Harry Potter, the series to make many people of my generation into young readers. The first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out on June 26, 1997. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first book, and in 2021 we celebrated the 20th year of the first movie. On January 10th, we celebrated with a week long Harry Potter event. We had a trivia night and costume contest that included prizes for the winners, a craft night and a night with house quizzes and making butterbeer.
Now, as with most of my book recommendations I will go into a brief summary, but this blog will only be about the first book. I may in the future write on the other six, but I want to focus this time on the Sorcerer’s Stone. Which as a little trivia for you, in the UK it was published under the name Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The book opens on a street in Surrey, Number 4 Privet Drive, where a family by the names of the Dursley’s live. Vernon and Petunia Dursley are as normal as they come, their son Dudley is their perfect little son. One night, Albus Dumbledore speaks with Minerva McGonagall (who was posing as a cat) about all the rumors that people were talking about: how Voldemort was gone, and the Potters (Lily and James) were now dead. Albus confirms and states that Lily and James’ son Harry is the reason he was there on Privet Drive. He would be leaving young Harry with them as they were the only family he had left. Soon, Hagrid appears with Harry and Dumbledore places him on the Dursley’s doorstep with a note explaining everything.
Ten years pass and Harry, along with his cousin Dudley, are about to turn eleven. While on Dudley’s birthday trip to the zoo Harry somehow communicates with a snake. Dudley is astonished by how the snake is acting and starts prodding the glass to the enclosure, Harry notes that odd things happen around him all the time and that’s why Dudley and he don’t get along, besides the fact that Harry’s Aunt and Uncle treat him terribly. Harry gets blamed for Dudley falling into the enclosure after the glass surrounding it disappears. When they all get back home Vernon Dursley shoves Harry into his “room” which is a cupboard under their stairs.
One day in July Harry gets the mail and notices that there is a letter for him. It’s addressed to Mr. H. Potter, the Cupboard under the Stairs 4 Privet Drive, Little Whining, Surrey. Before he can read it though, his uncle snatches it from him. Over the next couple of days, more and more letters for Harry arrive, but Harry still doesn’t get to read any. Vernon decides to take the family on a trip to get away from it all.
On the night before his birthday Harry is up waiting for his birthday to come, when right at midnight the door to the cabin is busted open by a massive figure. This massive figure turns out to be Hagrid, the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. Harry doesn’t know what Hogwarts is and Hagrid gets angry at his aunt and uncle. Hogwarts is a school for witches and wizards and in the year of their eleventh birthdays they get a letter inviting them to attend. As Harry grew up as a “muggle” (non magical folk), he had no idea about Hogwarts and Hagrid begins to tell him about it when his aunt and uncle say he won’t be going. Hagrid again gets angry and says that no matter what Harry would be attending. The debacle ends when Hagrid gives Dudley a pig’s tail and takes Harry to get his supplies in Diagon Alley. This is where Harry finds out about his parents, and just how famous he is in the wizarding world. People recognize him for the lightning bolt scar he has on his forehead. A scar that was given to him when Voldemort attacked his parents, and attempted to attack him as well, but the spell rebounded on Voldemort and “vanquished” him. To the Wizarding world, Harry Potter is known as the Boy-Who-Lived. Before Harry, no one had ever survived an attack from Voldemort.
He gets his supplies with the help of Hagrid and as a birthday present, Hagrid gets Harry a snowy white owl, that Harry names Hedwig. Harry goes to Ollivanders to get his wand. After going through tons of different wands, Ollivander gives him a final one, and that becomes his wand. Although, Ollivander finds it very interesting that this wand picked Harry as the Phoenix who supplied the feather for his wand’s core only gave one other. That other wand belonged to Voldemort.
Harry goes to Kings Cross Station on September 1st to get on the Hogwarts Express; the platform is in between 9 and 10. Which doesn’t exist and he ends up getting help from a large family of red heads, who we all come to know as the Weasleys and their youngest son, Ron, who becomes one of Harry’s best friends. Ron comes to join Harry in his compartment and after a bit a boy and girl enter the compartment asking if they had seen a toad. This girl, Hermione Granger, becomes Harry’s other best friend, but it doesn’t happen until after they get to Hogwarts.
I will be cutting the summary here; I don’t want to spoil anything in case you haven’t read it yet!
This book is beyond anything that I had ever read before (when I was young). It’s a fantastical adventure about a boy discovering who he really is and the friends he makes along the way. It’s a story for everyone and something people can relate to; except for you know the whole magical bit.
Beyond that the whole series is just a masterpiece, and this is coming from someone who does not like J.K. Rowling’s writing. Harry Potter was just a special story and one for the ages. I grew up on them, I started reading them in the third grade and when I was seventeen the final book came out. Many people my generation have said that they became a reader because of this book. (I was already reading many genres at this point and actually waited to read the first one for almost a year after it had come out to read it.)
I think the reason Harry Potter became such a phenomenon is due to the story of a young boy growing up as everyone else (muggles) and was thrust into this magical world that he didn’t know about. Then you add in the slight mystery of this evil wizard who killed his parents, but was unable to kill him. Why did a baby survive when his parents, and countless other witches and wizards couldn’t? Throw in some normal problems of finding friends and what problems you deal with in school and it makes for a story that younger readers relate to. That’s not even accounting for the magic and the adventure Harry embarks on with his two friends.
I will always recommend Harry Potter to people. Even if the series debuted 25 years ago, it still is a series that can withstand the test of time, which is why I will always continue to recommend reading at least the first book. We have the whole series available for check out including the 8th book which is the manuscript for the play.