~post by Merrilee
15 years (and a few months) ago, here in BookKids, we received an advance copy of a new book that was coming out soon. “Hmmm,” I said to myself, “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone…could be interesting.” I read it and really liked it, and then gave it to my then 13 year old son, who also really liked it. It came out in hardcover in the fall of 1998 and my son (who used to hang out here at the store after school and during Christmas break) and I tried as hard as we could to handsell it. It was tough going, too, a hardcover first novel by an unknown author. Then J.K. Rowling was on Oprah, and the rest was history.
I was thinking about all of this the other day as I finished re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone for the first time since I read it back in 1998. And it made me think about how much things have changed since then, not least of which is that my son is no longer 13. Kids in general, and boys especially, seem to read a lot more than they used to. After Harry Potter, Fantasy became so popular as a genre that we expanded our chapter book section by 50 %. The series added the word ‘muggle’ to the Oxford Dictionary. It even changed the way the New York Times reports sales of bestsellers. (Sorcerer’s Stone rode the top of the list for so long, other publishers began to complain, so the NY Times split their bestseller list into children’s and adult books.)
The re-read got me thinking about so many great characters I’ve met since then: Artemis Fowl, the 12 year old criminal mastermind who runs afoul of the fairy world; Molly Moon, an English orphan who is so good at hypnosis she can do it over the phone; Skulduggery Pleasant, a 200 year old skeleton who may be dead, but isn’t ready to stop fighting bad guys; and of course staff fave Percy Jackson, a regular 12 year old boy whose father just happens to be a Greek god. Who knows, these and so many more might never have been published had it not been for Harry Potter paving the way.
So happy belated 15th birthday to Harry Potter (and J.K. Rowling). Thanks for all the books, both yours and other authors’, that we’ve read since then.