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The first installment of the Harry Potter series brings an enthralling story full of rich magic and plenty of likable characters. If you’ve never read the books, please take this as your sign. While the movies stick closer to the books earlier on, the books are so consistently full of magic that the movies lack.
Harry Potter is the “boy who lived” and has no idea of the living legacy he is. This is mostly due to the fact that he is being raised by the Dursleys, his Aunt Petunia, and Uncle Vernon, who spoil their own son, Dudley rotten while providing Harry with the bare minimum. They would prefer Harry to never find out that he is a wizard, but upon receiving a letter from Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry is able to begin to confront the truth about who he is. From surprising first meetings with the lovable half-giant Hagrid, to quickly making new and genuine friendships with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry is on his way to discovering his birthright. Harry discovers a world he never thought possible, full of magic and promise as he begins to learn more not only about himself, but the truth behind the death of his parents.
Thoughts on the Book
Harry Potter is your typical eleven-year-old, except for the fact that he is a wizard. As Harry discovers this fact through a letter in the post, his world begins to turn off kilter. Underneath the staircase where Harry lives at 4 Privet Drive, he begins to become acutely aware that his life has more meaning than he might have once thought. Watching his cousin, Dudley, be spoiled beyond all imagination, Harry naturally pines for the love of his own parents. Parents who were tragically killed when Harry was an infant.
Despite Harry’s aunt and uncle doing their best to hide Harry from his wizarding side, Harry is pulled into the magical world of Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Where he instantly befriends the giant Hagrid and a redhead, Ronald Weasley. The two quickly become a trio as a brilliant witch named Hermione Granger, grows on them throughout the novel.
J.K. Rowling does a fantastic job of world-building within the first book. Hogwarts is a school like most, full of young, curious minds and teachers of all different kinds who are passionate about molding their minds. The process of getting on the correct platform, to the sorting hat, to the different types of classes they take, are endlessly fascinating. I found myself wondering what house I would be sorted into if I were a new student at Hogwarts.
(When the Pottermore website was first launched, I immediately took the sorting hat quiz and my results came back strongest for Ravenclaw, followed by Slytherin. Do with that information what you will.)
The book overall was entirely delightful and J.K. Rowling writes in such a way that is inviting and easy to understand.
Book vs. Movie
While reading the book, many of the chapters played out as movie scenes in my head. While other parts, I had to make up in my mind as they did not exist in the movies. Such as the very opening, where Mr. Dursley is going to work and notices his environment is rather stranger than usual. More of those “freaks” in cloaks and odd weather has Mr. Dursley on edge.
There are also entire characters left out of the movies. Likes Peeves the Poltergeist. WHERE IS PEEVES?! There is also so much left out about the Weasleys in the movies. The Weasleys become Harry’s unintentional adopted/chosen family and this aspect feels quite downplayed in the movies. It is clear Mrs. Weasley sees Harry as her own, but without the little scenes we get at the Weasley home, can sometimes feel a little shallow. Many of the depth of the relationships in the books can feel that way in the movie. Though I suspect that is because movies are meant to be two hours long, while many books are read in at least ten hours.
Overall, the movies early on in the series do tend to stay closer to the books than going off script, so to speak.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is easy to forget just how young Harry, Ron, and Hermione are in these books. Yet the topics they deal with are quite mature at times. J.K. Rowling, as I mentioned earlier, does a fantastic job of world-building and really fleshing everything out. No detail feels left out when it comes to both the world Harry lives in at 4 Privet Dr and the wizarding world.
Have you read the books in the Harry Potter series or watched the movies? What are your thoughts?