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Harry Potter

Author John Cech
Air Date 9/7/1999
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban cover

Harry Potter Transcript

Got your running shoes on? Got the car warmed up? Today Scholastic Books finally releases, in this country, the third of the Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. What’s a Harry Potter book? Unless you’re really living in Muggle land, you know it’s the kind of book that parents will hide from their children so that they can read it first. The kind of book that has both eight year olds and octogenarians writing fan letters to the author, Joanne Rowling. In England, where the books first appeared, the publishers wouldn’t let bookstores put the Prisoner of Azkaban on the shelves until after school was out, so as not to encourage kids to skip. For a book? For The Phantom Menace we can understand, given the fifty or sixty million dollars of hype, the action figures, the laser-driven lollipops, but a book about a boy who goes to a boarding school for magicians — Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, to be exact — which exists in a parallel place to our so-called real, Muggle world. We first meet Harry in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, when he is an infant and newly orphaned after the dark lord, Voldemort (whom everyone calls You-Know-Who) has killed Harry’s parents. Rescuing wizards decide to hide the child, for safe keeping, with Harry’s nasty relatives, the Dursleys. I don’t want to say any more about these fantastic fantasies and risk spoiling their surprises, except to note that, in a few pages, Ms. Rowling manages to create more suspense and convincing involvement in her story than the recent edition of the Star Wars saga manages to do in several long, long hours. These books are a publishing miracle, in this age of big budget name recognition. The out-of-work and on-the-dole Ms. Rowling had the idea for the seven books she plans for the series during a train trip. And she began writing them in the cafes of Edinborough, while her infant daughter slept in a stroller nearby. She hoped that maybe, just maybe, her publisher would want another book after the first. The popularity of the books spread among children, and it was fueled by — surprise! — the sheer love of reading a story well told. This isn’t the follow-the-leader reading of the Goosebumps or Babysitters Club series; the Harry Potter books are complex and witty, subtle and engaging. Harry is a character who is not only special, chosen (he has a lightening bolt mark on his forehead after all ) but he also has something to say for himself, and noble deeds to do. Plus the novels read aloud like a dream. I can’t imagine a better way for a family to spend a quiet September evening, than to turn off the t.v., and share together the magic of a book like this.

Posted in Literature