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Rowling waves wand with first post-Potter tale

Edinburgh — Superstar author J.K. Rowling launched The Tales Of Beedle The Bard, her first book since ending Harry Potter’s adventures, with a special reading for children in her home city Thursday.

Many British shops opened early so children could buy the book before going to school. The tales went on sale in about 20 countries around the world, including the United States, China and Japan, with retailers predicting it would become the Christmas hit.

Rowling hosted a tea party and reading for about 200 children in her home city of Edinburgh to mark the first day of sales for the book, proceeds from which will go to her charity helping vulnerable children in Eastern Europe.

The Tales Of Beedle The Bard originally featured in the seventh and last Harry Potter book as a volume of fairytales left to Hermione Granger by Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

The boy wizard Potter used it to help him defeat archenemy Lord Voldemort.

In her introduction to the book, Rowling explains it is a new "translation" by Granger of works by the 15th century bard, whose life is "shrouded in mystery" except that "he had an exceptionally luxuriant beard."

The book also features a "commentary" by Dumbledore, who reveals that he first heard the tales as a boy and says they are instructive for children.

After finishing the Potter series last year, Rowling hand-wrote and illustrated seven copies of Beedle, giving six to people who had helped her make Potter a success and selling the seventh at auction for 1.95 million pounds (2.8 million dollars, 2.2 million euros) to online retailer Amazon.

But she has decided to expand the print run, both to meet demand from her fans and to help the Children’s High Level Group, which she co-founded in 2005.

"There was quite a lot of high feeling from Harry Potter fans that only someone who had two million pounds could afford to read the book," she said at the reading. "I thought ‘fair point,’ so I thought I’ll publish it and then the charity can have that money too."

Fans have already given a warm reaction to the 130-page book, which costs 6.99 pounds and whose five stories include The Wizard And The Hopping Pot, Babbity Rabbitty And Her Cackling Stump and The Warlock’s Hairy Heart.

"I loved it! It was about 30 times better than I thought it would be!," wrote a fan calling herself stellathemuggle on fansite mugglenet.com. "I loved the illustrations; Jo (Rowling) has a very nice style to her people she draws."

Another fan, Browsa, added: "Have only just got through the first couple of stories and already I have a favorite… better get back to it. JK Rowling rocks this world!"

The Harry Potter series has sold more than 400 million copies around the world and a spokesman for Waterstone’s, one of Britain’s biggest bookshop chains, said the latest Rowling was also likely to be a blockbuster.

"Many of our shops opened extra early so that kids could get it before going to school," said spokesman John Howells, adding that some were selling books from as early as 6 a.m. "It’s almost definitely going to be the biggest selling book this Christmas. It has every chance of being the biggest selling book of the year."

The book, which has a print run of 7.5 million copies, is being launched in 10 different languages in 28 countries including Britain, the United States, France, Germany, China and Japan.

Rowling has earned 560 million pounds from the Harry Potter books, according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, making her richer than Queen Elizabeth II.