J.K. Rowling: Steve Read
Karyn L. Barr
December 20, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

J.K. Rowling made 2003’s Entertainer of the Year list

Spellbinder Out of love for J.K. Rowling’s charmingly wicked imagination and her skinny, bespectacled wizard-kind, hordes of wannabe Hogwartsians stayed up way past the witching hour on June 21 to get their lil’ Muggle hands on her doozy of an 870-page book, ”Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” And man, oh man, Gryffindors and Slytherins alike agreed that it was worth the three-year wait! With its unprecedented dark tone and oh-so-shocking death of a key character, even EW’s contributing spook-meister Stephen King raved about volume 5’s ”wit and playful black humor” and ”the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter.”

In the first 24 hours, American buyers snapped up 5 million copies of ”Phoenix”; to date, 250 million ”Potter” books have been sold worldwide. Rowling’s publisher, Scholastic, cashed in on the sorcery saga’s popularity by commissioning a record-breaking 8.5 million first printings for the U.S. launch. No doubt Scholastic — and overly anxious fans — are trying to pry open the matriarch of magic’s chamber of secrets for information on the sixth ”Potter.” Care to divulge anything, Ms. Rowling? We won’t tell?. Okay, we thought so. Until its release, fans can console themselves with the third film, ”Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which hits theaters June 4.

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