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‘Harry Potter’ return had kids, adults eager for midnight release

From left, Holley Smith, Cate Parkhill and Grace Hepburn, all 11 and of Wilmette. All go to Highcrest Middle School. "We're so excited to read it! " Holley said. | Zachary Saltzman / Sun-Times

Saturday’s midnight release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” showed the former boy wizard still can work a spell on fans.

Kids, with parents in tow, lined up at bookstores around Chicago and elsewhere, eager to be among the first to pick up the first book in the huge-selling children’s series since 2007’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

“To me, ‘Harry Potter’ means that you can find light in the darkest times, and friends will always be there for you,” said Kelsey Carroll, 14, of Northfield, who came early to the Barnes & Noble store at Old Orchard in Skokie.

That this latest glimpse into the world of wizards created by J.K. Rowling isn’t quite like the seven earlier books — it’s the script of the play of the same name that opened Saturday in London by playwright John Thorne, working from a story by Rowling and director John Tiffany — didn’t faze her. Nor that the story picks up 19 years after “Deathly Hallows,” with Harry working in the Ministry of Magic and his son Albus dealing with his family’s fame.

“Anything with J.K. Rowling is exciting,” said Kelsey, an incoming freshman at New Trier High School.

At the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park, owner Beth Albrecht said the “Harry Potter” party there was “the biggest event, by far” since she bought the store a year ago, even though, to keep things manageable, she decided to cap the event at 75 people.

“People are still calling, trying to get in,” Albrecht, who already has “reordered four times before the book was released” because of high demand, said around 9 p.m. Saturday.

Barnes & Noble, which says “Cursed Child” is its “most pre-ordered book since ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,’ ” expects the book to be its top-seller this year.

At Old Orchard, Ella Easton, who’s going into fifth grade at Middleton School in Skokie, came to the store in a wizard’s robe.

“I found all of my friends because we all loved the books,” Ella said. “Harry Potter means a lot to me. I’m Harry Potter crazy!”

Bellamy Negron, 13, with her parents, Nate and Selena Negron. | Zachary Saltzman / Sun-Times
Bellamy Negron, 13, with her parents, Nate and Selena Negron. | Zachary Saltzman / Sun-Times

It wasn’t just kids who were eager to get it, either. Michael Lyda, 27, of Des Plaines, grew up with “Harry Potter.”

“Growing up within a year of Harry’s age in the books, I could really relate to the non-magical problems he had to deal with,” Lyda said.

It didn’t bother him, either, that “Cursed Child” is in play format.

“It’s continuing the story,” he said. “I know it’s going to be awesome.”

Chicagoans Selena and Nate Negron, both 35, brought their daughter Bellamy, 13, who’s homeschooled and about to start eighth grade, to the Old Orchard store. But they were just as excited as she was.

“People think we’re crazy, but we even have a ‘Harry Potter’ toilet,” Selena Negron said.