OH, BOTHER, OUR OLD FAVORITES SAY

It was just after midnight Friday when a rustling came from a pile of books under a bed. And suddenly, out crawled Winnie the Pooh, a jar of honey under his arm. Behind him were Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet.

Together, they climbed the wall, pushed open the window, and took one last look.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Someplace where they appreciate us,” Pooh said. “Someplace where every child isn’t buying …”

He sighed. “Oh, bother,” he said.

Pooh and the others snuck down a drain spout, then tiptoed along the street. From the darkness, they were joined by Horton the Elephant and the spider from “Charlotte’s Web,” both carrying suitcases.

“Wait for moi!” yelled a small voice.

The Little Prince.

As they snuck along the curb, they peeked into houses. Through every window, there was a child engrossed in the new and final Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” No one noticed their escape.

“How depressing,” Pooh whispered.

Something stirred. From a nearby telephone pole, Curious George swung down. “Wait up!” he yelled.

“I thought you never spoke,” Charlotte said.

“That was just in the book,” he said, shrugging his monkey shoulders. “To be honest, I’m not even that curious. I just like to get into stuff and make a mess.”

The parade grows

They trudged along, joined every block by other once-favorite children’s literature characters. Pippi Longstocking. Clifford the Big Red Dog. James and the Giant Peach. A big cupboard came thumping out, opened its doors, and out fell the Indian.

“It’s no use,” he said. “I tried killing him with a tomahawk. But he just put a spell on it.”

Apparently, with more than 300 million books sold, five blockbuster movies, endless merchandising, Web sites and commercial hype, Harry Potter had simply taken over children’s reading.

Dominated it. Swallowed it. If a fictional character could be a tsunami, Harry was it.

“Who cares about a cat in a hat?” said the Cat in the Hat. “All they want now is evil spells and Quidditch.”

“And muggles and Death Eaters.”

“And green eggs and ham?”

“Nice try, Sam,” said Peter Rabbit.

Suddenly, a car came barreling into a driveway, and the characters had to scatter. The car door opened and out stepped a family with bags from Borders.

“What’d they buy?” asked Stuart Little.

“Don’t be na├»ve,” said Nancy Drew.

There used to be room

Once, it seemed, there was room for all kinds of kids books. Tigers and spiders and princes and Indians. But these days, it’s all Harry. Harry in print. Harry online. Harry in theaters. Harry at the toy store.

Never has a hype machine worked harder to make a big thing bigger. Never has the media so gleefully jumped on a bandwagon of countdowns, hints and contests.

“It ain’t fair,” said Huck Finn. “He gets like 4,000 pages. What’d I get, less than 400 – counting pictures?”

“I wish I had his publicist,” said Hansel.

“I wish I had his money,” said Gretel.

They made their way down to the river, where one by one, they boarded a small boat, a Noah’s ark for literary creations.

“Wait, don’t go!” implored Alice in Wonderland. “Harry Potter is just a fad. It will pass.”

The Little Prince pushed off, yelled “Au revoir!”and the boat floated away, flanked by one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.

“At least say where you’re going!” I yelled.

“We’re going to the only place we know that they’re sick of Harry Potter!” roared Babar the Elephant.

“Where’s that?”

“Hogwarts.”

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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