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Experiencing life at Platform 9 3/4

Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2000

It's the only party in town where you can wear a pillowcase and get complimented on your good fashion taste.

More than 100 Harry Potter fans attended the Juneau Public Library's Harry Potter Party on Saturday morning, packing themselves tightly into the ``Hogwart's Express Elevator, Platform 9.'' From 10 a.m. to noon, they struggled with their owl levels, devoured Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and competed ferociously in round after round of quidditch.

Or, for those uninitiated to the world of Harry, they took a trivia quiz, ate jellybeans and participated in a very unusual relay race with other Potter aficionados.

``I think it's a great idea,'' said parent and Harry fan Julia Black. ``Just the idea that we get to celebrate it. I think there's lots of times when kids don't know other kids read the same books. This is cool, because it's like everybody's here.''

The party was planned as an end to the annual summer reading program, said Ronda Gardinier, youth services staff for the library.

``We just wanted a big closing party,'' she said. ``This was an idea to bring everybody together for the end of summer reading.''

Sandra Strandtmann, youth services librarian, proposed the original idea.

``I belong to an international list-serv of children's librarians,'' she said. ``Everybody was talking about their Harry Potter parties ... We came up with the idea as a group based on what was on the list-serv.''

Strandtmann estimated 150 people were present.

``I was actually expecting more,'' she said. ``I was afraid we wouldn't be able to manage it.''

But the draw of Harry Potter is strong. The four books in the series so far -- seven are planned -- have been a publishing phenomenon in the United States and Britain. They tell the story of Harry, a young wizard who discovers on his 11th birthday he possesses magical powers, and his adventures at Hogwarts, a boarding school for young wizards.

Those present at the libraries party ranged in age from toddlers to enthusiastic parents; many came in costume. Felicity Englund, 21, was one of the few adults to dress up. She came as Professor Sprout, Harry's gardening instructor.

``They're imaginative and they're descriptive,'' she said of the books. ``One of the nice things about them is they appeal to a wide range of ages. I can't think of another series that's been so popular.''

Kristina Paulick, 10, agreed as she carried around her broomstick. She was dressed as Harry Potter in a red cape and Scotch-taped glasses, and has been a fan since the books first came out, reading all but the fourth multiple times.

``They're really exciting and they do a lot to your brain,'' she said. ``They make you think.''

Her costume isn't new.

``I used it for Halloween last year and I used it for a play at my school,'' she said. ``I got to be Harry Potter. It was so fun.''

Kristina was assigned to Harry's ``house'' of Gryffindor by the library's ``sorting hat.'' In the books, a magical hat divides students into dorms based on their personality traits; the same type of sorting took place at the party, minus the magic.

Conor Lendrum, 9, was assigned the ``evil'' house of Slytherin. He didn't mind -- it's his favorite.

``I liked Slytherin because snake is my favorite reptile and I like to steal cookies,'' he said, smiling. ``Oreos, mainly.''

Conor sees the possibilities of the Potter books as key to their appeal.

``I just like to wonder if there really is a magical world out there, hidden to Muggle eyes,'' he said. ``I just like that idea.''



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