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Harry Potter celebrates 20 years of making magic

Matthew Lane • Updated Jul 31, 2017 at 12:59 PM

KINGSPORT — It’s hard to believe Harry Potter is 20 years old. It seems like only yesterday we were first discovering J.K. Rowling’s magical world of wizards, muggles, horcruxes and fantastic beasts.

Today, Harry Potter is as much a pop culture icon as superheroes and “Star Wars,” “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones.”

And to think it all began on June 26, 1997 with a 223-page book called “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”

“I’ve stopped counting (how many times I’ve read the novels),” said 26-year-old Bridgette Johnson. “I was 8 when my third-grade teacher Ms. Jones convinced me to read it. I didn’t think I would like fantasy, but I was running out of things to read at school.”

Jones loaned Bridgette her personal copies of the Harry Potter novels, and with a little convincing from her mother, Bridgette thought she’d give the books a shot.

“That’s how it started and the rest of my life was waiting until the next book came out,” she said. “I just love them. I like the magic, that there’s this whole world that nobody else knows about and you only knew if you were special enough to get your letter and run through the stone wall at the train station.”

The Harry Potter series did not arrive in the U.S. until September 1998, and the first book was renamed the “Sorcerer’s Stone” rather than the “Philosopher’s Stone,” as it was in the United Kingdom. The first book kicked off one of the most successful fiction series in history. Over the years, the Harry Potter novels have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 68 languages.

Six sequels in the Harry Potter series were published between 1998 and 2007; eight major motion pictures were made; Universal Studios re-created Hogwarts Castle at its theme parks; and endless amounts of memorabilia, toys and collectables have been produced.

And in all that time, Kyndra Jones of Kingsport never read a Harry Potter book.

“Fantasy wasn’t my thing,” she said. “I read murder and thrillers. That was what I love. That was my thing. (Harry Potter) was a kid in robes going to a castle. What’s the appeal of that?”

See, Bridgette and Kyndra have a couple of things in common. They both work at the Kingsport Public Library, in the children’s department, and they love to read. Just not necessarily the same type of books.

However, Bridgette (and other coworkers) kept pressuring Kyndra to read Harry Potter, to read young adult novels. Eventually, she conceded.

“I read the first one and said it’s the most amazing thing I’ve read in my life,” Kyndra said. “We have updates every day of where I’m at in the book.”

Bridgette has stopped counting the number of times she’s read the Harry Potter novels. The first book, probably 14 or 15 times, though with each successive book the number of read-throughs drops somewhat.

“The first three are in the double digits. The fourth one, about seven or eight times,” Bridgette said. “I don’t like the fifth one, so I’ve read it about four times. The sixth one is three times and the last one only once because I don’t like endings.”

Kyndra is currently plowing through book six: “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Though she and her coworkers can talk about the first five novels, don’t reference anything about the movies though. She has yet to watch them.

“I’m not going to watch the movies until I’ve read the books. I want it all to be fresh and exciting. I want to be surprised,” Jones said.

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