Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reading: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published in June of 1997 by Bloomsbury in London, England.  In 1998, Scholastic Corp. published the book in America, changing the name "Philosopher's" to "Sorcerer's" for fear that American readers were not familiar enough with the original term and sorcerer was more suggesting of magic.  The sales figures for the book were huge and the series rapidly became one of the most demanded among young readers.  What was even better was that the readers were not phased by the series increasing in length.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone created a generation that loved to read again.
I first read this book when I was ten years old.  The book was a big step up compared to the books I typically read which included the Little House books and the Magic Tree House series.  I distinctly remember crying when my brother splashed water on the copy my book when I was reading the fourth chapter, The Keeper of the Keys.  Finishing the book was a huge accomplishment for me.  Never had I read a book on such a large scale with such small print.  Little did I know that the series would remain with me for the rest of my life.
Reading Harry Potter has become an annual ritual for me.  I am now on my sixth re-read and loving every page of it!  This series has become a part of my life.  I can honestly say that I would not be the same person I am today without these seven books.  These books have helped me grow as a writer, as a reader, as a Christian, and as a human being.
Philosopher's Stone, in my opinion, is the weakest of the seven books.  The writing is good but not (yet) great and many of the plot points, such as bringing Norbert to the astronomy tower and having a Quidditch game during the evening when it is clear the games are always in the morning or early afternoon, seem forced and, dare I say, unrealistic.  Of course, Rowling grew as a writer and this problem didn't remain.  That being said, I love it this book.  The introduction to Harry's story is a magical one!  I won't give a recap because...well, you all know the story by now.  J.K. Rowling's debut book contains fantasy and mystery, history and alchemy.  It is clear from the very beginning that she knew what she was doing from the start.  The book plays cleverly with words, specifically when speaking about spells, locations, and character names.  It touches heavily on three big themes and these themes are consistent throughout the entire series and they are - death, choice, and love.  While this first book is very black and white in comparison to the later books, it still manages to accomplish an amazing feat.  Rowling combines the real with the mystical and creates an entirely new world that very much mirrors our own.  This book is only scratching the surface of what is yet to come.  She allows the reader to see this world through the eyes of an eleven year old - innocent, simplistic, and beautiful.
What do I love about this book?  I love the humor.  During this sixth re-read I genuinely laughed out
loud at several moments.  I think the funniest moment for me is when Hagrid is keeping Norbert the dragon in his hut and telling the trio it isn't a big deal, in which Hermione replies, "Hagrid, you live in a wooden house!"  There are also many poignant moments in this book, as is the same with the rest of series.  My favorite scene in the book is when Harry comes to the Mirror of Erised and sees his family staring back at him.  Harry has a longing to have a family and he yearns for them terribly more than anything else in the world.  It is truly heartbreaking to imagine growing up without any parents, let alone growing up only to realize that your parents were brutally murdered.  Rowling does a great job of foreshadowing in this scene by showing the reader that this is not something to be taken lightly and it is extremely important to the series. 
I guess it is obvious that I am going to rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.  Again, while I believe it is the weakest book in the series, I still love it...and it's Harry Potter.  How could I not love it?

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