It’s been 20 years since the first Harry Potter book came out and took the world by storm. It’s crazy to me that the franchise has been around for that long and that it has touched people around the world like it has.
When the books first arrived, the internet wasn’t really in general use and if you were using it, it was the kind of dial-up where your computer screamed at you for a minute and a half, trying to connect to the web. Nowadays, I use Goodreads and other resources to check out books to see if I might like them based on if my friends have enjoyed them. Back then, you just bought a book that you wanted and hoped for the best.
I still remember the day that I picked up the first Harry Potter book though…
My school was having a Scholastic Book Fair AKA one of the happiest days of the school year for book nerds like me. I didn’t grow up in a well-off home, but my parents always encouraged me to read. In fact, growing up I earned my allowance by reading books. For every book that I read, I was given two whole Canadian dollars (whoa!). I had to convincingly tell my parents about the book and discuss it with them so they knew I wasn’t just summing up what was on the back of the book. So my parents always made sure that I had a little bit of cash so that I could get one or two books at the fair whenever it came around.
Sometimes it was hard for me to find something that I really connected to, but I remember spotting the cover for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone amidst the other books and my eyes lit up as I quickly snatched it off of the table. ((The exact book cover that I bought and STILL have is pictured to the right))
It was mine.
I proudly carried it around with me, excited to start reading it and knowing nothing of the series. When I got home, I showed my mother what I got at the fair and she was excited too. My mom was an avid listener of CBC Radio, which was largely just talks and interviews… the stuff that bored me to tears back then.
My mom looked at the cover though and she knew what it was. Someone at CBC had been talking extensively about the book on one of her shows. They had mentioned how the series had taken off overseas and was starting to take North America by storm.
Normally anything that my mom was excited about would be a dealbreaker, but my mom excited about something that the CBC was into as well? NOPE. But even the mutual approval of our national radio station and my mother couldn’t ruin my excitement over Harry Potter. I knew I was going to enjoy it and later that evening, I sat down in my room and started devouring it, page by page.
Sure enough, I was consumed by the whole world and the mythology of it all, or rather, the magic of it. I wanted to go to Hogwarts and to escape my boring Muggle life. Bullies, drama with friends, spats with parents… everything seemed like it could be so much better if there was magic involved.
As a kid, I always held onto the hope that someday I would find a magical entrance into Narnia until Harry Potter came into my life and I eagerly awaited my letter into Hogwarts.
I found Harry Potter at exactly the right time too… I was the exact right age the the kids were in The Sorcerer’s Stone and it just made me connect to the characters even more. I wanted friends like Harry, Ron and Hermione (although in fact, I did actually have a friend very similar to her… looking at you, Carrie… with affection, of course).
I’ll never forget that day at the Scholastic Book Fair for as long as I live and for the journey it took me on from there. From picking up and reading the other books (and reading, and reading and re-reading…) to the midnight launch of the final book amongst some of my favourite people in the world to the cinematic universe as I watched my beloved characters come to life on the big screen.
Next up (someday) is a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where I can truly visit the place that so captivated me as a kid, a teen, a young adult, and a questionably adult adult.
Happy anniversary, Harry Potter. Thank you for the memories.