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Wizards and Witches Take Story by Storm

New Harry Potter book creates frenzy in Old Town bookstore.

If somebody asked Phillips Mitchell whether it rained this weekend, she probably wouldn’t know whether it did or not. She spent most of the weekend curled up with a copy of J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

By Sunday evening, she had read 756 of the 870 pages in the fifth book of the series; she was planning to finish reading it Monday night. “I think it’s the best one yet, it goes through a lot more serious parts,” said Mitchell, who hadn’t yet gotten to the part where one of the characters dies.

Mitchell was not the only one reading the book this weekend. She was just one of 200 Harry Potter fans who stayed up until midnight last Friday to purchase one of the first copies sold at A Likely Story in Old Town Alexandria.

Attired in her wizard’s outfit, she came to the store early to help event coordinator Dinah Paul set up for the evening’s festivities.

Mitchell’s mother, Madeleine Mitchell, said that her daughter played the role of the wizard in the “To Be a Wizard” game. “She was the wizard and asked the kids questions. They had to get 10 questions correct in order to get a prize. She had a ball,” said Madeleine.

THE STORE WAS NOT allowed to start selling the books until midnight, but Paul and others had plenty of activities planned while the children were waiting. In addition to the “To Be a Wizard” game, there was Wizard’s Chess, spider toss game, palm reading, potion and wand-making and the Golden Snitch Challenge. Children cashed in their sickles and knutes (tokens) for butter beer, jelly slugs, chocolate cockroach clusters, acid worms and chocolate frogs; there was plenty of tea and coffee for the adults.

“They started lining up around 10 p.m.,” said Paul. “There were a lot of kids; it was a lot of fun. It [the excitement] keeps growing with each book. We decided to be part of the midnight madness this time.”

BY MIDNIGHT, there were a couple hundred children and adults waiting to get their hands on a copy of the prized possession. The cash register started ringing at midnight and by the time Paul left at 1:15 a.m., she said that they had sold about 200 copies of the book.

The fun started all over again the next day when A Likely Story sponsored two more parties. Paul said that they sold about 100 more books that day. The supply was running low as of the beginning of the week, but another order was expected this week.

Mitchell thought that the party was a lot of fun. She will add the Harry Potter baseball cap and bag that she received that night to her collection of Potter collectibles. Mitchell’s mother said that a friend of theirs has sent her daughter all kinds of Harry Potter items, including posters, games and other items.

Mitchell said that when the librarian introduced the first Harry Potter book, she wasn’t that excited. Once she read the first book, however, she was hooked. By now, she’s read the first book three times and the second one twice.

“My favorite [before this one] was the fourth one, ‘Goblet of Fire,’” said Mitchell. “I read that five times. I like all the adventures; Harry is just a regular kid.”

A Likely Story had a party when the fourth book was released, and since Mitchell was such a big fan, she was featured in an article in USA TODAY and flown to New York for the CBS News Early Show.

Mitchell has become an avid fan of Emma Watson, the 13-year-old actress who plays Hermione Granger, friend of Harry Potter. About a year ago, Mitchell said that she started sending e-mails to Watson, and the actress responded; the two have maintained an active communication.

Mitchell was supposed to meet her in New York last year, but it didn’t work out. She had also hoped to have a small part in the next movie, parts of which will be shot in Canada. Unfortunately, the director has stipulated that all actors and actresses must be from England.

So, for now, Mitchell will have to be content with reading the fifth book, and waiting for the last two books and subsequent movies to be released.