Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
By: J.K. Rowling
***NOTE: Since writing this text, I have finished all of the Harry Potter books! This was written a couple years ago when I was first encountering this series I had been previously skeptical of. ***
Response Number One:
This entry is at about the 2/3 mark in the book, and now is a good time to quickly write a response. So far, the basic story line is that Harry, a poorly treated nephew from the cupboard beneath the stairs on Privet Drive, has discovered that he’s actually a wizard descended from two renown wizards (who died at the hands of evil You-Know-Who before he was born). Now, he’s been accepted the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, amidst rumors of the return of The Boy Who Lived. He proves to be a natural at Quidditch (as the new Seeker for Gryffindor) and has begun to acclimate himself to the magical world that he never knew existed.
Although I’m loving this book for its pure fantasy, I’m not sure how it might work within an academic setting. It could, perhaps, be used for creative writing. How does one describe something that’s never actually been seen before? As in most works of fantasy, the writer’s imaginative inventions shine, and they make the reader wish fervently for an acceptance letter from Hogwarts (delivered to them via owl). The diction seems pretty accessible, which makes sense because so many people were able to access it and go crazy about it so quickly. However, I would place this particular book more in the middle school arena. I’m not sure why I think that just now, but that’s how I feel. It may have to do with Harry being only eleven in this volume. Perhaps, as his character grows, so will the complexity. I will have to explore that on my own time, maybe during the summer.
Response Number Two:
I think that the ending of the book was my favorite. It was much different than I imagined it would be, because the suspense builds differently in the book than it does in the movie. I think my reading of this book would definitely have been different if I hadn’t seen the movie first. Just goes to show how important it is to read the book before the movie!
Anyway, I felt that the diction was pretty accessible, again, and the content easy to follow and digest. I think it’s another reason that helps explain why it became so wildly popular for such a variety of audiences. It’s also about an infamous English (white) boy who has two loving (though, regrettably, dead) parents and who seems to be able to conquer all with his magic with the help of privileges and fame that he never earned (though he is beginning to prove himself). Would he have done so well without his name preceding him or without all of the mysterious help/gifts? There are two Indian girls (twins, last name Patil) and one “black boy” I found in this story. Although I am aware that this is set in England, I find that this book is missing lots of cultural representation (Europe has more than white people, too).
After reading this book, I realize that I may want to give two ratings to each book: one for content, one for readability.
“Harry and Ron thought that meeting the three-headed dog had been an excellent adventure, and they were quite keen to have another one.” (165)
- This helps to set the adventurous tone for the book, where the protagonist(s) are hungry to be up to something. If not for their eagerness for adventure, the book would lose much of its plot. In other words, things might still be happening to Harry, but there would be a considerably smaller amount of suspense if the protagonists sit around and wait for things to happen.
“Hagrid! That Gringotts break-in happened on my birthday! It might’ve been happening while we were there!” (Harry to Hagrid, 142)
- This is a point where Harry begins to realize that there is more to the story of his life that he knows. There is something dark going on, and it has to do with him.
“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather—just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother—why, its brother gave you that scar.” (Olivander to Harry, 85)
- Ominous. Olivander gives us the first strong foreshadowing that there is a something in common between Harry and Voldemort.
“If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” (Dumbledore to Harry, 299)
- This quote gave me the goose bumps. It was a good note to end on, although the theme of love wasn’t played up this much throughout the story. There are the points that Harry’s parents died trying to save him and that Harry has some new friends that he cares deeply for, but this quote took a few faint threads of a theme and made it a bigger one. I feel like the theme of love will grow throughout the series. If I used this in a classroom, I might ask the student about the different kinds of love in here. Maybe. I’m still pretty sure that there are some better reads to be bringing to the curriculum.
Commentary on Author’s Style
- Imaginative. Author uses concepts, people, and things that are not found in the real world. Despite that, these things are handled in such a way that they almost seem to be real.
- Some light poetry
- Interesting fonts and pictures to break up the text and signify the beginning of a new chapter.
- Almost magic realism, maybe? There’s a Muggle world (the non-magical one) that the wizards must hide in, protecting the secret of their existence.
- Hagrid’s regional diction: students may find it difficult to read text that isn’t written in standard English
- Some of the magical items in this book, such as the Remembrall
- Other than these, I think that the diction is pretty accessible and might not need much vocabulary work for high-schoolers. Middle-schoolers might need a bit more assistance.