Illustrator: Mary GrandPré
Published by Scholastic on November 1, 2003
Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.
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Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the "Harry Potter" series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.
I know I’m about 18 years too late, but this month I finally read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time. One of my flute students let me borrow her copy after we had a great conversation about magical realism and fantasy.
For some reason, I tend not to enjoy reading fantasy, even though I want to. (Same goes for science fiction, come to think of it.) But anyone who reads this site knows I love magical realism. What is it about fantasy that I can’t stand, but allows me to enjoy the fantastical elements of magical realism? I’m not sure. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly where the line between the two is drawn. Anyhow, my student made such a compelling case about Harry Potter that I pushed my fears aside and gave it a try.
You guys. I hate reading about witches, wizards, trolls, things like that. Sports events, too. All of those things are present in this book, but it isn’t described in so much detail that I lost interest. Somehow, everything I don’t like about fantasy novels worked here. The book feels much more based in reality than I expected it to, and as my student pointed out, it helps that the reader learns more about the wizarding world as our young protagonist does. We’re in this with him together.
I liked that Harry is a somewhat normal kid, in many ways. He has a mischievous streak. He makes mistakes. He disobeys his elders when he thinks he knows better. Snape was interesting to me, too; he hates the Potters so deeply, but that doesn’t get in the way of doing the right thing. I’m looking forward to seeing how his character develops.
Is everything that comes out of Dumbledore’s mouth quotable? Some of my favorites:
- “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
- “Ah, music . . . A magic far beyond all we do here!’
- “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
The ending wraps up well enough to be able to set the series aside for a bit, which is nice. I’m hooked, though, and I’ll definitely be reading on!