August 25, 2013

New, old Harry Potter fans to celebrate books at Fairfield library party

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD — Fictional boy wizard Harry Potter, known for years as "the boy who lived," is becoming, for a new generation of young fans, the boy who lived — a long time ago.

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Alyssa Patterson, 33, a librarian at Lawrence Public Library, dresses up as her favorite Harry Potter character, Nymphadora Tonks, on Thursday. Patterson submitted the library's winning application to be one of the 15 locations that will participate in a Harry Potter 15-year anniversary celebration party.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Bryn Mayo, waves her wand as she stands in her Fairfield home bedroom dressed as her favorite Harry Potter character, Luna, on Wednesday. Mayo plans to attend a Harry Potter party at the Lawrence Library in Fairfield on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans


5:30–7:30 p.m. Thursday

Lawrence Public Library, Fairfield


It's been six years since the final book was published in 2007, capping off a decade of book releases that were cultural events in and of themselves.

Today's young teen fans won't remember how each publication resulted in a national discussion about the sales numbers and length of each book, the long lines for midnight release parties at booksellers and, most important to the rabid fans, what would happen next in the ongoing struggle between the downtrodden orphan and the evil Lord Voldemort.

But in Fairfield and 14 other communities throughout the nation, young fans will get a taste of the days when celebrating Harry Potter was a group activity.

The Lawrence Public Library was one of 15 winners chosen from a pool of hundreds of applicants by a panel of judges from U.S. publisher Scholastic.

For submitting a winning entry in the contest, the library received $100 and Potter-themed gift items, including 100 copies of the new trade paperback edition of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" to give away during a party on Thursday, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the domestic release of the first book in the seven-volume series.

For Alyssa Patterson, the children's librarian at Lawrence who submitted the winning essay, the party will be a chance to recreate some of the excitement she felt when she picked up her first Potter book.

Patterson, who recently graduated from the University of Maine at Augusta with a degree in information and library services, said Potter has an appeal that spans both generations and genders.

People can relate to Potter, she said, because, like him, they sometimes have a hard time at home, are concerned about being able to make friends, or deal with bullies, young love and death.

Unlike many adventure books with male protagonists, Patterson said, the Harry Potter series appeals to girls as well as boys, partly because of the strong female characters and partly because of Harry Potter himself.

"You kind of feel sad for him. He's just a kind little boy," he said. "He's not aggressive and that kind of thing. He's just Harry."

Areas of the library will be decorated to represent different locations from the book — Diagon Alley, Platform Nine and Three-Quarters — and activities will include a costume contest, a wand-making shop, trivia, and a sorting by house, in which attendees choose to be members of house teams known for a particular attribute: bravery, slyness, friendship or cleverness.

Members of the first generation of Harry Potter fans, including Patterson, have moved into the workforce and are now encouraging the young people they meet in their jobs to pick up the books they loved so much when they were younger.

In addition to the young children who come to her in the library seeking reading advice, Patterson also plans to initiate her 2-year-old daughter as soon as she's old enough to enjoy them.

Ellie Berger, president of trade publishing at Scholastic, said part of the reason for Harry Potter's continued popularity are librarians who remain, she said, "passionate and committed to spreading their love of Harry Potter."

Bryn Mayo, 12, of Fairfield, was only six years old when the final book in the series was published, an event she doesn't remember at all. She, too, was convinced to pick up her first Harry Potter book by a first-generation Potter fan — her sixth-grade teacher.

Today, Mayo is a full-fledged wizarding convert, decorating her room with drawings inspired by the series and occasionally visiting fan websites.

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