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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

We came to Harry Potter pretty early on-- CLA was at exactly the right age, and we might have even started off with the British edition of "Philosopher's Stone". I recall reading about the fact that there were versions with a more grown-up looking cover so that adults could read it on the Tube without worrying about looking silly. My brother, GJA, was working for Scholastic Books at the time as well, and maybe that's where we got the leg-up.

We've pretty much always gone the Amazon route for the new releases, although there was at least one time when we drove around trying to find a store with the books in stock. We had to get multiple copies, so that all three daughters could read it at once, and for a while we were ordering a copy of the British editions, so that we'd get the more interesting slang expressions. We did Amazon this time for CLA, because she is off doing trail maintenance in the Maine woods. The rest of us were in Holland, Michigan the evening before the release, retrieving LCA from her Terpsichordian sojourn, so we had a look at a midnight Potter Party. I didn't stay-- there were too many Muggle children-- but EGA and A hung in, then EGA stayed up until 4:30, getting pretty close to the finish. LCA caught up in the car on the drive home, then they finished the next day. A brought it on our trip west, and handed it off to me when we took off for opposite coasts.

As is obvious from the posting I've been doing here, there has been a fair amount of airport time being logged lately, and I've been counting the number of copies of "Deathly Hallows" I've seen. It's been steady, but not overwhelming, which suggests that what I'm seeing are mostly people who have had the book passed along to them after the person who had been waiting for it like Christmas had finished. Not everyone-- yesterday in John Wayne International I saw a woman standing next to the wall, holding the book to her chest and sobbing.

For the most part people have been pretty good about not spoiling it. My sense is that all over the world people have read it, then excitedly handed it over so that when everyone in the group has finished it can be discussed, and re-read. And that, in the end, my be the answer to the question I've had since about the third or fourth book came out-- will this series be something that people who grew up reading read or pass on to their own children? At some point I began to find the books a bit over-blown, in need of editing. I think, though, that I was mistaken, and that Rowling was being generous with detail because by writing in that way she was giving the reader an opportunity to revisit. I am a big fan of re-reading. For me one of the subtle joys of having children has been the opportunity to re-read some of the things that I'd loved-- to introduce those books to my daughters, and see them be shaped by them in the ways that they shaped me. I think there is a good likelihood that a lot of people are going to do that with the Potter books, too. They have been a phenomenon-- I'm glad I saw a bookstore party-- a sort of midsummer, occasional Halloween that has occurred five or six times and will be a childhood memory for a generation. I'm glad I hung on for the ride even after I was so sick of Quiddich that I couldn't stand to think about it. They're pretty good books, and I imagine my grandchildren will think so, too.

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