Tuesday, July 31, 2007

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series

Beth recounts J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series

Both young and old readers stayed up late this past week to be the first to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But to best understand this phenomenon we have to start back at the beginning....

The first of this now famous series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, introduces us to young Harry. He’s spent the last 10 years sleeping under the stairs at the home of the Dursleys, his aunt and uncle. Here he is a nobody, having been orphaned when the evil Voldemort killed his parents and left him bearing a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead as a reminder—and link to Voldemort—of that horrible night. However, once Harry is introduced to the magical world of wizards and to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, his life changes forever. For one thing, he is no longer a nobody; he is famous in the world of wizards for having survived the attack on his parents. His mother’s love saved him and by surviving the attack he is considered the "Chosen One," the one who is able to fight the evil Voldemort.

Harry's adventures continue in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This time he is in danger! At Hogwarts, although he is the only one who hears the whispers from the walls, everyone sees the foot-high words written on the wall, "The Chamber of Secrets Has Been Opened. Enemies of the Heir, Beware." Harry, Ron and Hermione (his best friends from Book One) strive to solve this deadly mystery—all while dealing with everything that being Second-year students encompasses (rivalries, crushes and crazy professors).

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we begin with Harry’s second summer at the Dursleys’ since going to Hogwarts. He "accidentally" causes visiting Aunt Marge to blow up and float like a balloon! Fearing both the Dursleys and school officials—students cannot cast spells in the non-magical world of Muggles—Harry runs away into the night with his school trunk and owl Hedwig. Amazingly, he doesn't get in trouble and, after catching a ride on a triple-decker purple bus, he spends the summer at an inn. Once school begins Harry is hunted by Sirius Black, an escaped inmate from the prison of Azkaban. Dementors, the guards hired to protect Harry, completely unnerve him while others do not seem to notice these demons at all. Through it all, Harry has to continue his studies in magic and practice quidditch, a magical ballgame played on broomsticks, similar to football or polo.

Now age 14 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the young wizard wakes from a terrifying dream with his scar aching but, looking forward to all the excitement of the upcoming school year, Harry manages to briefly forget Lord Voldemort and his subjects, the Death Eaters. Hogwarts will join with two other schools of magic for a TriWizard Tournament. Each wizard that is chosen to compete must complete three tests. Will Harry compete? Due to the tournament, quidditch is halted at the school, but the World Cup keeps the golden snitch, the small flying ball used in quidditch, in the air!

With the series half over, Harry is now 15 years old and behaving like one! Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix brings about a dark time for Harry. Gossip about Voldemort and a classmate's untimely death at the TriWizard Tournament causes him to be ridiculed. On top of that, the Ministry of Magic is refusing to admit that Lord Voldemort has returned. The Ministry places Dolores Umbridge as a teacher and soon she is High Inquisitor of Hogwarts! Mix in school, preparing for Ordinary Wizarding Levels examinations (O.W.L.s), quidditch and much more!

A series that began with a young boy enjoying butterbeer has become a dark tale of murder. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince finds Harry in private lessons with Dumbledore and assuming the label of "the Chosen One." As Voldemort, his Death Eaters and the Dementors invade the Muggle world, Harry must continue to grow up. There is homework, messy rooms, quidditch and, of course, the opposite sex! This book helps tie up loose ends in preparation for Harry’s last year at Hogwarts.

And now the end of this series that has kept us busy for years concludes with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. What are the deathly hallows? Will Harry beat Voldemort? Who will die? What will happen to the world of magic as the battle rages? Who will win? Will our hero, Harry Potter, survive? I’m not going to tell you anything! This last book brings everything full circle. Harry and Voldemort must face their connection(s). Harry goes from a teen at school to a man dealing with his problems head-on. J.K. Rowling details the fate of the surviving characters in the epilogue. A must-read for all Muggles!

Click here to hear J.K. Rowling's interview with NBC’s Meredith Vieira on Harry Potter, the hallows and the epilogue.

Now to the real question--why do I LOVE the Harry Potter series? Why have I rushed to read a copy as soon as it is available? Attended the Harry Potter parties at the midnight release? Waited in line to get a good seat at the movies? Honestly, I have no idea. I think it boils down to the love I see in these books--the love of a mother for her son (Harry), the love of friends (Harry, Ron and Hermione), the love of mentor to student (Dumbledore to Harry). It's also the respect for others I see--Harry accepts help and through that survives to Book 7 (and maybe beyond--no spoilers here!). Harry (along with help from Hermione) shows respect for all persons in the books--house elves, giants, and more. The book speaks to me of good and evil and how everything we do can make a difference in the end....

And of course it is a great read! Hope you enjoy the Harry Potter books!

Harry Potter at a glance:
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
6. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Beth, Highland Branch Library

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