Bock, Linda. "'Harry Potter' magic draws thousands," Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA), October 12, 1999

WORCESTER - J.K. "Jo" Rowling, author of the "Harry Potter" series, started her three-week U.S. book signing tour here last night to the sheer delight of thousands of enchanted fans.

The English author, whose bestselling "Harry Potter" books have sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, signed hundreds of her books at Tatnuck Bookseller & Sons, 335 Chandler St.

"We're absolutely overwhelmed by the turnout. We couldn't believe that people were arriving so early. Nothing else we've ever done has approached this," said Tatnuck Bookseller owner Larry J. Abramoff. "I've read all three "Harry Potter' books myself, and I'm just like the kids: I wanted them to go on and on."

Abramoff said people started lining up at 11 a.m., some with lawn chairs and picnic baskets. Crowds were so eager by late afternoon that the store had to distribute the allotted 500 tickets at 4:30 p.m., a bit earlier than planned. Rowling arrived right on time for her 7 p.m. appearance.

The crowd inside hushed as management made the announcement that Rowling had arrived. They began wildly cheering and applauding as soon as Rowling was spotted making her way through the packed store.

An entirely gracious Rowling barely had time to greet the crowd because a pen and book were thrust into her hand while she was approaching the table. She signed the first copy midair, and never stopped. She signed her first 100 copies in just about 10 minutes, and only looked up to smile warmly and thank each fan for coming.

"She's like really funny. She's also really nice, even though it was so short a time we had to meet her," said Andrew M. Slowaski, 10.

The "Harry Potter" phenomenon is best described by many parents and teachers at the signing last night as "the books" that got their kids to read again.

"My dad read to me until I was 12, and then that's when we got a TV," said Anne K. Oehling. "Parents are reading to their kids again. That's what "Harry Potter' is all about."

And many parents think that someone has cast a magical spell over their own communications between themselves and their spellbound children.

Mary C. Crompton of Worcester waited all day with Brittany M., her 14-year-old daughter, and Michael R., her 9-year-old son, to meet the celebrated author.

"It's wonderful to talk to the kids about the books, and even more wonderful to hear the kids discussing the characters with each other," Crompton said.

Brittany, a ninth-grader at St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic Junior & Senior High School, first heard about the fantasy books when Rowling appeared on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" early this summer. Since reading all three books at least twice each, she has prepared a school report on Rowling as the public person she admires most.

Brittany most wanted to ask Rowling: "When's the fourth book coming out?"

A series of seven "Harry Potter" books is planned; the fourth is tentatively scheduled for release next summer. The first three titles are: "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

All of the books have topped all the major bestseller lists, including "The New York Times," "Wall Street Journal" and "USA Today" on both the adult and children's fiction lists.

Lisa A. Crowley, a fifth-grade teacher at Floral Street School, Shrewsbury, said that the enthusiasm for the books is growing. She's thrilled most about the literary influence on the school-aged youngsters because of the amazing detail in the stories and the richly drawn characters.

"The whole class is reading them. During the silent reading period at the end of the day, everyone pulls out "Harry." The kids even have the adults reading them. They're so great," Crowley said.


For fans of all ages, part of the fun last night was wearing the trademark "Harry Potter" scar on their foreheads, a temporary tattoo each guest received. Harry got his scar - in the shape of a lightning bolt - in an accident caused by Voldemort, the villain of the stories.

Behind Rowling's successful series is Harry Potter, her hero, an orphaned 11-year-old wizard, who attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry lives in a magical world where letters are delivered by owls, diaries write back to you, and chess is played with living pieces. His adventures are what keeps his readers coming back for more.

Janine Rosenbaum of Worcester, a school librarian, has read all three of Rowling's books. She said Rowling's adventure series has conjured up whole new worlds for readers.

"Look at all these kids here. Imagine that they've spent their whole day-off to meet an author. An author: Think about it. It's a miracle," Rosenbaum said.