Fans of Harry Potter await midnight release of 7th book

07/20/07 12:00AM By Ross Sneyd
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(Host) Fans of Harry Potter have to wait until the stroke of midnight to get their hands on "Deathly Hallows," the final book in author JK Rowling's series.

To pass the time, wizards of all ages are dressing up as their favorite characters and enjoying pre-release parties at bookstores, libraries and museums across the state.

VPR's Ross Sneyd has the story.

(Sneyd) Young Harry's and Hermione's fanned out across Shelburne Museum this week, as it was transformed into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Youngsters were presented wands as they arrived at Platform nine-and-three-quarters. They were sorted into their Hogwarts "houses." They had a glass of "butter beer" at the Three Broomsticks Tavern.

The scene at the museum is being recreated at bookstores and libraries around Vermont and around the world as the Harry Potter phenomenon reaches its climax.

There's a "Horcrux" scavenger hunt at Northshire books in Manchester and "herbology" classes at the Flying Pig Book store in Shelburne.

Jane Knight is the children's coordinator at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier.

She says this is more than hooplah. It's a celebration of the excitement about books that British writer J-K Rowling has created. She's invented tales of dragons and wizards, and death eaters and, well, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

(Knight) "In terms of the reader's point of view, it's just been a wonderful, fantastic journey."

(Sneyd) By all accounts, it's been a "wonderful" experience for libraries and bookstores, too, because it's drawn children into books.

McKay Larson has worked in bookstores and publishing and now serves on the board of the Windsor Public Library. She organized a weekend fund-raiser for the library based on a Harry Potter theme.

She says the hype that's built up around Harry Potter is good for kids in part because they see how much fun their friends and adults can have with literature.

(Larson) "With a book like Harry Potter, which is really a cultural phenomenon, you want to know what's going on with Harry Potter because everybody has read them and everyone knows them and so you might be inspired to read them not because you love to read but because everybody else has. It's sort of a good peer pressure."

(Sneyd) The fascination with all things Potter has even attracted academic interest.

Matthew Dickerson is a professor at Middlebury College and director of the New England Young Writers Conference at Bread Loaf.

He's also co-author of "From Homer to Harry Potter," a book that examines the long tradition of imaginative literature that started with the early Greeks.

(Dickerson) "There is a natural draw to this sort of literature. We see ourselves. We see truth. We learn great lessons in new ways we wouldn't necessarily learn from a political essay."

(Sneyd) The kids and the not-so-young who are celebrating this weekend say Rowling created both literature and just plain fun.

Stacy Potter helped organize celebrations at Barre's Aldrich Public Library. She says she wants to recognize what a wonderful adventure the series has been.

(Stacy Potter) "I'm so glad that we've had such a good series out of this, good quality stuff. It's not high literary writing but it's good quality reading that you can just pick up again and again and again and read it."

(Sneyd) And that's just what millions are doing this weekend. The initial print run was 12 million copies.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.

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