July 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Seven Books - by J. K. Rowling

My fans (hi Mom!) have long wondered why I haven't graced this page with any reviews of J. K. Rowling's famous Harry Potter series. Hmm... I guess I wasn't ready until now, after I've finished the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I loved it, including the ending). I've been a Potter fan since the first book came out, shortly before I started teaching, and became a devoted member of Dumbledore's Army long before its existence. There's no reason to focus on the last book, so let's take a look at the series as a whole.

Harry Potter is said to have changed things in the field of children's literature, and it's tough to argue with that. When you look at the numbers alone, they are staggering, with the series topping the all-time best seller charts with book after book. Some say it's the ultimate cross-over book, appealing to readers of all ages, and that certainly rings a bell, given the wide range of Potter readers that I know personally, from children who I doubt can understand some of the important concepts in the book to college professors with Ph.D's. With such a broad spectrum of readers, it's no surprise that people take from the books an equally wide array of messages, pleasures, irritations, and questions. While Rowling's books cover some major themes, such as love vs. hate, the importance of our choices in forging our destiny, and how to deal with the death of loved ones, they also strike chords with some everyday situations. Readers can relate to the characters' school situations, their friendship situations (growing, making, losing), coming to terms with their own changing personalities (ah, adolescence!), and feelings of frustrations and loneliness. Reflected in many of the characters, not just Harry, are our own fears, hopes, frustrations, and joys, which surely keep readers coming back.

Now that I am writing this, I realize how foolish it is to try to summarize such an epic series in one little book review. Let's just look at some nuts and bolts, and if you want to know more about the series, just read it, and find a friend who will join you.

The basics: The series consists of seven books, in this order:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

As you likely know, the books are HUGE, the last four being quite large enough to use to knock out your older sister with when she tries to spoil the plot of the books for you. The first three are relatively easy, good for fourth graders in both content and difficulty, but the last four build up in a progression of difficulty, with the language, length, and content becoming much more challenging and "dark" toward the end. In fact, I wouldn't recommend the fifth book and beyond to anyone younger than fifth grade. With that said, I must admit that a major theme in these books is the importance of NOT UNDERESTIMATING children's ability, so I'll try not to. On the other hand, the characters in the books are all at least eleven years old, which may be the ideal age to read them as well.

Read this series if you love fantasy, magic, incredible stories, well-craftd interesting characters, British authors, and... you get the idea. If you want to know more, just ask your friends, and you'll likely find plenty of fans to talk to.