Why children’s books still captivate readers of all ages

Harry Potter is the boy who lived and continues to live in the hearts and imaginations of children, many of whom are now adults who were firmly introduced to the world of modern witches and wizards 25 years ago.
June 26, 1997 Bloomsbury published a book by an unknown writer called JK Rowling whose manuscript on a parallel wizarding world was notoriously rejected by publisher after publisher. Many publishers were put off by the length of the first book – at 60,000 words it was deemed too long to do the trick for a popular children’s book.
But, by the summer of 2022, Bloomsbury would have sold 500 million copies making the Potter series the best-selling book series in history.

Rowling wasn’t the first to enter the genre of a magical school where young witches and wizards grow up navigating the outside world, but she was certainly the first to make such a world more accessible and believable through his attention to detail. , her ingenious talent for layering the real and the fictional, and she made it all pretty funny and simple.

It was criticized for its rather flat prose, but therein too lay the appeal of the books – they could reach a wider audience and in the early days books traded hands and shelves just by word of mouth.

It was the days before social media, so you can really measure the success of the Harry Potter series because they sold worldwide with little or no marketing. By the time the third book – Prisoner of Azkaban – came out in 1999, the boy with the lightning bolt scar on his forehead was already a thundering phenomenon.

Most early readers of the series would have borrowed the book from a friend, their parents would then have read it and both of them would have recommended the book to their friends and so on.

By the time Harry Potter entered his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the books had cast a spell over a wider audience, not just children and their parents, but even on other adults. the magical world of schooled witches and wizards.

Rowling outsold adult authors, although it’s worth noting that her first book for adults – A Casual Vacancy published in 2012 – received mixed reviews and had limited success.

I was an early adopter of the book when I was 8 or 9 years old, and it also came to me by word of mouth from someone I didn’t fully trust, so I continued to read “The Secret Sevens” and “The Famous” by Enid Blyton. Fives” until Potter found his way back to me as a gift from a relative who stayed in America and then, again, as a birthday present.

I normally read the books I was given for birthdays, so I finally picked up my second copy of Harry Potter, it was published by Scholastic and had the memorable cover designed by Marie Grand Pre who is also the mastermind behind Potter’s iconic lightning bolt on the letter P that became the custom “logo” going forward for all books, movies and products related to the series. The Scholastic version was called “Sorcerer’s Stone” and I realize now that the old tome I have might one day be a rare edition to keep for posterity!

Speaking of posterity, will the sensation that was Harry Potter be as appealing to future generations, say even 25 years from now?

The themes and experiences the books deal with are of course timeless – friendship, love, coming of age, and the struggle for what is good and which will not lose its relevance.

And the world of magic that Rowling created and that exists seamlessly alongside the Muggle world is still a place to suspend disbelief and enter – surely an old discarded boot could be a portkey that takes you into a far place (because who in their minds would touch and test it), and a wall between two train platforms could take you to another world if you dare crash into the barrier (please try that one with caution) and this cat looking at you with a mixture of boredom and disdain could be the animagus transfiguration professor Minerva McGonagall whose exacting standards of dress and behavior you don’t meet (who knows).

But the most enduring lesson, and one that makes the series worth revisiting, not to escape the reality of life but to remember what is worth living, is that the most Great magic is not cast by spells but only requires performing ordinary acts of extraordinary love and courage.

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