Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. It was published in 1997 by Scholastic. Fun fact: it was titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone outside the United States, but it was changed to Sorcerer because the publishing company (or Rowling) thought children wouldn’t want to read something that had “Philosopher” in it. For all things Harry Potter, check out the Harry Potter Lexicon (warning: spoilers). Also, check out the #1 Harry Potter fansite, mugglenet.com.
Genre: Children’s, Fantasy, Realistic (as a reminder, again: my genre of Realistic is for those books that are set in the natural world)
“Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He’s never worn a cloak of invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.
But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him…if Harry can survive the encounter.”
“Tricky customer, eh? Not to worry, we’ll find the perfect match here somewhere—I wonder, now—yes, why not—unusual combination—holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple.”
Harry took the wand. He felt a sudden warmth in his fingers. He raised the wand above his head, brought it swishing down through the dusty air and a stream of red and gold sparks shot from the end like a firework, throwing dancing spots of light on to the walls. Hagrid whooped and cpalled and Mr. Ollivander cried, “Oh, bravo! Yes, indeed, oh, very good. Well, well, well…how curious…how very curious…”
He put Harry’s wand back into his box and wrapped it in brown paper, still muttering, “Curious…curious…”
“Sorry,” said Harry, “but what’s curious?”
“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making,” he began. He spoke in barely more than whisper, but they caught every word—like Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. “As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses….I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death—if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.”
“Devil’s Snare, Devil’s Snare…what did Professor Sprout say? – it likes the dark and damp—”
“So light a fire!” Harry choked.
“Yes—of course—but there’s no wood!” Hermione cried, wringing her hands.
“HAVE YOU GONE MAD?” Ron bellowed. “ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?”
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
I don’t think there has ever been a fantasy series (or book series, total) that has impacted the present day and age as much as Harry Potter has. This series has spawned eight movies, 665k (and counting) fanfiction stories on fanfiction.net alone, numerous videogames, a supplemental website called Pottermore, a theme park, the Potter Puppet Pals, and three unofficial musicals, not to mention countless memes, references, and catchphrases. And don’t forget the bands and the songs!
I consider myself very well-versed in the Potter world. I’m one of those closet Harry Potter nerds who never reveals how nerdy she is over Harry Potter until someone else reveals their obsession first. I’ve read the first four books multiple times, the fifth and sixth book two or three times and the seventh book twice (before this series). I was very involved in the Harry Potter fanfiction world throughout high school (and let me say right now, 90% of this fanfiction is awful. But 10% is very, very good, and worth reading). I haven’t re-read the whole series since the seventh book came out, so I’m excited to delve into this world again.
That being said, let’s take a look at the first book in the series. Rowling has definitely got a wonderful world set up here. The world-building done in this book has that lovely sense of awe and amazement as the reader experiences it through someone who has never seen the world before—in effect, Harry is the reader as he views the wizarding world for the first time. So much is revealed in just this book alone—but there is still so much to find out. Rowling gives us enough to want more, but leaves things back so that we are constantly finding out new things, with Harry. The world is just so complex; it’s amazing.
From this first book alone one can tell how planned this series is. Everything that Rowling introduces has a purpose. Everything. If something seems irrelevant, it’s not. Rowling is wonderful at foreshadowing and throwing hints out, not just about the plot of the book you’re reading, but about the events that will be revealed in future books, as well. I can think of several revealed in this book already, which I will elaborate on further in another section.
Let’s move on to the characters. I will start with my favorite character, which is Snape. I don’t know when I started liking Snape. All I know is that before the seventh book came out, I was a hard-core Snape fan, which is interesting because he’s almost entirely one-dimensional up until the last three books. Maybe it’s when we get to see more of him and his motivations, starting in the fifth book, that I started liking him. I believe that Snape is one of the more popular characters, which is really funny because Rowling has stated in an interview that she doesn’t understand why people like him so much, since she based him off of some particularly nasty teachers she had. And don’t get me wrong, Snape is nasty. But perhaps it’s the mystery surrounding his character that gets people intrigued, and then they start liking him because of that mystery. In any case, Snape is my favorite character, but in the first few books, he’s just a really nasty teacher who has some inexplicable grudge against Harry. I’ll talk more about him when his character starts getting fleshed out.
Harry is the protagonist, so of course it’s almost impossible to not like him. What I’ve noticed, just in this first book alone, is that Harry almost always thinks of other people before thinking of himself. He breaks rules, yes, but in every single case he is breaking the rule for another person, except for maybe the midnight duel with Malfoy (and even then, he was breaking it because of Malfoy, not because of some whim of his own). I’ll have to see if this is true in future books; it will be interesting to see throughout the books why Harry breaks a rule, and if the pattern ever changes, and why it does.
This is getting to be a long entry, so I’ll just talk briefly about Hermione and Ron. They’re the average sidekicks. There’s not much to say about them, really, except that Hermione is sort of a stereotypical bookworm with no friends (at first), and Ron is the opposite personality so that there’s conflict involved between the friends as well as outside of them.
Long book series beg for long character development, and I am excited to both see and discuss the development of each character throughout each book. There is minor development in each book, but it really builds over time. The most notable example is probably Neville, but that’s something to discuss way later in the series.
What I Didn’t Like:
I am not going to poke the sleeping dragon that is “there’s magic in this book oh no”…..at least, not yet.
Not going to lie, Rowling’s downplay of and humorous take on the Dursley’s treatment of Harry was a bit…off-putting. It’s clearly a neglectful and borderline abusive (maybe not even borderline) relationship, but it’s played for laughs rather than treated seriously. Maybe it’s because this book is for children? Rowling clearly wants to establish a profound difference between Harry at the Dursley’s and Harry at Hogwarts, but still…
Wait, Harry just lets his cloak just stay in the tower for all that time? He never once goes back to get it? It’s up there for about a month!
I said above that nothing Rowling introduces is purpose-less. This is great in one respect, but bad in another, in that it makes everything obvious, and everything falls in place neatly and tidily. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, and this is a children’s book so it’s almost mandatory that it’s not very complex, but for older readers such as myself, The Sorcerer’s Stone is good for nostalgic purposes (if you’ve read the book before) or introductory wonder (for first-timers) but not for literary accomplishment (I am not saying Rowling is a bad writer. I pretty much said the opposite in my above section).
Hints/Foreshadowing/Ruminations/Thoughts (Spoilers/Clues—recommended for readers of all seven books only, because I don’t want to ruin the series for anyone accidentally):
There were two points in the book where I laughed out loud; not because the text was particularly funny, but because I’ve read the series before and know all the revelations that take place. These quotes (and some of the other things in this section) are especially nice if you take into consideration the “controversy” (for lack of a better word) that surrounds the last book. The first quote was, “Could Snape possible know they’d found out about the Sorcerer’s Stone? Harry didn’t see how he could—yet he sometimes had the horrible feeling that Snape could read minds.” The second quote was, “Bane thinks Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me….I suppose that’s written in the stars as well.” My response to these quotes is a big HA! and a “I see what you did there, Rowling.”
Here’s a list of “Keep in minds”:
–Keep in mind how everyone (and this is more noticeable as the books progress) says that Harry looks like his dad, but with his mother’s eyes (in fact, I think that Harry actually finishes this sentence for someone in a “Yeah, I know, stop saying that” kind of way in a later book).
–Keep in mind how Harry got his invisibility cloak
–Keep in mind Ollivander’s quote, “The wand chooses the wizard”
–Keep in mind that Dumbledore doesn’t tell Harry why Voldemort is after him (thus insinuating that there is some reason)
–Keep in mind that Harry’s and Voldemort’s wands are “brothers”
–Keep in mind everything revealed about Snape, such as the fact that Harry’s father saved his life, and his overall nastiness towards Harry in particular
–Keep in mind the boa constrictor at the zoo
–Keep in mind the pain in Harry’s scar
–Keep in mind Hagrid’s brief mention of Sirius Black
–Keep in mind Mrs. Figg
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a wonderful start to the series. It introduces an incredible new world, intriguing characters, and has a darn good plot to boot. It’s an incredibly influential series, and with good reason. Rowling also puts in some lovely teases about future events, and the book’s “surprise” ending shows a complexity that a lot of children’s books don’t have. It’s the start of a magical adventure, and anyone should want to see what comes next.
You can buy the book here: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1)
And the movie here: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Two-Disc Special Widescreen Edition)
Coming Up Next: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets