HARRY Potter-mad Kieran Laing will be the first person in Newcastle to get his hands on the long-awaited final book tonight.
The 13-year-old won The Journal’s competition to unveil the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at Waterstones in Blackett Street in the city centre, and skip to the front of the queue.
Kieran, a pupil at Moorside Community College, Consett, County Durham, will also win a copy of the book, expected to become the fastest-selling novel of all time, as well as some spell-binding Potter goodies.
He was entered into the draw by parents Stephen and Tracey. Year 8 pupil Kieran, said: “It’s great, I didn’t know they had entered me until they said that I had won. I haven’t read the sixth Harry Potter yet so I’m going to read that before I start the final book.
“One of my friends said he’s going to read it as soon as he buys it.
“I would say Harry’s my favourite because he’s the main character, but I also like Luna Lovegood because she just appears out of nowhere. I like they way new characters have been added along the way.
“I’m not really sure how it’s going to end. I think Hermione will die, but I do think they should do another one to carry it on.”
Kieran was also one of the first fans to see the latest film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – the fifth of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books to make it to the big screen – when it opened at cinemas last weekend. He said: “It was brilliant. I like the way they’ve all grown-up through the films because it makes it more real. They just keep getting better.”
Dad Stephen, 41, from The Grove, Consett, said: “He was ecstatic when he found out he had won. He has all the books and games so I’m sure it’s going to be a great night.”
Bosses at Waterstones in Blackett Street have installed security guards in-store ahead of tonight’s launch. Manager Julia Howells said thousands of extra copies have been ordered of the book featuring boy wizard’s adventures.
The store will have entertainment from 9pm before the book’s official launch at 12.01am. Hundreds of fans, many dressed as characters from the books, are expected to queue.
Ms Howells said: “We thought the last Harry Potter book launch was big, but it has turned into a phenomenon. There are almost as many adults as kids buying it this time.
“There are children who have read Harry Potter since the first was released who have grown-up, but they will still be buying the last book. We’ve had requests from staff from other stores that aren’t open to come and work. It’s such a big event no one wants to miss out.
“Copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows should be arriving today, but we aren’t allowing any copies of the book onto the shop floor until 12.01am.”
Giants face battle of independents
INDEPENDENT retailers will be battling against the big names tonight.
Family-owned Cognito Books, in Hexham, Northumberland, are setting up shop in the monastic workshops at nearby Hexham Abbey.
Although tickets for a special Harry Potter-themed party are sold out, books will be on sale from 12.01am with entertainment continuing into the early hours.
Claire Grint, who runs the store in St Mary’s Chare with parents Alan and Julia, said it was important for independent stores to get involved.
Miss Grint, 25, said: “You have to be able to define yourself and differentiate as an independent. You can’t compete in price but there are other ways to give something to the customer.
“JK Rowling created so much excitement about the book and it’s great to see so many children reading, it’s so nice to see them coming along to enjoy themselves. We’re finding that a lot of the people buying them are older, but the characters are now older. I think they understand that if they don’t buy from an independent then they could lose advice, a back-list of books and a fast delivery service.”
Meanwhile hot soup and drinks will be served at Bridge Street Bookshop in Berwick-upon-Tweed when the shop opens at 12.01am.
There’s also fun to be had at a Harry Potter-themed party at Forum Books and Crafts, in Market Place, Corbridge, Northumberland.
In Cumbria The Carlisle Bookshop in Castle Street, Carlisle, will be open from 11.30pm. The shop will have face painting and quizzes.
Borders on the Silverlink Retail Park in Wallsend, North Tyneside, is hosting its own Harry Potter party with games and quizzes.
Waterstones in Hexham and Newcastle are also holding events.
WH Smith stores in Berwick, Carlisle, Gosforth, Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland and Middlesbrough will also open their doors.
Supermarket giant Asda will hold events in their 24-hour stores in Boldon, Gosforth, Sunderland, Gateshead, Benton, Blyth, Peterlee, Carlisle and Galashiels. Meanwhile Tesco will also sell the book from midnight at stores in Hexham, Kingston Park and North Shields.
However American newspapers yesterday published reviews of the much anticipated book after a US online retailer broke the strict embargo.
It shipped 1,200 copies to customers on Tuesday.
Author JK Rowling slammed newspapers for publishing plot spoilers.