How can that be?
I'd like to wish a belated Happy 10th birthday to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the book that started it all. I first read about it as a Library Assistant working at Sunrise Drive Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona. I was hired to catalog, but when my boss found out how much book acquisitions experience I had, she asked me to do the book ordering too, a job I loved. Shortly after school started in 1998, a book review caught my eye. It was probably this one, though I would swear it mentioned the Smarties Prize and the book auction Scholastic won.
Anyway, I read the book the day it came in and immediately wanted to tell the world how wonderful it was. The equipment list for school! Chocolate frogs! Talking portraits! The creepy, glorious scene in Ollivander's shop! Messages by owl! Mountain trolls and friendship, and the heartbreaking scene with the Mirror of Erised. Odd how things happen: the next day, fourth-grade teacher Gretchen Westhoff sailed into the library. Her class really liked the last book I recommended for class read-aloud (Throw Stone, since she was doing a Stone Age unit), and did I know of something else? Uh, yeah. And since she took the only copy, I ordered one more for the library (my book budget for the whole year was only $1500.00).
By March of 1998 when the kids decorated their classrooms for "Love of Reading Month," every classroom had flying snitches, pictures of Harry, Nimbus 2000s, and lightning bolts. I had bought a precious 2 more copies with Scholastic Bookfair money, and it still wasn't enough.
Now, our library was open during lunchtime and I was the monitor, so my desk was a busy place. After Pottermania hit, it was often 3-deep with boys and girls who wanted to talk about the book, and Ms. Westhoff's class had dubbed me "Queen of Literature." I had been working in libraries and bookstores for 10 years, and had NEVER had that happen. Even more exciting, children who had been poor readers before this caught fire and went from reading Garfield comics to literally anything I could tie-in to Potter -- even the massive Redwall books. When one child ordered Book 2 from Amazon.co.uk, I was touched that he let me be the second reader. Thank you again, Elias.
So to celebrate, I will be seeking out and adding some of the better articles that sum up the Potter phenomenon, beginning with this one written for the San Jose Mercury News. I especially enjoyed ALSC President Kathleen Horner's comment: "It's been very exciting as a librarian -- it's encouraged family reading together, discussion among children about the book across boundaries, it has just been very exciting to watch."
Countless children love books because of you, Jo. Thank you.