As the owner of Seattle’s All For Kids Books and Music, Chauni Haslet has been familiar with the Harry Potter craze for years. Accordingly, she figured she knew how to prepare for the July 8 launch of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the pivotal fourth book in J.K. Rowling’s seven-volume chronicle of her owl-eyed boy wizard. Haslet planned an elaborate midnight party and ordered 300 books — enough to last through Christmas, she thought. But when the RSVPs started rolling in, a queasy voice in the pit of her stomach said her best-laid plans required, oh, just about 500 more books. Worse, when she learned even the original 300 couldn’t be delivered in time, her husband had to go fetch them with their minivan. ”It was a frenzy!” Haslet marvels. ”It was the same story across the country.”
And it was a record-breaking opening weekend even Tom Cruise would kill for. By Monday, nearly all of Scholastic’s initial print run of 3.8 million was — poof! — gone. Eventually, Potter’s spell would swell to 8 million copies in print. Rowling, who reportedly stood to make $10 million off the Friday-to-Sunday blowout alone, helped stoke demand by withholding title and plot info. (Her motive, she told EW last summer, was to protect Fire‘s plot twists, including the murder of a supporting character.) When kids finally got their hands on her 734-page epic, they gulped it down like snow cones on a 100-degree day. In Royal Oak, Mich., 11-year-old Kacey Glabach brought her book to camp. ”Two days later,” she recalls, ”I burned out my flashlight from reading so much.” Says Barbara Marcus, prez of Scholastic: ”That kids said, ‘Forget TV, games, movies. The thing most important to me this summer is a book‘ — that’s amazing.”
Maybe fans should’ve savored Fire instead of inhaling it. 2001 will bring two companion books and a Harry Potter movie, but Book V, tentatively titled Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, probably won’t materialize for two years. Haslet expects it’ll be worth the wait, though adds, ”I’m not sure if we can live up to Fire. I don’t know if we can do more.” Better have that minivan ready, just in case.