J.K. Rowling's First 'Harry Potter' Book Turns 20 In The U.K.
(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS SONG, "HEDWIG'S THEME")
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Can you remember a time when a young wizard named Harry Potter wasn't part of our pop culture? The series of seven books has sold over 50 million copies since it was first released 20 years ago, introducing us to Harry and his friends - Ron, Hermione and arch nemesis Lord...
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
No, no, no, no - don't say his name.
GREENE: Don't say his name. Don't say his name (laughter). It is he who cannot be named.
MARTIN: Oh, yeah. OK. So it was on this day back in 1997 that the first of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series hit British bookstores. It came out here in the states just a year after that as "Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone." Back then, Valencia Henderson was in sixth grade.
VALENCIA HENDERSON: I remember getting in trouble because I was supposed to be in bed, but I'd be under the covers with a flashlight reading Harry Potter. I was all about Hogwarts.
GREENE: Hogwarts, of course, is the famous wizarding school where many of Harry's adventures took place. Valencia Henderson - she is now a mom in Irvington, Ala. And she is sharing the books with her own children. Henderson's worn-out paperbacks are in the hands of her 9 and 7-year-old sons.
HENDERSON: So we like to snuggle up together under a blanket and read together. I did try, at first, to do different accents, but that got to be a little tiring, so.
MARTIN: Doug Frank from Garland Texas used to work part time at a bookstore back in the peak days of Harry Potter.
DOUG FRANK: I had a girlfriend in college who knitted me a Harry Potter scarf - not really because I looked like him so much but because I had glasses, I guess. And, you know, that was pretty cool. The kids sang "Happy Birthday" to me. And I was about 25 at the time (laughter).
GREENE: Well, now Frank has a young son who recently conjured up his dad's copy of "The Sorcerer's Stone" and asked him if he would read it out loud.
FRANK: That was one of the greatest questions my son could ever ask me. You know, we brush teeth, take baths and all that. He crawls up into his bunk bed, and we read. And we can usually get about five or six pages in.
MARTIN: Longtime fan Luis Maysonet of Manchester, Conn., gave his first born a really early start on the series. Just hours before the midnight release of the sixth book, his wife was about to give birth.
LUIS MAYSONET: We went to the hospital because she was going to get induced. We went in there at 7 p.m. At 11 p.m., with permission, I hit a Walmart and lucked out. And I was back at the hospital with the copy of the book on release day.
GREENE: This was just amazing. He read the entire book to his wife and his new baby.
MAYSONET: It's a great handbook for life wrapped up in a story. You know, the kids have grown up with it. So it is kind of difficult to comprehend it's been 20 years, yeah.
MARTIN: J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter," still casting spells on readers today and for generations to come. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.