Children's Fiction

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

It’s 11:29 a.m. and I’m about to begin my epic Harry Potter reread!

Liveblog:

11:30 a.m.: The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters.

It was this sentence that hooked me when I first started reading the series back in 1999. Dangle a mystery in front of a child and you’ve got a fan for life.

11:44 a.m.: “I would trust Hagrid with my life,” said Dumbledore.

I love the parallelism in the first and last books. Hagrid is at the beginning and “end” of the most important chapter in Harry’s life.

11:50 a.m. “I’m warning you,” he had said, putting his large purple face right up close to Harry’s, “I’m warning you now, boy — any funny business, anything at all — and you’ll be in that cupboard from now until Christmas.”

Totally heard this in Richard Griffith’s voice.

11:55 a.m.

Harry Potter

The Cupboard Under the Stairs

4 Privet Drive

Little Whinging, Surrey

No HP fan worth anything should ever forget this address.

12:01 p.m. “Ah, go boil yet heads, both of yeh,” said Hagrid. “Harry — yer a wizard.”

I had to stop doing a liveblog because of family errands, but I did manage to finish the book once we arrived home from Niagara Falls on the 2nd.

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable. For it’s there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter.

Discovery: I first encountered this book during a Scholastic Book Fair in 1999. I’d heard about the series, but as I’d never read a book with a male protagonist before, I was a little iffy about buying it. Thankfully, I decided to take the risk.

+     Careful, directed prose. It takes a lot of talent to write for children without being condescending. Rowling risked ridicule and wrote the story as she felt it should be told, without worrying about children not understanding. She had faith in her audience’s intelligence and emotional capacity and the results were extremely rewarding for both.

+     Variety in characters and setting. British boarding schools are often seen as stark residences where all the students are uppity and cold. Not so with Harry and his friends–Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry comes alive with colourful and contained characters, each with their own particular brand of magic. Dumbledore is an especially intriguing character, and I very much enjoyed seeing him again through a child’s eyes.

+     Excellent use of mythology and legends. If there’s one strong point to the Harry Potter series, it is how Rowling appropriated mythical creatures and stories into everyday life for Harry. Ghosts? They’re quite helpful, save for Peeves the poltergeist. Centaurs and unicorns? Just some of the fascinating creatures you can find in the Forbidden Forest. There’s a powerful relief involved in knowing that those so-called impossible things may not be so impossible after all, and the reader is as quickly swept up as Harry.

Recommendations: As a fan, I would of course recommend this to everyone I meet. However, there will be adults and kids who are simply uninterested in magic or myth. In that case, this would not be a book to read.

Rating: Excellent.

 

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