Of the Baker City Herald

Alex Synan rolls a die, hops a miniature gold wizard hat around a game board, and stops on the black figure of a man.

andquot;Non-magic folk,andquot; he says, and waits while his mom, Priscilla, sorts through a stack of question cards.

andquot;What is the combined number of letters that arrive from Hogwarts to Harry on Friday and Saturday?andquot; she asks.

Alex, 9, rolls his eyes to the ceiling and lightly taps his jaw with a fist.

andquot;Thirty-six,andquot; he answers.

andquot;Correct,andquot; Priscilla says.

Alex punches the air with a fist, then sits back while brother Drew, 13, takes his turn tackling a question from the trivia game based on the book andquot;Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.andquot;

The Synans have not only collected all the books written by British author J.K. Rowling, but also the movies, board game and video games based on the series.

However, it took a while for the first book to catch on in the family.

andquot;I kind of stumbled across it on a book order and it just laid around,andquot; Drew said. andquot;Then I started reading and I got hooked.

andquot;I think the characters are not super-people they're believable. Harry isn't really, really brave, he's afraid sometimes.andquot;

The books follow the life of Harry Potter a teenage wizard living in England through seven years of adventures at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After Drew's introduction to the books, his mom and little brother also got caught up in the magical world of Harry Potter.

Priscilla admits that she had to use a bit of trickery to read andquot;Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secretsandquot; when Drew was in fourth grade.

andquot;I made him go to bed at 10 o'clock, stole the book, then read it,andquot; Priscilla laughed.

Drew has read the books at least three times each. He owns a leatherbound copy of the first book which he hides away and keeps a lending library for others who want to borrow a book.

He even owns a translation in French a language he's been studying for two years.

Alex listens to the audio tapes about five times each, so far.

andquot;He has quite a good English accent from listening to Harry Potter,andquot; Priscilla said.

Their excitement is growing, too, as each day brings them closer to the release of the fifth book, andquot;Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.andquot;

andquot;We were on the list for book five when we picked up book four,andquot; Priscilla said.

To celebrate the release the book officially goes on sale at 12:01 a.m. on June 21 Betty's Books is organizing a Harry Potter party beginning at 10:30 p.m. on June 20 at Crossroads Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, 1901 Main St. Costumes are encouraged.

Harry Potter-themed activities will fill the late night party with trivia, games, crafts, food and contests.

Participants can also practice a form of Quidditch the magical sport played high in the air with players astride broomsticks and sample butter beer (a.k.a. apple juice).

Audio tapes of the previous books will be playing in a quiet corner for anyone who wishes to sit and hear the tales of Harry, Ron and Hermione at Hogwarts School. Lucas Ferguson, 11, will play at least one piano solo from the movie's musical score.

First sentence challenge

In preparation for parties planned throughout the world, Scholastic publishers have released the first sentences of andquot;Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.andquot;

Betty's Books is challenging everyone attending the party to write the first page of book 5, beginning from these words:

andquot;The hottest day of summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive. ... The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four.andquot;

The submission judged to be the most authentic will earn the first spot in line to receive the book at midnight.

Money to purchase the book can be taken to the party and deposited at the Gringotts booth named after the bank that caters to the magic community in England.

Parents don't need to stay, and should plan to pick up children around midnight, said Carolyn Kulog of Betty's Books.

The party is for those who have signed up to buy the book. To reserve admission to the party, call Betty's Books at 523-7551.