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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, July 7, 2000

Artwork by Mary GrandPre©/Scholastic Press

Harry astride a griffin

There's something about Harry

In a high-tech world of fancy
toys, this wizard-in-training has
drawn millions of children
to back to books

Potter mania: Iolani teacher works it
Author stunned by Potter mania

By Betty Shimabukuro


THE true magic of Harry Potter is not in the story, the characters or even the irresistible world of wizardry. The true magic of Harry is this: He proves that children still love to read.

Amid the distractions of television, Game Boys, Pokemon and the Internet, children are consuming these books. Books. Words on paper with no moving parts, no moving pictures, no companion computer games or TV cartoons, no licensed merchandise to fuel the hype.

Special events


Bullet Borders Books and Music, Waikele: "Harry Potter IV Release Party," 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., includes trivia contest, reading from third book, 12:01 a.m. candlelit box-opening ceremony

Bullet Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Kahala Mall: Store reopens midnight to 1 a.m., with coffee for adults and free goodies for kids.

Bullet Borders Ward Centre: Store hours extended to 12:30 a.m.


Bullet Borders Waikele and Ward Centre: Breakfast parties begin at 8 a.m. for customers who've pre-ordered the book. Trivia contests, magicians and story-telling continue through the morning at Waikele.

Bullet Waldenbooks: Kahala Mall store opens 7:30 a.m., Pearlridge and Windward Mall at 8 a.m.

Bullet Bestsellers store at Bishop and Hotel Street opens 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with children's activities and giveaways. Children's activities also held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village store; hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Tonight -- very early tomorrow morning, to be exact -- the first copies of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," fourth in the series about the young wizard, will be handed over to the thousands of readers who ordered them from bookstores or over the Internet. The first printing in the United States and Great Britain is a combined 5.3 million, enormous for a children's book.

Clever marketing has a lot to do with it, of course. Keeping the story secret and heavy promotion of the release date contributed to the phenomenon. But bottom line, this has been good news for literacy.

For those who haven't yet ventured into the world of Hogwarts, or for those who need a recap before they dive into Book 4, here is a guide to the magic.

Our hero

Harry Potter is an orphan forced to live with his cruel aunt and uncle and their horrible son Dudley. They make him stay in a closet under the stairs and ignore him when they aren't tormenting him.

But on his 11th birthday, Harry learns his parents were wizards, and he is destined to be one, too. Off he goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, although he still has to spend summers with his awful Muggle relations. (Muggles are people with no magic powers.)

Wizard families commonly live undetected in or near the Muggle world. Hogwarts students are not allowed to practice magic on the outside.

Owls: Essential to the storyline;
they deliver the mail

The villain

Representative of the dark side is Voldemort, also known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named because he is so awful good wizards fear his very name. He killed Harry's parents and tried to kill Harry, but somehow the immense power inside baby Harry left Voldemort powerless for many years.

Ah, it's that familiar struggle between the forces of good (Harry and friends) against evil (Voldemort and/or his minions).

The other bad guys

Every book has a new crop of these. Sometimes characters who seem to be bad turn out good and others who seem harmless turn out to be servants of Voldemort.

But Harry has a principal nemesis -- Professor Snape, the potions master, who has carried his hatred of Harry's father to the son. He doesn't want to harm Harry, merely discredit him.

Also a perpetual pain in the neck is Draco Malfoy, a rotten kid made more dangerous by his magical powers.

Hermione Granger, left, and
Ron Weasley: Harry's best friends

Potter's pals

Harry's best friends are Ron Weasley, the youngest of six wizard brothers, and Hermione (Her-MY-oh-nee) Granger, perhaps the best student at Hogwarts. Hermione is a magical child born to a Muggle family. (This happens sometimes. A magic quill at Hogwarts detects the birth of every child with wizardly powers and records the name so the child can be recruited at age 11. Family heritage isn't everything.)

Author Joanne Rowling has said she based Hermione on herself as a child -- a very insecure bookworm.

The giant

Rubeus Hagrid, gameskeeper at Hogwarts, is fiercely loyal to Harry. He's a soft-hearted animal lover (although his pets tend to be huge with sharp claws, or giant spiders).

Hagrid was once a student at Hogwarts, but not a very good one, and was forced out of wizard training due to a false accusation involving the death of another student (see Book 2).

Voldemort: The villain, also known
as He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named

The teachers

Albus Dumbledore is the headmaster at Hogwarts, a masterful wizard who knows all about Harry's background and is surreptitiously training him to stand against Voldemort. His name is Old English for bumblebee.

Minerva McGonagall is Dumbledore's assistant and the ranking woman at Hogwarts. She has a soft spot for Harry, but is a stickler for rules, which Harry and Ron always seem to be breaking.


Imagine polo, played on flying broomsticks. This is the main competitive sport at Hogwarts. Harry is a gifted Quidditch player and leads his team to many a victory. His position is Seeker and his job is to capture the tiny, winged Snitch, the winning game piece, while dodging Bludgers, balls designed to topple players from their brooms.


Quidditch: Harry is excellent at
quidditch, a game somewhat like
polo, played on flying broomsticks.

The books

Bullet "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone": Harry discovers life at Hogwarts and becomes accustomed to wearing a robe, carrying a wand and receiving mail via owl (his is named Hedwig). He also becomes a Quidditch star. In more serious matters, he prevents Voldemort from finding the Sorcerer's Stone, which would produce the Elixir of Life and make him immortal.

Bullet "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets": Harry meets and defeats Tom Riddle, the Hogwarts student who grew up to become Voldemort. Voldemort is able to reappear in his childhood form through a circuitous path involving Riddle's magic diary.

Bullet "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban": Sirius Black, believed to be responsible for the deaths of Harry's parents, escapes from prison and everyone thinks he's out to kill Harry. Sirius turns out to be Harry's godfather, wrongly accused, and the real criminal (of course, working for Voldemort) is revealed.

Sneak preview

The storyline for Book 4 has been cloaked in secrecy, but the author has let a few things slip:

Bullet Harry goes to the Quidditch World Cup.

Bullet Harry grows fond of a girl, and it's not Hermione.

Bullet Harry makes contact with his godfather, Sirius Black, who remains a fugitive.

Bullet Ron, who comes from a poor family, feels awkward accepting too much from Harry.

Bullet Other wizardry schools are revealed.

Bullet The book has 750 pages, long even for an adult book.

Harry's nemesis Professor Snape

The future

Bullet The fifth through seventh books in the series will be released one per year, to parallel Harry's years in wizard school.

Bullet Warner Bros. plans to release a movie based on the first book in November 2001. Casting of British children is under way.

Bullet On Aug. 15, Book 2, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," comes out in paperback after 18 months on hardcover best-seller lists.

Rubeus Hagrid is a tried and true friend to Harry.

Potter mania: Iolani
teacher works it

Many die-hard fans of Harry Potter are middle-schoolers, a notoriously tough crowd for books. Even more remarkable, a good percentage are boys.

"Finding something middle-school boys will read is like finding a gold mine," says Leslie Evans, an Iolani School teacher who developed a summer school enrichment class on the Harry Potter books.

The class, for kids in sixth and seventh graders, ran an hour daily for three weeks. The students' main suggestion, Evans says, was it should have been for two hours over six weeks.

Besides reading the books and listening to recorded versions, the students studied the author, completed writing exercises, learned magic tricks and developed games and products around the stories.

She proposed the class because she could see how much her students got out of the books.

Part of Evans' job involves interviewing children for admission to Iolani, and she asks all of them what they like to read. "Without a doubt, every child I interviewed, it was 'Harry Potter.' "

The attraction? Well-crafted, compelling storylines, characters kids care about, action, danger, adventure, humor, magic -- "a fantasy ride."

Evans says the books aren't as "morally meaty" as those taught in the regular curriculum -- books like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Good Earth" -- and she's reserving judgment on whether they have the literary merit to become true classics. But she can't resist their lure and won't deny their value.

"It's just so worth pursuing. My job as a teacher is to get kids to read and keep them reading."

Betty Shimabukuro, Star-Bulletin

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