Harry Potter and the Curse of the Overexcited Kiddies (Part One)
Your average everyday Harry Potter party is only as good as your co-workers. So when the Central Children’s Room of New York Public Library decides to celebrate the last book in a ridiculously popular series, you have to make it good. And fortunately for me, my co-workers can only really be described as "godlike in their Harry Potter enthusiasm". Through a joint effort and preparation of months, we were able to host the following at our par-tay:
A magician to kick off ceremonies
Handmade "candles" of paper hanging from the ceiling to give everything that Great Hall feel.
A pin-the-curly-pig-tail on Dudley Dursely standee.
A sorting, complete with sorting hat (purchased at the Scholastic store, no less) and my boss, hidden behind a curtain, yelling out the houses of each child.
Craft tables including, but not limited to: Potions (make your own sticky goop), design your house badge, make a dragon, make an owl, get your face painted, and get your hair colored.
A food table with butterbeer (root beer and ice cream) and a "wand" where you dipped a pretzel stick in chocolate frosting and then rolled it in sprinkles. Sign reading: Double Dipping Is Forbidden (complete with The Dark Mark) situated nearby.
That’s just what I remember, but I feel like there was more.
Anywho, we weren’t sure what to expect numbers-wise. I mean, this party was on Friday during the day before the book would come out. For kids too young to stay up until midnight, this was an ideal opportunity to celebrate, wear costumes, and have a good time. It also ended up getting advertised in the Daily News and AM New York. But as fate would have it (and fate was remarkably kind to me that day in all sorts of ways) we got the perfect amount of children. I’d guesstimate 100, plus parents, but that might be a little high. Whatever the case, almost everyone fit in our Story Hour Room to watch the magician and then lined up very nicely to get Sorted into the general craft area.
Stealing an idea from one of my commenters on this blog, I decided to go as Rita Skeeter. This is a very simple outfit that, should you wish to go as a non-teaching witch or wizard at a future Harry Potter party, can be easily accomplished. You just need to curl your hair (check), wear some kind of writerly jacket (my mother’s high school teacher’s suit jacket, check), wear inappropriately dark red lipstick (and if it gets on your teeth even better, check), and long green fingernails.
As readers of this blog may remember, nails fascinate me in that I never have them done. But I was determined to be a good Rita, so I purchased these glue-on kinds from the nearby Duane Reade and then painted them green in my spare time. Oddly enough, you cannot find bright green nail polish in a drug store in Midtown. What you can find is a sickly pale lime color that, in its own way, is just as horrid if not more so than its brighter brethren. I painted the nails, stuck ’em on my hands, and was good to go when ABC News walked in.
Yes, ABC News was coming. Of course they were. They were coming and they wanted to talk to someone about that New York Times piece regarding how reading for fun hasn’t, supposedly, changed due to Harry Potter. They were initially slated to arrive about noon, so I boned up on my stats. I found the flaws in the argument, I was ready to debate the subject to death, and I was gung ho to go. As it turned out, they showed up closer to 1:30 and by that time I felt obligated to Skeeter myself up. So here I am in full Skeeter regalia, which is just close enough to normal everyday wear that I’m sure the viewers of ABC News (the New York local edition) are now under the impression that their children’s librarians have truly awful taste in make-up. Amusingly, the reporter turned out to be the dad of one of my homeschool bookgroup kids, so we were able to chat about that for a while. Manhattan is, at heart, just a very large small town. Ironically, he never really asked me about the Times piece. Just wanted to know if kids liked the books. I said yes they did. There are harder ways to make a living.
I hid the nails behind my back for the broadcast, but when it came time to do help out they couldn’t have gotten in my way more. You have to understand that these weren’t just some slightly long press-ons. These were Dragon Lady length talons. I could have worked some serious damage, had ninjas suddenly attacked our party unannounced. Ninjas were not in attendance, but we did get a werewolf bearing the name "Professor Lupin" around his neck, a Malfoy, and numerous Harrys in the room. Ironically, Malfoy was sorted into Griffindor. Amazing.
Of course, the owls were a little late. That actually worked out for the best. Once they arrived we seated everyone in the Story Hour Room again and the kids got to see an adorable screech owl, a drop-dead gorgeous barn owl, and a couple others that I didn’t get a chance to look at because I was cleaning up. Finally, when everyone left the room we handed out those cool Harry Potter bags Scholastic was kind enough to give us for our party (you may have seen them at the ALA Conference) and everyone got one.
I would like to extend my hearty congrats to both my co-workers AND to the maintenance and janitorial staff of NYPL. No one should ever have to clean up after 100 kids alongside gloop, chocolate frosting, owl poop, glitter, sprinkles, and feathers. They did, and the place looked spotless the next day. A tip of the hat all around.
(CONTINUED IN PART TWO)
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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