This was a re-read for me. Caught up in the excitement of all the rave reviews, I read this one when it first came out. I devoured it then, and I was anxious to read more of the series. However, I decided that this was exactly the type of series that I wanted to experience with my children (I didn’t even have any at the time!) and turned a blind eye to all the future releases in the series as well as the movies. I did not want to spoil the joy of sharing something so wonderful with my kids.
I read this aloud to my children, and they loved it as much as I did! Rowling writes in such a way that the book can be enjoyed by young and old alike. It transcends generations.
For anyone who has been living on another planet and not yet heard about this phenomenal book, it is about a 10 year-old boy named Harry Potter. He was orphaned as a babe and left to be raised by his maternal Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, who do not care for him one bit. While they lavish attention on their dear Dudley, they treat Harry as though he isn’t worthy of any love. He is treated like a servant, made to do the cooking and cleaning, and given crumbs to eat. His “room” is the cupboard under the stairs, even though spoiled Dudley has two bedrooms for himself: One for his bed and the other for his toys.
A mysterious envelope arrives addressed to Harry. Before he has a chance to open it, Uncle Vernon snatches it away when he sees the seal on the envelope is from a place named Hogwarts. More envelopes arrive, and Uncle Vernon boards up the mail slot and burns the mail. Finally, he takes the family away to a secluded island away from anyone for miles around. It occurs on the day of Harry’s 11th birthday, which of course is not celebrated by the Dursley family. A giant of a man breaks down the door and introduces himself as Rubeus Hagrid, who presents Harry with one of the elusive envelopes. It turns out that Harry has been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which is located in a parallel magical world. Hagrid further informs Harry that his parents were also witches who were killed by a bad warlock named Voldemort. This is all a shock to Harry, as he had been told that his parents died in a car crash. For some reason, Voldemort was unable to bring harm to Harry save for the lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. After Voldemort’s inability to destroy Harry, he disappeared. Some say he died, and others say that he is still around just biding his time. Harry became famous among the witches because he is the only one who was able to survive a tangle with the evil Voldemort.
Harry goes with Hargrid to Hogwarts, where he enters his first year of training to become a wizard. He makes friends with two other first-year students: Ronald Weasley, a red-haired boy who comes from a lower-class family of witches and is frowned upon by some of the richer class because of his hand-me-down robes and books, and Hermione Granger, a bushy brown-haired girl who also has trouble fitting in because she comes from a non-magical “Muggle” family (Muggles are known as non-magical folks.) At first, Hermione comes across as a know-it-all because she is extremely smart and studious. Later, after she takes the blame for an incident which saves Ron and Harry from getting into trouble, the three become inseparable.
Hogwarts itself is fantastically magical with its talking portraits, staircases that change at will, secret passageways, and a forbidden forest. The place is filled with mystery, and Harry and his friends are just beginning their journey of discovery.
This is the type of book that I would have loved as a child. It is a classic tale of good versus evil. I love that Rowling incorporates some life lessons about social classes. When Ron is taunted by the richer wizard families (Draco Malfoy and his two sidekicks, Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe) for his family’s meagre wealth, Harry stands up for him. Harry is envious of what Ron has, which is a loving family. That means more to him than all the wealth in the world, and he would give anything for it.
My kids and I are so excited to continue with the next book in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.