Area bookstores prepare to welcome back Harry

mcall.com staff

Harry is back, and it's party time in area bookstores again.

Throughout the Lehigh Valley, booksellers are busy preparing celebrations for perhaps the most exciting, and most profitable, day for the world of reading ever: the release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the latest Harry Potter installment.

While J.K. Rowling, 39, author of the Harry Potter series, will unveil the mysterious sixth book at a midnight party Saturday at Edinburgh Castle, local retailers like Mike Sawyer, a book buyer for Moravian Book Shop, hope their stores' events will cause comparable excitement for the area's children.

"The opening's going to be awesome and we're really looking forward to it," Sawyer explained, "Something like this only happens once every few years."

Sawyer described the extravaganza planned to begin at 10:30 p.m. Friday and last well past midnight when the book is released. For those few hours, Sawyer explained that he hopes to bring the world of Harry Potter to life.

Though the 460 guests who reserved their spots for Moravian Book Shop's party in May will certainly learn how to make "Troll Boogers" and magic wands, Sawyer explained the store also plans to entertain them with a magician, a clown and an animal handler who, Sawyer said, will "walk around with snakes trying to scare the kids."

But for Moravian Book Shop, the magic isn't just about the entertainment.

"We've built a really good rapport with our customers," Sawyer said, "They've come to come to know what to expect from us. It's amazing that when we planned this, we had in mind kind of huge family gathering."

Sawyer also hopes that Half Blood Prince book sales, which he expects to be greater than the record-breaking sales of Book 5, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," will be able to attract young readers to other series.

"(Harry Potter) just spawned a genre," Sawyer said. "The phenomenon creates an interest not only in that book but in similar books."

He marveled at the change in confidence young readers have shown.

"The kids realize if they can plow through a 500-, 600-page book they can read just about anything," Sawyer said.

Heidi Klein, general manager at Borders Books and Music in Whitehall Township, hoped increased reader confidence would encourage children to diversify.

"Harry Potter is the one that got all the kids," Klein said, "Now, hopefully we can keep them reading by attracting them to other books."

Klein's store will also be hosting an event starting at 9 p.m. Their "Midnight Magic Party" will feature magic potions, face painting and a feast of Harry Potter café food.

"It'll be fun, like a big party," Klein said, "And anyone can come!"

Local Barnes and Noble stores will also be holding an array of events open to the public. In the Whitehall outlet, community relations manager Angela Sferlazza is expecting 1,000 people to come for the book's opening.

Besides events Sferlazza called "your standard Harry Potter festivities," the store will also host magician Tom Yurasits.

Sferlazza attributed the enormous expected attendance to Harry Potter's wide appeal.

"They're books for adults and children," Sferlazza said. "I mean, I'm 23 years old and I still read the book."

Amy Schenkenberger, community relations manager at the relatively new Barnes and Noble store in Bethlehem Township, said attendance at her store's planned events is a wild card.

"I have no idea how many people will be here, but it will probably be a lot," she said.Schenkenberger expressed her excitement for the festivities but knew the night's real excitement would not be about the party.

"I mean we have the costumes, we have the wands and we have the jelly beans but our real slam bang finish will be finally unveiling the book," Schenkenberger said.

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