Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Published in 1997 as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, published in the U.S. in 1998
Genre: Fantasy, magical realism
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
The legacy of Harry Potter is undeniable and the critical acclaim is well deserved. The first Harry Potter book not only broke records for sales but also brought about the different genres and categories we have today on the New York Times Bestseller List.
I am going to say outright that this book is as good the third time as it was when I read it for the first almost seventeen years ago. The characters are well fleshed out and J.K. Rowling has a ridiculous amount of talent in the way that she switches from summary to scene that allows the reader to zoom in on the important conversations and events while continuing the world building that she does so well.
Harry, for the younger generations who I assume are the only people in the Western world that don’t know about the story, became the famous Boy Who Lived after surviving an attack from the dark wizard Voldemort. However, it isn’t until his eleventh birthday that he finds this out because he is trapped in the world of Muggles (I’d like to take a second to point out that Microsoft Word didn’t spell check the word Muggle, so if there was any doubt as to HP’s cultural significance, let it be stamped out now). He is whisked into the wonderful world of wizardry, finding friends and trials as he learns about magic culture and his own origins.
The way Rowling follows the three act structure that is found in thousands of Western stories helps the book’s plot flow and works extremely well without becoming too formulaic. Harry is called to adventure, leaves his home to enter into a fantastic and new world where he faces trials and receives help from mentors. He learns how to live in this new world and uses these skills in the third act to defeat the antagonist, in this case Voldemort/Quirrell, to return home with newfound friends and hope for the future.
As a student of screenplay, it is plain to see why the first movie is such a faithful adaptation. There are very few events and characters that didn’t make it to the screen, and much of this is owed to Rowling’s writing. Her descriptions of the scenery and action could almost be lifted directly from a screenplay if they were formatted differently.
I, like many others, can sing my praises of the first Harry Potter book for days. However, I do have one gripe about the book and writing on a technical level. I will get into this in another blog post, but first feel I must warn you that this might go in the way of a rant thanks to my time spent studying English and writing in college.
Well, there is also a sort of logical problem with the *Spoiler alert* flying keys scene (if you’re trying to keep people out, why would you leave broomsticks to help the thief get past? Fair play? I suppose an argument could be made that they were there for whoever was guarding and checking on the Stone, but couldn’t they just have brought a broomstick along with them and take it when they left?) but that could just be me splitting hairs.
All told, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a thoroughly enjoyable tale about a boy who’s mother loved him so much that it literally was his super power. It is not simply a children’s tale because the themes and writing transcend the classification. I didn’t put children’s literature as the genre because I think that connotation would rather insult the book and the work that J.K. Rowling put into writing it.
Is it a story about children? Yes. Does that mean that only children should read it? I don’t believe so. I think it is simply a good story and as such is able to be enjoyed both as entertainment and literature by people of any age. I cannot express in words how excited I am to continue on to the next book, so I’ll do it in a spastic spew of incoherent letters and numbers.
Pretty exciting stuff, right?
Verdict: 4 Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans out of 5
Recommended for: Children, adults, Muggles, wizards, witches, Norwegian Ridgebacks, goblins, Newt Scamander, your niece, your father, your nephew, your son, your mother, your daughter, your uncle, your aunt, your grandson, your granddaughter, your grandpa, your grandma, and you.
Not recommended for: Trolls (both the internet and mountain varieties), people who don’t like bespectacled children making friends, Draco Malfoy, Dudley Dursley, haters of adverbs tied to speech tags, bullies, or those who dislike the idea of children nestling their nether regions on broomsticks and using them as modes of transportation.