P Wayne Stauffer – Starting Harry Potter

P Wayne Stauffer, English Instructor at Southeast Houston Community College has written a Guest Post – his review of the new Wizarding World initiative to engage first time young readers in the stories. Today is the birthday of both Harry Potter and his creator, so what better time to refresh our memories on the series publishing history, and what this new initiative can bring for the young.

Starting Harry Potter: A New Harry Potter Experience for Children from Bloomsbury Publishing.

P Wayne Stauffer

Having helped plan a couple Harry Potter Book Night (HPBN) events at my college, I went to Bloomsbury’s website several years ago to download their HPBN planning guide/packet and see what it consisted of. As a part of this process, I provided my email address, so now I receive periodic notices for new Harry-Potter-related products and information. A few days ago I got this email:

Greetings new wizards (and old),
We are pleased to introduce you to Starting Harry Potter – an exciting new online hub, available now from the Wizarding World. The interactive hub is free to all and has been designed to help children dive into the magic of reading this summer.
Starting Harry Potter is the official place for children to discover the magic of Harry Potter for the very first time, setting them up for a journey reading or listening to the iconic popular book series. This summer holiday, whether at home, on a long car journey or at an airport, new readers and Harry Potter fans alike will be able to dive into the magic, engaging in weekly fun and interactive activities to spark the imagination. The hub is open now to explore including story-led quizzes, craft activities, as well as insights into the characters and wonders of the wizarding world.

The email continues with links to free access to the first chapter of Philosopher’s Stone, both text and audio book, and links to browse the new 25th anniversary edition for sale (original first edition cover art reprinted).

A cursory look at the Starting Harry Potter online hub shows it to be for a younger audience (maybe 8 to 11 years old) than the Wizarding World website (12 years+). It has more interactive capacity for shorter attention spans—quizzes, drawing, e-stickers, crafts, and such. More than just trivia, the quizzes check reading comprehension much like children take in a school reading class. It also makes generous use of the anime-like Kibuishi 15th anniversary artwork. As far as I can tell, all on the hub-site is free, but they also include ample “Shop” buttons to buy your copies. On the whole it looks to be fun.

As a grandfather in his mid-60s, one of my first cynical thoughts was, “Wow. Do they REALLY need another new package for this?”

But it got me thinking about the history of the series publication, so I thought I would write a brief summary of the variety of editions. It’s not exactly re-branding, but changing up the look of the products to attract even more buyers. And this does not include the wide range of translated editions outside the English language. I’m probably also overlooking some editions. I’m sure to be corrected in the comments section.

Once Bloomsbury started the publication machinery in 1996 or so for this then-unknown writer, the first edition cover art was provided over the next few years by three illustrators: Thomas Taylor, Cliff Wright, and Jason Cockroft.

For the Scholastic editions in America, Mary GrandPre was employed for all seven volumes.

After Deathly Hallows was released in 2007, these covers stayed until Kazu Kibuishi illustrated the cover redesign for the 15th anniversary edition in 2012.

Three years later Jim Kay provided the art for the Illustrated editions starting in 2015. As of this writing (July 2022) the first four are on shelves, but Order of the Phoenix may be recently (or soon to be) released. Unlike previous editions, this one has artwork throughout the book, rather than just the cover or a small sketch at the beginning of chapters. These books are also over-sized (larger than the 6” x 9” format). Boxed sets of all seven will appear in just a few years I’m sure.


In 2018 Scholastic released a third paperback edition with new cover art by Brian Selznick.

Then the MinaLima edition, illustrated by the Warner Brothers graphic arts team Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, started in October 2020 and is in progress. This edition, though, has more than just artwork. It also has pop-ups and artifacts (like a Hogwarts Express ticket, Hogwarts letter, Yuleball invitation, and so on) as appropriate for each story. Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets are on shelves now, but each volume will have its own treatment. Boxed sets of all seven will appear in just a few years I’m sure.

House editions of boxed sets of seven were completed by Nov 2021 but have not been available in the American market. Indicate your Hogwarts house, and the House-colored cover on all seven is yours.


Then there are the Stephen Fry and Jim Dale Audiobooks in the British and American markets, respectively. I’m not a huge consumer of audiobooks, but when the audiobook accompanies the text faithfully, it is a huge benefit in teaching readings skills to beginning readers. (Funny story of Stephen Fry and the audiobook here:)

Of course, JKR started her own website (I forget the first name of it and the year) to meet the fan demand for more background on the universe she created. After a few years it morphed into Pottermore, then later on into Wizarding World, after the Fantastic Beasts films came out, for digital access to ancillary info and more behind the scenes information…and opportunities to buy a new package of the story.

Are all of these just another ploy to take my money? In part, probably. My guess is that the folks at Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and WBEI are always thinking about the next way to keep this major franchise fresh in the public eye to attract more, newer customers. I mean, they are in business to make money. Yes, the 20th and 25th anniversaries are milestones, as are the anniversaries of the film release dates, so those editions are inevitable, as will be the 30th and so on. I admit it to be somewhat frustrating and discouraging. You see, I like books…a LOT… so each “new” version makes me think, “Ooh, I want that.” But my wallet tells me, “NO!!! Do NOT click ‘Add to Cart’!” and “You WILL walk on past that stack on the bookstore table.” Sigh. So, I content myself with my used, hardcover, first US printing editions of all seven books.

But the stories inside the covers and surrounding the artwork remain the same, so the literary artistry isn’t changed, and yet…the different visual artwork appeals to us in different ways than bare lines of text on the page. Yes, the art we see is only one person’s imagined visualization, and therefore limiting. But it also is inspiring. So much fan art, including fan fiction, is out there that I can’t help but think that the artwork also unleashes creativity in fans as well. It’s about more than remaining faithful to the writer’s vision of the story; it’s also about readers engaging in the willing suspension of disbelief to participate in that vision of the story.

Both the Wizarding World and now Starting Harry Potter websites and the Jim Kay Illustrated and MinaLima Editions give us ways to connect with Harry’s magical world that simple lines of text on the page do not. (Discussion of all the merchandising, theme parks, and ways we spend our money will have to come another time.) An argument might be made that some themes and subplots aren’t appropriate for children under a certain age, so the targeting of these children by the new online hub pressures that age group to come into contact with those themes and subplots prematurely. To which I would counter that parental concern about this should prompt involvement in helping children navigate through such issues and is always a good thing. A hallmark of parenting is “Ready or not, here we come!”

I wish I could remember who said this, but the line goes something like this, “I don’t wish the characters were real in my world. I want to be real in theirs.” And so I can hold a letter from Hogwarts and a Hogwarts Express ticket in my hand while I go looking closely for Platform 9¾, or run across a manky old boot, or notice a light that seems to have an electrical short. Sometimes, I, too, could swear I saw a photograph move.… 


  1. Wayne Stauffer says

    The Jim Kay Illustrated Order of the Phoenix is due out in October 2022.

  2. Delightful article! Thank you. As both an early fan of Harry Potter (a British friend sent me the first book) and a elder fan (those websites for fans over 30 miss the mark by more than 3 decades.) it’s been a pleasure to downsize my collection to just the editions I truly enjoy re-reading (original hard back, Jim Kay illustrated, and Mini Lima interactives). Even better has been meeting the new people who are just starting out with the books.

    Your comments on the cover art is spot on. I used cover art from around the world for a classroom discussion of the books. Students were fascinated by the different depictions of Harry and commented on those that reflected or didn’t reflect their own version of him.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Fascinating – I had no idea! Having enjoyed our way along in a very bibliographically casual way (including a mix of US and UK editions) – and having (for example) enjoyed Douglas A. Anderson’s The Annotated Hobbit when it first came along (1988) – it occurs to me to wonder, are there convenient ways to see the textual variants between the UK and US first editions? And, what – if any – history of subsequent textual changes are known (and consultable, if more than corrections of typos or other printing-technical errors)?

  4. Wayne Stauffer says

    The July 2021 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine has a great review of the Hogwarts House editions. Check it out here — https://www.therowlinglibrary.com/read/55

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