Midnight Muggle parties return for ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’

The Chosen One is once again making it back into bookstores for a midnight book release on Saturday. 

Peter Nicholls/Reuters
People walk past The Palace Theatre, where the Harry Potter and The Cursed Child play is being staged, in London, Britain.

On Saturday, July 30, bookstores will once again stay open until midnight and beyond to celebrate the release of yet another book about a black haired, bespectacled wizard with a lightning-shaped scar. But unlike the original "Harry Potter" series, this "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" is a standalone release, written years after the original books. And, most unusually, it is a play.

Readers over the age of 16 likely remember the biggest cultural phenomenon to hit streets and shops, virtual and otherwise, until the advent of Pokémon Go earlier this month. J.K. Rowling’s "Harry Potter" series has sold more than 450 million copies since the first book's release in 1997. Will "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" draw as much interest, and as much praise, as the original series?

“Everybody that was of a certain age, and even those of much older ages, will probably always remember that,” Syracuse University professor and pop culture expert Robert Thompson says in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. “That was really something unique in publishing up until that time. It completely jumped off the pages of the book.”

The last Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," drew predictably excited crowds to bookstores on the night of its 2007 release, selling more than 8 million copies in the US within the first 24 hours of its release.

This new book is in a different format than Ms. Rowling’s previous publications, written as a play and not as a prose novel. It is also much shorter, and instead of focusing on Harry Potter, it is instead centers around Harry’s son, Albus Potter, who was first introduced to fans at the end of the last Harry Potter book.

Dr. Thompson tells the Monitor that, just as the release of the original series revitalized reading for many children, the release of the "Cursed Child" play could possibly resuscitate interest in plays.

“One of the things that was fascinating about Harry Potter was that it was in a traditional medium,” he says. “What was so interesting was that you had a generation that was so excited about a very old fashioned act – reading. There’s no reason to think it wouldn’t happen again.”

While some fans have criticised the stage play for its resemblance to many a fanfiction plot, critics love “Cursed Child,” and anticipation is high for the printed version.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is the most pre-ordered book through Barnes and Noble and Amazon since the last Harry Potter book was released, according to The Washington Post. Stores are breaking out their Harry Potter paraphernalia in anticipation of Saturday’s crowds.

Although the release will certainly draw crowds of faithful fans, Thompson tells the Monitor that he does not believe the newest release will be as exciting for readers as the releases of the print and film versions of the original series.

“It isn’t going to be quite what we saw. The countdowns for those other books were things you couldn’t help hearing about,” Thompson says. “There are few people in America today who have not heard at least about Pokémon Go, but I think there are a lot of people who don’t know this [book] is coming out tomorrow.”

For true fans, Saturday’s release will hold an especially meaningful place in their hearts, as "Harry Potter" lovers mark the character’s 36th birthday, as well as creator Rowling’s 51st.

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