This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States. I’m a huge fan of Rowling and her work and just couldn’t let it pass without giving it some props. I mean, this is a book that really shook things up.
For one thing, Harry Potter’s seven-book adventure got kids hooked on reading. That’s no easy task and never has been. But as a lifelong avid reader, I heartily believe in its value. I’ve always believed that getting someone to read is like finding a friend. It just takes the right connection.
Rowling made that connection with unequivocal success. The idea of an awkward boy with a steamer trunk of issues and family drama just trying to find his place in the world is universal. Add the magic, adventure, sports, teen drama, mystery, danger, intrigue all set in an unforgettable world and you’ve got lightning in a bottle (or on the forehead). It’s no wonder the Harry Potter series has sold more than 450 million copies across the globe.
But we all know that Harry Potter’s appeal extends way beyond its middle-school target audience. I am among the adults who stood in line at the bookstore, waiting to get the latest installment. Yep, Harry Potter made it cool for adults to read middle grade and young adult novels. And that trend has not waned since. Thanks, Rowling.
Harry Potter has even inspired scientists, thanks to the cloak of invisibility. That magical cloak enabling its wearer to travel anywhere unnoticed could certainly come in handy in the real world. In fact, researchers on both coasts have been working to develop a material that can become sight unseen.
Of course, Rowling’s own experience as an author inspires me in my writing journey. Things that happened in her own life shaped the story. She has said many times that if she hadn’t lost her mother while working on Harry Potter, it would have been a completely different saga. That’s the same for all of us as writers because we infuse our own experiences or observations into our work.
Getting that first manuscript published was no easy task, either. No fewer than 12 publishers rejected Rowling before she got a deal. The naysayers snubbed the very thing that, well, changed everything. That’s food for thought as we yet-to-publish authors prepare to peddle our own work.
So to J.K. Rowling and her work that captures the imagination, I say, let’s hear it for Harry!