on August 28, 2016
I resisted reading this book for a long time, thinking that it would be 'too childish' to hold my interest. Then, one night back in 2007, I happened to be at my local Barnes & Noble during the midnight release party for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the last book in the series. Seeing the enthusiasm of all the fans gathered there (some of whom were in full costume) made me curious, so I wended my way through the crowd (in the process wondering what "The Sorting Hat" was all about) and approached the first free cashier I could find, the first book in my hands. I was suddenly eager to discover what all the fuss was about!
Well, as they say, the rest is history. I not only promptly devoured Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but began acquiring, and also devouring, the sequels. I only stopped in the middle of the sixth book, when a very sad event made me unable to continue....but I hope to be able to go back and finish the series!
I picked up the first book the other day, and plunged into Harry's magical world once again. Once again, I was totally delighted and enthralled! Rowling's very fertile imagination seems to have no bounds; all the books in this series are full of magical events, as well as twists and turns, and one just never knows exactly what is going to happen next.
Rowling also has the uncanny ability to make her characters, as well as the magical world around them, seem so real! From the very first moment, the reader becomes immersed in this very quirky, wonderfully weird world, where nothing is as it seems, unexpected surprises await, and household chores can be accomplished by the mere wave of a wand (something I positively loved).
Harry, Hermione, and Ron are wonderful characters, and it's not the first time I have wished I had grown up with friends like them. It's great how well they mesh, too, especially since, at first, Harry and Ron constantly found Hermione so annoying.
Harry, of course, is the main hero. He starts out life with the odds stacked against him, what with his sad personal history, and "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" wanting to kill him. In spite of it all, Harry remains courageous, and will not let his curiosity, innate optimism, and eagerness to learn magic be dampened by outward events.
Hermione could have been the main hero of this whole series, because she not only matches Harry (and her name is the female version of his) in all his great qualities, but is also willing to take that extra step to find out more. Books are very important to her, and I really liked her for that! She is also very thorough in her research, and has an excellent memory. Besides, she can really think on her feet.
As for Ron, he is that friend who remains steadfastly by your side, through thick and thin. He's funny, as well, and willing to attempt any adventure, despite his fears. Besides, he's an excellent chess player -- even beating his two friends at the game. In this first book, his chess-playing skills become extremely important in preventing a great catastrophe.
Then there's Hagrid....sweet, lovable, gentle Hagrid, who has a soft spot for creatures great and small, and loves Harry like a father, or perhaps a big, bumbling brother. He's pretty much like a giant teddy bear, and I SO wish I could hug him! He's had some rough times himself, but still remains as positive as he can possibly be. And, most important of all, Dumbledore, the Hogwarts Headmaster, trusts him completely.
Dumbledore is another of my favorite characters, but I won't say much about him because he plays a greater role later on in the series. What I did get to see of him, though, during both my first and second readings of this book, made me like him a great deal! He is definitely a father figure to Harry -- always wise, patient, and willing to give Harry the benefit of the doubt.
There were other great, more minor characters, as well, such as Professor McGonagall, who is really a very fair-minded person, despite her stern exterior, Quirrell, the stuttering professor, the funny Weasley clan, especially the mischievous twins, Fred and George, and Neville, poor, shy Neville, who is constantly losing his pet toad....
Then there's one character who is almost in a league by himself, and a rather hateful one, too: Severus Snape. Alan Rickman plays him superbly in all the movies. He gets the character's oily manner (his hair is even greasy) and incomprehensible attitude toward Harry just right. Rickman made it extremely easy for this reader to despise Snape! Even before I met him on the screen, though, Rowling had already succeeded in making me hate him.
Another character I love to hate is Draco Malfoy, Harry's personal nemesis. I'm surprised he isn't related to Snape, because he can be just as spiteful and horrible to Harry.
Amidst all of the typical boarding school activities and classes with such interesting names as "Potions", "Charms", "Transfiguration", and "Defense Against the Dark Arts", the three friends become very adept at amateur sleuthing, and uncover a secret at Hogwarts, one that students are not supposed to know about....
Of course, there had to be time for sports, as well, and I soon discovered that the magical world's version of soccer -- or is it a strange combination of soccer and basketball? -- with the delightfully odd name of "Quidditch", was not only great fun, but had elements of danger, as well, especially when a certain evil wizard nearly took one of the most important players out of the picture....
Rowling manages all the elements of her plot with great skill, leading her readers along the path toward the exciting, final discovery of the school's secret through tight writing, with not a word to spare.
I especially liked Dumbledore's final words to Harry. It was the power of love, he told the young wizard, that won the day. Some readers might criticize this as 'cheesy', but I thought it was altogether fitting to the story, considering Harry's background.
This is such a terrific story! No wonder it's loved the whole world over, by readers of all ages! This book definitely deserves all the praise it has garnered, and more. I know that I will want to read it many more times in the future! And of course, I will also want to watch the movie just as many times!