CHATHAM – Harry Potter is casting a magical spell on bookstores once again.
On Saturday night, Harry Potter fans, wizards, and witches queued outside Yellow Umbrella Books to countdown to midnight—and the greatly anticipated July 31 release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two.” The timing was fitting – July 31 is the birthday of both J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter.
Based on an original new story by Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, “Cursed Child” is a new play by Jack Thorne. It is the sequel to Rowling’s bestselling, seven-volume Harry Potter series and is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage.
The worldwide book release of “Cursed Child” coincided with the July 30 premier of the play at the Palace Theater in London’s West End. The five-hour-plus theatrical sequel is presented in two parts, which are intended to be seen in order on the same day—matinee and evening—or on two consecutive evenings. Tickets to the London show are sold out through May 2017.
The script book is set 19 years after the seventh novel, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” and features a grown-up Potter as a father of three children and an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic. The story picks up where Rowling left off—at Platform 9¾ as Potter and his wife, Ginny Weasley, see their youngest son, Albus Severus Potter, off to wizard school. While Potter grapples with his past, Albus struggles with the weight of a family legacy.
It’s been nine years since Rowling last published a new Harry Potter story, yet the magic of the series endures. The seven Harry Potter novels have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 79 languages. Harry Potter has stayed at the heart of literary and popular culture thanks in part to movie versions of the books and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks.
Perhaps it is not surprising then that the release of “Cursed Child” inspired the same type of fervor that Rowling’s original books generated nearly a decade ago. Barnes and Noble announced in a statement that “Cursed Child” is its most preordered book since 2007, when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” broke preorder records. “We expect it to be our biggest selling book of the year,” Barnes and Noble Chief Merchandising Officer Mary Amicucci said in a statement. “Cursed Child” also is widely reported to be Amazon’s most preordered book for 2016 in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
Local bookstores saw very strong presales and walk-in purchases of “Cursed Child.”
“I think this shows the longevity and power of enthusiasm for the Harry Potter story, even after the heyday of the novel releases,” says Caitlin Doggart-Bernal, co-owner of Chatham’s Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore. “It’s a wonderful time to be a reader in the age of Harry Potter.”
Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham saw a steady stream of “Cursed Child” presale orders in advance of the midnight release.
“Whenever a Harry Potter book comes out, it’s great for business,” says owner Eric Linder.
“The Harry Potter stories account for the busiest day our little bookstore ever saw,” he continues. “With one of the earlier Harry Potter books, we sold 800 editions.” On July 30, the bookstore hosted a midnight release party for Potter fans waiting to get hold a first edition of “Cursed Child.” Yellow Umbrella Books wasn’t the only bookstore to dust off its quidditch brooms and spellbooks. Publisher Scholastic Books announced that an estimated 5,000 bookstores and libraries hosted midnight parties nationwide to celebrate the release of “Cursed Child.”
The store was decked out in all its Harry Pottery finery. New signs on shelves categorized books as they would have been in the wizarding world, and a display of Florish and Bott's candies greeted visitors (this isn't the store's first Harry Pottery book release party). Staff members Victoria Bessette and Anastasia Elmendorf created an elaborate window display replacing today's bestsellers with the covers of books featured in the Pottery stories, including “Quidditch Through the Ages” and “The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.” Underneath a protective net inside the store was a gaggle of furry “Monster Book of Monsters.”
Among the Harry Potter devotees in Chatham were married teachers Amber and Adam Callari of Rochester, N.Y.
“As teachers we see the lasting impression that the Harry Potter series has on children and on adults,” says Amber Callari, who shares her husband’s enthusiasm for the new Harry Potter script despite its different story structure.
“While I was surprised by the script medium, I’m just as excited to purchase this story as I was with the others,” adds Adam Callari. “We’ll still have the characters we know and love, as well as their new adventures.”
Thirteen-year-old Rowan Wood of Chatham echoes Callari’s excitement. “I think it will be really neat to read the storyline as a script,” says Wood. “To have a vision of the play in your mind, and then to get to see that vision played out on stage right before your eyes—that would be so rewarding.”