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Quotables: Canadian booksellers on 20 years of Harry Potter


June 26 marks the 20th anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Although its beginnings were modest – only 500 copies of the first hardcover edition were initially published by Bloomsbury – today, more than 450 million copies of books from the series have been sold internationally.

The Harry Potter series has also been a godsend to many Canadian booksellers, some of whom share their memories with Q&Q:

Phyllis Simon, Kidsbooks, Vancouver
We were the first store in Canada to sell the Harry Potter books – a full season before the others. We hosted four release parties starting with book four. We clad our windows in Hogwarts Castle and held our first midnight party for 500. After that for the following two releases, we spilled out onto the street and used Gringotts and Owl Post as themes. Our last party was huge: 4,000 people at VanDusen Gardens transformed into the Ministry of Magic. Memorable indeed!

The best thing of all, in my opinion, was the effect the series had on children who were reluctant readers before and who became enthusiastic and confident readers after. They felt such a sense of achievement reading these long intense stories and were delighted to be part of the elite group of Harry Potter readers. Their pleasure and excitement were such a joy for us book-lovers to see. And teachers saw the result in their students’ ability to express themselves with greater sophistication as a result.

Heather Kuipers, Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore, Toronto
We were just reflecting on this today at the store. I read the first book with my local mother’s book club when it first came out and my oldest child was born around then. This was 10 years before I opened my store. In our first year of opening, Ella Minnow hosted a HP07 party, one of our first big events. It also launched my children as very serious Harry Potter Fans, as I had three by then. We have been selling Harry Potter steadily ever since, and parents are very keen to introduce Harry Potter to their kids. We sometimes have to slow them down a bit so their kids have a chance grow up a bit between books like Harry did. We also hosted a huge neighbourhood event last summer when the screenplay came out. Parents and kids were equally enthusiastic.

Ben McNally, Ben McNally Books, Toronto
I was just talking about that to a customer. I think everyone  – in the English-speaking world at least – owes a huge debt of gratitude to Jo Rowling for all she has done to inspire generations of readers. I remember my daughter Danielle marvelling (around book five or six) that there would come a time when readers would be able to just read the series in its entirety without having to wait a year between instalments. My son Yeats reads the entire series almost every summer. It remains a magnificent achievement; everything you could ask for in a book, times seven.

Cathy Jesson, Black Bond/Book Warehouse, various locations, B.C.
Love the display kits provided to celebrate the 20th anniversary. Sales continue to be so strong, new readers making the Harry Potter discovery and old fans  adding the 20th-anniversary covers to their collection. We had some amazing parties over the years – think this was the turning point in creating a whole generation of readers. J.K. Rowling is our rock star, a gift sent to save an ailing industry in a time of despair 20 years ago. The gift keeps on giving.