My life is marked by so many Harry Potter memories that if you plot them out on a timeline, you would see them spread out through about two-thirds of my life.
I’ve been celebrating the Harry Potter 20th anniversary for two years now (2017 for the UK anniversary, and 2018 for the US anniversary) and the last two years have been no less magical than the moment I read my first Harry Potter book. It’s definitely been a grand adventure, from the Harry Potter pilgrimage that took my friends and I from London to the wilds of Scotland (read: Cursed Child and the House of Minalima, the Warner Brothers London Studio Tour, and Scotland I will write about for Harry’s birthday this year — come back to read it, please!) down to today’s festivities: a tea party to launch the Harry Potter 20th Anniversary covers by Caldecott award-winning illustrator Brian Selznick.
When Scholastic asked me to save the date for the launch, I confirmed immediately even without knowing the details — after all, I had been to all the Harry Potter launch events that Scholastic has organized with National Book Store and Powerbooks since Half Blood Prince (read about my Hungarian Horntail diorama, Deathly Hallows shenanigans, the midnight release of Beedle the Bard, the 2013 Kazu Kibuishi launch, and more shenanigans at the release of Cursed Child), and I wasn’t about to miss this one!
Like all the previous Harry Potter official events that I’ve attended, it was a blast for all the fans. I joined the Slytherins (of course!):
I’m really proud of how we won the cover reenactment contest, because though only five Slytherins appear in that photo, it was a real team effort (p.s. who do you think did the handlettering and illustration?!?)
We rallied valiantly to the end, only to be foiled by Gryffindor, though we weren’t too shook up about it (what’s new?) as the felix felicis must’ve worked — four Slytherins each won a set of the new Harry Potter books, another won an illustrated Azkaban, and I think everyone else got to take home a prize.
Scholastic definitely made a lot of fans happy because they were so generous with the prizes — some even burst out crying!
I totally understand.
I went home with my own set as well, bringing up the grand total of the collection to 165 (official publications in different languages, 175 if you count books about Harry Potter) — thank you, Scholastic!
I had been making room for these new volumes in the section of my hallway library that’s dedicated to Harry Potter (a video of the shelves before this new set came in is up on my Instagram, @sumthinblue). I had to extend a bit to another row up top, displacing some picture books to make room for my illustrated editions, screenplays and audiobooks.
I need an Engorgmement Charm for these shelves, especially because both Scholastic and Bloomsbury don’t seem to have any plans of slowing down on Harry Potter anytime soon — so many titles are set for release later this year (goodbye, my monies). Plus, as I’ve observed over the last three years, the international editions have all been getting new editions, too, so I will probably spend the rest of my life buying Harry Potter books. Meanwhile, I’ll have to reconfigure the arrangement yet again after half a dozen titles or so.
I want to talk more about Scholastic’s #HarryPotter20 covers because they are really, really beautiful. Out of all the Harry Potter books in my collection, Mary Grandpre’s art will always be an emotional touchpoint for me (as much as I love the Jim Kay illustrated editions, I wish I could have them by Grandpre as well). Taking the illustrated editions out of consideration (because it’s not a fair comparison), I would have to say it’s probably these covers by Selznick that come closest to the emotion that the Grandpre covers evoke in me.
Over the last two decades, the US covers have also appealed to me not just as a fan but also as an illustrator. While the UK covers have showcased a wide variety of styles and some stunningly beautiful art and photography, I do think the US covers present a much stronger visual narrative. I do enjoy looking at the covers to tap into my favorite memories about a certain book in the series, and the US covers just offer so much more visual cues that instantly trigger parts of the story and even personal experiences tied into the book, and as a lifelong fan, I really appreciate minutiae that a more detached reader might miss.
So I’ve shelved the #HarryPotter20 set next to my other Selznick books:
I’ve always been a fan of Selznick’s art (more than his writing, if I were to be honest), and I love the way he considers the book as an art object — check out the spines of his illustrated novels (also published by Scholastic, by the way, on the right). In this 20th anniversary edition of Harry Potter, the spines form an edgy geometric pattern for your shelf. But the main event is really the continuous cover art:
Here’s a closer look:
This new edition definitely wins on visual impact. The amount of detail is just so immense, but Selznick’s signature monotone keeps it all from becoming overwhelming, and the titles are done up in various jewel tones. Serpentine details (Nagini) run across the cover art to tie the volumes together. On the back, the summaries are retained from the 2013 edition, with the addition of a cameo from the cover art and a pull quote. The interiors remain Mary Grandpre, and are still set in Adobe Garamond, headings in the Lumos font.
A closer look:
Sorcerer’s Stone shows Harry in the foreground with Hedwig peeking behind him. In the background are McGonagall, Hagrid, the troll in the dungeon, and baby Harry. The title and accents are done in red.
The cameo and pull quote for book 1 feature Hagrid.
Chamber of Secrets
Chamber of Secrets shows Harry, Ron and Hermione on the cover, and presumably that is Ginny partially obscured, holding on to Riddle’s Diary. Dobby also features prominently, while Aragog, Tom Riddle, and Draco Malfoy also make it to the cover. Title and accents are in gold.
The cameo and pull quote for this book feature Dobby.
Prisoner of Azkaban
Hermione gets major exposure in Azkaban, along with some dementors, Harry’s wand arm (sorry, Harry) casting his stag Patronus, and wild-looking Sirius Black. Title and accents are in purple.
The pull quote is Arthur Weasley, in reference to Sirius Black, who is the featured cameo.
Goblet of Fire
Goblet of Fire features the four school champions in the Triwizard Tournament, with Harry on his broomstick for the first task (though the tail of the broom is not listed — but this is supposed to be the Firebolt!). The cover also depicts bits of the two other tasks: a hand clutching a golden egg (a smidge big, I think) and the hedge maze. Title and accents in royal blue.
This is where the quote doesn’t match the cameo. The cameo is Cedric Diggory, but Dumbledore’s quote here is addressed to Fudge, when the Minister refused to believe him on the return of Voldemort and the active Death Eaters.
Order of the Phoenix
Order of the Phoenix shows Harry in the foreground, partially obscuring Umbridge’s toady face. Firenze stands in the background while (I assume) prophecy orbs are flying about, and to the left it looks like beings obscured by the veil. Title and accents are in orange.
Here’s another mismatch. The quote is Sirius’ but in this context pertains to Umbridge when Harry suspected she was a Death Eater. Firenze is the cameo and is unrelated to the quote.
Dumbledore is the main image in Half Blood Prince. Snape features in the top right corner, while the bottom right corner shows Harry in his Invisibility Cloak. Title and accents are in blue-violet.
The back cover features a quote from Dumbledore, which thankfully matches Snape’s cameo.
Finally, Deathly Hallows features our trio on their perilous horcrux hunt, the Potter Family, and Voldemort’s and Harry’s showdown on Hogwarts grounds. Titles and accents are in emerald green.
The quote is from Harry this time, matching the cameo beneath it, which depicts Voldemort and Harry in the Battle of Hogwarts.
Overall (despite my nitpicking on certain details), I do love this set, far more than I loved the 2013 edition, which I think appealed to a new demographic, but not so much to longtime fans because it was such a vast departure from Mary Grandpre’s art. I find that this particular edition pushes enough edginess to draw in new readers, and at the same time, nostalgic appeal for the grown-up fandom.
So many feels today that I needed five hours to write it all down! Thank you, as always to Scholastic Asia, National Book Store, and Pinoy Harry Potter for another memorable event.
P.S. If you’re looking to buy the books they’re available at 20% off from National Book Store until today — or wait to get your copies at the Manila International Book Fair in September.