Christopher Farai Charamba The Reader
“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” These are the words of celebrated author of the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling.
On June 26, 2017, Harry Potter celebrated its 20th anniversary. The story, Rowling said, came to her in 1990, seven years before the book was published, while on a train from Manchester to London.
$15 billion brand
“I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. I simply sat and thought, for four hours, and all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who did not know he was a wizard became more and more real to me,” she said.
The Harry Potter series has cemented itself in the world of fantasy literature and through the scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy, Rowling created a $15 billion brand through the films, merchandise and theme parks.
The story is centred around the orphaned “boy who lived” who learnt at the age of 11 that his deceased parents were wizards and that he was to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort, the dark wizard who wants to conquer the world and subjugate wizards and muggles (humans with no magic) under his control is the main plot of the books.
Over the 10 years that Rowling took to write the seven books in the series, Harry Potter gained millions of fans and followers worldwide.
Rowling was able to transport her readers, many of them young, as the first Harry Potter could certainly be classified as a children’s book, to an enchanted world filled with adventure, romance, heartache and triumph.
What endeared many to the books is that they were able to grow with the characters and the writer from 1997 to 2007.
Each book in the series got a little bigger and the characters, relationships and themes grew with the reader as well.
The beauty and the magic of the Harry Potter series is that the children who first read it when “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone” was first published were late teen or early adults by the time “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows” was out.
One might argue that it created a generation of readers who over the years invested their time to follow the exploits of Harry and his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
The importance of such books particularly to young readers cannot be overstated. Rowling found a place for herself among great children’s book writers, the likes of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, Lewis Carrol and Beatrix Potter.
In a digital age where young people are exposed to a plethora of media, devices and activities, reading for pleasure has taken a back seat.
Stories such as Rowling’s have, however, had the ability to capture the attention of young readers and bring them into this magical world that forces them to exercise their imaginations and by extension explore their own creat- ivity.
Such literature fulfils the expression catch them young as it is likely that those who fell in love with reading books like Harry Potter will inadvertently fall in love with reading itself.
The fact that 20 years after the first book was published and 10 years after the last one came out Harry Potter is still a massive brand with fans eager to consume whatever new content J. K. Rowling puts out shows the lasting effect a children’s book can have on an individual even in their older age.
Perhaps that is the “something very magical” Rowling was referring to.