Last night Luke asked me to read him a book he had picked out himself at the library called Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm by Jerdine Nolen. I was surprised by the name "Harvey Potter" and wondered if it was meant to be some kind of parody of the Harry Potter books. It wasn't -- it was simply the story of a man named Harvey Potter who grew crops of magnif'icent balloons on his farm instead of more mundane crops. The narrator, a little girl, spies on him and discovers he does this with the help of a magic "conjurer stick" in the middle of the night. The story is quirky and fun and Luke absolutely adores the illustrations by Mark Buehner -- we had to spend quite some time on the pages devoted to the fields of balloons.
According to the publication date of the book on Amazon, it came out in 1994. J. K. Rowling didn't finish the first Harry Potter book until 1995, according to Wikipedia at least, and it wasn't published until 1997. How weird. The books are completely different except for their central, similarly-named characters who also happen to be magic. Imagine Jerdine Nolen's surprise at the stratospheric success of the Harry Potter books. If I were her, I might entertain the notion that Rowling had seen the book and perhaps inadvertently borrowed the name for her own character, but I'd be more likely to chalk it up to coincidence. Or I just might think I was psychic!
You can see more of Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm here.