Everyone’s just wild about Harry

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 25, 2000

The message on my answering machine one day last week was almost frantic. &uot;Kerry? Um, I’m barreling through with the second Harry Potter book. Can I borrow the third one?&uot; My twenty-something friend was desperate for the latest installment in the life of a fictional 12-year-old boy wizard.

And who can blame her?

Even though they are allegedly children’s books, there’s just something about Harry that, I think, reminds us bookworms of late nights spent reading under the covers with a flashlight when we were children.

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It’s not an easy thing for and English major who spent four years in college trying to figure out Milton and Shakespeare to admit, but I’m addicted to Harry, too.

For anyone who doesn’t know — and where have you been? — &uot;Harry Potter&uot; is the main character in a series of books about a nondescript orphan who discovers one day that he is the son of famous wizards.

The stories follow his unusual adventures at the Hogwarts School, where he and his friends learn about casting spells and playing Quidditch, an unusual ballgame on broomsticks.

The Harry Potter books remind me of C.S. Lewis’ &uot;Chronicles of Narnia&uot; — they are full of rich detail, unusual characters and creatures, and imaginative adventures.

And basically they’re just good stories, a complete escape from the everyday world.

I have one friend who rises early every morning just to read a few more chapters before getting ready for work.

Another finds the books a great way to get rid of stress.

Harry Potter has been No. 1 on bestseller lists for the past year. And it’s not just us adults reliving our youth who have taken to Harry.

Children — those pint-size consumers of everything Nintendo and Nickelodeon — are reading about Harry Potter in droves.

They attend story hours for Harry readings, collect the books on their bookshelves and listen to Harry bedtime stories from their parents.

My &uot;sorting hat&uot; (you have to read the books) goes off to &uot;Harry&uot; author J.K. Rowling.

She has helped inspire children young and old to read.

As one friend said (I’m leaving names out to protect the innocent Harry addicts) &uot;I can’t believe her imagination is so thick.&uot;

Rowling says Harry walked into her head one day, fully formed as a character, when she was riding a train.

I hope that her imagination inspires more and more children to keep reading — and to keep using their imaginations.

When I was in the second grade, there was a writing nook in the corner of our classroom. I spent many hours there reading Shel Silverstein poems and Laura Ingalls Wilder stories.

And soon the reading bug that bit me turned into a writing bug.

Maybe someday the children who read about Harry will meet their own characters in their heads and take the time to put their stories on paper.

We need more Harrys — and more worlds like Hogwarts — to which we can escape every now and then.

Hollywood has gotten hold of Harry — there’s a movie planned, and there are Harry dolls and Harry tattoos (he has a lightning bolt scar on his forehead.)

But I hope most children will hold on to the Harry that’s in their own imaginations.

Kerry Whipple is a senior staff writer at The Democrat. She can be reached at 446-5172, ext. 262, or by e-mail at kerry.whipple@natchezdemocrat.com.