Harry Potter fans ready to be spellbound

The latest book in the series will be released Saturday morning.

You’ve got five more days to rest up, Harry Potter fans — or to re-read the first five books.

Because next weekend, we know what you’ll be doing.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth installment of J.K. Rowling’s popular book series, will be released at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

And if previous releases are any indication, the event is likely to be another wand-waving, face-painting, chocolate-frog-eating, spellbinding celebration, followed by several days of nose-in-your-book silence.

“We’re excited,” said Sheila Malay, a Wichita mother of three.

She and her oldest daughter, 16-year-old Katie, have read all the Harry Potter books and have a copy of the new one reserved at the Barnes & Noble bookstore where Malay works. The family plans to attend the Friday night release party at the store.

“We get caught up in the excitement. These are wonderful, wonderful stories,” Malay said. “It’s one of those things where, no matter how big the book is, you have to force yourself to slow down because you don’t want it to end.”

The publishing world is just as excited for the release of the 672-page “Half-Blood Prince,” dubbed “HBP” by Potter aficionados. The book’s retail price is $29.99, but many booksellers and other retailers plan to discount it.

The book’s U.S. publisher, Scholastic Inc., has ordered an unprecedented 10.8 million copies for its first printing — 2.3 million more than “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which came out in 2003.

That means it probably won’t be hard to find a copy this weekend, even if you don’t have one reserved.

“We have many, many more copies available to us, so we expect that anyone who wants one will be able to get it,” said Larry Williams, manager of the Barnes & Noble on North Rock Road.

“But we’re still encouraging people to reserve a copy. That’s the best way to make sure you’ll get one.”

At the Wichita Public Library, 180 people already have placed holds on the 100 copies the library has on order.

Tracie Partridge, manager of the children’s section at the downtown library, says dozens of kids and teens have attended the library’s Harry Potter book discussion series this summer. And she expects a good turnout for one Thursday that will focus on Book 5, “Order of the Phoenix.” (Registration is required for the 2:30 p.m. event for teens. Call 261-8500.)

“The way J.K. Rowling writes, she’s created an alternate universe, and she pretty much immerses people who read it into that universe,” Partridge said.

“She has created a character that people can identify with, and that’s one reason it continues to be so popular. It’s neat to see a child who triumphs over evil.”

Readers will have about two weeks to plow through “Half-Blood Prince” before the discussion of that novel, which is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. July 28 at the Evergreen branch.

Ian Bailey, 13, an eighth-grader at Mayberry Middle School, started reading Harry Potter books in second grade. He said he identifies with Harry.

“Since he’s an orphan and I’m an only child, I kind of know how he feels,” Ian said. (Although let’s be clear: His parents aren’t dreadful Muggles who make him live under the stairs.)

Ian’s fascination with the character and stories has only grown through the years, and he plans to be among the first to get a copy of “Half-Blood Prince” this weekend.

“The last one that came out, I read that in about two days,” he said.

Fourteen-year-old Mahwish Khan also is anticipating the latest Harry Potter installment. But she’s still reeling from the last book, in which a major character was killed.

“It was so, so sad,” she said. “I had to stop reading a few times because I just kept on crying.”

She’s eager to find out what happens to Harry next. But she won’t be in line at midnight Friday to buy the new book.

“I usually just go to Sam’s real early in the morning, because they have the cheapest price,” she said.

Philip Nel, associate professor of English at Kansas State University and author of “J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Novels: A Reader’s Guide,” is just as eager as the rest of the world to find out the secrets revealed in “Half-Blood Prince.”

For starters: Who is the half-blood prince?

Could it be Crookshanks? Viktor Krum? Seamus Finnigan? Hagrid?

What role will he play?

No one but J.K. Rowling knows.

Nel, who teaches a course on Harry Potter and contemporary British fantasy at K-State, has his own theory.

“I would say that the safe money is on Godric Gryffindor,” he said. “I could be wrong, of course.”

Sheila Malay and her family don’t want to guess. They’ll find out soon enough, and they don’t want anything to spoil the mystery. In the meantime, they’re planning their costumes for Friday’s festivities.

Two years ago, Malay dressed as a Quidditch instructor, complete with black robe and whistle. Katie was Fleur Delacour, the blond, blue-eyed exchange student at Hogwarts. Thirteen-year-old Sarah was Hermione. “And I have to tell you, she looked dead-on, just like her,” mom says.

But the kicker was little brother P.J., who Sarah transformed into Nearly Headless Nick.

“It was a great time, really fun,” Malay said. “I’m sure it will be again.”

A beginner’s guide to Harry Potter

What’s happened to Harry so far? Here are quick summaries of the first five books:

• “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — Harry Potter, left as a baby on his nasty aunt and uncle’s doorstep after his parents are killed by the evil wizard Voldemort, has no idea that he’s a wizard. Not until his 10th birthday, that is, when he’s whisked away to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, where his magical adventures begin.

• “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” — When Harry returns to Hogwarts for his second year, chilling voices whisper to him from the walls, and strange, scary things begin to happen. At first, Harry thinks a mean classmate is out to get him. Then the walls tell him: “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.” Harry and his Hogwarts friends must find out what it all means.

• “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” — Harry’s now 13 and learning more magic. When he accidentally uses his power to torment a dreadful aunt, he fears he’ll be punished upon his return to Hogwarts. But his problems are much bigger than that. An evil wizard who escaped from prison is after Harry, and he doesn’t know why.

• “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” — Harry’s life is in constant danger. Now 14, he’s dealing with the stresses of growing up. He develops a crush. He and buddy Ron have a falling out. And to make matters worse, the “battle of good vs. evil” has intensified.

• “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” — After a lonely summer, 15-year-old Harry returns to Hogwarts, where the adults all seem evil, misguided or simply powerless. Harry, in full-blown adolescence, experiences outbursts of rage, a nearly debilitating crush, and the blooming of a powerful sense of rebellion.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Witchita Eagle, USA
July 10, 2005
Suzanne Perez Tobias

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday July 11, 2005.
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