Tonight I judged a book: not only by its cover, but also by the author’s one sentence elevator pitch.Then I purchased the book, Thomas Holland and the Prophecy of Elfhaven by K.M Doherty, in Kindle format. The book promises a bit of magic mixed with science, in a Chicago setting. Could it be the U.S. answer to Hogwarts? And if it is, will I come to regret my Kindle version, wishing I had waited for the first edition book to arrive by mail? We shall see. But tonight, as I listened to the author, I was reminded of a book purchase made in December 1998 in Lebanon, NH.
My job had sent me to the far side of NH in the weeks leading up to Christmas. While my family prepared for the holidays at home, I was stuck in a conference room, seventy miles away, digging through piles of paperwork, as my boss and I conducted an operations audit. Good times.
One evening, we decided to buy books for our kids. Within moments I found My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, a book that fully described my little girl. In fact, she and I both loved the book so much, that for her high school graduation, I made her a scrapbook of her High School journey, based on the Dr. Seuss’s story. My daughter’s book in hand, I started searching for a book for her older brother. For the next thirty minutes I read one jacket after another, seeking the perfect book for my son.
My son, just short of ten years old, had already powered through Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials Series and through J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. We had read The Lord of the Rings together. Also read: Watership Down by Richard Adams, and every Goosebumps book created. I was running out of options for my voracious, but very young reader. Christmas was weeks away and stories were his favorite gift. That night, the books I found had plots that were too mature, writing that was too simplistic, or if the plot and writing was appropriate, he had already read the book.
Finally, giving up, I went to the counter with my Dr. Seuss book. As a last-minute thought, I shared my dilemma with the saleswoman. “You might want to try this one,” she said, holding up an expensive hardcover book with a skinny dark-haired, lightening-scarred boy on a broomstick. “I’ve been hearing good things about it.”
I responded with the 1998 equivalent of ‘whatever’, added the book to my pile, and bought my son a classic children’s tale and an all-time family favorite, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.
Christmas came and my son opened his gift and buried himself in the Hogwarts’ adventure. Then my husband read the book, and I read it. Then we read it to our daughter while my son listened in. On that day, early in December 1998, when Harry Potter was just a gleam in America’s eye, my purchase placed our little family on the bleeding edge of a new phenomena. According to ArtBeat, Harry Potter “crept quietly onto the bottom of the hardcover fiction list on Dec. 27, 1998,” several weeks after our purchase. I have been grateful to that bookstore salesperson ever since, for having introduced us to this delightful series.
So now, having purchased the Kindle version of K.M. Doherty’s book, and I have to wonder, should I have purchased the real deal? Only time will tell.