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Would-be wizards await release of Harry Potter book

July 21, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

Would-be wizards celebrated the release of the last book in the Harry Potter series Friday night at the Washington County Free Library with a movie, pizza and a little imagination.

"I am well-versed in the art of reading tea leaves. I have been studying the art of palm reading," said a high-pitched Charlotte Seibert, the library's business manager, who was dressed in scarves, bangles and beads as Professor Sybill Trelawney, a zany divination professor at Hogwarts, Potter's school.

Seibert greeted the nearly 30 children who lined up at the library's front doors Friday night to watch "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," the fourth movie made from J.K. Rowling's series, which concludes with the seventh book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which was to be released today at 12:01 a.m.

Kaleb Singleton, 12, of Halfway, said he's been told he looks like Potter, but believes he looks more like Potter's male sidekick, Ron Weasley.

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Kaleb, who was the first in line at the library, said at first he was a little leery of getting into Harry Potter because he was afraid it conflicted with his Christian faith, but said "it's all right as long as I'm not practicing the stuff."

He said reading the books "takes my mind off the ugliness of the world." It also supplies him with good daydreams during math class, he joked.

"He enjoys reading, and reading is the biggest thing," said Krista Singleton, 33, Kaleb's mother.

Catherine Hall, children's librarian, said the library decided to hold an event Friday for the book release because, "We're the center of literacy in the community, and Harry Potter is the biggest thing in literature right now ... today, for sure."

Hall said there is a lot of debate about whether literacy rates are rising because of the popularity of Harry Potter. She added that she has noticed fantasy-genre books gaining popularity among children, perhaps because of the Potter series' popularity.

Jeff Ridgeway, head children's librarian, said he thinks boys are reading more because of Harry Potter, but added that girls are drawn to the series' characters, too.

He called it a phenomenon that crosses age lines, gender lines and cultural lines.

Brandi Stotlemyer, 16, of Halfway, was dressed as Lucius Malfoy, the father of Draco Malfoy, Potter's classroom nemesis.

"I've always loved the Malfoy family because I don't feel they are as mean as people make them out to be," she said.

Brandi said she has read all of the books, too.

"It's such a realistic life that Harry lives," she said. She added later that despite all of the magic, "the troubles (Potter) goes through, everything he has to deal with, his peers" are similar to ordinary teen life.

The library was presold the book, and was planning to award books to those who came to the Friday event dressed in the best costumes.

Attendees were to participate in a Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean tasting contest and a Harry Potter trivia contest. The first chapter of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was to be read aloud after the stroke of midnight.

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