With his slight build, round rims and British accent, Harry Potter, the international star of the children's literati, has already inspired comparisons to beloved book characters including The Little Prince and Mathilda. Magical and quirky, the Potter series is reputed to be among the bestselling publishing cross-over hits ever with 55 million prints and counting in circulation in the U.S. alone. But what sets Potter apart from the pack is not so much the creativity of J.K. Rowling, but rather, the bite that the traditional print book series takes out of the multi-media world: toys, gadgets and a Hollywood movie replete with special effects that would make even the most hardened Hogwart shudder.
"The Harry Potter books have made publishing history," says Barbara Marcus, president of children's books at Scholastic Press (www.scholastic.com). "They have been bestsellers since their release in 1997, and over the past several weeks, our accounts have reported significant ramp-up in sales. Some accounts have reported that since the opening of the movie, Harry Potter weekend book sales have doubled and even tripled from the previous week."
Potter's success is a tale altogether different from its magical plot. Instead, what makes the considerably long reading books (upwards of 300 pages each) so popular among children (and adult) audiences is one-part traditionalism and the other part adaptability. The author's rise to fame is a perfect example: struggling writer makes good with a simple idea about a boy and his magic wand. But even before the print dried on the first installment, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the story would be lifted off the page in truly calculated 21st century style—and merchandising. Much like famed children's author Roald Dahl's ability to make supernatural subjects believable, Scholastic's Arthur E. Levin also succeeds in capturing, and providing, the sustenance of modern youth's diets—a combination of television, film and the Internet.