I’m a little late for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, but I hope it’s okay anyway =)
Harry has always been a little strange. He makes things happen without meaning to, like that time he talked to a snake at the zoo and made the glass vanish when his cousin Dudley pushed him out of the way to see it better. Harry got in big trouble for that one. His Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia don’t like anything or anyone out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, Harry is VERY out of the ordinary. This is only emphasized by the fact that Harry has been getting letters – lots of them – saying he’s been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Exactly what Hogwarts is, and what it means for Harry, is summed up by four words spoken by a giant in a shack on the sea: “Harry – yer a wizard.”
The illustrated edition is absolutely beautiful. It’s huge, too! The better to fit all the gorgeous illustrations in 😉 Jim Kay’s work is perfect for the world of Harry Potter. They appear to be watercolor, and they’re whimsical, incredibly detailed, and have a strong sense of lighting. Some pages have full two-page spreads, and some pages have only a little scene. Some pages are just full text, but the whole book is printed against a background that looks like watercolor or parchment paper, with some paint splashes or tiny little illustrations of keys or frogs or owls. It’s probably going to serve a double purpose in lots of young families as both a collector’s item and a bedtime story staple. Children would love the illustrations just as much as adults would. The best part is, it’s unabridged, so you get the full story along with all the all the illustrations. In truth, it’s making me a little worried about the sizes Goblet of Fire on will be, which were really big to begin with!
Not that I’m complaining I’m gonna buy them all no matter what
Just as Hagrid’s words changed Harry’s life, the words J.K. Rowling wrote about him and his adventures changed mine. I had been a big reader before Harry Potter, so I can’t rightly say it got me to read. However, it did get me to read more fantasy. I first read Lord of the Rings and most of Tamora Pierce’s work in middle school thanks to Harry Potter – and I haven’t stopped since!
Harry also got me to write – my very first piece of fanfiction was Harry Potter. I love to write, and even if I don’t have a lot of time anymore (and am probably very rusty), I still catch myself composing stories and stringing words together in my head from time to time. As well as each and every first edition hardcover HP book, my mother got me Eragon for Christmas as well one year. She told me that she got it for me because Christopher Paolini was also a young author. At the time Eragon was published, he was 19, and I around 13 or 14 and very serious about becoming an author. Both series were major inspirations to me when I was younger.
The reason that Harry Potter both as a series and as a character mean so much to me is… well, I was different too when I was a kid. I was constantly walking around with my nose in a book or my head in the clouds. I’ve always kind of lived in a world of my own making, and I refused to conform to what my peers deemed normal. Unfortunately, I was bullied for it, and it’s left scars on me to this day.
Harry made me believe that being different, and standing out, might not be so bad. We all like to believe that we have some special power inside us. We might not literally be the Chosen One, like Harry or Frodo or Eragon, but we DO all have a special power. We all have the ability to change the world and the lives of the people around us. We’re all more powerful than we believe.
The real magic of Harry Potter, and arguably of the fantasy genre as a whole, is that it makes us believe in ourselves as much as it makes us believe in the world we’re immersing ourselves in.
Thank you, J.K. Rowling. Thank you for sharing your world with all of us. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many. Thank you for bringing a little boy out from the cupboard under the stairs so we wouldn’t have to feel like we were alone in being different.
Rowling, J.K., and Jim Kay. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition. 2015.