Friday, July 15, 2011

What Harry Potter means to me

I don't usually post twice in one day (or, you know, in one week) but I really feel like I need to say something about Harry Potter. I saw the movie yesterday at Scholastic's early screening, and again this morning because I already had the tickets and I couldn't return them. There are millions and millions of Harry Potter fans out there, and most everyone is sad that the series is drawing to a close. But I think, for my particular age group, it's more than just a love for the books and movies.

Harry Potter is all about growing up. Not only do JK Rowling's characters grow up, but the books grow up as well...her writing, plotting, and tone become more and more sophisticated with each novel. Same with the movies - compare the original Chris Columbus film with Deathly Hallows II, and it's astounding how far this story has come.

I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at age six. It was the first novel-length book I ever read on my own, and I was in Kindergarten at the time. I remember sitting in the living room with my little sister. My dad came home from work, held up the copy of Harry Potter he had just purchased, and said, "You girls need to read this, I hear it's fantastic." At the time we blew him off...after all, what did a grownup know about kids books? But a few weeks later, when I found myself in need of something to do, I picked up Harry Potter and began to read. The book was more advanced than what I was used to (after all, most six-year-olds are just starting to read) so it took me a long time to finish, but from the beginning I was hooked.

My aunt Kathy and uncle Steve gave me Harry Potter books two and three for my seventh birthday (along with a hedgehog Beanie Baby). By the time book four came out I was a huge fan, and I participated in a summer reading program at my local library in order to win a copy of the book since my mom wouldn't purchase it. At my cousin Allie's fifth grade birthday party (we're the same age) we attended the release party for Order of the Phoenix, where we dressed up in costumes and got Sorted and engaged in all sorts of nerd-licious activities. One summer, my dad, who's a wood worker, used his lathe to create specialized wands for me and my little sister. I still have an old notebook from first or second grade in which I designed lesson plans for Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, and Transfiguration so my sister and I could play school - Hogwarts style school, that is. And one of the very first stories I wrote was a Harry Potter rip-off in which students attend a magical school called Hogsmeade.

When the first movie came out, my mother picked me up from school along with my sister and two of our friends. She wouldn't tell us where we were going; turns out she had secured tickets to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, during which I remember marveling at how old and mature Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked (I was eight at the time). So began my obsession with the movies. My sister and I purchased Harry Potter Scene It, and we would have epic battles over who could answer the largest number of trivia questions. I've gone to many midnight showings and I stood in line at midnight for the sixth and seventh books. By that time I was fourteen, on the cusp of entering high school.

Harry Potter defined my generation, and it defined my childhood. I remember running around at recess in elementary school with scars painted on our foreheads. When I first read the Sorcerer's Stone all those years ago, I never would've imagined that I would end up here, in NYC, at Scholastic's premiere for the eighth and final film. I'm 18. I just graduated high school, and this is my first summer on my own. I have, in short, grown up, which is both terrifying and exhilarating and depressing.

For me, Harry Potter is more than just a story; it's a representation of my childhood. It started as the first book I ever read on my own, and now, twelve years later, the final chapter comes to a close just before I enter my first year in college. The books grew up and I grew up with them.

A bittersweet end. And now would be the appropriate time for me to say, "mischief managed."

Instead, I'd like to think the mischief has only just begun.


  1. This is beautiful. I'm so touched by your story. Thanks for sharing this, Kate!

  2. I have an 8yo girl who's a prodigious reader. She rarely reads what we recommend, but maybe I'll leave HP lying around.

  3. I really liked your take on the Harry Potter culture and how it has effected you in your life. I thought you made great points about how she grew up and became more sophisticated in her writing as her audience did. thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Ahh lovely, warms my heart. :) I'm going to read the books, so you people will stop harassing me.

  5. Wow, what a lovely trivia to Harry Potter. Like you, my love affair with Harry Potter began at age 6, and has grown to be beyond obsession. Thanks for sharing :D

  6. I love your post. Harry's impacted so many people. When I attended an extra early showing on the 14th, people in line with me said very similar things.