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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 5, 2000. All rights reserved.

World Goes `Wild About Harry’

E-mail: PatSummers@princetoninfo.com

So will the nice but late-blooming 14-year-old orphan

boy with a troubled family background succeed despite his past? And

how will adolescence affect him — and the girls in his life? Will

his boarding school continue to be the right place for him, even though

some people there seem determined to thwart him? Can he excel both

in his studies and on the playing field — or, rather, in the playing

air?

We’re wondering, of course, about Harry Potter, hero of J.K. Rowling’s

three best-selling novels for children of all ages (U.S. 1, November

17, 1999). Harry is the bespectacled, green-eyed, all-British boy

with wizardly bents — or wizard with boyish bents — and a

lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. This is the week when, with millions

of other Potter fans around the world, we can begin to answer these

and other burning questions. Here is where the race is to the swift,

and fast readers will have the advantage. Potter `Number IV’ —

the rumored title of which is "Harry Potter and the Goblet of

Fire" is said to be more than 700 pages, or twice the number of

any of its predecessors.

In case you hadn’t heard, Saturday, July 8, is release date for "Harry

Potter IV," as it has been called while even its title was classified

`top secret.’ But the marketing drums have been beating for months,

heralding the simultaneous release day in England, home to both Rowling

and her literary sensation, and the U.S.

The pre-publication brouhaha in England has included a steam locomotive

called the "Hogwarts Express" sitting at Gate 9-3/4 in Kings

Cross Station, London. From this fictitious platform in hyperspace,

Harry and his fellow students leave for school each fall. On release

day, author Rowling will board the train for a week-long tour of eight

cities, where she will meet children and sign copies of No. IV.

In this country, library reserve lists for No. IV have reached epic

proportions — which is only right for a book series that has already

reached epic status — and a gargantuan press run of almost 4 million

copies at $26 apiece.

Here in Mugglesville, our own bookstores and children’s toy stores

are celebrating the buying spree with a panoply of special events

beginning on Friday evening and extending through Sunday. And out

in cyberspace Amazon.com is keeping its own "Muggle count"

showing its own advance orders for No. IV at 265,000 and counting.

(Is it any wonder, scoff dads and other investors, that with loss-leader

discounts and express delivery the e-retailer’s stock is plummeting.)

And who knows if the printing of some 3.9 million copies will be enough.

Sure, it’s the biggest book launch in publishing history, surpassing,

by at least a million, the number of books printed for a Michael Crichton,

Stephen King, or John Grisham release. But this is Harry Potter, and

reportedly just half these books are bought for readers under 14.

Just a few more days till we can find out what J.K. Rowling has concocted

for us this time around. In speaking about the newest book, fourth

in a proposed seven-volume series, she has indicated she will be true

to her original vision of Harry’s Potter’s school days. She has warned

that, as happens in real life, some characters will die, and we will

learn surprising things about others. Everyone will be a year older,

for better, worse, or raging hormones.

We’ll soon learn about Harry’s summer before his return to Hogwarts

School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; how his messenger owl, Hedwig,

and his special buddies, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger — and

Hagrid, the gamekeeper — are doing; whether Hogwarts has hired

a new teacher for the "Defense Against the Dark Arts" course,

now that Professor Lupin has been forced to leave; if Draco Malfoy

is still up to his bad old tricks; and how the Quidditch competition

season will shape up for Harry’s house team, Gryffindor, with Harry

astride his Firebolt broomstick.

Then too, maybe we’ll hear more about Harry’s only surviving family

— Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and nasty cousin Dudley, and what’s

new in Hogsmeade, now that Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, has given

permission for Harry to visit on weekends. The whole time, we’ll be

on guard for whoever, or whatever, will menace our spunky Harry Potter

this time around — and we’ll count on him and his friends to thwart

those pesky forces of evil.

— Pat Summers

Harry Potter Party, Borders Books, 601 Nassau Park,

609-514-0040. Events begin at 7 p.m. with a reading from Book IV,

followed by activities and costume contest at 11 p.m.; book sales

at midnight. Saturday includes 9 a.m. "Breakfast at Hogwarts"

and a 3 p.m. owl program by the Mercer County Wildlife Center. Friday

& Saturday, July 7 and 8.

Harry Potter Midnight Madness, Barnes & Noble, MarketFair,

609-897-9250. Late-night event features a costume contest, with judging

scheduled for 11:45 p.m. Free coffee and kid treats; the store stays

open to 1 a.m. on Saturday, July 8. Friday, July 7.

Harry Potter IV Launch, Micawber Books, 114 Nassau

Street, 609-921-8454. The Nassau Street bookstore will be open bright

and early with copies of J.K. Rowling’s new tome. Saturday, July

8, 9 a.m.

Harry Potter Weekend, Zany Brainy, 3495 Route 1,

The Shops at Windsor Green, 609-987-8886. Magical games and trivia

contests, Saturday and Sunday, July 8 and 9.


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