It was 2001 and at 9 years old I found myself stood facing the best sellers shelf in WHSmith’s with my dad. He was going on and on about a book on the shelf with a big red steam train and bedraggled looking black haired boy with glasses on the front. “They’re saying it’s one of the best books around Danielle, you’ll really like it, you should give it a go!” my dad insisted. Now, I love my dad very much but as a man who I’m pretty sure has never picked up a story book in his life, I just couldn’t trust his judgment on this one. “It looks silly dad, why would I want to read about a wizard school?” I protested. Harry Potter just didn’t seem cool to a 9 year old girl who was currently obsessed with Anthony Horowitz’s teen book series about Alex Rider, the teenage spy. A wizard was definitely uncool compared to a teenager who saved the world with gadgets and explosions and fought killer jellyfish. So we left the shop empty handed and me thinking that that would be the last I’d ever hear of Harry Potter.
Then (I’m not exactly sure of the time period here because, well because I was 9 and that was a very long time ago, but I know I was definitely still 9 at this point), I was in school minding my own business when my year 5 teacher Mrs Clarke decides she was going to read us her favourite book, every day (if we behaved!) for 30 minutes before the end of the day. Great! I thought, no work! And then she whipped out a book with a big red steam train and bedraggled looking black haired boy with glasses on the front. Oh no!!! I couldn’t escape this one, and so I sat reluctantly and listened and listened and listened, and then she stopped reading. I couldn’t believe it! She can’t just stop reading! I needed to know what happened to this weird, poor, orphan boy next and there was no way I could wait until tomorrow to find out.
I ran out of the school gates straight to my mum who was greeted by my desperate pleas and undignified whiny, typical 9 year old girl begging. “Muuuummmm! I NEEEEEEEEED Harry Potter! Pleaseeeeeeeee!!!! Please! PLEASE?!”. I had prepared myself for some resistance, I knew I couldn’t just get something because I “needed” it, I was prepared to barter and bargain and who knows, maybe I would have stooped low enough to blackmail to make sure that I had that book about that boy wizard that very same day. But it was my lucky day and my mum whisked me off to Tesco (I thought we were going there especially for me but now I think back, it was probably just a coincidence and she was probably getting shopping anyway, which makes this story a lot less dramatic so let’s pretend she zoomed all the way there just for me) and there it was, right at the front of the shop waiting for me to accio it right off that shelf and into our trolley.
I read and read until I could read no more (because it was way past my bed time) and I proudly strutted (much unlike Harry or his father) right into my year 5 classroom the following day to show off my brand new book to my teacher and classmates to find that the majority of them had gone home the night before and clearly had the same whiny conversations with their parents who had most likely had their ears chewed off until they had no other choice but to rush out to the nearest supermarket and pick up this book. We were hooked. A whole class of brand new witches and wizards desperate to finally get to the chapter where we join Harry and go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
We sat and read along with Mrs Clarke, exploring this new magical world and soon enough a few of our class had finished Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and had begged our parents for the next instalment of the series. I will never forget falling in love with Harry’s magical world, thinking Ron was hilarious, Harry was so brave and cool and Hermione was just like me – bookish, with frizzy hair and big front teeth.
Harry Potter shaped a lot of my life in many ways, like for so many other Potter fans, it gave me a pretty good moral compass, an open mind and an open heart for things, people, places and cultures that were different to what I was used to, it taught me to be brave and kind and loyal and it taught me to always stand up for what I believe in and for what was right. I actually went on to study English Literature at university and was probably the only person I knew who was excited to write their 10,000 word dissertation because I had chosen to write about Harry Potter. Now, I continue to weave Harry Potter into my everyday life still. I collect memorabilia and feel just as excited about it as I did when I was 9/10, I read and re-read Harry Potter yearly just to feel at home, I watch Harry Potter films whenever I’m having a bad day or I’m not feeling well because they make me feel good and happy, I save every penny I have so I can delve into the magical world by going to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios, Orlando.
I can’t wait for new material to be released by JK Rowling whether that be a new book, a new film, and even the play (which I still haven’t seen! I’ll get there one day!), I’m just as excited to learn more as I was when I was 9 years old and I don’t think there are many series that has fans who remain so constant and so engaged as the fans of Harry Potter have. I would never have imagined that at the age of 25 I’d still be as excited (obsessed) about a children’s book series that I read when I was 9, but I guess that’s a true testament to JK Rowling’s ability as an author, you never feel like you’re too old for this world that she has created, you just grow and look at the wizarding world from different perspectives which makes the books continue to be just as exciting as they were 20 years ago.