It was just after midnight Friday when a rustling came from a pile of old books under a bed. And suddenly out came Winnie the Pooh, bags packed, a jar of honey under his arm. Behind him were Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet.
Together they climbed the wall, pushed open the window and took one last look.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Someplace where they appreciate us," Pooh said. "Someplace where every child isn't reading.."
He sighed. "Oh, bother," he said.
Pooh and the others snuck down a drain spout, then tiptoed along the dark street. Piglet gave a whistle, and from the darkness of the next house out came Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig from "Charlotte's Web." Each carried a small suitcase.
"Ready?" Charlotte said.
"Born ready," Wilbur answered.
"Un moment!" came a small voice.
Down at their feet was The Little Prince.
"I come aussi, oui?" he said.
"Only if you speak English," Wilbur said.
Together they snuck along the curb, peeking into houses. Lights were on in upstairs windows. And in every one there was a child engrossed in the new and final Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
The group went silent.
"How depressing," Pooh sighed.
"Wait up!" came a sudden voice.
And down from a telephone pole swung Curious George.
"I thought you never spoke," Charlotte said.
"That was just in the book." He shrugged his small monkey shoulders. "Tell you the truth, I'm not even that curious. I just like to get into stuff and make a mess."
As they marched along, they were joined by other once-favorite children's literature characters, now wearing coats and carrying bags. Pippi Longstocking. Stuart Little. Clifford the big red dog. James and the Giant Peach. A big cupboard came thumping out, opened its doors, and out jumped the Indian.
"It's no use," he said. "I tried killing him with a tomahawk. But he just put a spell on it."
Apparently, with more than 300 million books sold, five blockbuster movies, endless merchandising, Web sites and commercial tie-ins, Harry Potter had simply taken over children's reading. If a fictional character could be a tsunami, he was it.
"Who cares about a cat in a hat?" said the Cat in the Hat. "All they want to read now is evils spells and Quidditch."
"And muggles and Death Eaters."
"And green eggs and ham?"
"Nice try, Sam," said Peter Rabbit. "But you're as passe as the rest of us."
Suddenly, a car came barreling into a driveway, and the characters had to scatter to avoid being crushed. The car door opened and out stepped a family with bags from Borders.
"Gee, I wonder what they bought," Charlie Brown said.
"Don't be naive," said Nancy Drew.
Once, it seemed, there was room for all kinds of kids' books. Tigers and spiders and princes and Indians. But these days, it's all Harry. Harry in print. Harry online. Harry in theaters. Harry in the toy store.
Never has a hype machine worked harder to make a big thing bigger. Never has the media so gleefully jumped on a bandwagon of countdowns, hints and contests.
"It ain't fair," said Huck Finn. "He gets like 4,000 pages. What'd I get, less than 400 - counting pictures?"
"I wish I had his publicist," said Hansel.
"I wish I had his money," said Gretel.
They made their way down to the river, where one-by-one they boarded a small boat - a Noah's ark for literary creations.
"Wait," I insisted. "Don't go. You've stood the test of time. Harry Potter is just a fad. It will pass."
Alice in Wonderland shot me a look. "And they thought I was hallucinating?"
Huck Finn pushed off and the boat floated away, flanked by one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.
"At least say where you're going," I yelled.
"We're going," said Babar the Elephant, "to the only place we know for sure that they're sick of Harry Potter."