This year, muggles all over the world are celebrating twenty years since Harry Potter leapt onto millions of people’s bookshelves. And note I write ‘people’, J.K Rowling wrote not just for children, but for grown-ups too. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know the story of the orphaned, spectacled boy with magical powers and a fiercely loyal, close crew of friends. The story culminated in seven books, films, a stage play - even a theme park.
The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, sold 8.3 million copies the first day it was on sale, a publishing record. More importantly, the series changed children's publishing, proving that there was a huge crossover audience for popular titles. So what, finally, was it about Harry Potter that hooked so many readers' imaginations?
The Harry Potter titles broke many children’s writing rules. The books were wordy, the character webs complex, wizardy wasn’t just magical; it could result in brutality, too. What J.K. Rowling did do was create many, many rules and everything was well researched. Take the game Quidditch – this sport had complex rules which were explained in detail for the reader to follow. The author did not dumb anything down, instead she wrote a fast-paced, compelling story in simple English. The themes were deep and dark. On the surface, it was a tale of good versus evil. The most powerful story was Voldemort’s weakness versus Harry’s power; the strength of his many friends, love and community of his wizard tribe. Children escape to a world where they possess power, free from parents and where strong relationships with their peers reign. Oh, and adults want that, too, of course.
Twenty years on there is still much love for Harry Potter. The tatty pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, sits by my eight-year old's bedside now waiting to be read. And, no doubt, read again.