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Living up for the new Potter book

About 200 show up for local midnight sale

Posted: Sunday, July 09, 2000

Harry Potter mania has hit Juneau.

An estimated 200 adults and children turned out at Hearthside Books' 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning opening to pick up their copy of ``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,'' the fourth book in the popular series.

``This is a first,'' said Hearthside owner Susan Hickey. ``In 25 years this is the most excitement we've seen about any book.''

The only comparisons, she added, were when James Michener came to Juneau in 1976 and autographed copies of his epic ``Alaska'' and former Gov. Jay Hammond's visit to autograph his autobiography.

``This is especially exciting because it's a children's book,'' Hickey said. ``Kids that haven't been into a book for a long time -- this is winning out over the Nintendo.''

The children eagerly waiting for the one-hour chance to buy their copies gave numerous reasons for Harry's appeal.

``They're kind of mysterious and they have a lot of action,'' said Katie Thornton, 12. Thornton, who began to read Harry's adventure in 1997, hopes the boy wizard will ``get a girlfriend'' in book four.

``One of the main things I like is it's more magic,'' said Sean Bluett, 9, of North Pole. Though he hadn't pre-registered for a copy, Bluett hoped to be able to snag one for the long trip home.

``I'm going to start a little bit,'' he said, peering ahead at the counter. ``I'm probably going to read it most of the car trip.''

Bookstores across the nation held special openings similar to Hearthside's. The mega-popular Harry Potter series, by British author J.K. Rowling, which tells the story of a young wizard who discovers on his 11th birthday that he possesses magical powers, has become a phenomenon in the U.S. and Britain. Children are captivated by Harry's adventures at Hogwarts, a boarding school for young wizards that he attends with his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

Sarah Ginter, 11, considers Ron one of the books' bright spots.

``He's so -- he's just, I don't know, Ron,'' she said with a smile.

``We stopped here on the way to the airport,'' Jane Ginter, her mother, added. The Ginters were departing on a 1:45 a.m. flight to the East Coast and ``Sarah wanted it to read on the plane.''

To add to the evening's atmosphere, Hearthside provided ``Muggle muffins'' and ``Every Flavor Beans'' -- mortal approximations of items from the books. Several children came in costume; Mircea Brown, 10, even dyed his hair black to look more like Harry. Dressed in a cloak and taped glasses and carrying a broom, Brown said that he'd read each of the books in the series once.

``I'm reading the second one over one more time because it's so good,'' he added. ``They're just fun.''

People began to line up outside Hearthside's doors at 11:15 p.m., Hickey said. Inevitably, some went away empty-handed, as most of the 150 books reserved by the store were sold by 12:45 a.m. Hearthside has more books ordered; however, delivery is being slowed by demand from online book sellers like Amazon.com.

``Amazon is having an effect on us,'' Hickey said. ``We really didn't know on this book what to expect because the online shopping was being advertised so heavily.''

To help compensate, Hearthside offered $5 coupons to those buying the book locally.

Also being heavily hyped is the movie adaptation of Harry Potter. Many of the children waiting in line were less than enthusiastic at the idea.

``It'll probably cut out a lot of stuff,'' said Bluett. ``(That's) bad. I love more detail.''

``I hope it's not like a ripoff on it,'' added Sarah Ginter. ``Some movies are really bad.''



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