It’s 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published. I’m re-reading the series again to celebrate. It occurs to me I have a lot to say about these books.
Often I don’t talk about Harry Potter and how big a part of my life it was because it is so inbuilt into me – of course Harry Potter was a huge part of my life. How could it not be?
Memories of the HP books are woven into all my childhood memories. Visiting my cousins and seeing the first HP book on his shelf and starting to read it. Having Mum read aloud the fourth book to us because we were still pretty young and it was too scary. Reading the sixth HP book in a day when it came out. Reading the books at the Sport Carnivals instead of, you know, doing the sports. Re-reading the books again and again, like coming back to an old friend.
Then of course, there was all the extra stuff that came with the books. Going to see the movies as they came out. Thinking that the Harry Potter Puppet Pals was the funniest thing ever. Still knowing that A Very Potter Musical might be the funniest thing ever (or at least the funniest thing on YouTube). Watching as HP became the global phenomenon it deserves to be, as it got a theme park and a stage play and a spin off series of textbooks that somehow got turned into a movie with more to follow (hi Fantastic Beasts!). Being excited with the advent of Pottermore and finally being sorted into our own houses.
I visited the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio when I was in the UK last year, and it was magical in every way. Most of all, it brought home to me again that Harry Potter is not a just a magical world I can escape to – it is a shared love, a collectively adored series. There are strangers all over the world who love these characters and these books the same way I do – who know the feeling of escaping back to Hogwarts. Harry Potter makes me feel less alone.
As the world celebrates 20 years of Harry, as I ponder again how seven books can make such an impact on the world and can produce so much more than just those seven books, I’m thankful again for imagination, for bravery, for stories and for the magic of reading.
I’m grateful for the world of Harry Potter. I’m grateful for the Harry, Ron and Hermione’s example of friendship, for the Weasleys’ example of family, for Dumbledore’s and McGonagall’s example of teachers who care, for Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, for Luna and Ginny and Neville, even sometimes for Draco (except not ever for Snape. Sorry guys).
I don’t think I would be the reader – or writer – I am today without HP. I don’t think I would have learnt to value the Hufflepuff qualities I have – of hard work and loyalty and compassion – without knowing that we are all talented differently and there is a place for each of us.
So, with 20 years done, it’s time to say thanks to JK Rowling and to Harry Potter. Let’s all agree the Cursed Child never happened and keep re-reading the books forever.