Harry Potter series
Books 1 and 2
by J.K. Rowling
Im almost done with Little Dorrit, but on one of those spur-of-the-moment fits that take me from time to time, I decided to buy all four of the current Harry Potter books by British authoress J.K. Rowling and read them right through. Id already seen the first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, which tells the story of an unloved and seemingly unextraordinary little boy who finds out, at the age of eleven, that hes a wizard and is invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Rescued from a cruel aunt and uncle and a hideous cousin who have hidden his true identity (and the fate of his witch and wizard parents, who were killed by the evil Lord Voldemort when he was a baby), Harry makes friends with a humorous boy from a large but poor family of wizards, named Ron Weasley, and a stuck-up overachiever named Hermione Granger who is the first witch or wizard to come out of an otherwise Muggle (non-magical) family. Together the three of them solve mysteries and brave dangers, with the aid of a cloak of invisibility, a magic mirror, the magic theyve learned in their first year at Hogwarts, and their own pluck and cleverness.
Having read the book now, it seems the movie is a painstakingly accurate representation of the book. I cant remember much in the book that wasnt in the movie. And of course its a very enjoyable tale, well told, of the sort of fantasy life that every child imagines during the boring and unmagical stretches of Muggle childhood. Harry has a double life. During the summer hes practically held a prisoner in his aunt and uncles house; these people treat him worse than a dog. But during the school year hes a celebrity: a star athlete, a champion of good against evil, and a very decent and loyal friend.
In the second book, which Ive already finished as well, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you experience the second of Harrys seven years at Hogwarts. Now age 12, he and his friends have another mystery to solve that threatens the very existence of Hogwarts. Someone in the school has turned loose a monster that is petrifying one student after another, and, whoever it is, hates Mudbloods (magicians from Muggle backgrounds, i.e. not the aristocratic wizard-family types) and Squibs (people with magical blood but no particular ability). And its hard to tell whats worse: that whoever it is is coming after Harrys friends, or that everyone suspects him.
The characters are very charming. Ron gets all the funny lines, his older twin brothers Fred and George are spirited class clowns, sneering classmate Draco Malfoy is atrociously villainous, gentle giant Hagrid is funny and touching, and other students, professors, ghosts, and goblins are fantastically fun. I especially liked Dobby the house elf in book 2, who almost always speaks of himself in the third person and whose line, Master has given a sock, is a shining moment that stands vividly in my mind even now that Im halfway into year 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harrys Muggle relatives are cartoonishly awful, Professor Snape is a classic comic book villain, and Lord Voldemort is like the embodiment of the dark side of the force, but for all that, there are still real lessons in these books like the power of love (book 1) and the importance of the choices you make (book 2).
Also, there are some great monsters in these books. So far I have seen or heard of werewolves, vampires, giant spiders, unicorns, hippogriffs, giant three-headed dogs, dragons, centaurs, poltergeists, pixies, garden gnomes, ghouls, ghosts, goblins, elves, dwarves, dementors, dancing skeletons, headless horsemen, water demons, boggarts, basilisks, mandrakes and salamanders (which arent what you think they are), plus an enchanted car, a giant squid, a Whomping Willow, an inflating aunt, a man with two faces, a memory that assumes physical form, and a Grim (a graveyard dog that is an omen of death). There are vines that try to strangle you, chess pieces that try to kill you, flying winged keys, faces that move in pictures, and a haunted girls bathroom. And other wonderful things are imagined: where witches and wizards keep their money, how they send messages to each other, how they travel, where they shop, how they enforce their laws, and what their prisons are like. All of it is guaranteed to make eyes of any size dance with pleasure.
Recommended Age: 10+
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