I can remember buying my first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was probably eight or nine years old, and was in New Hope with my mom, my brother, and a couple of our friends. I came home that day with two new books, which were the “toys” I always preferred, to be honest. I can’t remember how Harry Potter had made it into the cart next to Falling Up by Shel Silverstein; most likely, my mom had heard other mothers talking about it, and had decided it was something I should try.
When I didn’t start reading the book on my own – instead, my brother and I liked to make fun of the title of the first chapter, The Boy Who Lived – my mom started reading it to us. Each night before bed, we’d crawl into her’s and my dad’s bed, and listen to her read “just one more chapter” of the book.
As each new book was released, my mom would take my brother and I to Barnes & Noble at midnight, even when she had to be at work at 7AM the next day, to get the book as soon as we could. When the movies started coming out, it was the same thing – going to see the movies at midnight, no matter who had school or work the next day.
In ways that I don’t think my mom ever anticipated when she put that first book into our shopping cart, these books brought us together, and taught my brother and I lessons that I doubt we ever could have learned in school or from any other book we had read, because these books stuck with us. The lessons – the friendships and the morals and the meaning – that we took away from these books are ones I never would have remembered if Cinderella or Barney had been teaching them.
The series was so much more to my childhood than seven books and eight movies. It was more than magic and dragons and fairies. More even than best friends, and learning who I wanted to be, although these are all things that the books absolutely did. These books were a piece of my childhood, and of who I am today; and honestly, they’re a connection between me and almost my entire generation. Thousands of now-men and women who grew up with The Boy Who Lived. Who have attended midnight release screenings, read and re-read and dog-eared their books. Have created spinoffs and have had real, intelligent conversations about a series of books that from first glance, are simply about magic.
I’ve always loved books, and I bristle at the thought of banning any story or novel. But somehow, I get defensive when I hear people claiming that these books will harm their children, probably because I know what these books did for me, and I know the magic they still bring when I pick one of them up. I can’t imagine a life without them, and certainly not one in which they are banned or considered evil.