Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Most Magical Community of Readers

[2:30 a.m.] I've just returned from the Harry Potter release party at my closest bookstore (30 miles away). As eager as I am to dive into Deadly Hallows, I want to savor the gathering a little longer. As I crossed the parking lot to the table with the wristbands, a woman with a 13 year old son in tow ran up to me, gave me a hug, and introduced herself -- I hadn't seen her since she was one of my 8th grade students. We had a lovely chat about books. As I was getting in the loooooong line, three of my departing 8th grade girls, decked out in Hogwart uniforms, raced to show me their books. We, along with the mom who drove them, spent an animated half hour discussing Harry Potter, speculating about the book, sharing J.K. Rowling trivia, recalling reading we did last year, and catching up on the work Amber has done this summer on the fantasy novel she's writing. The evening ended with perfect symmetry. As I was exiting the store, I ran into two juniors who were the last students I saw at the Half-Blood Prince release. In between these meetings I overheard serious and frivolous Harry Potter discussions, idle comments about many books spied as the line wound its way through the bookstore, as well as friend-to-friend book recommendations.

All the way home I was grieving that it is unlikely that there will be another literary gathering of this egalitarian magnitude, of this critical mass of diverse children and adults united in their love for a particular book and for books in general. Just imagine regular events of this kind of deep celebration, of impassioned talk about books among strangers, of intense concern for fictional characters and events that didn't really happen, of gathering to get a book we simply must have now.

Orson Scott Card's dedication in The Great Snape Debate reads "To all nonreaders who became readers because of the Harry Potter books." I would add thanks to all the Harry Potter fans who helped bring their nonreader friends into the reading community and show them the yellow brick road that leads from Hogwarts to everlasting choices of new reading adventures.

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