18 July 2009

The Great Harry Potter Reread -- Book #1: The Socerer's Stone

At the end of the school year, I asked my AP students for summer reading recommendations, and they gave me a lot of good suggestions (erm, none of which I've actually read yet).

Right before the bell rang, one of them said, "Ms. Reeder, you should spend the summer rereading the Harry Potter books."

"Now that," I replied, "is a great idea."

It's taken me a few weeks to get around to it, though, as I've had a bit of a pile to get through first (as I've mentioned already on this blog, Jess tends to lend me must-reads), but last week I finally picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for what is probably the tenth time since it first came out.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling is a really lovely introduction to the series proper, and it does all the things a good book one should do and does them particularly well. I remember, even in reading this book for the first time, how interested I was in the story and, perhaps more importantly, in the wizarding world that Rowling brings to life so well.

What I Liked:

We meet many (though not all) of the major characters in Sorcecer's Stone: Harry, of course, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Profs. Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape, Hagrid, and the Dursleys. While the characterization of the Dursleys is a little over-the-top, it does help the reader understand the distance between Harry and his only remaining family immediately, and ultimately why Harry is so willing to essentially leave the Muggle world behind, despite spending his entire life in it.

I especially like how Hermione is developed, though; after having read the entire series (a few times), I forgot how annoying Hermione is at eleven, and it makes me appreciate even more how much she grows up in later books, thanks in large part to her friendship with Harry and Ron (who do some growing up of their own, of course). I also loved the characterization Snape, but then, I *heart* him in all his greasy git-ness.

I was surprised how quickly the plot moved, but then, I'm used to books 4-7, which are probably three times as long as Sorcerer's Stone. On rereading, I appreciate how much Rowling fits into a relatively short piece as well as how nicely she hints at the various revelations that come at the end (when I first read this, I was shocked when Harry came to the last room and was faced with Quirrell). It also seems clear that Rowling had a plan from the beginning, as there are a number of moments that foreshadow what is to come in later installments.

And then there are the myriad aphorisms that come out of Sorecer's Stone -- more, perhaps, than any of the other Harry Potter books. Two key examples:

  • "Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."
  • "To the well-ordered mind, death is simply the next great adventure."

Both from Dumbledore, natch. And speaking of...

What Needs Work:

I was disappointed in the small role that Dumbledore played, though this probably makes sense in the grand scheme of things, because it isn't until after the incident with the Sorcerer's Stone that it becomes clear that Harry is in constant danger.

I also think Ron isn't nearly as well-developed as some of the other major characters, and, as much as I come to love him later, I found myself shaking my head and wondering what, exactly, Harry sees in Ron to become such good friends with him.

Sorcerer's Stone is also geared more toward YYA (young young adult) whereas the later books tend to skew older. I don't know if it's fair to complain about this, though, as Harry is himself a tween, but the style of writing and storytelling, though compelling, doesn't stay with me the way the later books do.

But overall, Sorcerer's Stone is actually better than I remember and a truly wonderful beginning to the Harry Potter series. Now on to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which may be my least favorite of the series. We'll see how it holds up this time around.


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