Extract from ‘B is for Bestseller’

Reflecting on the success of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time a year on in 2004, Mark Haddon wrote about

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Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone: Excerpt #5

The train slowed right down and finally stopped. People pushed their way towards the door and out on to a tiny, dark platform. Harry shivered in the cold night air. Then a lamp came bobbing over the heads of the students and Harry heard a familiar voice: “Firs’-years! Firs’-years! Firs’-years over here! All right there, Harry?”

Hagrid’s big hairy face beamed over the sea of heads.

“C’mon, follow me – any more firs’-years? Mind yer step, now! Firs’-years follow me!”

Slipping and stumbling, they followed Hagrid down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. It was so dark either side of them that Harry thought there must be thick trees there. Nobody spoke much. Neville, the boy who kept losing his toad, sniffed once or twice.

“Yeh’ll get yer firs’ sight o’ Hogwarts in a sec,” Hagrid called over his shoulder, “jus’ round this bend here.”

There was a loud “Oooooh!”.

The narrow path had opened suddenly on to the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

“No more’n four to a boat!” Hagrid called, pointing to a fleet of little boats sitting in the water by the shore. Harry and Ron were followed into their boat by Neville and Hermione.

“Everyone in?” shouted Hagrid, who had a boat to himself, “Right then – FORWARD!”

And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once, gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass. Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.

“Heads down!” yelled Hagrid as the first boats reached the cliff; they all bent their heads and the little boats carried them through a curtain of ivy which hid a wide opening in the cliff face. They were carried along a dark tunnel, which seemed to be taking them directly underneath the castle, until they reached a kind of underground harbour, where they clambered out on to rocks and pebbles.

Excerpt taken from Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2013), pp. 83-4.

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Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone: Excerpt #4

“Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance, Mr Potter. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same, just as no two unicorns, dragons or phoenixes are quite the same. And of course, you will never get such good results with another wizard’s wand.”

Harry suddenly realised that the tape measure, which was measuring between his nostrils, was doing this on its own. Mr Ollivander was flitting around the shelves, taken down boxes.

“That will do,” he said, and the tape measure crumpled into a heap on the floor. “Right then, Mr Potter. Try this one. Beechwood and dragon heartstring. Nine inches. Nice and flexible. Just take it and give it a wave.”

Harry took the wand and (feeling foolish) waved it around a bit, but Mr Ollivander snatched it out of his hand almost at once.

“Maple and phoenix feather. Seven inches. Quite whippy. Try -“

Harry tried – but he had hardly raised the wand when it, too, was snatched back by Mr Ollivander.

“No, no – here, ebony and unicorn hair, eight and a half inches, springy. Go on, go on, try it out.”

Harry tried. And tried. He had no idea what Mr Ollicander was waiting for. The pile of tried wands was mounting higher and higher on the spindly chair, but the more wands Mr Ollivander pulled from the shelves, the happier he seemed to become.

“Tricky customer, eh? Not to worry, we’ll find the perfect match here somewhere – I wonder now – yes, why not – unusual combination – holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple.”

Harry took the wand. He felt a sudden warmth in his fingers. He raised the wand above his head, brought it swishing down through the dusty air and a stream of red and gold sparks shot from the end like a firework, throwing dancing spots of light on to the walls. Hagrid whooped and clapped and Mr Ollivander cried, “Oh, bravo! Yes, indeed, oh, very good. Well, well, well… how curious… how very curious…”

He put Harry’s wand back into its box and wrapped it in brown paper, still muttering, “Curious… curious…”

“Sorry,” said Harry, “but what’s curious?”

Mr Ollivander fixed Harry with his pale stare.

“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather – just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother – why, its brother gave you that scar.”

Excerpt taken from Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2013), pp. 64-5.

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