Harry Potter contest opened to Alaska's kids

Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2000

ANCHORAGE - The Last Frontier's many Harry Potter fans will get a chance to compete for a meeting with the children's book's author after all.

Protests from Alaska fans, including Ketchikan's mayor, convinced the U.S. publisher of the popular British books to change the rules of a contest titled "How the Harry Potter Books Have Changed My Life."

The winner will meet J.K. Rowling, author of four books about a young wizard, in New York.

Judy Corman, a senior vice president at the Scholastic Inc. publishing company, said a letter from Bob Weinstein, the Ketchikan mayor and father of a 9-year-old Potter fan, made company officials change their minds.

"We gave it some serious consideration and thought and realized (Harry Potter) has changed lives everywhere," she told the Anchorage Daily News. "It's the Harry Potter magic."

After reading about the contest exclusion Friday, Weinstein became so angry he wrote Scholastic President Richard Robinson.

"Your company's treatment of Alaskans particularly our children as second-class citizens reminds me of the colonialist attitude which the federal government often displays to our state and residents," the mayor wrote. "... (Y)ou can be like Harry Potter or Voldemort the choice is yours."

Weinstein said the literary reference was a contribution from his daughter, who compared Scholastic to the most evil character in the Potter books.

After reading the letter Monday, Robinson called a special meeting of his senior staff.

Corman, who was present, said Robinson was curt: "He said, 'Who made this decision? It is wrong. Change it.' "

Scholastic never meant to exclude Alaska Hawaii was also out of the running Corman said. She apologized on the company's behalf.

The publishing company initially stood by its geographic limitations, citing such logistical problems as flight time from Alaska and Hawaii to New York. It's new decision includes a deadline extension to Sept. 18.

The decision was applauded by Susi Beattie, a library aide at Houghtaling Elementary School at Ketchikan and one of the first to learn Alaskans were excluded.

After a "not-too-polite" exchange with a Scholastic employee, Beattie enlisted the help of Ketchikan librarian Charlotte Glover. They sent messages to librarians around the state asking them to voice their displeasure. Their actions drew the attention of the media and the mayor.

"I feel vindicated," Beattie said. "I thought it was a hopeless cause."

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