Local events lead up to release of Potter book

By Justin Reedy

Muggles of all ages and from all walks of life were out in force Friday night in celebration of the release of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth book in the best-selling children's fantasy series by J.K. Rowling.

The book, which was set to go on sale after midnight Friday night at some stores and Saturday morning at others, is one of the most anticipated releases of the year for booksellers.

The Books-a-Million in McDonough was the site of a Harry Potter release party Friday night, complete with trivia and costume contests and a countdown to the midnight release time. "The Order of the Phoenix" is the most anticipated release that the bookstore has encountered since its recent opening.

"This is the biggest event we've had for this store so far," said store manager Rebecca Alston. "Customers around here are really excited about it."

At the Barnes & Noble in Morrow, dozens of customers lined up in the store to get numbered tickets in preparation for the book's distribution at midnight. One of those customers was 13-year-old Hampton resident Laurie Pritchett, who dressed up for the event as Hermione Granger, one of Harry Potter's classmates in the books.

Pritchett has been waiting for the fifth book's release ever since reading book four, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," three years ago. That book, which was more than 700 pages long, is still her favorite of the series.

"It's just so exciting," Pritchett said. "When you get to a certain part in the chapters you just can't stop reading."

Though she has heard some rumors about the plot of the fifth book, Pritchett isn't sure what's going to happen – but she'll get a fast start on finding out, since she planned on starting the book right after purchasing it late Friday night.

"I know someone's going to die in the new book, but I don't think it's Dumbledore," she said. "I think it might be Hagrid, or Colin."

Jonesboro resident Robert Worley, 10, was also one of the dozens of kids who couldn't wait until Saturday morning to buy his copy of "The Order of the Phoenix." He may start reading the book right away, but its 800-plus pages could take him a while to digest.

"The first time I read (the 734-page) book four, it took me a month," Worley said. "Of course, I was in second grade then."

When Hapeville resident Glynnis Holt started reading the Harry Potter series a few years ago, she was the same age as the fictional main character, but she's since outgrown him and is now 16. She's no less of a fan now than when she started the series, but Holt was dressed in regular clothes for the release party at Barnes & Noble.

"I don't go that far," she said, gesturing to someone dressed in the cloak and school uniform of a Hogwart's student.

Southlake Mall in Morrow hosted a Harry Potter-themed party for local residents Friday night, including a magic show and a costume contest. Copies of the new Harry Potter book will go on sale at the Waldenbooks in Southlake Mall Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

The book is expected to be one of the best-selling titles of the year – the publisher printed 8.5 million copies in its first printing, and Barnes & Noble expects to sell one million copies of the book nationwide in its first week on sale.

For people who want to read the book without spending the $20-$30 retail price, libraries in the Southern Crescent will have the copies of the book available for checkout Saturday morning. But with a limited number of books available, it might be a while before all library customers can check out the book.

The Clayton County library system has eight copies of the book to split between its five locations, while the Henry County system has about two or three copies for each branch.

"I know we'll have a huge demand for it," said Carol Stewart, the director of library services for Clayton County. "We'll have five to six copies for each branch by the time we get the rest we ordered, but that won't even begin to reach demand."

"There's no other title that's been pushed like this one," added Carolyn Fuller, the Henry County library director. "Everybody's been waiting on it for a while. I would expect it's going to be three to four months before I can check it out myself."