Harry Potter is the name of a series of fantasy novels by British writer J. K. Six of seven planned books have been published to date, not including the two school books, Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. These two are supposed to be two of the school books in the seven original books. The books depict a world of witches and wizards, the main character being a young wizard named Harry Potter. The first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States), was released in 1997. The first four books have been made into films, and the fifth movie is due to start filming in February 2006, with an expected release in 2007.
As of 2005, Rowling has written the last chapter of the seventh book. Rowling has also mentioned that the last word of the book would be “scar,” which remains to be seen. However, she is unsure whether that will be in the final draft in the book, as she was asked about it in an interview conducted by fan sites Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron.
The Harry Potter books have achieved a profile unparalleled by any other series of books, with worldwide sales exceeding 300 million copies. They have been praised for encouraging children and indeed even adults to read, while also drawing criticism from some quarters. The books are published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (original; distributed in the UK and other Commonwealth countries except Canada), Scholastic and Raincoast Books (original; distributed in Canada).
The books have fans of all ages. J. K. Rowling says she did not have any particular age group in mind when she started to write the Harry Potter books; her publishers, however, initially targeted them at young readers aged 8 to 15. The books have more recently been released in two editions, one with the original “children’s” cover artwork, and one
with artwork more consciously aimed at adult readers. Additionally, as the series has developed, Rowling’s writing has become more sophisticated and the content of the books has matured as the lead character, Harry Potter, has grown older. For instance, relationships are discussed as an issue for the teenage characters in later books. Accordingly, the reading age for the books, both in terms of content and style, is rising as the series goes on.
The first book was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury, a fairly small independent publisher, in July 1997. Its initial success was based on some positive reviews and word of mouth. The first three books, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, all won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize for the 9 to 11 age group. By the time the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was published in 2000 the series had become very high-profile, and the launch received much wider publicity in the general media than was usual for a new book. At around the same time Warner Brothers began work on the series of films based on the books. The involvement of a global media conglomerate led to more concerted efforts to maximise the value of the Harry Potter franchise. The first film, based on the first book, was released in 2001, and was accompanied by video games and other branded merchandise.