Wendy Ward is ready for more magic.
Nine years have passed since the last time Ward bought a Harry Potter book at midnight and stayed up all night reading it.
Nine years since she turned the final page of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” breathed a bittersweet sigh and said goodbye to Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest.
Nine years since an epilogue hinted that a new generation of wizards and witches – including Harry and Ginny Weasley’s children, Albus and Lily – might one day reappear in the pages of a J.K. Rowling best-seller.
That time is now.
On July 31 – Harry Potter’s birthday – Potterheads young and old will be lining up to grab “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the script of a play that opens in London’s Palace Theatre on July 30.
The play, based on an original new story by Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, picks up 19 years after the conclusion of the original series. According to the author’s Pottermore website, Harry, now a father of three and working at the Ministry of Magic, “grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, (while) his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted.”
As with previous book releases, fans in Wichita and elsewhere are prepping for late-night bookstore parties that will conclude with lines at registers and eager hands wrapped around a long-awaited new helping of Harry Potter.
“I guess you could say I’m pretty excited,” said Ward, 52, an aircraft employee who began reading the series in the late ’90s. That was after the first three Harry Potter books had been published in the United Kingdom but before they became an American phenomenon.
“It’s like a summer thing for me – getting the new Harry Potter book and staying up reading until I’m done,” said Ward, who works part-time at Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita.
“It’s the only book I’ve ever done that with, and I’ve read a lot of books in my life. … So I’m thrilled. It’s like a real summer again.”
Retailers say celebrations marking the boy wizard’s return to bookshelves will be similar to previous ones, with at least one notable difference:
Harry Potter isn’t just a kid thing anymore.
“It’s definitely going to be multigenerational this time around,” said Melissa Fox, children’s event coordinator for Watermark Books in east Wichita.
“I’ve got to come up with activities for 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds, but also for the 20somethings who were kids when the last book came out.”
Tickets to Watermark’s midnight release party, which starts at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, sold out weeks ago, Fox said. The store will have games, activities, a photo booth and trivia contests. The cafe will serve mugs of sweet, creamy butterbeer, just like the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley.
One table will feature “Quidditch Pong,” Fox said – an adapted version of beer pong without the beer but with Harry Potter-style quidditch hoops.
“We’re going to be packed. It will be fun,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Welcome back to the ’90s.’”
Much like last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which attracted generations of fans to theaters, the newest Harry Potter installment is likely to draw children who are just discovering the books, as well as their parents or even grandparents, who were part of the series’ heyday.
“We’ll have kids whose parents love it and are going to come back and just have a really good time,” said Kerry Majher, community business development manager for the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Bradley Fair.
It’s going to be crazy but fun, just like all the other times.
Kerry Majher, Barnes & Noble employee
“At our store, most if not all of our managers have worked previous Potter events,” said Majher, who remembers the crowds for “Deathly Hallows” in 2007 and for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” in 2005.
“It’s going to be crazy but fun, just like all the other times.”
Following right on the heels of the midsummer book release will be a new Harry Potter movie spinoff/prequel coming this fall.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which opens Nov. 18, is the first of three planned films starring Eddie Redmayne as a magical-creature specialist and future author of the textbook Harry Potter and his Hogwarts classmates study.
Ward, the middle-aged Potter enthusiast, says her love of Harry Potter hasn’t waned. She recalls recommending the books to her former boss and his two boys nearly two decades ago, after she first read them, and she still points middle-schoolers and adults to the series.
Some readers may balk at Rowling’s new book because it’s written in script format rather than traditional novel style, she said. She plans to give it a chance, though, and hopes others will appreciate the educational as well as entertainment value.
“Kids need to learn to read scripts. Think about Shakespeare,” Ward said. “When you read, you need to read all kinds of formats. So it’s a little unusual, maybe, but you’re missing out if you don’t know how to read that.”
At Saturday’s midnight launch party, Ward plans to wear a T-shirt she bought especially for the occasion, which features lyrics from an old Journey tune: “Just a city girl living in a Muggle world, she took the Hogwarts train going anywhere.”
She’ll also wear her Gryffindor scarf and carry a wand that works as a remote control.
Overall what I like about Harry Potter is that love wins.
“I see Harry Potter as being about love and family. It’s the classic good-and-evil, the marked child. I’ve read the different theories on Harry Potter, and sometimes I think people overthink it,” she said.
“Overall what I like about Harry Potter is that love wins.”
Check it out
Want to read the new Harry Potter book, but not sure you want to buy it? The Wichita Public Library will have 40 copies of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Be prepared to wait, though: Nearly 120 holds have been placed already.
Two bookstores in Wichita will celebrate the release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” with parties Saturday. Here are the details:
▪ Barnes & Noble at Bradley Fair, 1920 N. Rock Rd., will offer a free “Countdown to Midnight Party” leading up to the book release. Activities begin at 8 p.m. and will include wand-making, games, giveaways and a “Muggle wall” where customers can share their favorite Harry Potter memories. At 12:01 a.m. July 31, the store will begin selling the book. Customers can pre-order so they are guaranteed a copy.
▪ Tickets no longer are available to the release party at Watermark Books & Cafe, 4701 E. Douglas, which begins at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. However, customers without tickets still can pre-order copies of the book and come in at midnight to pick them up. To order, visit the store, go online to www.watermarkbooks.com or call 316-682-1181.