It goes without saying that Harry Potter is one of the most amazing series currently published. It means so much to so many people. It has brought together people that might otherwise never have been friends. Now they can debate whether they’re more Hufflepuff or Slytherin, what Quidditch position would they play, which book or movie was their favorite?
It’s that last question that I’m going to address today as I bring to you my contribution to Lauren’s Harry Potter celebration. I was lucky enough to be able to discuss the first title in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s if you’re from the UK).
I didn’t originally get into the Harry Potter series until it had been out for a few years. It had to have been close to when the third book was being published because I remember my grandmother giving me the first two books for Christmas and being in a Barnes and Noble shortly before that, giving them a cursory glance. I wasn’t sure what it was all about; just that Mum wouldn’t buy them for me right now because someone was giving them to me for the holidays.
I’m so glad she did (thanks Mom-Mom!) because they opened up a whole world of imagination for me. I had always been a reader, but Harry Potter was, I think, the series that turned me into a Reader. Opening up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time and reading that iconic first line was the beginning of a life long adoration.
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
Things start out pretty dreary. Not only has this infant lost his parents and nearly been murdered, but he's then spent the next ten years growing up in a very unloving home. As stories go you'd think this isn't a great place to start, but it really is. We start out at a low point and things get really rather better from there on out, in a manner of speaking. Harry turns eleven and learns that he's a wizard. When I was a kid I wished I was a mermaid, but these days I bet most kids having read Harry Potter, and more than a few adults, wish they could go back to their eleventh birthdays and receive a letter telling them they'd been accepted to a wizarding school.
What I find most magical about the first entry into the Harry Potter series is that we have this whole world unfurling before us. The first book in particular is especially magical because you have all of these wondrous things being described and your brain is firing off all these ideas of what things look like and sound like. Even before the movie or the illustrated version of the book was available, you had these scenes to imagine: Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Castle, the Forbidden Forest.
My favorite of these was probably Diagon Alley because it was the first time we were able to see the Wizarding World for ourselves, rather than have a couple of wizards talk about it in chapter one. There were the shops that sold spell books (Flourish and Blotts), broomsticks (Quality Quidditch Supplies), potion making equipment (Slug and Jiggers Apothecary). There was Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour, Eeylops Owl Emporiums, The Leaky Cauldron, and the most important stop for any young wizard: Ollivander's Wand Shop.
Everything up to a certain point takes places in the Muggle (non-magic) world, which is something we see every day, but then comes the big scene. With Harry, we take our first steps into the actual wizarding world and are immediately immersed.
In the book we go back to Privet Drive for awhile, but the movie, while it creates some timing issues to make this happen, keeps up the immersion and brings us right up to the point where Harry is off to Hogwarts. As magical as a street full of wizard shops were, this is the first place where he can truly be himself. Sure he has his nerves about being able to keep up, but magic aside, that's a good comparison for kids in our world going to school, whether it's little kids going to kindergarten for the first time and leaving their parents or going to secondary school and having to meet children from other towns that they haven't grown up with.
Once he gets to school, we see Harry go through a lot of things that might otherwise have seem rather simple, but Rowling managed to make them all the better with the added bonus of magic. There are classes on Transfiguration, Charms, Flying lessons. There are feasts in the Great Hall with ghosts and owl post, Quidditch in any kind of weather. There's also the possibility of a wizard duel in the trophy room at midnight, a Dark wizard trying to kill you, but don't let that get to you. lol
While I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the nth time, I keep thinking how easy it is to slip into this world. It seems so easy to overlook for a moment what a gift this book is. Sure on the surface it might be about a kid going off to school and finding himself, but there's a great deal more. The story offers the epic battle of good vs evil, there's a deep sense of wonder that reaches to the very heart of the reader. The writing is the enchantment that takes us once more into the pages of the world like a spell Harry might've found in one of his course books.
Where our world might be ordinary or even saddening in the day to day, Harry's world might also have it's troubles but it also has extraordinary abilities with which to combat these problems. That is the dazzling part of the story, but as Hermione so eloquently points out in the final parts of the book, there are more important things than being able to memorize spells. While the magic might seem like the answer to all our problems, there are others things: friendship and bravery.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a great start to a series that has become a lasting and important part in a lot of people's lives. It leaves off with humor and hope for Harry and leaves us looking forward to The Chamber of Secrets.
This post was written by Heather from The Hermit Librarian. Thank you so much, Heather, for starting our Harry Potter month off! Be sure to check out Heather's blog and follow her on Twitter as well!
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