It was funny to admit that, at 34, I had never even attempted to read one of the Harry Potter books.
It’s sort of like how I’ve only ever seen one of the Star Wars movies. (I call it “Star Wars” but people tell me it’s “A New Hope.”) I didn’t really care. I also have not seen The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, X-Men or any of the Rocky movies.
(But I regularly get Doris Day songs stuck in my head and saw Spice World in the theatre seven times, so my taste is questionable.)
It seemed most of my friends and much of my family had read all of the Harry Potter books and loved them deeply. They hadn’t really appealed to me, I suppose. I’m not big on fantasy books or movies — um, except for that brief obsession with the Twilight series in my mid-20s.
I had only seen one of the Harry Potter movies and that was purely by mistake. I had been heavily pregnant and persuaded to tag along to the theatre, really only interested in the air conditioning and buttery popcorn.
What I knew about Harry Potter could fit on the head of a magic wand. I knew there was a wizard school called Hogwarts. I knew there was a flying sport called Quidditch. I knew people were divided into “houses” according to their personalities or something. And I knew when one of the books was released, people kept spoiling it by shouting “Snape kills Dumbledore!”
Our son recently turned eight and one of his best friends absolutely loves Harry Potter. She’s read all of the books and watched the movies, but he never seemed interested. Like mother, like son. But I could see he was experiencing the same niggling feeling of maybe missing out on something. I felt it, too …
Two days ago, I was browsing in the bookstore and decided it was time to hop on the broomstick — or whatever it is they ride around on at wizard school? I bought a paperback copy of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone*. My sister was with me, and she’s a huge Potterhead (apparently that’s what they’re called) so she was giddy with excitement.
Our son wasn’t impressed when he saw the book, and was convinced he wasn’t going to like it. I said I didn’t know if I’d like it either, but it was time we gave it a chance. I sat between both kids on the couch and started reading the first chapter aloud — determined to read with plenty of expression and different voices to make up for the fact it didn’t have any pictures.
I’d like to say it was my enthusiastic narration, but I think J. K. Rowling gets full credit for capturing all three of us by the end of the first chapter. It really was just as good as everyone said. The writing was excellent — which I’d expected — and it wasn’t over-the-top witchy/wizardy, which I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed.
Already, I think I’ll remember this as “The Summer of Potter” — curling up with the kids on the couch and reading Harry Potter aloud. We’ve already decided we’ll watch the first movie once we’re done this book, and then move on to reading the second book. It’s a new world for all three of us, and one we’re immensely enjoying together.
As soon as I finish writing this, I’ve promised the kids we’ll read Chapter Five. It’s called Diagon Alley, and I think it’s where Harry is going to go “shopping” for school supplies like a magic wand. I hinted this last night when we finished Chapter Four, and the kids’ eyes lit up as I said something about how “the wand chooses the wizard.” I had no idea how I even knew that — it was one of those random Harry Potter quotes that gets embedded in your brain without even reading the books.
I still may never watch The Lord of the Rings, but I’ve learned to never say never. “Snape kills Dumbledore!” meant nothing to me when I laughed about it all those years ago, but now I can see how sad it’s going to be when that happens. The kids and I will all be crying, wearing our matching maroon-and-gold scarves, and sobbing “Noooo! Not Dumbledore!”