Like most, I’m a Harry Potter fan. More than what the books offer readers, which is a lot, I’m amazed by how the series changed the way kids read. This has been discussed for years already, and I can’t believe the last film has just been released!
I found this recent Wall Street Journal piece entertaining, and illuminating. The writer, Norman Lebrecht, shares some insider information about HP that I wasn’t aware of. For example, the first book was published on June 30, my wedding anniversary. And the first print run of the first edition was 500 copies, most of which went into libraries. 500 copies, of Harry Potter! And the book has been printed in more languages than any other book in history apart from the Bible. These are some staggering stats.
I knew Rowling got a small advance from the UK, and that Scholastic and Arthur Levine, whose middle name might as well be “Harry Potter” in book publishing circles, paid a hefty sum for the rights in the US. But I didn’t realize they paid $105,000, which he describes as a record advance for a children’s book. It’s funny to think that back then that was a record advance. In today’s market, there are authors writing for children who can generate seven figure advances, usually for a series, but still. The stakes have gone way higher, and much of it has to do with the unprecedented success of Harry Potter.
But beyond all the business-side stuff, which I love, the piece compares Harry’s escapades to other classic characters in literature, like Tom Sawyer and Oliver Twist, and it speaks to the public’s wide embrace of this fictionalized boy and his amazing adventures. In all our cynicism over the book industry and its woes, articles like this always remind me why I love what I do. Especially now that I have 4 little girls at home, girls who I hope will grow up to be big readers, and of course, big fans of books like Harry Potter.
Just curious, at what age do you think it’s appropriate to start reading HP? My oldest is 6, middle 4, and twins are 2. Judging from their active and sometimes fearful imaginations, I think we’ll need to wait a couple of years before we get started down that road. Somehow, I think they’ll still be in print by then.