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Excitement Builds as Stores Prepare for 'Harry Potter' Rush; Books Stir Controversy in Zeeland, Michigan

Aired July 7, 2000 - 1:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it should be an unusual weekend.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

WATERS: Many homes around this country will be strangely quiet. Children will be busy going over the latest installment of the "Harry Potter" series.

ALLEN: For those who ordered online, thousands of copies of the book will be delivered tomorrow. But for fans who just can't wait, the book hits most store shelves at midnight tonight. If the kids can stay up late, I think it's a reason to.

CNN's Martin Savidge is at a bookstore in Atlanta where they are ready for the rush -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou and Natalie, we are inside a Chapter 11 bookstore here in the Atlanta area and the air is just thick with excitement. That might be overselling it just a little bit, but there is a lot of anticipation for this book. In fact, this store, like many across the country, will be open at midnight tonight offering customers their first chance to get their hands on the new "Harry Potter" book, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire".

Now, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about with this particular book. If you're a Harry Potter fan, you already know. But if you're not, simple math will tell you. A good first run of a children's book is about 10,000 copies. The first run of "Harry Potter" book four will be 3.8 million copies. It is the largest first-run of any book anywhere at any time. There's a lot riding on it.

But not everyone is truly thrilled about the "Harry Potter" series. A number of parents have registered complaints about the subject matter -- witches and the occult. And, in fact, it was the most challenged book of 1999. Seventeen states, at last count, had a problem with the book. One of the biggest battles took place in a little town in Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Last fall, Harry Potter cast a spell over the small western Michigan town of Zeeland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This really was a big story.

SAVIDGE: It began in an elementary school classroom where a teacher was reading one of the books aloud to the students. A few of them went home telling their parents of a scary book with witches, goblins and enchantment.

REV. LORI JO SCHEPERS, TROUBLED YOUTH COUNSELOR: There were some that had talked about their kids coming home and having nightmares.

SAVIDGE: In this deeply conservative and religious community, some were troubled by the tales of violent magical battles, of partially decapitated ghosts and the drinking of unicorn blood.

MARY ELZINGA, PARENT: Kids are like sponges, and they will soak things up and sometimes store them for a while before they spit them back out. And I just think that I need to be careful in what my children are allowed to soak up.

SAVIDGE (on camera): As a result of the parents' complaints, the superintendent of Zeeland schools issued a memo ordering all Harry Potter books off of the shelves in the district's elementary and middle schools. Students couldn't check them out unless they had written permission from their parents. He also said the book could no longer be read aloud in the classroom, and he said any future books in the Potter series wouldn't be purchased.

(voice-over): Harry Potter supporters were dumbfounded.

MARY DANA, ZEELAND SCHOOL TEACHER: I was absolutely stunned, and I picked up the phone and called the superintendent.

NANCY ZENNIE, PARENT: I didn't think it was appropriate for one person to be able to decide what reading material should be available.

SAVIDGE: Will book four of the "Harry Potter" series ever make it to Zeeland's school library shelves? That's one "Harry Potter" chapter still waiting to be written.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: The community of Zeeland did, in fact, rescind many of the restrictions that were against the book. However, they still say that they will not allow for Harry potter books to be read aloud in the classroom.

The issue of book four, though part of the fun of all of this, has been the extreme secrecy. We didn't even know the title of this book until a couple of weeks ago. Now we know it's "The Goblet of Fire."

However, many bookstores had to sign an affidavit promising they wouldn't even open the box, wouldn't show the cover of the book until after midnight tonight. Hence why here in this bookstore they've got the "danger" tape wrapped all around the books. They say they will open them one minute after midnight and begin selling them to all the people who are wild about Harry.

Reporting live, Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta.

ALLEN: There are a lot. Red police tape, my goodness.

WATERS: We call that good PR.

ALLEN: Yes, absolutely.

WATERS: Didn't we have a story about two or three days ago about a Wal-Mart somewhere that opened their box and put the books out?

ALLEN: Yes, they already sold theirs.

WATERS: So much for rules and regs.

ALLEN: I'll tell you what. It's a huge news day: We've go the "Harry Potter" books...

WATERS: Yes.

ALLEN: ... we've got Nancy Reagan celebrating a birthday.

WATERS: Yes.

ALLEN: But even bigger than those two stories, it's Lou Water's birthday.

WATERS: Oh, boy. Enough of that.

ALLEN: And we have some special brownies that Hillary, our guru, wonderful floor manager baked especially for you, Lou.

Thank you, Hillary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're welcome. You got to hurry because they're burning.

ALLEN: OK, thank you.

WATERS: Oh, I didn't get it all.

ALLEN: Trick candles.

WATERS: Good, Hillary. Thanks very much.

ALLEN: It's the only kind they sold here at CNN Center. Sorry about that.

(LAUGHTER)

WATERS: That's good.

ALLEN: But happy birthday. And we're glad you came in and worked on your birthday.

WATERS: OK.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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