Monday, January 11, 2016

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(Harry Potter, Book 1)
J.K. Rowling
Hardcover, 309 pages
Scholastic Press
First American Edition, 1998
Fantasy, Paranormal Fiction, Young Adult Fiction 

Book Synopsis:
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the "Harry Potter" series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

I resisted reading this book for a long time, thinking that it would be 'too childish' to hold my interest. Then, one night back in 2007, I happened to be at my local Barnes & Noble during the midnight release party for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the last book in the series. Seeing the enthusiasm of all the fans gathered there (some of whom were in full costume) made me curious, so I wended my way through the crowd (in the process wondering what "The Sorting Hat" was all about) and approached the first free cashier I could find, the first book in my hands. I was suddenly eager to discover what all the fuss was about!

Well, as they say, the rest is history. I not only promptly devoured Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but began acquiring, and also devouring, the sequels. I only stopped in the middle of the sixth book, when a very sad event made me unable to continue....but I hope to be able to go back and finish the series!

I picked up the first book the other day, and plunged into Harry's magical world once again. Once again, I was totally delighted and enthralled! Rowling's very fertile imagination seems to have no bounds; all the books in this series are full of magical events, as well as twists and turns, and one just never knows exactly what is going to happen next.

Rowling also has the uncanny ability to make her characters, as well as the magical world around them, seem so real! From the very first moment, the reader becomes immersed in this very quirky, wonderfully weird world, where nothing is as it seems, unexpected surprises await, and household chores can be accomplished by the mere wave of a wand (something I positively loved).

Harry, Hermione, and Ron are wonderful characters, and it's not the first time I have wished I had grown up with friends like them. It's great how well they mesh, too, especially since, at first, Harry and Ron constantly found Hermione so annoying.

Harry, of course, is the main hero. He starts out life with the odds stacked against him, what with his sad personal history, and "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" wanting to kill him. In spite of it all, Harry remains courageous, and will not let his curiosity, innate optimism, and eagerness to learn magic be dampened by outward events.

Hermione could have been the main hero of this whole series, because she not only matches Harry (and her name is the female version of his) in all his great qualities, but is also willing to take that extra step to find out more. Books are very important to her, and I really liked her for that! She is also very thorough in her research, and has an excellent memory. Besides, she can really think on her feet.

As for Ron, he is that friend who remains steadfastly by your side, through thick and thin. He's funny, as well, and willing to attempt any adventure, despite his fears. Besides, he's an excellent chess player -- even beating his two friends at the game. In this first book, his chess-playing skills become extremely important in preventing a great catastrophe.

Then there's Hagrid....sweet, lovable, gentle Hagrid, who has a soft spot for creatures great and small, and loves Harry like a father, or perhaps a big, bumbling brother. He's pretty much like a giant teddy bear, and I SO wish I could hug him! He's had some rough times himself, but still remains as positive as he can possibly be. And, most important of all, Dumbledore, the Hogwarts Headmaster, trusts him completely. 

Dumbledore is another of my favorite characters, but I won't say much about him because he plays a greater role later on in the series. What I did get to see of him, though, during both my first and second readings of this book, made me like him a great deal! He is definitely a father figure to Harry -- always wise, patient, and willing to give Harry the benefit of the doubt.

There were other great, more minor characters, as well, such as Professor McGonagall, who is really a very fair-minded person, despite her stern exterior, Quirrell, the stuttering professor, the funny Weasley clan, especially the mischievous twins, Fred and George, and Neville, poor, shy Neville, who is constantly losing his pet toad....

Then there's one character who is almost in a league by himself, and a rather hateful one, too: Severus Snape. Alan Rickman plays him superbly in all the movies. He gets the character's oily manner (his hair is even greasy) and incomprehensible attitude toward Harry just right. Rickman made it extremely easy for this reader to despise Snape! Even before I met him on the screen, though, Rowling had already succeeded in making me hate him.

Another character I love to hate is Draco Malfoy, Harry's personal nemesis. I'm surprised he isn't related to Snape, because he can be just as spiteful and horrible to Harry.

Amidst all of the typical boarding school activities and classes with such interesting names as "Potions", "Charms", "Transfiguration", and "Defense Against the Dark Arts", the three friends become very adept at amateur sleuthing, and uncover a secret at Hogwarts, one that students are not supposed to know about....

Of course, there had to be time for sports, as well, and I soon discovered that the magical world's version of soccer -- or is it a strange combination of soccer and basketball? -- with the delightfully odd name of "Quidditch", was not only great fun, but had elements of danger, as well, especially when a certain evil wizard nearly took one of the most important players out of the picture....

Rowling manages all the elements of her plot with great skill, leading her readers along the path toward the exciting, final discovery of the school's secret through tight writing, with not a word to spare.

I especially liked Dumbledore's final words to Harry. It was the power of love, he told the young wizard, that won the day. Some readers might criticize this as 'cheesy', but I thought it was altogether fitting to the story, considering Harry's background.

This is such a terrific story! No wonder it's loved the whole world over, by readers of all ages! This book definitely deserves all the praise it has garnered, and more. I know that I will want to read it many more times in the future! And of course, I will also want to watch the movie just as many times!


Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling, a Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer, and Anne Rowling (née Volant), on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Bristol. Her mother Anne was half-French and half-Scottish. 

Although she writes under the pen name J.K. Rowling (pronounced like rolling), her name when her first Harry Potter book was published was simply Joanne Rowling. Anticipating that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers demanded that she use two initials, rather than her full name. As she had no middle name, she chose K as the second initial of her pen name, from her paternal grandmother Kathleen Ada Bulgen Rowling. She calls herself Jo and has said, "No one ever called me 'Joanne' when I was young, unless they were angry."

The Harry Potter series has won worldwide fame, as well as many awards. The movies based on the novels have also achieved great acclaim. The first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was published in 1997, and the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in 2007.

Here is a partial list of literary awards won by this novel:  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature (2008), British Book Award for Children's Book of the Year (1998), American Booksellers Book Of The Year Award for Children's Books (1999),  Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year (1998), National Book Award (UK) (1997), Parenting Book of the Year Award (1998), North East Teenage Book Award (1999), Washington State Sasquatch Award (2000), Literaturpreis der Jury der jungen Leser for Kinderbuch (1999), Carnegie Medal Nominee (1997).


  1. Off topic, but when this was popular I was shocked at how many people didn't read the book simply because it was popular. I mean, what kind of reason is that? If they're trying not to let the masses influence them, they've already failed by being influenced NOT to read a book. This was one of the last straws with a guy I was dating at the time - I tried to get him to read the book and he wouldn't because it was popular. That kid was annoying. :)

    I understand, though, that disinterest is totally different than hypocritically claiming that you don't want to read it simply because it's popular and you don't want to be influenced by the masses. Even the excuse "It's been built up too much, now my expectations will be too high" is better!

    Oh, and great review. I love this series. The first three especially.

    1. Hi, Rachel!

      Oh, I agree -- it's totally ridiculous to refuse to read a book simply because it's very popular. How silly! Besides, the masses sometimes know more than the professional critics. Lol.

      In my case, I honestly thought the books were too childish, so I wouldn't enjoy them. Nothing could have been further from the truth! The Harry Potter series is for all age levels. Besides, the later books are much more adult in tone than the earlier ones. So I again agree with you -- my favorites are the first three, as well.

      Thanks for the compliment,, and the great comment!! : )

  2. I am a bit ashamed to say that I have not gotten to this yet.

    It is not through snobbishness.I love the films and would no doubt love the books. I am thinking that if read one book I would need to read them all.Time has been my enemy.

    I will get to them. Hopefully this year as I am determined to read more fantasy and science fiction.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      These books do indeed have that effect -- you need to go on to the next one as soon as you finish the first, and then the second, and so on....

      Some people are definitely snobbish in regards to this series, but I know you're not one of them. But you're right -- time is the enemy.

      I want to go on to the second one now, of course, but I had already signed up for a tour of "The Lady's Command", which is a historical romance novel, so I have to read that book first. However, once I'm done with it, I will return to the HP series!

      As you know, I've signed up for a reading challenge this year. I decided to be realistic -- I committed to reading 11 to 20 books. These will be YA books, though, which I will review on this blog. At least a couple of them will be science fiction. I will also read some adult SF for my other blog.

      BTW, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek". They're having a huge convention in Las Vegas this coming August. How I wish I could beam over there!!

      Thanks for the comment!! Live long and prosper!! : )


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