Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, June 26, 2003





All aboard the Hogwarts Express
by Srabonti Narmeen Ali

HE is a skinny, gangly young boy with half-broken glasses. At first glance nobody would find anything out of the ordinary about him, but look again. Look again and see the strange lightning shaped scar on his forehead, notice how odd things constantly seem to happen around him, walk into certain streets with him and find funny people wearing odd clothes staring at him, saying his name in wonder… "Can it really be Harry Potter the boy wizard who lived?"

"Harry Potter is the best," says twelve-year-old Shumi. "I love Hermione [Granger] the best because she is the smartest and always knows what to do."

J.K. Rowling's adolescent hero has caused a fever around the world. Regardless of how old you are, what country you are from, or what language you speak, Harry Potter is definitely in, and taking the world by storm. Rowling has currently written five books of the seven book series. The fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released worldwide on Saturday June 21, 2003. At 5pm, in syncronisation with the other major cities in which bookstores officially began selling the book, Etcetera Bangladesh held a book launching party in honour of J.K. Rowling's latest book in the Harry Potter series.

"What I found to be the most exciting is that for the first time, children in Dhaka were able to say that they were a part of something that children all over the world were a part of," says Maher Murshed, Managing Director of Etcetera Bangladesh. "The book was launched in the UK at 12pm, and in the East Coast of the United States at 7am."

June 21st was a rainy, gloomy, gray-clouded day Dhaka, but that did not stop the Harry Potter fans in Dhaka. Harassed mothers and fathers willingly allowed themselves to be pulled around. After all, their children weren't asking for a Sony Play Station, or a DVD cartoon, or even worse, a Hip Hop CD all they wanted from their parents (on that particular day) was enough money to buy the book, and maybe a Harry Potter game or puzzle, if they were lucky.

“Harry Potter is revolutionary reading for young kids nothing less," says Maher Murshed. "There is something magical and wonderful about young kids learning about magic. It is comparable to what [J.R.R.] Tolkien did in the fifties, except that Tolkien didn't have the benefit of the media, and publicity. He wrote his books around the fifties, and the Hollywood production of the Lord of the Rings came out in 2000, whereas Rowling wrote her book three or four years ago and she has already had two Blockbuster movies come out."

Etcetera made a day out of it, by organising all sorts of fun activities for the young Harry Potter fans, such as a wand making event, and a live magic show, featuring the Magician D'Cruz. Dressed in costumes such as superman and batman, children came ready to participate in the best costume competition, and free stationary was presented to the first fifty book buyers. In order to avoid a mob when the book was finally launched each person was given a coupon in the order that they came in. The result was three hundred and fifty books being sold within the first two hours.

Akbar from Class V loves Harry Potter because he can relate to him more than he can to other 'superheroes.' "I like Harry Potter is because Harry Potter and his friends are heroes but they are our age and so it's nicer to have a hero who is close to your age, you feel like you can be a hero too."

As popular as Harry Potter is among young children, it is untrue to say that Rowling's fans are limited to the age group of thirteen and under. People of all ages can relate to and can enjoy the Harry Potter series.

"[Rowling] writes on so many different satirical levels," says Mrs. Yasmeen Murshed, Chairperson of Etcetera Bangladesh. "It's not just about the story itself but the whole concept of good versus evil which transcends beyond time and age. It is a concept that goes back to mythological times, and carries through to today. For me, I love that she has such a great sense of humour. Almost every character's name she uses has a satirical Latin connotation in it. It is just something for everyone."

The night drew to a close and people of all ages walked out of Etcetera Bangladesh clutching the new Harry Potter book. As if on cue, children all over the world united in favour of what our parents like to refer to as a more "traditional and acceptable form of entertainment." Move over, TV, reading is back, and Harry Potter is here to stay.






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