Reaching out to all wizards

Books: Two paperbacks satisfy your hunger for Harry Potter material while helping the needy. All for the sweet price of $3.99 a book.

March 13, 2001|By Athima Chansanchai

There's a new Harry Potter book in town.

Well, actually two books, but before you or your child hyperventilate, you should know they're not the newest additions to the extraordinarily popular series by J.K. Rowling. The fifth installment of the saga isn't due out for at least another year.

But two slim paperbacks were released yesterday - "Quidditch Through the Ages" and "Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them" - that promise fans the satisfaction of fresh material about the boy wizard and a chance to help out the newly created children's charity, Harry's Books fund.

If the titles sound familiar, that's because they were actually reading material for the students at Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The "Quidditch" book gives the history of Harry's favorite sport - a mix of basketball, rugby and soccer played on flying broomsticks. And "Fantastic Beasts" is an abbreviated dictionary of unusual creatures from the magical world inhabited by Harry and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.

Rowling writes under the authors' names she created in her first book - Kennilworthy Whisp and Newt Scamander - only revealing her direct participation in a note at the end.

Richard Curtis, co-founder and vice chairman of Comic Relief U.K., a charity which strives to end poverty and social injustice, approached Rowling more than a year ago asking for her help, even just a signed book to auction off.

The author is such a fan of the organization that she decided to do more.

"Jo had always wanted to write these books so it was the perfect opportunity," says Kris Moran, spokesperson for Scholastic, the American publisher of the series. As an added treat, Rowling's own ink drawings adorn both volumes.

Curtis was so impressed by her generosity that he decided to create Harry's Books fund, a separate division of Comic Relief U.K. Rowling's donating her royalties, and everyone involved in the project worked for a reduced fee. The books, which cost $3.99 each, are expected to generate $15 million.

For more information, go to the Web site: www. comicrelief.com/harrysbooks.

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