Saturday, January 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Review)

My son wanted to start reading the Harry Potter series, and even though I knew he could handle the reading, I was a little concerned about the subject matter. I talked with his second grade teacher about it (she read the whole series) and she said that years 1-5 weren’t too bad, but that years 6-7 were a little intense, so I decided that we would read each volume together. I also thought I would give an overview of each year in my blog just in case you might be curious about the Harry Potter books.

First let me start out by saying that I’m now a J. K. Rowling fan, and I never really liked fantasy or sci-fi themed stories-the books are that good. I read ahead when my son goes to bed and at first I did it as a precaution, but now I can’t put the books down (I am four chapters ahead of my son.!)  My son is also hooked, and we are constantly discussing events of the story-sometimes it can be a bit much so I’ve had to tell him when I’m Harry Pottered out and need to talk about something else.

The first book in the series is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and it’s in this first book that we first learn about Harry’s peculiar abilities and his sad past. The story begins with the delivery of Harry to his only blood relatives after the untimely deaths of his parents. Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts (the local wizarding school), along with Professor McGonagle (a witch at the school) and Hagrid (the school’s gamekeeper) check out and deliver Harry on the doorstop of the Dursleys. There is one major problem with this-the Dursleys are not magical. They are "normal" humans that magical folk refer to as "muggles," and Harry will have to live in their world and not the world of his parents-it will be safer...

Harry has it hard with the Dursleys-his Aunt Petunia (his mother’s sister) and Uncle Vernon have not told him about his magical parents or how they died, and they treat him like he is some sort of poor relation who they have been forced to raise. The Dursley’s only son Dudley is very fat and given anything that he desires, while poor Harry is made to live in the cupboard below the stairs, becomes a human punching bag for Dudley, is forced to wear Dudley’s overly large hand-me-downs, and is never shown even the slightest bit of kindness. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia abhor anything that is out-of-the-ordinary, and there is nothing ordinary about Harry.

But Harry’s life is about to change. He turns eleven, and though he doesn’t get even a happy birthday wish from his relatives, there are wizards every where who know about Harry and they soon will do everything in their power to wish him a happy birthday and welcome him back into their world, even if they have to go against the wishes of Harry’s muggle family.

The rest of the story revolves around Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, the school for witches and wizards, as he struggles with new-found fame in the wizarding world. However, some disturbing events force Harry to deal with both a painful past and uncertain future, as he unravels the real reasons why he is so famous.
Now even thought I love the books, there are a few alarming elements in each story that younger kids might find frightening. In year one, someone or something has been attacking the unicorns in the woods that surround the school (students are forbidden to go there because of the menagerie of dangerous creatures who live there). Harry and a classmate serve a detention where they accompany Hagrid into the woods and they not only find the hurt unicorn, they come across a shadowy figure doing the attacks!

Since my son and I were taking turns reading back and forth, I "glossed" over this particular area during the reading, and we talked about what was going on with Harry in the story. And, after we read a book, we rented the movie, but the movies were kind of a let down-someone else’s vision can’t quite take the place of the pictures our own minds can create…

Here are my ratings for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

Language/Vocabulary: One of the things I found most interesting is Rowling’s ability to create this world with all the terms and lingo associated with it. You can’t help but believe this world exists. (For example: Harry plays the wizard game of Quidich, a sort of a basketball game played in the air on broomsticks.) Keep in mind that the characters are English, so they speak a little differently that our kids, but there is no need to worry about foul language. My rating: 5/5

Lesson: There are plenty of positive messages given throughout the book: the importance of friendships, how your past does not decide your future, acceptance of people who are different from you, and the power of love.
My rating 5/5

Violence: Here’s where things get touchy. As I said before, there is the attacker in the woods, but there is also a brush with a three-headed dog, and danger for Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione at the end of the story.
My rating 3.5/5

I highly recommend the series, but keep what I've said in mind when considering these books for your child. The official age rating for at least the first book is 8 and up, but many teachers say that fifth graders can better handle the subject matter. Regardless, the books are quite large and the vocabulary is unique, so it may be best to read it with your child, especially if they struggle over unfamiliar words. Happy reading!

The picture of the book was used for the sole purpose of review and is connected to it's  All opinions expressed in this review are my own and were done without any form of compensation.


  1. I absolutely loved the whole series and highly recommend that parents read it with their kids. It has wonderful lessons throughout, and good definitely wins over evil.

  2. Great review Susan. My oldest son who is almost 14 now loved the series. I also thought that the author skillfully and creatively brings the reader into an intriguing world. My son started reading them in 4th grade. I wish I could get my now 5th grader to read them. He seems to like funny stories more. You're motivating me to see if he would want to read the Potter stories along with me. I like the idea of a dialogue that would help both of us work on his reading comprehension. Thanks Susan!

  3. Janie, I can't believe how much I love the books too! My son is getting mad because I'm so far ahead.

    septembermom, my son is into funny stories too (does Captain Underpants ring a bell-ugh!), but he latched onto these books pretty quickly. (This series has even lessened his love of all things super-super heroes I mean...)So, you just never know.


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