- First paragraph of, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series has come up a few times in the last couple of weeks, so I felt compelled to write about it. The first time was when I was writing a post about names*, while my daughter was watching the fifth movie in the series. I heard a quote that would work perfectly for the beginning of my post, so I grabbed the corresponding book off the shelf and found it.
The next time the books came up was when I was checking one of the blogs I follow, which used the good parts of the series as a model for writers**. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen the Harry Potter books as an example. The other time was at a workshop at the NESCBWI conference I attended last year***. I devoured the information on how to write for a series, since I was in the middle of working on my own. Thinking about the plot and climax not only from book to book, but throughout the series was essential information for me. Because most people (like me) are familiar with the books, it was a perfect model.
The writer, Susan Fields, who writes a blog I follow asked the question, “What is your favorite book published in the last ten years?”**** This was my response in her comments section:
I agree with Amy - ONE BOOK!!??? I'm sitting here while my mind wrestles with the answer. Fine, I'll say the last Harry Potter book because it was a satisfying end to a fantastic series and the message of sacrifice is something children don't normally explore. And because on the eve the book came out, I went to Harvard Square with my children while they were dressed as Hogwarts students so we could take part in the festivities. At midnight I took my son to a local bookstore to have butter beer and pumpkin juice while we watched the entertainment. Oh, and to buy the book. How many books can boast that kind of experience?
I was a little late to join the fervor of the Harry Potter fans. Normally, I avoid things that become popular. Besides, I was in my 20s when the first book came out. Why would I read a children’s book at that age?
Then my son turned seven, and he wanted me to read the first book to him. I found that after I got used to stumbling over the funny names (it was weeks before I knew that I’d been mangling “Hermoine” – saying it Her-mee-ohn) and got used to her writing style, I was drawn to the story and the characters. When it was time to tuck my son in, I’d look at the book longingly, wondering what would happen next. If my husband took a turn to read and I missed what happened, I’d grill them. The situation became unsatisfactory, so I decided to read it on my own.
Hooked, I got the rest of the books. But two hadn’t been written, so I had to wait for the rest of the world for them to come out. The sixth-book ended at such an exciting point that I worried that something terrible would happen to J.K. Rowling before she could complete it. How could I live without knowing what happened to Harry, Hogwarts, and the entire wizarding world? (Geek.)
When that final book was scheduled, I preordered it from my local bookstore. My kids dressed up, but while driving to Harvard Square, my son had second thoughts. As we got closer, he said, “Nobody else is dressed.” I had a hard time convincing him we weren’t yet in the right place. Then some old man with a long, white beard – probably a Harvard professor, came strolling by. “Look, it’s Dumbledore,” I whispered. My son felt better.
We did see other costumed children, and my kids got a lot of attention. A band, Harry and the Potters played in Harvard Yard. When my little daughter got too sleepy, we went home. I woke my son around 11pm, wondering if he’d change his mind about buying the book at midnight. His eyes were shut while my husband put back on his Gryffindor tie.
My son perked up when we arrived at Porter Square Books. One man performed magic tricks outside the store. The best part was that nearly everyone was in costume – even adults. I kicked myself for not dressing too. (Who had I become?) When the Malfoy family passed by, everyone booed. Mad Eye Moody got a lot of attention. I saw one Luna Lovegood and lots of Harry Potters.
We got pumpkin juice, which tasted like pumpkin Pie in liquid form. Butter beer had potential, but was strange as well. At least the treacle tart was pretty tasty. At midnight, we waited on line to pick up our book. There were four tables that represented each house, and we had to get ours at the Hufflepuff (A little disappointed, but at least it wasn’t Slytherin). I took a picture of my son triumphantly holding the book with a satisfied smile. He begged for me to read it when we got home, but I told him he had to wait until morning. It was hard for me to wait too.
I read that book as soon as I could, and wound up finishing the entire 759 pages in a day, pausing many times to do mom things. When everyone went to bed, and I stayed up, determined to get to the end before I went to sleep. I think I finished around 2:00am.
There are many reasons I like the series. J.K. Rowling got boys to read again. The world she created is one many of us would want to live in (Without Voldemort). The ultimate message of sacrifice is venerable compared with the messages that children are getting from other sources (Cough: Twilight). But my biggest reason is that she made me want to write. I had recently read J.K. Rowling’s books when a talk given by another children’s author awakened something I’d suppressed*****. Right then, I decided that I wanted to write fantasy books for children.
Any time someone criticizes J.K. Rowling, I’m quick to defend her. Those books made my son excited to read. After the last one came out, when I told him I couldn’t continue to read aloud to him because it was bedtime, he took over and read it to himself. My first manuscript, which also has a wizard world, is (obviously) inspired by her series. If it ever gets published, I’ll defend it because it’s NOT Harry Potter.
Last night, a friend said that people accuse the Percy Jackson series of being a Harry Potter copy (Ridiculous). Of course, J.K. Rowling was accused of copying others. There are only so many ideas out in the world – every book resembles an earlier book, while being unique. J.K Rowling’s impact on literature and on my decision to write is undeniable.
So, I laugh too loudly when during television shows like “30 Rock”, a character talks about the intricacies of Quidditch and when in “The Simpsons” J.K. Rowling says, “Hello, muggle,” to Lisa. And tomorrow, I’ll Oooo and Ahhh over the costumes and props at Boston’s Museum of Science Harry Potter exhibit. At least I won’t go so far as to drag my family to Orlando Studios. Probably.
* The third post about names:
** From the blog “There are No Rules” by Jane Friedman”:
***My previous post on the workshop:
**** Her blog:
My previous post about the start of my writing journey: