by J.K. Rowling
Reading Grade: Middle Grade
Publication Date: October 1, 1999
Source: purchased paperback
Age Rating: all ages
A mysterious letter, delivered by the friendly giant Hagrid, wrenches Harry from his dreary, Muggle-ridden existence: "We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." Of course, Uncle Vernon yells most unpleasantly, "I AM NOT PAYING FOR SOME CRACKPOT OLD FOOL TO TEACH HIM MAGIC TRICKS!" Soon enough, however, Harry finds himself at Hogwarts with his owl Hedwig... and that's where the real adventure--humorous, haunting, and suspenseful—begins.
I finally read my first Harry Potter book—I know. That took me a while, to say the least. Join the rest of the literate world, Cathy—right? Well, now I have. I bought this book on a whim at Wal-Mart one day, long ago, but never got around to reading it. I really am not all that into Middle Grade fiction, so this never had much appeal to me. But, now that I've read it, I do see what all the fuss is about. This really is an amazing story like nothing else out there.
Whoever is reading this review has almost certainly read this book by now, so I'm not going to write this review the same old way I normally write them. It's not meant to get anyone to read this book. I'm just going to give my opinions on what I know IS definitely a crowd already familiar with it.
This is my opinion on why this book is a classic, and will stay that way for a long time to come: this exact narrative voice, this exact way of telling this story, and this exact mixture of these particular characters can never be duplicated. It is like eating The Colonel's country fried chicken, and loving it, but coming up empty on trying to duplicate his recipe for his succulent chicken. Only this author, J.K. Rowling, can do what she has done in this modern era. The only other author like her that even comes close is Charles Dickens (who surpasses her, in my opinion), and he's long dead. (By the way, I detected the Dickens influence in this book.)
When you're not only the first to do something, but you're the only one who can do it, then nobody ever forgets you and what you did. This is what makes this novel so lasting and probably the best-selling book in human history (excepting, perhaps, the Bible, which has a 2,000-year head start). Rowling is a fascinating iconic celebrity to me—she's much more interesting than any British Royal. She has an incredible gift that no one else has even had for more than 100 years. It's like she's a sort of reincarnated writing spirit in the form of a human avatar.
Anyway, I won't say this is my favorite book now because that wouldn't be true. I happen to have a lot of favorites, anyway, but I will be filing this one under the stack of my many favorites now. I figure this book is so great that, if I were a small child right now, I am positive it would be my most favorite book in the whole world. Certainly, if I had children, I'd make them be all up in this business, and I'm sure they'd want to be. What a wonderful way to bond with your children!
For all its amazingness, I award it extra points (referencing the awarding of points to the Hogwarts Houses, if you didn't quite get that). It is a magical fantasy world for children and adults of all ages to escape into. I want to move into the Griffyndor dormitories, and I hate dormitories. That has to account for something. But, I find that I can't connect with the book the way I need to in order for it to be an ultimate favorite. It might be my age, or my problem with not completely loving Middle Grade fiction—I don't know. But, it is the best Middle Grade fiction that exists in the entire world, so you'll probably never read better than the early Harry Potter books.
And, I do intend to read the rest of the books in the series, for sure. Hopefully, I'll connect better with the later YA sequels....
My score: 4.5 out of 5 stars. (I really liked it. Pure magic.)