Harry Potter and the Hidden Tribute to the Young Girl

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By the time Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the Harry Potter saga, was published in 2000, the series had already become a smashing success. The first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (“Sorcerer’s Stone” in the United States) debuted in the UK in the summer of 1997 and was being turned into a movie; the Goblet of Fire book set a new record for Amazon.com pre-orders. Its popularity rampant, Potter’s trials and tribulations won fans of all kinds. Among them was Natalie McDonald of Toronto, a nine-year-old girl who could not wait to hear how the story would end—but sadly, not because she was impatient. McDonald had a terminal case of leukemia and was all but certain to die before Goblet hit the bookstores.

A family friend, Annie Kidder, went to the publisher of the Potter series, asking them to pass a letter (and fax) on to J.K. Rowling, author of the books. Kidder’s request was a simple one: give this dying child a preview of the outcome of Goblet—nearly a year before the rest of the world would be able to read it—as the Potter stories “had been [Natalie’s] respite from the hell of leukemia” and Natalie was not going to survive long enough to otherwise enjoy the story.

Rowling was on vacation when the request arrived and replied via e-mail to Natalie’s mother on August 4, 1999. The e-mail detailed the fate of the main characters in Goblet of Fire and did so eleven months prior to the book’s publication date. Unfortunately, Natalie passed away the day prior to receiving the news.

Nevertheless, Natalie’s mother Valerie and Rowling began a friendship from that day forward. Rowling, for her part, honored  Natalie’s memory in print—on page 159 (or 180, depending on the version) of Goblet of Fire, a young witch by the name of Natalie McDonald, new to Hogwarts, dons the Sorting Hat and becomes a member of House Gryffindor.

Excerpted from Now I Know More Copyright © 2014 by Dan Lewis and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.