July 16, 2005 in City

Hogwarts heaven

Jonathan Brunt and Jessica Wambach The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photo

Dylan Blair, 6, dressed as Dobby the house elf, and his sister, Holly Thomason, 9, dressed as Professor McGonagal, line up in front of Auntie’s Bookstore Friday night.
(Full-size photo)

1997

Year author J.K. Rowling introduced Harry Potter and his fellow students at Hogwarts School

of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

270 million

Copies of Potter books sold since he became

a global phenomenon.

672

Pages in the latest installment, “Harry Potter

and the Half-Blood Prince.”

1

Major character who dies in the new book.

$ 1 billion

Estimated fortune of Rowling, according to Forbes magazine. She is the richest woman in Britain.

Excited might be an understatement in describing the kids (and parents and college students and other eager adults) counting the seconds before they could open the newest Harry Potter novel.

“Harry Potter and the Half–Blood Prince,” the sixth in the series of the kid-wizard tales that have captivated a generation, was scheduled to be released at midnight Friday. Several area bookstores and other businesses held book release parties.

In the past couple of years, 9-year-old Sheridan Robak has read each of the Harry Potter novels at least twice.

“They’re really adventurous and magical,” said Robak, 9. “I go in my room and read for hours and hours.”

At River Park Square, Robak and dozens of other kids and their parents dressed up as Potter characters, drank potions made from soda, made chocolate wands and answered trivia questions, among several wizard activities.

Parents said they were thrilled to see their kids excited about reading.

Randy Carasco has read the Potter books at the urging of his 10-year-old son.

“He’s so excited about it, he wants his dad to share in the excitement,” said Carasco’s wife, Mary Christensen.

At a trivia booth, kids eagerly competed for gold coins they could trade for prizes. By the way the host struggled to decide who rang in first time after time, it appeared young readers are retaining much of what they’re reading in the J.K. Rowling tales.

How many players are on a Quidditch team? If you guessed seven, then you’re either a wizard or a well-informed muggle, as non-wizards are called in the books.

At another station, knowledge of Harry Potter saved Robak and her dad from eating vomit-flavored jelly beans. They were guessing flavors of candy available to Harry Potter and his friends. She recognized the orangish spectacled bean by sight.

“Thank you, you saved us,” Robak’s dad, the Rev. Ward Robak, said in relief after tasting ear wax and booger-flavored beans.

While some religious leaders – including Pope Benedict XVI before he became the worldwide leader of Catholics – have criticized Potter books, Rev. Robak, a Lutheran minister, said they are great reading for children.

“The aspect of witchcraft is not real in the books,” Robak said. “The messages that are sent through the stories are always positive and reinforce positive aspects of human nature.”

Harry fever also has hit Spokane Public Libraries.

Reference Librarian Dennis Fredrickson said 180 people put their names on the reserve list to check out the new book.

The library ordered 50 copies – about twice as many copies as is normal for a best-seller, Fredrickson said. The books arrived Friday.

“They’re going to try to process them and hopefully have them available (Saturday),” he said.

Participants in Spokane Public Schools’ summer reading program will have to wait a little longer to hear the tale of the half-blood prince, but 10 copies will arrive at the Stevens Elementary program via special delivery from Professor Dumbledore.

Well, not exactly Dumbledore. Spokane Postmaster Ed Schierberl will disguise himself in a black-and-gold wizard’s get-up similar to one the wise professor wears in the movies. He has no hopes of fooling the kids.

“I do have gray hair and a gray beard,” he said. “But my hair and my beard are much shorter than his.”

Schierberl said the Post Office is donating the books to demonstrate its commitment to lifelong reading.

“We’re trying to lend some support to the importance of reading,” he said. “Obviously, the Postal Service is largely the deliverer of the book.”

In fact, Schierberl said, mail carriers in Spokane will deliver about 600 books today, most to households that ordered them through Amazon.com.

While many postal employees will be busy delivering the books, the 56-year-old postmaster will spend his weekend flipping through the pages, choosing a passage to read at Stevens Elementary. He would have loved to get an early start, but he, too, had to wait anxiously for midnight.


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