Among the people awaiting release of the new Harry Potter book at Barnes & Noble in Kahala Mall last night were Sophie Ottaviano, left, and Isabella Hastings. They were waiting for the costume contest to start.

Potter keeps
fans spellbound

When asked how his 7-year-old daughter, Brynna, talked him into waiting until midnight for the new Harry Potter book at the Kahala Barnes & Noble, Pete Sinclair just shrugged his shoulders and made a face that said, "I'm a dad."

"My wife reads them, too," he added.

Both father and daughter were among dozens of parents and children waiting for the fifth book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Some came in full Potter gear: black robes, witches' hats and magic wands.

"I put it together myself," said 11-year-old Claire Gordon about the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry uniform that she wore last night. "I've read all the books two times. ... I've been waiting three years for this one.

"It's been a very long wait."

Besides being much anticipated, the 870-page book, by J.K. Rowling, is the longest tale of Harry and his Hogwarts pals so far. Rowling's four Potter books have sold an estimated 192 million copies worldwide and have been published in at least 55 languages and distributed in more than 200 countries.

Though the book release was not until 12:01 a.m. today, Potter fans gathered at Barnes & Noble as early as 7 p.m. to hear a reading of the earlier Potter books and participate in a costume contest.

Barnes & Noble employees said that more than 1,000 people pre-ordered or reserved a copy of "Order of the Phoenix" in the last several weeks.

"Orders the last three to four weeks have doubled," said store manager James Tamayosi. When asked how long the store would remain open past midnight, he said, "We'll be here as long as it takes for everyone to get their books."

Eleven-year-old Mark Sonoda said: "It's very exciting. My whole room is Harry Potter."

Ten-year-old Melisa Iosua noted, "Even my grandma reads the books."

Barnes & Noble bookseller Julia White felt guilty about not having read one Harry Potter book before last night's big release, she said, so she read the other books about a month ago.

"They got better with each one," said White, who was dressed as Cho Chang, Potter's love interest in the fourth book, by wearing a black robe with the Ravenclaw insignia on it. "I thought she started to develop as a writer."

The twists and turns in the latest book's plot were guarded closely by the British publisher, Bloomsbury. Rowling insisted on preserving her surprises for readers. She did reveal that one of the central figures dies in the book, but said she has not told even her husband who the doomed character is.

Yet, leaks occurred. A store in Fishers, Ind., and a New York health food store were among those that mistakenly put copies out for sale earlier than the official release date.

The Daily News in New York City, which bought a copy and published a preview, is facing a $100 million lawsuit from Rowling and her publishers.

In England, 7,680 copies of the book were stolen from a truck parked outside a warehouse late Sunday night.

Earlier this month, a print worker was sentenced to 180 hours of community service for attempting to sell three chapters of the book to a tabloid newspaper.

Rowling said she was pleased that so little about the story has gotten out. "I think it's miraculous, given the number of books that we produced and the number of people involved," she said today.

There is much emotional interplay in the new book, which goes well beyond the children's genre.

Early reviews praised the fifth installment. USA Today cited Rowling's "wonderful, textured writing." The Associated Press said: "It was worth the wait. And then some."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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