounds now! The only time I remember being concerned was in the 4th book when I wondered if the story would become too scary for little kids. Nah, Braiden and I both loved them. Later I read them to Katie until she couldn't wait for me to read each night and began reading them herself (which was probably in 2nd grade!). We ended up with three copies of book 7 because everyone wanted to read it at once. The whole family has listened to some of them on audio book as well, and everyone looks forward to each movie.

I remember a co-worker who'd believed the nonsense about the books being EVIL. She borrowed the first book from me and before long was caught up in the series. Other friends have assumed that since they're "kids books" an adult would have no interest in them - they soon found themselves reading all the books and catching up on the movies, too. I remember downloading the movie trailer before the first one came out, and thinking it all looked perfect and how enchanting the music sounded. I remember some of the times we waited in lines on opening nights - the kids sometimes even dressed in robes with wands and little scars drawn on their foreheads. I remember how stunned I felt at the end of the 6th book.

But most of all I think of how much we enjoyed reading them. There are plenty of good books out there, but not many that are as much fun as Harry Potter was (and it's a bit sad to realize that you can't read them again for the *first* time).

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