28 March 2011

Book Review Number 57: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling


As I pointed out in the review before this one, this reading of the book was an audio book that I'd taken out for our long drive to Philadelphia.  And, for all that I knew the story really well, this was almost like a first time read for me, because I got to hear it through the ears of my oldest son.

I'm pretty sure everyone out there knows the basic premise of this book. Harry Potter is the only one to ever survive the killing curse performed by the Dark Lord, Voldemort.  And he did this at the age of 1.  At that young age, with his parents dead, he is brought to live with his only remaining relations, the Dursley's.  The Dursley's are a horrid bunch that try to make Harry' life as miserable as possible.  It's only as his 11th birthday approaches that he finds out that he is so much more than the orphan child doomed to live the existence of a second class citizen under his family's roof.  He finds out he's a wizard.

The Sorcerer's Stone details Harry's first year at Hogwarts, including some very strange happenings that result in a large confrontation at the end of the book.  We also meet the people that are to become most important to Harry through out his years at Hogwarts and beyond: Ron Weasley, a boy in cast offs that becomes Harry's best friend; Ron's family, who become a surrogate family for Harry; Hermione Granger, the smartest witch of her generation and Harry's other best friend; Haggrid, the gentle giant of a man that is the gameskeeper at Hogwarts; Draco Malfoy, Harry's enemy at Hogwarts (because every hero should have one); Professor Snape, the potions teacher that also seems to have it out for Harry; Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts that seems to know all but tell very little... the list could go on for hours.

As we listened to the story this time, Teddy was in the back seat, listening and asking questions as the story went along.  He wanted to know why some things happened, what the meaning of some of the words were... he was engaged.  And when we mentioned the possibility of getting the second book for our next travels, he was excited by it.

I've loved Harry Potter from the beginning.  I bought the first 4 books through a book club and they came at a time when I was laid up because of back trouble.  I read through these books like the pages would burn if I didn't get to them fast enough.  And once I finished The Goblet of Fire, I picked The Sorcerer's Stone back up again. I can't say exactly what it is that appeals to me about this series.  The first book is written to a much younger audience than my own 37 years.  But it comes alive within the covers.  Many of us have wanted to have that magical thing happen to take us out of our every day life and give us something spectacular. And Harry gets that.  We get to go on his journey as he explores that spectacular world.  We get to learn along side him about Quidditch and Butter Beer and charms and spells and potions.  

Yet, for all that this world is fantastical, there's still a quality to it that kids will relate to.  There's bullying.  There's teasing.  There's friends and enemies.  There's teachers that they love and teachers that they hate.  It's a wonderful combination of easy to relate to and fantastical enough to take us out of our own world.  I think that's part of what's so endearing about the series.

I look forward to letting Teddy read the rest of these as he gets older.  Because I really think that he'll enjoy it.