The hubbub surrounding Saturday’s release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth entry in the enchantingly popular book series, is enough to make even a Muggle pay attention.
Midnight events — previously reserved for highly anticipated movies and the occasional album release — have spread to the literary world, with kids clamoring at bookstores worldwide to get their mitts on the new J.K. Rowling tome before anyone else in their coven.
"The phenomenon is like the literary version of the release of ‘Star Wars’ — people simply want to be a part of the experience," says Yvette Roeder of Changing Hands Bookstore, one of the shops planning their biggest event yet for the newest book.
"We wanted to outdo ourselves, and decided to bring a little bit more exhilaration and build more anticipation for the sixth book."
Changing Hands had more 150 people lined up for the release of 2003’s "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and is expecting to double that this year.
"It’s encouraging to know that reading still has that effect on readers of all ages, just like blockbuster movies," says Roeder.
It’s not just kids that are under the spell of hype.
"Many adults have admitted to the fact that they get first dibs on the book, since they bought it," she says. Yet not every older fan is convinced that the hoopla is for them. "I went to pick up the last book at a release party and was creeped out and suffocated by the 10,000 kids," says a likely exaggerating Potter-phile, Bradley Kendrex, 22, of Tempe. Here’s where you can get your wizard fix Friday night:
CHANGING HANDS BOOKSTORE
6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe, (480) 730-0205, presents a Fire and Ice celebration, with fire dancers entertaining the parking lot crowds starting at 10:30 p.m. Friday.
The ice part is snow cones to help the audience cool down. And at midnight, the store will open up again for an hour so the fanatics can pick up their books.
On Saturday, a representative from the Phoenix Zoo will present real animals that pop up in Harry Potter books, such as snakes, spiders and owls (like Harry’s good pal Hedwig) at 11 a.m., with various games from noon to 3 p.m. and a reading of the first chapter of the new book at 3 p.m. by local author Gene Ganssle.
BARNES & NOBLE
The Scottsdale location gets the party started at 7 p.m. with a magic show, trivia and costume contests.
The Ahwatukee Foothills location kicks off its party at 8 p.m. with face painting, picture-taking and crafts. Stores in Gilbert and Chandler are holding similar events.
Each Borders (several East Valley locations) is holding a Midnight Magic Party promising wizardly activities, trivia, giveaways and more 9 p.m. until midnight.
Several East Valley locations are staying open late and having a party including a half-dozen activities for kids, such as making masks, face painting and guessing the flavor of the book’s famously icky Bertie Bott’s jelly beans.