The Harry Potter franchise has turned out to be a monumental collection of books, movies, a theme park and now even an interactive fan website. It has touched the lives of millions of fans, adults and children alike across the world. Many people, including myself, watched as the beloved characters took us through our childhood into adulthood. Over the 14-year span between the release of the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, to the release of the final film, Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part 2, we have witnessed 7 books span over 4100 pages and in turn, those captivating stories captured on screen through 8 films running 1180 minutes. Re-reading and watching the entire Harry Potter series over break awakened many feelings inside of me, one of which was the immediate response to the story being portrayed on the pages and screen which no matter how many times I may read or watch them they never fail to illicit these responses. The other feeling I experienced was one I didn’t necessarily plan on experiencing, nostalgia. While making my way through the books and movies I couldn’t help but remember the first time these works enchanted my imagination with their magical epic. Therefore, I decided to trace back through time my life according to Harry Potter!
Year 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
It just so happens that my love for Harry Potter came to be through a chance encounter. It was the Spring of 1999 and I was wrapping up the 4th grade and getting ready to finish my days of elementary school. My mother and I were shopping in Walmart and she decided to stop and look at what books they had on the bookrack. She randomly came across this interesting looking adventure novel called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and decided to get it for me. At the time, here in the United States the book was relatively new and had yet to pick up the huge following it would soon gain in just a few short years. So without any preconceived ideas or expectations for the book, I began to read and became engrossed in it very quickly, and I couldn’t put it down. I ended up finishing the book in 3 days, which for a 10-year-old kid is a pretty good reading pace I’d say. Conveniently enough right after finishing the 1st book the second came to be released stateside unfortunately for me unbeknownst to me now I decided to wait for the paperback edition before reading it, which killed me with anticipation.
As for the premiere of the movie, it arrived two years after I first fell in love with the Harry Potter series. It was the Fall of 2001 and I was fresh into a new school year of 7th grade. I was currently working my way through the pages of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when the trailer premiered for the first film. Needless to say, I was so excited after reading about Harry’s first 4 years at Hogwarts I had created my own visual of the story and couldn’t wait to see it portrayed on the screen. My friend had reserved tickets for us to see it on the premiere night and 2 1/2 hours later, I sat in my seat a 12-year-old kid in shock at how awesome it was to see it all come to life!
Year 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
It was the Summer of 2000 when I read it, I just finished 5th grade and had survived my first year of middle school. More of my friends knew about the book and had read it so I had other Potter fans to talk with. The book was just as addicting as the first with its bits of comedy mixed with adventure only this one had a bit more darkness and scary moments (like a giant snake and spiders!), in it than the previous. The book’s arrival on paperback came at just the right time conveniently enough as while I was reading my family was also moving from my childhood home, which normally takes time to adjust to the new surroundings, but thanks to the book the transition was made easier.
As for the movie, it made its arrival in the Fall of 2002 just a year after the first and saw a 13 year old me rush to the theaters. Of course, the film delivered the same mind blowing effects of bringing my favorite series to life on the screen and scaring the pants of me with the giant spiders and basilisk!
Year 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The 3rd book of the series came out just a mere 3 months after the release of the previous book. This time around, I did not wait for the book to come to paperback but borrowed my younger cousin’s copy of the book. The book continued the trend of darker themes, introducing a wizard prison, werewolves, and of course, those bloody dementors as the book clearly showed maturity to go along with the maturing minds of its fan base. This was the Fall of 2000 and as previously mentioned I had just moved over the summer and so the world of Harry Potter continued to help keep my imagination entertained as I adjusted to life in a new house. I will regretfully say that I did not acquire my own copy of Prisoner of Azkaban until just a few years ago when an old high school friend bought me a copy.
The movie arrived in the Summer of 2004 and I had just finished up my first year of high school but no matter, the 15 year old me again raced to the theater to see yet another magical book come to life. The movie did not disappoint as the director clearly made the film with a darker feeling and damn if Sirius Black didn’t scare the hell out of me!
Year 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I got my hands on the 4th book in the Fall of 2001, at the same time as the premier of the first film as mentioned earlier. This time ironically enough, while reading this book I again was preparing to move. I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend and read it and as embarrassing, as it is to say I didn’t acquire my own copy until this summer when I decided to read the entire series again before the final film arrived in July. Reading this book the series took a turn for the serious as we witnessed the murder of two characters and the death of a third. Of course, the return of Voldemort cannot be understated as the scariest part of the book!
The movie came out in the Fall of 2005 as I was well underway to my junior year of high school and starting to think of what I wanted to do with my future, you know college and what not. I was 16 years old and I figured my future could wait until after the movie. Yet again, the movie did not disappoint and Merlin’s Beard was Voldemort one scary dude!
Year 5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The 5th book was the first book of the series I had to wait awhile for, as it was a three-year break between the 4th and 5th and it finally arrived in the Summer of 2003. It was the summer before starting my first year of high school and as a member of my high school’s marching band my summer was dominated by band practice, which made finishing this book that much more important before losing half my days to the school’s parking lot. As Harry and his friends faced off against the toad faced Professor Umbridge and the intense battle in the Department of Mysteries that unfortunately led to another death in Sirius Black, the book continued to keep me on the edge of my seat.
The movie came out in the Summer of 2007, which coincidentally came right after my graduation from high school. Again, like every other movie in the series before it I rushed to the theater on the debut to watch it on the big screen. The movie without a doubt kept me riveted in my seat and sure did portray Bellatrix Lestrange as crazy as she appeared in the book.
Year 6: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The 6th book arrived in the Summer of 2005 just as I finished up my sophomore year of high school and sat at the halfway point of my high school career. Just as the previous two summers had been it was dominated by marching band spending my time practicing in the school parking lot and football field. Again like the previous book, I poured over the pages as I worked to finish it during the day before heading to practice. The book continued the anxiety of the coming Wizarding War with Voldemort but the ending truly shocked me as I always held the idea that Albus Dumbledore could never die.
The movie arrived in theaters in the Summer of 2009 after I finished my sophomore year of college and sat halfway through my college career but of course 20 year old me wouldn’t miss it for the world! The movie truly captured all the anxiety the reader had while reading the book and portrayed it brilliantly on film down to the climactic dying scene of Dumbledore.
Year 7: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
That leaves us with the final installment of the epic series, which hit shelves in the Summer of 2007, which was the summer I graduated high school. What is largely referred to as the biggest summer of your life, was definitely an exciting one for me in the fact that I was finally going to be able to “close to cover” on the Harry Potter series. One of the probably more exciting parts of my life happened that summer as I cut my hand open at work and had it super-glued shut, still have the scar to this day actually! I was not allowed to leave work until after my shift ended so while my hand burned from the glue fix I read Deathly Hallows for the final 2 hours. The entire book was an emotional roller coaster that I just couldn’t believe was happening and the penultimate Battle at Hogwarts was truly a befitting ending to an epic series!
The final book was turned into a 2-part movie, which was without a doubt the only way it could be given justice. Part 1 premiered in the Fall 2010 and coincidentally enough arrived just after my trip to Orlando, Florida to visit a friend and see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Part 2 premiered in the Summer of 2011 just after I graduated from college. The final film as a collective piece of cinema lasted 4 hours and 36 minutes and not a minute was wasted. I’ll admit I shed a tear throughout several moments of the films and felt thrills during the final Battle of Hogwarts and finally a feeling of awe when seeing the epilogue of Harry and friends accompanying their kids 19 years later at Platform 9 3/4!
After everything was said and done and the dust settled on the 14-year span of Harry Potter books, and movies J.K. Rowling had one other gift to give her amazing fans and that is Pottermore. The interactive website allowing readers to have an interactive web experience through the books of the series and in the process learn some new material about world of Harry Potter! Without a doubt I feel like my childhood is connected with Harry Potter and with that connection I have come to find out that through watching and reading this series to reminisce the story of my favorite book characters I will also be reminiscing with myself and exploring my old childhood.