Kids Line Up for 'Harry Potter'

Monday, July 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — It was the literary equivalent of the Beatles at Shea Stadium as thousands upon thousands of kids queued up coast to coast Saturday for the much-anticipated, wildly hyped return of boy wizard Harry Potter.

In libraries and online, in bookstores big and small, copies of ``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'' were flying out as fast as they were found by readers anxious for the series' fourth installment.

``This is probably the biggest night in book selling,'' said Joe Lamere, assistant manager at the Book House in Albany, where hundreds of copies were sold after the store opened at midnight.

How desperate were Potter fans for the new book?

The Shepherd family of Little Rock, Ark., came to Manhattan for a vacation. But before they did any sightseeing, before they boarded a boat for a cruise around the island, Linda Shepherd had to take her 11-year-old son Wade to pick up his Potter.

``I've got 734 pages to read,'' an enthusiastic Wade said outside the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue. His mom added that Wade couldn't wait to get started: ``He's crazed. He started reading it on the line in there.''

Lines were not uncommon, particularly at the bookstores that opened specially at midnight to serve anxious readers at $25.95 a pop. The publisher tried to ensure that no one would be disappointed: the first printing in the U.S. and England totaled a staggering 5.3 million copies.

``Goblet of Fire'' was guaranteed to make a fistful of dollars: advance orders via two major Internet booksellers stood at more than 700,000, making it a best-seller before a single book was sold. FedEx Home Delivery, in a deal with, delivered a quarter-million of the books Saturday.

Anticipating the younger crowd, one bookstore in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., laid out a spread of candy and jelly doughnuts. Coffee was available for the parents who were dragged along.

``If the Beatles were coming to town, we wouldn't have been more excited,'' said Kelly Boler, who brought her 8-year-old son Simon to the Curious George Goes to Wordsworth bookstore.

For Simon, the bespectacled Harry is John, Paul, George and Ringo rolled into one; he says that he's already read book two, ``Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,'' nine times.

Bev Frank of Beulah, N.D., made the 140-mile roundtrip to Bismarck in order to snag two copies of the book — one for her, and one for her 9-year-old daughter Karsen. The road trip was her second choice; Frank had wanted to stay overnight in a Bismarck hotel rather than do it all in one day.

``We would have, but my husband is a farmer and I had to feed him last night,'' she said.

In Santa Clarita, Calif., 12-year-old Katie Guarente made a stunning admission: she prefers the Potter books to — gasp! — television.

``They're interesting and suspenseful,'' said Katie, who was one of more than 100 children standing in line at midnight when the books went on sale at a local Border's bookstore.

All the youthful bookbuyers there received a special treat — a lightning bolt stamped on their forehead in honor of the scar sported there by Harry, the teen wizard whose adventures are at the center of the books.

The Pottermania was so great that it spread to the earlier books by author J.K. Rowling. The first three Potter books held spots 2-4 on the best-seller list, and occupied three places on The New York Times' top 15 best sellers.

In Rowling's native England, the interest was every bit as intense as across the Atlantic.

``There has not been so much interest about a book release in this store since Monica Lewinsky came to do her book signing,'' said Sam Watson, a bookstore manager in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Those who didn't want to plunk down the cash for the new book still wanted to get their hands on it. At the New York Public Library, more than 900 copies were purchased and spread around the five boroughs.

Virtually all of them were reserved long before ``Goblet of Fire'' was put on sale.

Colin Pearson, a sixth-grader, waited more than two hours to get his copy at a Barnes & Noble in Rockford, Ill. After getting his copy, the youth said it wouldn't be difficult to finish the thick tome.

``No problem,'' he said. ``If I just keep on reading, I could do it in two days.''


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