“You’re a wizard, Harry.”
These words from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” set many kids and adults on a journey wrought with joy, friendship, imagination, discovery, hurt, personal growth and, in many cases, sacrifice. Seven books, eight movies and 15 years later, Scholastic is honoring the “Harry Potter” books with a rerelease, complete with brand new cover art.
The artist Scholastic has chosen, Kazu Kibuishi, is a self-proclaimed fan of the series. He was also hesitant to take the job because he loved the original art by Marie GrandPre and was afraid of falling below expectations.
This is good — it means the guy is both humble and aware of the entire fan-base’s eyes watching him closely. Scholastic did well in choosing someone with a genuine regard for his task. The official art for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” has even been released, and it is stunning.
All seven books will be released at the same time in September 2013 to coincide with the original publication date of “The Sorcerer’s Stone.” There will even be a boxed set. The new cover art will only be on paperback novels. Hardcover books will retain the original art.
This is fine and dandy, an awesome idea even, but there’s just one question: Why now?
It doesn’t make sense. The 15th anniversary isn’t usually something people celebrate for anything.
It’s an odd number. The 10th anniversary? Cool! The 20th or 25th? Yeah, OK, those make sense too. But 15 years isn’t anything to really celebrate, not even in the realm of the franchise.
For those out there who aren’t die-hard fans of the series, here’s a little insight: When a young witch or wizard turns 11 they get a letter of acceptance from Hogwarts wizarding school if they are exceptional enough. Another big age in the wizarding world is 17, when a witch or wizard is considered an adult and when they graduate. Nothing happens when magic users turn 15.
Scholastic is making a very big deal about the new cover art, talking about it to anyone who wants to know more. It’s clear they want it to be a great marketing tool for sales. And it will be, but Scholastic is doing it wrong.
They’ve tipped their hand — 15 years is an arbitrary anniversary to celebrate in general and it coincides with nothing significant in the actual series. The company is experiencing its first significant drop in Potter popularity now that the movies are done. And they’re concerned. One of their biggest moneymakers isn’t selling as much, and they feel the need to fix that.
But “Harry Potter” is a franchise that touched an entire generation. Kids literally grew up next to Harry, grew into their awkward teenage years and into adulthood with him. That feeling is powerful, beautiful and revisited with each reread. The children my generation brings into the world will likely be given these books as gifts, so they can experience that feeling of magic while they learn hard lessons about life. The series isn’t going away in the long run.
If Scholastic wanted a sales boost, they should have announced their intentions early to boost excitement and waited until September 2015 to release new covers. For fans, the 17th anniversary would have been like growing up all over again, graduating from one incarnation of the series into another just as the characters graduated into adulthood and won their greatest battles. It would have provoked more excitement and tension.
And it wouldn’t have made the company look as though they were afraid.
Sure, people would still know it was a marketing ploy, but it would have been more thoughtful and meaningful at least.