One day, in 1999, Phillip and I happened to be watching The Oprah Winfrey Show. I have no idea why we were watching Oprah. It wasn’t a show we ever watched. On this episode, there were a bunch of children who knew a lot of trivia about some book. Oprah would ask a kid which on which platform you’d catch the train to Hogwarts, and the kid would answer “nine and three quarters”. We didn’t know what they were talking about, but those kids were amazing.
I remember Phillip and me asking each other, “What is this book?” It sounded fascinating. We must have told my parents about this book we’d recently heard of, because on Phillip’s birthday, that year, they gave him a soft cover copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, along with hard cover copies of the sequels: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Phillip read them, and then I read them, and we’ve been Harry Potter fans ever since. We were among those people who pre-ordered each new book as soon as we could.
It seems incredible, now, that the first three books were out before we’d heard of Harry Potter.
For the 2017 Reading Challenge, I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the third or fourth time.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling, was first published in the UK in 1997. It was first published in the USA in 1998, where it was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (Ugh!)
Vernon Dursley is a fine man. He had a good job at a drill manufacturing company that pays well enough to support his loving wife, Petunia, and their perfect, angelic son, Dudley, in a nice house on Privet Drive.
The Dursley family’s lives are ruined when Mrs. Dursley’s sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car crash, and the Dursleys find a baby named Harry Potter (Dudley’s cousin), left on their doorstep.
For nearly eleven years, the Dursley family has kept Harry in a cupboard, literally. Harry is one of “those” kids, the kind that weird things just seem to happen around. Harry is a huge disruption to the peaceful and orderly lives of the unfortunate Dursley family.
(SPOILER ALERT) Harry Potter is a wizard, although he doesn’t know it yet.
On Harry’s 11th birthday, while Dudley is preparing to enter a fine private school, and Harry is about to be shipped off to a rough public high school, Harry is accepted into a private boarding school he never applied to: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry learns that not only is he a wizard, he is the most famous wizard around. His parents were not killed in a car crash. They were killed by the most powerful, most evil, wizard, Voldemort (a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named). Harry Potter somehow, as a one-year-old baby, survived a direct attack, with only a scar on his forehead. Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived. He is the boy who may have killed Voldemort.
The book leaves the Dursley family, and follows Harry Potter through his first year at Hogwarts. He is taken care of by Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds of Hogwarts. He makes instant friends with Ron Wesley, who comes from a large, loving, and financially poor family of witches and wizards. He dislikes, but eventually befriends, Hermione Granger, a self-taught witch and only child of muggle (non-magical) parents. Harry also becomes instant enemies with Draco Malfoy, an arrogant, snobbish, and bigoted bully.
Harry learns potions, spells, herbology, history, transfiguration, and a game called Quidditch. He feels like he is the only student at Hogwarts who entered school with no knowledge of the magical world.
Meanwhile, there is a mysterious package, in a forbidden section of Hogwarts, in the third-floor corridor, on the right-hand side, guarded by a large three-headed dog named Fluffy. Together, Harry, Ron, and Hermione become involved in mystery and adventure far beyond the school’s curriculum.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was followed by six sequels, eight movie adaptations, a web site, an amusement park, and a lot of fan theories. There has been one offshoot movie, and more in production.
It had been years since I last read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I’ve seen the movie adaptation, several times, more recently than that. So, naturally, it was difficult for me to re-read this book without seeing the movie scenes in my mind. The small differences between the book and the movie seemed jarring at times: Mr. Dursley at work, Harry Potter at a school other than Hogwarts, the Dursleys, not Hagrid, taking Harry to the train station, and so on.
The biggest difference, as I re-read it, was the role of Hermione Granger. Having read all seven books, and seen all eight movies, I tend to think of them as the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. But in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hermione is just another student in the Gryffindor house for most of the Hogwarts section of the book. Neville Longbottom gets mentioned as much as Hermione does, if not more. When she is mentioned, it is by her full name, as if we’re being reminded of who she is. (Phillip says it’s like that in the movie, too, and that maybe I’m mis-remembering.) It’s not until page 179 (in our copy) that Hermione becomes friends with Ron and Harry.
I had a lot of fun, going back to this book. It’s a much simpler, lighter book than its sequels. It is an amazing first novel, filled with wonder, humor, and mystery.
- A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile