"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 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 discovery that's been waiting for him...if Harry can survive the encounter." (description from book jacket)
Book Review: **** (out of five)
Movie Review: ** (out of five)
- Engaging Characters. The main characters in this book offer something for everybody. None of them are even close to being perfect, but that makes them more relateable for children. It is encouraging for children to see misfits making friends and succeeding, while struggling with all of the normal trials of adolescence, such as school work and teachers who play favorites.
- Well-Realized World. One of the things that makes the book interesting is the idea of a world of magic hiding just around the corner of the world we know and sometimes love.
- Minor Characters. Some of the ancillary characters are somewhat one-dimensional, which is not as much of a problem in children's books, since kids tend to see the world in black and white. I could envision this annoying some of the adults (but stick with the series. it gets better).
In honor of the opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 (the first part of which thoroughly enjoyed), we're looking today at the book and movie that started it all. When I first read The Sorcerer's Stone, the second book had come out and the series was starting to gain recognition. I wanted to catch up before book 3 came out, which I'd pre-ordered at Barnes and Noble (no late night launch parties then). I found myself immediately sucked into Rowling's world. The first book was quite fanciful, though it set up the dark evil of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I know people who refuse to read the books because they have become so popular. Frankly, they are missing out. One of the things I love about Rowling's writing is that she not only never insults her audience's intelligence, she also fills the book with intellectual jokes and references. Aside from the inexplicable renaming of the Sorcerer's Stone (I have studied the history of alchemy and it is only ever called the Philosopher's Stone), mentions of real figures, such as Nicholas Flamel, leave things for reader's to discover. It is not only a wonderful novel, it is a wonderful first novel of a series, encouraging readers to want to read more.
As you might have gathered from previous posts on young adult and children's books, I always look for authors who give their readers the benefit of the doubt. Books should encourage children to learn more, not to stay in their comfort zone. In this area, Rowling delivers. Not only does her writing expect readers to rise to its level, but her characters provide wonderful role models of going outside of your comfort zone. Not only do the characters learn about themselves, but they learn about relying on each other. It is important for children to realize that life is about learning, exploring, and challenging assumptions and boundaries, not just letting life be spoon-fed to us.
I must confess, I did not particularly like the first movie. There are plenty of ways in which it is faithful to the book. I did not however find it be particularly fanciful or whimsical. It seemed to take itself too seriously, which the book never did. I also had my nitpicky problems, like actually seeing the staircases move (which was supposed to happen without anyone noticing) or everyone running around in muggle clothing (really?). But I have such problems with other movies based on books I love, like the Lord of the Rings (Elves at Helm's Deep? Okay...), sbut I'm fine with those movies. But they capture the heart and spirit of the books, recreating on screen the sense of magic and wonder I felt reading the books. The first Harry Potter movie didn't do that for me. But the series improved, and look forward to seeing Deathly Hallows pt. 2 tomorrow!