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What 7-year-olds want: Game Boy, ‘blades and Harry Potter

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NEW YORK — For weeks, a rumor went around my son's class that a boy named Joey already had the fourth Harry Potter book.

"Joey doesn't have the book," I insisted to my son, Danny. "Nobody has the book. It hasn't been published yet."

"If the book isn't published yet, how do you know about it?" he asked.

Good question. How do you explain the mysteries of publishing to a 7-year-old? Even I don't quite understand how "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which won't be in bookstores until Saturday, has been on Amazon's bestseller list for weeks, or why everyone is already talking about how long the book is (over 700 pages).

"I just know," I finally answered. "Anyway, how do you know Joey has the book? Have you seen it?"

"No. He's not allowed to bring it to school."

"Why not?"

"It belongs to his brother."

Right. But as silly as it is for a second-grader to pretend he has a book that hasn't been published yet, it also shows just how hot Harry Potter is.

It isn't enough for Danny to have a buzz cut, wear cargo pants and Rollerblade around the neighborhood with his Color Game Boy in hand. If he really wants to be cool, he's got to be able to speak with authority about Quidditch (a team sport played with broomsticks) and Hogwarts (the school where Harry Potter studies magic).

Yet Harry Potter is the type of fad a mother can love. I know a lot of parents who worried their kids would never love books because CD-ROMS, Game Boy, Nintendo, the Internet and videos — never mind TV — just provided too many other, more compelling forms of entertainment. Then they discovered Harry Potter.

My nephew, never a bookish kid, read the first three books a couple of times over. My son, who made me stop reading bedtime stories to him some time in the middle of first grade, agreed to try the books after he got them as birthday presents from an aunt and a classmate. A lot of his friends had already read them and were talking about them, and Danny didn't want to be left out.

But peer pressure only gets you to start the book. Good writing and amazing plots are what keep you turning the pages.

I knew my son finally understood the joys of reading when he started begging me to keep going after we were done with our allotted chapter each night. Many a school night my 7-year-old ended up staying until nearly 11 p.m. because we just had to find out what was in the mysterious letters being delivered to Harry Potter, or how the Quidditch match turned out.

Sometimes, of course, I had to insist that it was time to turn out the light, and then after Danny was asleep, I'd keep reading by myself. When we resumed the next day, I'd say, "Wait until you find out what happened with the ghost," or "You won't believe what that potion did," and he'd be furious that I'd continued without him.

About three months after we started, we finally finished all three books — 309 pages, 341 pages and 435 pages, respectively. And on Saturday morning, I fully expect to be in a bookstore with Danny by my side clutching "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." No doubt he'll feel like he's right on the cutting edge when he sees the long line at the checkout counter.

Maybe we'll even run into Joey.