I have a confession—I haven’t read Harry Potter. I haven’t seen any Harry Potter movies. I suspect I’m in the minority. With the final book a mere week and a day away from debut, I decided to come clean. In essence, I’m confessing to a case of the lazies. I never got around to reading the first books, then it became a challenge. How long could I go without “spoiling” the story? Apparently all the way.
I know some of the basics—character names, the death of a main character (but no name), story outline—but that’s it. No specifics. I’d always hear the speculation about story direction between books, but I never confirmed the validity of the predictions. The only J.K. Rowling I’ve read up to this point is an essay on her site about girls and weight.
Today, I bought the first three books in the series. I’m taking the plunge. With the end near, it’s ok to give in because I can read clear through from beginning to end without waiting. That’s the power of J.K. Rowling. My anticipation for Harry Potter reached a point where I’d rather know nothing than know a little and have to wait. The point has been made before, but it’s worth repeating: J.K. Rowling got a generation of kids to read.
In an earlier post, I highlighted the power of storytellers who have the power to draw out childish giggles and adult chuckles. Rowling is one of those storytellers. Her initial aim may have been children, but Rowling reaches both young and old, both readers and non-readers. And she has changed the way we think about children and reading. Before Rowling, I suspect book editors would scoff at a children’s book over 800 pages (820 to be precise in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), but the size of Rowling’s books never seemed to faze her devoted audience.
Here’s the lesson I take from Rowling: tell a story worth listening to, and you’ll have a captive audience. Rowling’s current success makes it easy to overlook the risk she took in the beginning. The first Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishing houses. (link) I wonder if the editors who rejected her have trouble telling a compelling story about why they passed.