Potter-mania about to erupt in Clayton County

By Laura McMillan

At one site after another, including www.mugglenet.com, a Harry Potter Web site, shows the clock ticking. At 7 a.m. today, it is two days and 17 hours remaining before the long awaited, highly anticipated, midnight release of the sixth book in J.K. Rowling's series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

With more than 1.2 million copies already ordered world wide from Amazon.com and more than four days left to pre-order the novel, The Half-Blood Prince has already broken records set by its predecessor, The Order of the Phoenix.

Amazon.com establishes the reading level for The Half-Blood Prince from ages nine to 12. Adrianne West is librarian aid and avid Harry Potter fan, who at 22-years old, disagrees with the age demographic originally set on the series. "I think it is the series part of it," West said of Harry Potter's vast audience-spanning appeal. She said, "You almost grow up with Harry Potter. Children identify with Harry Potter and adults can remember back."

Victoria Tice of Griffin agreed, "Her ability to appeal to children as well as 40 and 50-year-olds is great."

There are, however more children, pre-teens and teenagers that show an interest in the books in the Clayton County Headquarters Library than there are adults according to Youth Services Librarian, Bea Mengel.

The juvenile section in which Harry Potter is held will not keep the books on regular shelves because of two reasons: they tend to disappear and they are so frequently asked for, said Mengel.

One 10-year old who will not have to wait for the library's copy is Charli Echevarria. She owns all five books and has the fifth reserved. "I'm pretty sure he's going to have a hard time because his whole family died," Echevarria speculated of Harry's future.

Echevarria explained the reason for her love of the Harry Potter Series by saying, "It takes you to a world you're not really in."

In trying to pin-point another possible reason for the Harry Potter fever that is growing with each new book, Mengel said, "I think it's unique in the fact that there was controversy surrounding the book. It's a combination of the enjoyment and the controversy."

In light of the hundreds of copies reserved at Barnes & Noble in Morrow, the only remaining controversy surrounding Harry Potter is whether or not there will be enough of him to go around Friday at 12 midnight. "I'm hoping it will be hours before we run out," said Barbara Bird, the community relations manager at Barnes & Noble.

Some people are not quite so enthusiastic, like Daniel Black, 15, of Jonesboro who said, he was "just lookin' for a good book."

More anxious fans will be lining up after registration begins at the Morrow store at 6 p.m. Friday night. The lucky first-in-line fan will get the first-out-of-the-box book.

Bird is excited about hosting the readers Friday from 8 a.m. well on past the highly anticipated stroke of midnight. Reading some of the first distributed copies of J.K. Rowling's newest book is not the only thing Barnes & Noble patrons can look forward to; the "Midnight Magic" party at the store will include face painting, games, Harry Potter look alike contests, giveaways including a poster signed by the illustrator of the books' covers, and a live owl program according to Bird.

Bird admits witnessing a rise in Harry Potter's popularity from the first party thrown in his honor three book releases ago. "It's definitely record breaking," she said, citing also the 750,00 copies ordered off the Barnes & Noble website.

Although Barnes & Noble will host the all-night Potter Party, it is not the only festivity in Clayton County. The Headquarters Library will have a Book Release Party Saturday, July 16 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. after which the books will be distributed throughout the library system. "We use the term 'distributed' loosely because they'll be reserved," Bea Mengel said.

Amy Allen, 29, is the head of the Children's Department at Barnes & Noble. She is one person who is reserving both her opinion of what is going to happen in the next book and her two copies of the book itself. Allen refused to guess at the ending, but said, instead, "That's one of the things about the stories - you cannot predict what's going to happen."

Allen's co-worker, Barbara Bird is only predicting a happy ending for all those Harry Potter fans who reserved their copy back in January, those procrastonators who will reserve it at the last possible minute Friday afternoon before 1 p.m., and all those happy readers who know where they are going to be Friday night.

Matt Hooper contributed to this story