Welcome to July, otherwise known as HARRY POTTER MONTH! If I were running the show that alone would suffice for an Important Announcement. Since I'm not, here's the official midnight release party announcement of the week: We'll be running Harry Potter MadLibs! (Side note: I just received the Harry Potter coloring sheets yesterday and they are fantastic.) Lastly, there are still spots open for the fan fic open mic. Sign up here! This week's blog post comes from Bookseller Tildy:
Like most millennials, I consider myself part of the Harry Potter generation. All the typical things you read about how we grew with Harry, hitting puberty, dating, growing up and finding out life isn’t fair, all of that was true for me. I went to the midnight release parties and watched as my entire town became a part of the magical world. I reread the books over and over, meticulously studying details while waiting for the next installment to release.
But Harry Potter was more than just an individual reading experience. A few months after I had been given the first book, attempted to read it, and put it back on my overcrowded shelf, my dad decided that he would read a few chapters a night to my sibling and me. That’s where the magic truly started: in listening to my father bring Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and the entire magical world to life. It became a nightly tradition, from that first book to the very last “All was well.” Even when I was older, and wanted to devour each new book on my own as fast as possible, I would still sit and listen to my dad read it to us before bed, whether or not I had read ahead in my downtime.
In the nightly readings, new discoveries were made as a family, new words, pronunciations, and places. Thanks to the Americanizing of the first in the series (Sorcerer’s Stone vs. Philosopher’s Stone), it wasn’t until my fourth or fifth reading when I heard mention of King’s Cross Station in London on the radio that I realized that this engulfing magical world was in the UK and not some unmentioned location in the US.
Hearing and debating my dad on the pronunciation of the names of two of the series’s most important characters are among my favorite childhood memories. Was is “Her-my-one” or “Her-me-own?” (Neither, of course.) How on earth do you pronounce “Sirius?” (Sir-rye-ee-us? No again). How odd it was, once the movies began to be released, to hear him pronounce the names correctly and realize that these were not names contrived by Rowling (e.g. the historian Hermione Lee or the dog star, Sirius, from whence the character’s name and Animagus came).
This family tradition, combined with my multiple scourings of the texts, resulted in not only relating to Harry and his friends as a character, but the series becoming a sort of security blanket. If I was sad, angry, bored, or in need of entertainment, I could count on the world JK Rowling had created to escape or distract me. I know that I am not alone in this; a friend used Harry to escape from the harshness of her parents’ divorce; another read the books to help her cope with the loss of her grandfather. In that way, the Harry Potter series was more than just an exciting media phenomenon for so many of us. It truly resonated with us and helped us grow into young adults. When the series ended in 2007, followed by the release of the final movie in 2011, many of us who had read the books throughout our childhood were officially legally adults.
I’ll never forget the final movie premiere. I was working at an overnight summer camp and counselors had a 1am curfew for nights off, and I was tasked with asking our director if those of us who had the night off could have an extended curfew to go to the midnight premiere. I even used the phrase “end of our childhood” (I was nineteen at the time). Sadly, we were rejected. It feels fitting that in order to see the last movie, I had to put my job first, and see it on a non-premiere night, although I was sorely bitter at the time.
With the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the series is changing in the same way we change even when we’re grown. It’s the script of the play and not a narrative story. Of course I’m excited to read it! But there is comfort in knowing that because it’s not the same as before—it’s not the security blanket I loved so dearly. I can always return to those books, and relive the old magic, while still appreciating the new magic that comes in this mature form, and the warmth it brings.