What to do with a ferociously popular book series nearly a decade after the last volume was published? And five years after fans packed theatres for the last movie sequel? If you’re the publisher Bloomsbury, which won the lottery to end all lotteries when it took a gamble on a then-unknown author named J.K. Rowling, then it’s time to cast yet another spell over the Harry Potter fan army. But carefully.
On Wednesday, Feb. 4, young readers begged their parents to go out on a school night for the second annual Harry Potter Book Night, created by Bloomsbury. Dressed in robes and scarves, many carrying wands, even Quidditch brooms, they took part in activities suggested on the publisher’s site that ranged from practicing spells–who doesn’t want to shout,” Stupify!” or “Expelliarmus!”–to treasure hunts and trivia contests. There was even a Hogwarts version of musical chairs called Petrified Potters.
Last year, more than 10,000 parties around the world celebrated the “boy who lived.” This year’s turnout is expected to be higher. In north Toronto, around 20 kids showed up at a gathering at an Indigo store. While chatting about Harry, his adventures and future, they cut and folded Marauder’s Maps before being sorted into Hogwarts houses (from the costumes worn, Gryffindor is by far the most popular though Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff had fans). A scavenger hunt, trivia contest as well as colour was planned.
For Alysa Kim, who showed up with her three children, Harry Potter is a family tradition. Starting when they were 7 and 6 respectively, her two older children, Evelyn, now 12, and Toby, now 10, were given a book a year to read. Kim, who loved escaping into Narnia‘s wardrobe when she was young, recognizes that for her children, that “magical thing they love” is an orphaned wizard and his own amazing adventures. Toby even created an invitation to attend the Hogwarts school for his sister’s birthday. And waiting for his turn with the books is Robert, 3, who wore an oversized grey Gryffindor sweater originally ordered for Evelyn from the factory in Scotland that provided clothes for the movies.
While the Kims are spreading out the books, Sophie Montpellier, 8, already knows them inside out. In the last two years, her mother has read them to her twice, though with a bit of editing when it came to the scary parts. Now Sophie is reading them on her own; she’s currently on book 5, Order of the Phoenix. Not only has she seen the movies and gone to the Warner Bros. exhibit outside London, England, but she and a friend even wrote about their idea for a future book eight, involving the children of Harry, Hermione and Ron, to J.K. Rowling. They’re waiting for a reply.
The love of Rowling’s magical world isn’t hard to find: more than 500 million books have sold, the film franchise made more than US$10 billion and the third Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park opens at Universal Studios Hollywood in April.
Yet, given Harry’s author famously protective of her creation, it’s no surprise that the night is remarkably free of the merchandizing spin-offs that have overwhelmed the fans of other popular franchises, such as Star Wars. At the Indigo event in Toronto, there were no overt displays of Harry Potter books, wands and other products. The focus is the readers. As Bloomsbury’s website says, “Once again, fans of all ages will have the chance to celebrate J.K. Rowling’s wonderful novels–and pass the magic on to young readers who haven’t yet discovered these unforgettable books.”