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Pique n' your interest

Harry’s not just a passing fad

Tommy Africa’s, Maxx Fish and Moe Joe’s couldn’t compete with the line up outside Armchair Books this weekend.

Instead of drunken guys demanding to get into a bar without paying cover because they’re "a local", this line up was a touch more civilized. They were also a little more excitable than your usual Friday night queue outside a Whistler bar.

But it wasn’t the size of the line up or the midnight party with free cake and juice that was the most incredible thing this night.

Rather, it was the fact that all these people, young and old, were crazy with anticipation about...a book of all things. An 800-page book for that matter!

And I thought reading was dead.

At long last the fifth book in the Harry Potter series had arrived.

And though she can be praised for her unparalleled imagination, the faith in her idea and her real life rags to riches fairytale story, perhaps J.K. Rowling’s greatest accomplishment is getting people reading again.

It’s a fast-paced world these days and it isn’t often that people take the time to sit down with a book and let their imagination take flight.

Too many distractions. Too much TV. Too many video/computer games.

Who cares about good old-fashioned reading?

Apparently a lot of people care if Friday night was anything to go by.

I didn’t realize how much of an effect Harry Potter had in the world of literature until I heard the loud desperate countdown to midnight — 20, 19, 18, 17 – signaling the release of ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.’

Standing in the line on Friday night I had a flashback of myself at 8 years old, feeling that same excitement, that feeling when you just can’t contain yourself any longer, on the verge of bursting apart at any given moment. It’s the December 24 feeling, wondering if you’re ever going to make it through the long night.

I devoured Nancy Drew, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven when I was 8 years old but there was no book that could seize an audience and create the buying frenzy that Rowling has created.

Back then, for hundreds of thousands of little girls like me, it was all about Cabbage Patch Kids.

The lineups were just as long back then. Parents were getting into fistfights in their efforts to secure what some could see as a very ugly stuffed doll. There was a mass hysteria around these dolls.

I got my first Cabbage Patch kid quite by accident on a visit to my relatives in Kingston.

That fateful Saturday morning in a mall in Kingston my cousins and I stumbled into a big department store where much to our amazement there were about five identical Cabbage Patch Kids sitting on a rack in the toy section.

We were dumbfounded. We stood in the middle of the aisle clutching the boxes, realizing that if we pooled our money we could only buy one doll between the three of us. But who would get the doll?

That was just not an option we decided and while my youngest cousin stood guard over three dolls, my older cousin and I searched for a phone where we promptly called our parents.

Even more unbelievable that our nerve to interrupt them at breakfast and demand they come to the mall right away to shell out the money for the dolls was the fact that they actually did it.

Perhaps they realized the desperation of being a poor 8-year-old kid with pleading eyes who truly believed their world would be crushed if they had to leave that Cabbage Patch Kid in the box at Zellers.

True enough, I didn’t really want a brown haired, brown eyed boy but oh, to own my very own Cabbage Patch Kid who I could adopt and love and more importantly, bring to school to visit the other Cabbage Patch Kids.

His name was Keith Bjorn and he liked pets. I changed it to Keith Norman, after my dad.

What a joke.

There are now three Cabbage Patch Kids tucked away in my parents’ basement. Along with Keith Norman, there’s a preemie (a smaller bald version of his brother) and there’s of course the blonde haired, blue-eyed girl that I always wanted. They’re lying next to Strawberry Shortcake and Bedtime Bear (my old Care Bear). They’re next to my brothers’ Millennium Falcon and every other Star Wars action figure in the Darth Vader carrying case. They’re next to the talking Kit car. In fact, you could track the popular culture of the eighties in that basement.

It’s just piles of old stuff, distant memories, countless hours of fun and what my mum believes is our inheritance, never mind the fact that the toys have all been very well-loved over the years.

Harry Potter, the latest craze, seems to give back so much more than a talking Kit car or Tickle-Me Elmo or Beanie Babies.

Harry is here to stay. I don’t think he’ll ever be relegated to the basement, discarded as a crazy fad.

Kids and parents are talking about the intricate plot line. Teenagers are making predictions for the next two novels. Adults are comparing the common themes in the story with tales in Star Wars and other sagas.

Harry’s appeal is universal, stretching over countries and generations.

I was just as excited as the eight-year-olds in line on Friday night. I too spent the weekend pouring over the pages.

I dreaded getting closer to the end.

By page 600 I had to take a break at the end of every chapter. That’s when you know you’re in the middle of a good book, when you don’t want it to end but at the same time, you can’t stop going back to it.

I know many kids who have discovered the thrill of reading through Harry’s tale. I know adults who have rediscovered reading through Harry’s tale.

And that’s really what Harry’s magic is all about.

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