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Sun, March 24

Still under the spell: Readers celebrate the release of the final 'Harry Potter' book

Jason Howard, 7, dressed up as Harry Potter for the Barnes and Noble new book release event.

Jason Howard, 7, dressed up as Harry Potter for the Barnes and Noble new book release event.

For the past decade, the world of Harry Potter has fascinated readers. They have followed the saga of the young wizard as he faced the challenges of mastering the arcane arts, battling otherworldly foes and unearthing eldritch secrets, all while dealing with the most harrowing struggle of all: growing up.

Now, after years of waiting, the "Harry Potter" novel series comes to an end with the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," J. K. Rowling's seventh, and final, book in the Potter saga. Bookstores and libraries throughout the tri-city area hosted parties and events to commemorate the conclusion of the literary dynasty.

The Prescott Library hosted a "Harry Potter"-themed event on July 19, a day in advance of the majority of the release parties.

"We wanted to do the event early so that kids and families who can't make it to the midnight releases could still celebrate the release of the book," said Amadee Ricketts, youth librarian with the Prescott Library. "It's been really action-packed, too."

Ricketts attended the event in costume as the character of Professor Sprout, complete with the character's "screaming mandrake," made out of a yam.

"This one's mute, so it's safe," Ricketts assured the children. "If it could scream, it could be really dangerous for everybody here."

The library event included numerous events for the children. These included crafting golden snitches, answering Potter trivia, enjoying Potter-themed snacks, slaying Voldemort with Nerf balls, and more. One popular event was the sorting hat, over which librarian Steve Ryan presided. Ryan, with the aid of the sorting hat, gave children compliments and enriching advice before assigning them to one of the four magical halls of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

"The kids, even the very young ones, are so well-versed, immersed, in the Harry Potter phenomenon," Ryan said. "It's a real bonding thing that blows away the boundaries of cliques. That kind of common enthusiasm is great, because it makes reading cool."

When questioned about the disproportionately large number of children assigned to Gryffindor, Ryan explained, "Some of the kids are so determined to get in a specific house, they'll mouth the name as they approach. Our hero, Harry, has inspired a lot of kids, and they'd love to join him in Gryffindor."

Because the library's event was a day in advance of the seventh book's release, they were unable to give out copies of the book, but instead gave out vouchers redeemable for a copy of the book upon its release. One such child was Ruby Miller, who won a copy of the book in a drawing.

"I haven't read all the books. I read the first and the second, and I've started the third, but I've seen most of the movies," Miller said. "I'm really excited that I'm getting the book for free."

Several local bookstores held midnight release events the night of Friday, July 20, with similar Harry Potter parties culminating in the release of the final novel. Ruth Lacey, an employee of the Barnes and Noble bookstore at the Prescott Gateway Mall, said that they sold over 500 copies of the book on release night alone, and over 1,000 over the course of the weekend.

"There have been a lot of reports of the positive effect 'Harry Potter' has had on reading. I talk to a lot of people, and they're branching out into reading other series, as well," Lacey said.

"Kids come up and ask for books that might be similar, and get into those as well."

Lacey said that she doubts that any novel series will build into quite the fervor that "Harry Potter" has anytime in the near future, but said that the "Inheritance Trilogy" seems to be building to be the next big craze with youth readers.

"It's just great to see people reading, and excited about it," Lacey said. "Since many people were standing in line a long time and didn't get to buy their book until after midnight, I was worried they might be cranky. It wasn't that at all. People were smiling, cheering, and holding up their books. It's wonderful to see people so enthused about reading a new book in their favorite series."

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