There’s something about Harry Potter

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 21, 2000

Come July 8, 12-year-old Allie Greenberg will be one of the first kids in Chicago to own the new Harry Potter book.

Allie, who’ll be in seventh grade at the University of Chicago Lab School this fall, put her name on the pre-order list at Barbara’s Bookstore in Old Town, oh, a year ago.

“I’m counting the days ’til it’s out,” Allie says of “Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament,” apparently the title of the fourth book in the phenomenally popular series of children’s books, being released worldwide. “I read the first one (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) the day after it came out in 1998. Since then, I’ve read that and the other two (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both published in 1999) at least 12 times.”

The “Potter” books, penned by British author J.K. Rowling, follow the adventures of Harry, a British lad who learns on his 11th birthday that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and is himself a wizard. Cared for by an aunt and uncle who are ambivalent about him, Harry finds solace at Hogwarts School of  Witchcraft and Wizardry – Britain’s most unusual school. There, he discovers his mystical roots and learns to use his magic.

Allie’s enthusiasm is shared by her family, who celebrated the New Year with a Harry Potter-themed party.

Allie, who owns a Harry Potter T-shirt, badge and needlepoint kit, also has something most other fans don’t: a 10-year-old brother who resembles the plucky hero.

“Daniel looks so much like Harry Potter that it’s scary,” she says, laughing. “His hair’s all over the place, he has little round glasses and wears really baggy clothes all the time.”

He’s flattered by the comparison, right?

“Well, I sometimes call him `Harry,’ and then he chases me up to my room,” Allie says. “He’s faster than I am, so I don’t do it too often anymore.”

Little is known about the latest in the Rowling series. The publisher is keeping mum about its plot. It is expected to run about 700 pages – more than twice the volume of the last book – with a $25.95 price tag.

At, fans have pre-ordered more than 150,000 copies.

Hope Rehak, 11, who is the first on the Potter pre-order list at Women & Children First bookstore in Andersonville, is so anxious to find out what happens next in the series that she is trying to get a leave of absence from her summer camp July 8 to pick up her book.

“I remember picking up a copy of my friend’s book and thinking that it was so good that I kept reading it while I walked home,” says Hope, who’ll start sixth grade at LaSalle Language Academy this fall.

“I almost crashed into a tree because I couldn’t stop reading it! All my friends are into the books. I like it because it combines fantasy and mystery, and all the characters are really nice and fun and easy to get to know.”

The Potter books accounted for one of every 10 books bought for readers under age 14 last year. The children’s series has found an audience with adults, as well – 43 percent of the Potter books were purchased for those 14 and older. One fan, Merry Carole Powers, 33, was the first on the advance-order list at Barnes and Noble on Webster Avenue.

“My nieces turned me on to the books,” Powers says. “From the minute I picked the first one up, I was hooked. I was so into the story at one point that I actually missed my L stop while riding home from work.”

To accommodate anxious fans like Powers, many bookstores are holding special events and opening their doors early.

Chicago area Borders will open their doors at midnight July 8.

“(Our store) will open at midnight and stay open until all the people can come in and pick up their books,” says Mark Gregory, general manager of the store’s Mt. Prospect location. “We already have 225 reserved requests, so we plan on having at least 400 to 500 copies of the book in stock.

“And then we’re opening again at 8 a.m. – an hour earlier than usual – to host a special wizard’s breakfast in our cafe.

“We’ll also have a magician and other kids’ events running throughout the day. We have to make this a special day because there is no other book comparable to it. I’ve been in this business for 10 years, and this is, by far, the biggest book that has come out.”

Harry’s a wizard!
He’s a hero, even though he s short for his age and wears glasses.
He’s kind-hearted. One of his best friends is Hermione, who doesn’t run with the popular crowd.
He battles intriguing, scary creatures, such as a giant snake that lives at his boarding school.
He’s constantly learning something new about himself. In the first book, Harry learned that he was a wizard; that he could talk to snakes in the second; and that he has a godfather in the third.
He has a great imagination, combining fantasy with adventure.
He visits really cool places that are vividly described.

Jae-Ha Kim

Libraries brace for Potter fans
ByJae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 28, 2000

If you’re expecting to go to the library to pick up the latest installment of the Harry Potter series you may be in for a wait.

While libraries are saying they have ordered more than the usual number of copies of the title, the availability is likely to be limited.

The number of books, coupled with libraries’ standard three-week checkout time, could lead to waits of months.

The Chicago Public Library is awaiting 300 copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth installment of the series, which will be released on July 8. The books will be distributed to the library’s 78 branches.

Each branch will receive between one and eight copies, says Liz Huntoon, of the children’s service office for the Chicago Public Library.

Kathleen O’Meara, head of children’s services at Conrad Sulzer Regional Library in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, says, “We’ve ordered eight copies [of the new Potter book], which is a lot for any single title. The thing with the Potter books is that the demand for them has been consistent from the beginning.”

O’Meara says she’s also ordering more copies of the first three books because “there’s some deterioration from so many people checking them out.”

In the suburbs, libraries are facing a similar demand.

At the Mount Prospect Public Library, the popular children’s books are checked out as soon as they hit the shelves, according to Tina Martin, who is in charge of program development at the library.

The northwest suburban library expects the 30 fans already on the waiting list to immediately snap up the five copies the library has ordered.

Five copies may seem to be a low order for one of the most anticipated books of the year. But not for a library.

“Normally, we’d order maybe one copy of a book, especially for juvenile fiction,” says Martin. “We’d order maybe two or three copies if it was a Newberry Award winner. I suspect that the five copies we’ve ordered will be a starting point, and we’ll order more if the waiting list gets so long.”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is expected to be a best-seller like its predecessors. The first three volumes of the series–Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)– have dominated best-seller lists, selling about 28 million copies worldwide.

And each has made its way onto the Chicago Public Library’s Web site ( under “Best of the Best.”

As for why it’s the best, the Chicago-based American Library Association cites the imaginative mind of author J.K. Rowling.

“She really has captured the world’s imagination,” says Sarah Long, president of the association. “The best thing about the Potter books is they’ve got a lot of kids and adults reading again. There’s something wonderful about children and parents reading the same book and bonding over the experience together.”

However, some adults have objected to the books because the kid heroes are disrespectful to elders.

“Yes, that’s true,” Long says, laughing. “But I feel that a lot of children’s books do that, and that’s part of the childhood fantasy: distancing yourself from adult figures.”


Potter prompts new best seller list
By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
July 3, 2000

You don’t have to be the gambling type to bet that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire–the latest in the enormously popular children’s books by J.K. Rowling–will debut at the top of the New York Times best seller list.

But before long, it will be on the newspaper’s new children’s best seller list, which makes its debut July 23. As of then, all books aimed at kids, including the Potter volumes, will appear only on the children’s list.

“The time had come to clear up some slots on the best seller lists,” says Catherine Mathis, a Times spokeswoman. “The Harry Potter books have done very well, and the first three are on the list right now. When the children’s list is implemented, this will free up the category for three more [adult] books.”

With a first printing of 3.8 million copies, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire–which will be in bookstores Saturday–surpasses even best sellers geared for adults. By comparison, a first printing for a John Grisham novel ranges from 2.4 to 2.8 million copies, according to Publishers Weekly.

Currently the Times compiles best seller lists for fiction, non-fiction and “advice, how to and misc.” for hardcover and paperback books. The children’s best seller list would be for hardcover books only. And kids’ books won’t appear on any other Times list.

So come July 23, the first Potter book–Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, currently on the paperback best seller list for fiction–will fall off the charts.

Some bookstore owners are dubious about lists in general.

“Sometimes people will see a book on a best seller list and will come in and ask for it,” says Ann Christophersen, co-owner of Women & Children First in Andersonville. “But what usually happens with us is they’ll ask us to recommend a good children’s book, and that’s what they’ll buy.”

Parents such as David Greenberg, the father of two young Potter fans, hope the list will expose them to more books.

“My gut reaction,” says Greenberg, who lives downtown, “would be that if something generated enough appeal to reach that list, there’s probably something to it.”

Adds Jay Rehak of Lake View, “I don’t really screen my daughter’s books per se. But if my wife and I took a look at the list and saw something we weren’t already familiar with, we would probably take a second or third look at it and give it a chance.”


Mad for midnight magic
July 7, 2000
By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times

Come midnight tonight, thousands of Chicago area parents will accompany their children to bookstores to pick up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the latest installment of the children’s literary sensation.

Many bookstores are offering some sort of Potter-related festivity, whether it’s re-creating Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry–the unusual school Harry attends–or serving up Harry’s favorite eats.

Here are a few area stores that will be celebrating the release Potter-style. While some may open before midnight, the new Potter book will not be available for purchase until 12:01 a.m.

* Magic Tree Bookstore, 141 N. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, (708) 848-0770.
Opening at 11:30 tonight until everyone’s gone. A magician will perform before the book goes on sale at 12:01 a.m. And the Magic Tree will serve Harry’s favorite treats, including the non-alcoholic Butter Beer and jellybean-esque Bertie Botts’ Every Flavor Beans.
Tip to the wise: Patrons will have to navigate their way through a bunch of mock railroad tracks until they find track 9 3/4 (the one Harry rides to get to Hogwarts), which will lead them into the store.
You won’t look out of place in costume. Some staff members plan on dressing up, too.

* 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th, (773) 684-1300.
The store has extended its hours to 1 a.m. to accommodate Potter fans. A party will commence at 11 tonight. The festivities will include magic wand decorating and a scavenger hunt for items such as Potter patches and stickers, plus quizzes and a raffle for Potter books and gift certificates. There will be “monstrous” gooey refreshments for the kids, fruits and vegetables for parents.

* The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm St., Winnetka, (847) 446-0882.
The Book Stall will open at 11:45 tonight and remain open until around 1:30 a.m. A giant ribbon will be on the front door. Cookies and milk will be served inside to the 500 or so Potter fans expected to show up. Some staff members will be dressed up as Potter characters, and there also will be giveaways.

* Barbara’s Bookstore, 1350 N. Wells, (312) 642-5044.
Open at 11:45 tonight. Planned are trivia contests, crossword puzzles and free food, such as kid-friendly Mars bars and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Giveaway winners will take home the book that started Pottermania: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (in paperback).
The store also will host a party at noon Saturday, featuring food, contests and a magician.

* Anderson’sBookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, (630) 355-2665.
Store will open at 11 p.m. and close after everyone has left. To keep the youngsters busy till 12:01 when the books go on sale, the staff will conduct trivia contests.

* BordersBooks & Music, 49 S. Waukegan Rd., Deerfield, (847) 559-1999.
Borders Deerfield will begin a Potter Party at 10 p.m. and stay open until 1 a.m.
To start the evening off, children will be divided into their respective Hogwarts classes. They can enter trivia contests, make wizard hats, design magical beasts, learn how to make potions and other surprises that are being guarded as secretively as the book’s plot.
All Borders will sell Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for 40 percent off the publisher’s list price.

* BordersBooks & Music, 909 N. Elmhurst Rd., Mount Prospect, (847) 342-6421.
The store will remain open until 1 a.m. Those who’d rather sleep may stop by at 8 a.m. Saturday. From 8:30 to 10 a.m., the store will be hosting a Wizards’ Breakfast (pancakes and orange juice, $1.99). A costume contest starts at 1 p.m. Giveaways will include Potter pens and tattoos.

* BordersBooks & Music, 336 S. Route 59, Naperville, (630) 637-9700.
The store will open at midnight for about half an hour. At 9 a.m. Saturday, the store will reopen. The cafe–which has long been sold out for its breakfast feast–will be transformed into the four houses at Hogwarts: Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and Gryffindor.
Message-bearing owls, Quidditch-style broomsticks, quaffles and the Snitch all will be part of the decor. A magician will be on hand to entertain patrons.

        The online delivery service Kozmo .com offers an alternative for folks who want Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in a hurry without the hassle of going to the bookstore.
While supplies last, Chicagoans may order a book tonight to be delivered to their homes by 1 a.m. Orders before 11:30 p.m. will be disqualified.
If you’re considering placing an order via this service, be sure to sign up in advance for free membership at The site doesn’t cover the suburbs. serves the following zip codes: 60610, 60613, 60614, 60618, 60647 and 60657.

Jae-Ha Kim




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