Kids count down to the debut of fourth Harry

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You could say that 10-year-old Tom Linzee-Gordon is a Harry Potter enthusiast.

"Tom," his mother asks, "how many times is it that you've read the Harry Potter books?"

Tom holds up six fingers. He has read each of the three of the books six times.

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"Yes, I've ordered the fourth book," says a smiling Varsha Linzee-Gordon. And she is very pleased to hear that the new Potter is much longer than the previous ones. The family is going on vacation, and she needs something to keep Tom occupied.

Here in Britain, Glasgow is third in a national league of Harry Potter hot spots according to a report in The Herald newspaper here. The ranking is based on online orders placed with Amazon.com. In Britain, only inner London and Bristol have more fans rushing to buy the new Potter online.

The real fun here, though, is "live," at the bookstores. At Borders, for example, on Saturday morning, Potter fans will compete to create a "potion ... that Harry and his friends might drink." The winning child will actually meet Potter author J. K. Rowling.

But it is at Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street, that the biggest "coming out" party is planned. The store will host 50 kids, between 8 and 11, most of them members of the store's recently started children's Reading Club. They will be in the store (with parents) from 8.30 Friday evening until midnight, when they will be given free copies of the book.

Kim Hardie, a public relations representative for this branch of Waterstones, says that she hears of desperate parents whose children are not sleeping because of the excitement and anticipation. And certainly the fortunate 50 will be far too distracted to do so: they are to be entertained by a magician, shown a film (probably "Bedknobs and Broomsticks") will have their faces painted, and may, if they like, wear fancy dress.

The bookstore will be closed to the general public until midnight Friday, but will then be open between between 12 and 1 a.m. It will re-open Saturday morning at 7.. Beginning at 11 that morning, an owl will be on show at the store. Quite coincidentally this owl is called Harry.

Nothing has been known like it before, and it's all due to the J.K. Rowling books and the publisher's high-profile publicity and carefully fostered secrecy.

Ms. Hardie rightly calls the whole thing a "stratospheric" phenomenon. She wonders what on earth the publishers can come up with when the fifth (and presumably 8th, 9th, and 10th) books are published in subsequent years, to top the current hype for the 4th.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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