Monday, April 14, 2008

"Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone"

Title: Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone
Author: J. K. Rowling
Illustrator: J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1997
Genre: Fantasy, Novel, Fiction
Age Range: 4-6

Summary: Harry Potter is sent to life with his Aunt and Uncle when his parents die. He is raised by them, and treated very poorly. Strange things always seem to happen to Harry. When Harry reaches the age of eleven, mysterious letters start appearing for him. His Aunt and Uncle hide them from him. Eventually Harry learns he is a wizard and goes to attend Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards. He also learns that his parents were killed by an evil wizard, Voldemort, and that he was able to survive and cripple the wizard. He is placed into the Gryffindor house, and makes friends with Ron and Hermoine. Harry joins the Quidditch team where he is the seeker, and nearly dies in his first match. A troll appears in the castle, and other strange things. The three find a three-headed dog guarding a trap door. Harry stumbles across a mirror that shows one's greatest desire, and he sees his parents. They learn that there is a Sorcerer's Stone that can give the Elixir of life to whoever drinks it. Harry is hated by a professor named Snape, who seems to be the prime candidate for wanting the elixir. Harry and his friends sneak around at night trying to find clues, and eventually decide to find the stone. They get past all the different traps, and Harry must face, not Snape, but Professor Quirrell, who is sharing his body with Voldemort. Harry is able to survive because of the love his mother had for him, and because he only wanted to protect the stone, he can see it in the mirror and it remains safe.

Response: I first read this book when I was in middle school, and have since read every one in the series. I loved being able to go back and read about the beginning of this great journey that Harry Potter has through seven amazing books. I was able to pay more attention to details, and now knowing the rest of the story, it is neat to see how things are pieced together. J.K. Rowling wastes no time getting the reader right into the middle of the story. While reading, I feel like I am the fourth member of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine's group. The great description and imagery that she uses paints a great picture, and also allows the reader to smell, touch, and taste every detail of the story. When the Troll comes, the smell is described as, "a foul stench reached his nostrils, a mixture of old socks and the kind of public toilet no one seems to clean." (p. 174) The twists and turns of the plot never stop because everyone thinks that Snape is the bad guy, a regular occurrence in every book, but in fact it is stuttering Quirrell, who has become obsessed and entangled with Voldemort, perhaps even brainwashed. The story provides great themes that students and all people can use. The first, and perhaps the most important is bravery. On J.K. Rowling's website she says that bravery is a very important part of the book, and a great characteristic to possess. Harry exemplifies bravery his whole life, being able to put up with the Dursley's. The house of Gryffindor is symbolized as a lion, a universal symbol of courage and bravery. He stands up for his friends throughout the story. When Neville's rememberall is taken, Harry gets on his broomstick and chases after it. This actually lands him a spot on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Harry and his friends show bravery in the face of pure evil as they attempt to get past each spell to find the Sorcerer's Stone. Hermoine uses her great intelligence to help them through the plants. Harry gets on the broom and finds the hidden key. My favorite examples of bravery come from Ron and Neville. Ron leads the trio on the life size chess board, giving himself up so that they can continue on. He says, "That's Chess! snapped Ron. You've got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she'll take me -- that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!" (p. 283) He literally gets knocked out by the Queen, but it permits his friends to continue. Neville shows great courage when he stands up to Ron, Hermoine, and Harry. He tells them not to sneak out and stands up for himself. He says, "Don't you call me an idiot! said Neville. I don't think you should be breaking any more rules! And you were the one who told me to stand up to people!." (p. 272) Bravery against evil is a constant theme, as Harry and his friends constantly battle the dark arts. Another important theme is the power of love. Harry's mother is the greatest example of this because it is her love that saved his life, not once, but twice. He was able to survive as a baby because her love for him was so strong, so good, that nothing even as evil and Voldemort could overcome that. In the end, when Quirrell is trying to kill Harry, he continually is burned by touching Harry's skin. This again is the result of Lily Potter's love for her son. It protects him from what is evil. Harry and his friends break rules out of necessity it seems. They do these things to help protect themselves, and the school from the evils of the dark arts. The friendship that these three develop over the course of a school year is so strong and real. They are loyal to each other, no matter what the others are going through. They stand by each other when Harry and Hermoine lose 100 points for Gryffindor. In the end, they are all together going against the traps because they want to protect each other, and help Harry to triumph over evil. The truest form of their loyalty comes in the sacrifices they make. Ron sacrifices his body during the chess game, and this shows how loyal he is not only to his friends, but to the cause for good. Harry Potter presents many themes, some of which bring about great debates about censorship. To me, it is a story that shows great imagination, and can spark great creativity in young children. The lessons they learn in these novels far outweigh the "dark magic" that is also present. I feel like this story is nothing more than a story, full of great imagination and creativity.

Teaching Ideas: This novel is full of great imagery and description which students can use to develop their writings. The owls in the story provide a great connection to science. I remember we dissected owl pellets, and that is an activity that can be done with students. I think discussing elements of fantasy with them is very important so that they realize what is true and what is false.

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