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Potter party animals get down to it

July 17, 2005|by ADAM BEHSUDI

adamb@herald-mail.com

Almost like magic, Borders Books Music & Cafe turned into a temporary Hogwarts late Friday as fans of all ages anxiously awaited the midnight release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

Shawn Coble, 41, and Judy Price, 41, dressed in witch's garb, waited in a line that formed in front of the cafe section of the store. The two women said they look for any occasion to dress up. Both have read the entire series to this point.

"I think the author has written it to appeal to a variety of ages," Price said.

The book is the penultimate installment in J.K. Rowling's popular saga about the adventures of Harry Potter, a boy trained in magic, and his group of friends.

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Peter Sorensen, 10, said he read all five books in a span of three months.

"I loved them so much I couldn't put them down," he said.

After checking out the craze behind the series, Peter's father, Roland Sorensen, thought the books would be good reading material for his son.

"He improved his reading tremendously," Roland Sorensen said.

To celebrate the release of the book, Borders hosted a party with crafts, games and snacks prior to the book going on sale at midnight. A Web site devoted to tracking events related to the opening sale of the book, www.potterparties.com, counted 1,917 "Potter parties" occurring nationwide.

Ed Mitchell, the manager of the Hagerstown Borders, predicted that the store might sell more than 1,000 copies of the book this weekend.

For many attending the event, the book has become a family affair. Parents, caught up in the excitement, are as eager to dig into Harry's latest adventure as their children are.

Kristina Giannaris clutched her ticket for a reserved copy. Her daughter Ria, 7, was using her own money to buy the book, but wouldn't be the first to read it.

"She's going away to camp on Sunday, and I'm going to read it when she's gone," Giannaris said.

Dressed in the colors of her favorite Hogwarts school, Hufflepuff, Lynzee Ricoi, 16, said she was buying two copies to share with her three sisters. She said she has read all of the books in the series twice.

"I found out my sister didn't read the fifth book and I almost whacked her with something," Lynzee said.

Timothy Siecker, 24, said he started reading the books when his grandmother recommended them. Certain characters appealed to him throughout the series, especially Fred and George, two jokesters Harry attends magic school with.

"They really don't care about the classes," Siecker said. "They already know what they're going to do in life."

By Saturday afternoon, Siecker had read enough of the newest installment to decide it was both different and better than the earlier books. In their efforts to establish plot and characters, he said the earlier ones eased readers into the action. This one launches them right into the thick of things.

"It's most interesting, you want to read it," Siecker said, three chapters in. "With the other books, it takes a while for things to happen. It's most different from the other books."

Not all of the Potter enthusiasts on hand for the midnight release were ready to dive into the tale of The Half-Blood Prince. Hannah Himes, 8, picked up her copy at the release party, but on Saturday had read just about a page of it, with no immediate plans to plod further.

"Not really, because I'm barely halfway through the third book," Hannah said.

After that book, Hannah planned to dive into the first two, then onward to the fourth and fifth, and finally into the copy she picked up past midnight Saturday. She said she dived into the series with its third installment because "I listened to the third tape and it was really good."

At 600-plus pages, the newest book is a bit shorter than some of its predecessors. Some prefer to take their time, while others won't sleep until they reach the last page.

"I definitely like to dig in and take my time," Lynzee Ricoi said.

Siecker said he was amazed when his brother's girlfriend told him that she read the longest of the books, 870 pages, in two days. He said he also likes to take his time reading the books.

Shoval Resnick, 15, however, echoed the fate of many Harry Potter fans who bought the book on Friday night.

"I probably won't sleep for a couple of days," she said.

After picking up their copy at the release party, a family engagement Saturday morning kept Hagerstown resident Allison Banzhoff's two children from diving into the tale until late in the afternoon, and by then, they were "chomping at the bit," she said.

Taking a break after the first chapter, Jared Banzhoff, 10, said the anticipation was worth it.

"So far, there's been like mysterious things in the muggle world," including giants, he said. "I really like it."

Only one chapter into it, Jared would not offer its rank as compared to the previous volumes.

"It's really interesting, but it's kind of hard to tell if I like it," he said.

Staff writer Daniel J. Sernovitz contributed to this story.

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