August 1: On July 31, as an army of children and adults got ready to “celebrate” Harry Potter’s birthday, there was a young fictional heroine waiting to share the limelight with him. Her name? Lyra Belacqua, a girl with extraordinary powers, unusual friends, and living an orphaned life as well. Lyra Belacqua is the name of the latest craze unleashed by writer David Pullman among young book readers in the US.

The verdict is clear; Harry Potter and Lyra Belacqua are here to stay. Gone are the days when the clean and well-scrubbed Hardy boys, Nancy Drew, the Famous Five and The Secret Seven ruled over young readers’ hearts and cupboards.

It's Hi Harry, Bye Hardy Boys
It’s Hi Harry, Bye Hardy Boys [Illustration by Anup Singh]

The trend seems to be toward more complex characters who are very ordinary and realistic, but with magical powers which even they are not fully aware of. And, with their magic they fight great battles of good versus evil.

And these magical heroes and heroines do not chase villains on a car or a mobike. They find it more comfortable to ride a broom or a half-human animal. They do not play games like baseball or volleyball as we know them, but sport with names like Quidditch, in which they run around on brooms, trying to catch a flying ball.

The lives and adventures of Harry and Lyra have had one major impact – the older heroes like the Hardy Boys are not selling very well. And their publishers, Simon & Schuster, are trying to modernise them to suit the tastes of today’s readers.

These days the young detectives come equipped with cell phones, computers and high-tech gadgets, have adventures involving citywide surveillance systems, corporate crime and online crime. Will the detectives be able to save their own lives? We have to wait and watch…