It began with these lines:
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense."
And we were hooked! It's been almost 20 years since the first book in the Harry Potter series was published but its impact continues to grow, garnering fans of all ages, all over the world. So we asked a few of our staff members to share their sentiments about the series.
My first impression/first memory:
Somer: Sometime soon after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or maybe it was Chamber of Secrets) was released, I watched an interview with J.K. Rowling on the Rosie O’Donnell show. Harry Potter was just becoming a sensation (this was the first I had heard of it). A year or so later, I was taking a children’s literature class and Sorcerer’s Stone was required reading. I was hooked immediately and read the first 3 books back to back. The timing happened to coincide very closely with the release of Goblet of Fire, so as soon as that was released I read that one, too.
Lauren: I remember being awestruck by all of the rich details and world building in The Sorcerer’s Stone. I think the fact that my first encounter with the magical realm was also Harry’s first encounter really helped me build a connection with him. I also remember being super embarrassed when the first movie came out and I realized that I had been butchering Hermione’s name (I was pronouncing it her-moyne).
Saima: At home with a toddler and a newborn, I watched a lot of TV in the summer of 1999. I vaguely remember watching news about a children’s book that was set in a school for magical learning and how it had become so popular due to "playground word of mouth marketing"! Few months later, I bought Sorcerer’s Stone purely out of curiosity (all the copies at my local library were always checked out). I was in love by the time I’d read the first page! I quickly read Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban which came out in early 2000. By that time, I was totally hooked. Later that year, Goblet of Fire was released in the summer and since then I have gone to every single midnight release including this weekend’s Cursed Child.
What’s your favorite part of the story/series?
Somer: I couldn’t pinpoint a particular scene or storyline if I had to! However, I would say that my favorite thing about the series is the bond of friendship between not just Harry, Hermione, and Ron, but all of the other characters, adult and child, as well.
Lauren: The Tri-Wizard Tournament was my favorite thing for a long time (tiny pouch dragons!), until this past time summer when I read the series again. This time around, I loved hearing Kreacher’s story in Deathly Hallows and seeing how he finally came around and was a decent character. He was so loathsome for so long, it was awesome that Rowling created an arc for this guy too and gave him some redeemable qualities.
Saima: Initially I loved that the story was centered around parental love and what it means to sacrifice yourself for your child. I absolutely loved the boarding school storyline – the train, the houses, the camaraderie, the rivalry and the trio always breaking school rules! However, as the story became more dark and we realized that being prolific with magical ability doesn't solve your problems, I found the horcruxes terribly fascinating albeit horrifying.
Favorite character and why?
Somer: I’m terrible at picking favorites. I think if I had to pick, I’d pick Molly Weasley. In the first few books, she comes across as this quirky, slightly dotty mom, but in the last few books you realize what a force to be reckoned with she is: she is at once courageous yet spunky. I want to be her when I grow up!
Lauren: I go back and forth between Hermione and Neville being my favorite characters. Hermione is amazing because she is just so brilliant and I want to be like her every day. I love that both Harry and Ron agreed and realized that by the time Deathly Hallows came around they would have been dead a long time ago if it weren’t for her. I love Neville because I love an underdog. I like to think I have a lot in common with Neville, and I’m hoping that means I will be able to continue to find strength in those really tough moments in life. I also love Lupin. And Snape. And Luna. And Dumbledore. And McGonagall :-)
Saima: Ron Weasley. I identified with him a lot. Always in the sidelines and often ignored by his peers and family, he was the one whom Harry relied upon especially during his first years at Hogwarts. My other favorites are Professor Lupin, Professor Snape and Sirius Black. I would love a series about the time when these guys were at Hogwarts.
How old were you when you first read it?
Somer: I was 28.
Lauren: My aunt was reading the series, and so around 7th or 8th grade I picked them up from her and just plowed through them.
How has this series impacted you?
Somer: Harry Potter has been intertwined in my life pretty much ever since the first time I read it. I probably read it aloud to my daughter for the first time when she was 4. By the time she was 5, just before entering kindergarten, she was reading it by herself – and not just sounding out words; I remember my sister-in-law, who teaches 2nd grade, marveling at the fact that she was reading it aloud with inflection and clearly comprehending what she was reading. I credit Harry Potter with instilling a lifelong love of books in my daughter. From the 5th book on, we attended every midnight release (including this past weekend’s release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). We listened to the audiobooks on long road trips, and, of course, we stood in line to watch the movies when they came out. We’ve incorporated Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter into two family vacations, and I even knit my daughter a Hogwarts sweater. It’s amazing that one book series could have had such an impact on me as a parent!
Lauren: Harry Potter was the series that made me love reading. These were the first books I remember not being able to put down, and ever since, I’m just not satisfied with a book that doesn’t have that quality. At the time I was first reading them, I just wanted to escape a lot (is middle school not horrible for anyone?!) and the magical world was perfect. It’s the type of series that always evolves with you, and every time I read it I discover new things about the characters and about myself.
Saima: It’s just so endearing to see its global impact.These books are so much more than a children’s book or a book about magic. While I admire that it has instilled the love for reading and celebration of books, the overall message about parental love still resonates most strongly with me. When I see families dressed in house robes, walking together at Universal's Wizarding World (Butterbeer anyone?!), I know it is beyond reading about a fantasy world of magic. Hogwarts is often a frame of reference for my kids when referring to things in real life.
Share your memories. Tell us about your favorite characters. Do you have a Quidditch story you'd like to share?
Happy reading y'all!
Somer N., Lauren W. & Saima K.