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Thursday, 8 July, 1999, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Stampede for Potter book
Harry Potter
Film rights to Harry Potter have been sold for a seven figure sum
The latest adventure of playground hero Harry Potter has gone on sale, but some had to wait until after school to get their hands on a copy in an attempt to avoid truancy.

The children's character, who also has a legion of adult fans, is on his third outing in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Publishers have printed 270,000 copies in hardback, more than double the biggest initial print run by Bloomsbury in the past.

Booksellers planned for queues of expectant young fans - but stores in England and Wales kept the book off the shelves until late afternoon so children could buy them after school.

It meant youngsters in Scotland, who have begun their summer holidays, had to wait before getting their hands on it.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter: Bookish, bespectacled hero
The hype echoes the publication of Thomas Harris' Hannibal novel last month when many shops sold out within a day.

Rosamund de la Hey of Bloomsbury said: "We have already sold 200,000 copies to booksellers. Many of the bookshops have massive lists full of pre-orders from customers.

"It's quite amazing. We've had phone calls from bookshops since February asking about ordering the new book."

Bookshops in Scotland - where schoolchildren are on their summer holidays - were also geared up for the expected rush on Thursday morning.

Katrina Scott, of Waterstones in Edinburgh, said: "Since the second book was published, we've had people asking about the third one.

"We've had a huge amount of advance orders from customers."

JK Rowling, real name Joanne but whose name was changed by her publishers in case boys were put off her books, penned the adventures in an Edinburgh coffee shop.

Children at Dunblane Primary School summed up why the books are so popular with comments such as: "I like Harry Potter because he always gets up to tricks and mischief."

Another quipped: "The only problem is that you can't put it down."

The first two books have notched up combined sales of 750,000-800,000 copies.

They have also topped the New York Times best-seller list and film rights to the character have been bought for a seven figure sum.

Unlikely hero

Bespectacled, bookish, swotty, by no means street-wise, and frankly odd - Harry is a wizard.

In an age of computer games and couch potatoes, he's also got to be the most unlikely children's hero of all.

JK Rowling
Author JK Rowling plans seven Potter books
JK Rowling's character is an intrepid hero in the make-believe mould of Indiana Jones. The two previous titles were Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and the Chamber of Secrets.

He is an orphan, who found himself transported to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by catching a train from a secret platform at King's Cross station.

At Hogwarts he teamed up with a cast of characters including Ron Weasley, a flame-haired pupil from a family of seven wizards, and Hermione Grainger, the school swot.

From there on it is adventure all the way, as Harry and the gang find themselves caught up in high action drama.

Critics praise the language for its inventiveness and the storylines for their constant suspense. It is a world in which grown-ups are either next to useless, or pure evil.

Joanne Rowling plans to write a total of seven books about her hero, ending the series when he leaves school at the age of 17.

BBC Scotland's Joanne Macaulay finds out why the books are so popular
Watch Joanne Macaulay's television report on the latest book
See also:

02 Jul 99 | Entertainment
The magic of Harry Potter
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