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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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

TITLE: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
SERIES: Harry Potter, Book #1
AUTHOR: J.K. Rowling 
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury
FORMAT: Paperback, 223 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy, Classics
ISBN: 9781551923987
Harry Potter is living a miserable existence with his nasty relatives, the dastardly Dursleys and their son Dudley -- who are quite unaware that he is not a Muggle (a human), and that he is in fact, destined for greatness. One day, owls begin to appear in the sky, peculiar people in cloaks loom in the shadows and before you can say "Alohomora," Harry Potter is whisked away by a scruffy giant named Hagrid to train for his new life as a wizard. You see, Harry Potter survived the attack by the evil wizard Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents. In the wizard world, that makes Harry Potter an exalted figure. Now it is time for Harry Potter to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he discovers that he has very special powers. Will Harry be strong enough to win the game of Quidditch and brave enough to unlock the secret hiding in the trapdoor?

This book has won a plethora of literary awards, including: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature (2008), British Book Award for Children's Book of the Year (1998), Smarties Prize (1997), Prijs van de Nederlandse Kinderjury for 6-9 jaar en 10-12 jaar (2002), American Booksellers Book Of The Year Award for Children (1999) West Australian Young Readers' Book Award (WAYRBA) for Younger Readers (2000), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award (2001), South Carolina Book Award for Junior Book Award (2001), Grand Canyon Reader Award for Teen Book (2000), Charlotte Award (2000), Nene Award (2000), Massachusetts Children's Book Award (2000), Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award (2001), Blue Hen Book Award for Chapter Book (2001), Nevada Young Readers' Award for Young Reader Category (2000), Sasquatch Reading Award (2000), Golden Archer Award for Middle/Junior High (2000), Indian Paintbrush Book Award (2000), New York Public Library Best Book of the Year (1998), Carnegie Medal in Literature Nominee (1997), ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (1999), Publishers Weekly Best Book of (1998), National Book Award (UK) (1997), and Parenting Book of the Year Award (1998).

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.

Thoughts about the movie: This is one of those rare occasions that the movie actually lives up to the book! The actors who were cast in the movie were surprisingly very similar to the ones that I had conjured in my head while reading the book the first time. I appreciated that the movie closely follows the book, but my kids and I enjoyed pointing out the few minor inconsistencies. I thought that Hogwarts itself was magnificent, and the special effects added to the mystique. My younger daughter’s favourite scene is the one with the troll. She even has the troll action figure complete with break-away sink so that she can recreate the scene over and over again!

#4 for my 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge


  1. My daughter and I are currently listening to this on audio as we travel. Just love it!

    1. Oh, I want to listen to this on audio as well! The next time around when I read it for myself, I plan to listen to the audiobooks. I heard that Jim Dale's version is better than Stephen Fry's.

  2. I am looking forward to reading this myself. I know...I know! I have never read it and am looking forward to doing so this year. I am glad that your children are enjoying it, and amazing resolve on your part to wait until you had children to continue with the series! Thanks for participating in our little challenge!

    1. Thanks, Kate! We are loving the series, and I hope you will as well!

  3. I met young Mr. Potter when I was working at Borders and bought my first book during the midnight madness of it all. I loved the first several books. Enjoyed all of them but over time it did seem as though some of that youthful innocence faded much as the story themes turned. Still love the books and look forward to rereading the series now that it's complete.

    Enjoyed your review.

    1. Thanks, Vikk! I have a feeling we'll only be reading up to Goblet of Fire and will have to delay the last few books until my kids are older. We'll see how it goes. I'm glad we're reading them together.

  4. I have to admit that I have never read a Harry Potter book and have only watched 3 of the films (I may be one of the only people on the planet!) I did love the setting of Hogwart's in the film, though!

    I'm coming to your blog kind of late in the game, but I finally managed to upload my reviews for the ROTB Challenge in Category 1 and figured it would be nice to visit other blogs in the same category.

    Cheers from Brandy at

    1. If you love the movies, you will love the books!! We are loving them!

  5. Wow, I loved this book but had no idea how many awards it had one. Thanks for the great review!


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