Twenty years ago today, a little book called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published and somehow changed the world. I was 17 when it came out, far too old to be taking any notice of children’s books, so it was another three years before I read it at the insistence of my friend. The first four books were published at that point; I read them six times that year.
I was too old by then for Harry Potter to change my life in any significant way. I didn’t spend my childhood waiting for my Hogwarts letter. I didn’t learn how to let my imagination run wild – Blyton and Lewis had taught me that many years earlier. But what it did was this: Harry Potter made it cool to read children’s books, even if you were an adult. I think it’s fair to say that without that little revelation, I wouldn’t be here posting this today. We still get judged for it by small-minded people, of course we do, but there are more of us than there are of them.
And that, of course, is the other thing Harry brought me – a community. One of the greatest experiences of my life was sitting down with a group of fellow fans in the Palace Theatre just over a year ago. The atmosphere in that theatre was electric, because everyone was already a fan. I can open a conversation with anyone in the YA community by asking them who their favourite Harry Potter character is, or which House they belong to, and they will know exactly what I mean.
So thank you J. K. Rowling for writing down that story that popped into your head on a random train journey, and thank you Bloomsbury for publishing it. I may have been late to the party but I’m definitely here to stay.
Now please excuse me. I’m off to read my Hufflepuff House edition of Philosopher’s Stone.