We here at WVBF:TB are certainly not above talking about a film as a way to begin talking about a book. So it seems like we ought to make mention of the final installment in the Harry Potter film series, seeing as how the Harry Potter books are the biggest publishing phenomenon in decades.
And there’s been some pretty cool retrospective stuff out there in the past couple of weeks, and some suggestions for post-Potter reading, and if you didn’t see Kyle Slagle’s Daily Prophet-style front to the Gazz entertainment section on Thursday, you ought to, because it’s fantastic (it’s on this page).
But for the most part, what’s left to say? If there’s something about Harry Potter that hasn’t been written, I have no idea what it is.
So maybe the thing to do is go back to the beginning.
The following review by blog contributor Dawn Miller appeared in The Charleston Gazette on Feb. 28, 1999 — four months after “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was published in the United States, and before most Americans had ever heard of Harry, Ron and Hermione.
Every now and then, along comes an author capable of creating a whole other world, usually off-limits to unimaginative adults, where smart young people discover they have talents other than being too gawky, nearsighted, underfoot or just bored.
These authors have their devoted following – Tolkien, Juster, L’Engle, to name a few.
First-time novelist J.K. Rowling could be another.
Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” zips – often on broomstick – back and forth between our humdrum, recognizable “Muggle” world, to another, filled with invisibility cloaks, tailored wands and frog candy. Scoff not. Each package comes with a collectible card featuring a famous wizard.
Rowling, a single mom living in Edinburgh, Scotland, began the novel on scraps of paper in a cafe, according to the publisher. It was published in Great Britain in 1997, and in this country in October. It has reached the best-sellers list in Publishers Weekly and won the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year.
Rowling’s hero – skinny, underfed Harry Potter – has known his share of trouble in just 11 years of life. His parents died when he was just a babe. Harry was left with his aunt and uncle, who force him to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. They never give him any birthday presents, while lavishing all their attention on their own child, Dudley, a porcine, spoiled bully.
Harry combs his hair over his forehead to hide a scar shaped like a lightning bolt. He is not allowed to ask questions. He has no idea of his own gifts, or that his name is spoken with respect among the oldest wizards in the world, a world he does not see.
“Harry Potter” is a handful of hardback for any young reader, who will feel quite accomplished at finishing it. The dialogue and action are quick, though. Rowling understands suspense. She does not pull out any magic wands or flying brooms too soon, or too often.
Adults will also see much of their world in this author’s first novel, which makes it an ideal chapter book to read to children. When Harry goes off to Hogwarts, only the best school of witchcraft and wizardry in the world, he has all the excitement and worries, and shopping list, of a freshman on his way to college. The first-year reading list is a parody of any good first-year reading list, full of anthologies, beginning histories and survey classes. Of course, few college freshmen must pack a standard-size pewter cauldron.
Lest we and Harry yearn too much for the fanciful world, Harry learns that it has bullies and power-hungry tyrants, just like our own. The sparks are a little more interesting, however.
The end of the tale is thoughtful and fulfilling, with plenty of room for a sequel, welcomed no doubt by Rowling’s, and Potter’s, growing number of fans.
Room for a sequel? Yes, I think that might have been the case.