My 2 cents:
J. K. Rowling's September 12 announcement enchanted and delighted millions of Harry Potter readers around the world, of whom my 13-year-old daughter is just one. She wasn't born when Harry Potter first popped on the scene in 1996; she discovered the wizarding wonder last year, during seventh grade. At her urging, I decided to read all seven books, too. My quest ended today, when I read page 759 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and closed the book. I admit, it was a little emotional.
So I promised Lizzey I'd write a review of the books for my blog. Even though they were first published over a decade ago. Even though they've been reviewed thousands of times, by many far more famous than I. Even though there may not really be anything new to say.
The Harry Potter series, quite simply, fascinated, captivated me, and, yes, taught me much about life itself. J. K. Rowling is as brilliant a writer as her fans and critics say. The mind-blowing number of copies her books have sold and the tons of awards she's racked up attest to that. I once saw a documentary about Rowling that showed some of her fans lining up for an appearance, and a teen-aged girl stood there, in the crowd, with piercings and spiked hair, and a sign that said, “Thank you for writing those books.” I know how that girl feels.
The series starts, of course, with Year One at Hogwarts School, a fantastical boarding school for young witches and wizards. Harry Potter, who's living with his aunt and uncle and cousin, the Dursley's, at Four Privet Drive in England, turns 11. An owl marks this most momentous birthday with a special delivery, a bulletin to Harry announcing his enrollment at Hogwarts School. Students travel to Hogwarts on a bright red steam engine from Kings Cross Station in London, on Platform 9 and 3/4. Hogwarts students wear robes, and use wands, cauldrons, spellbooks and potions. Harry has never been happier. He makes friends right away with Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley, two “first-year's”, like himself.
Soon, however, Harry learns his mother and father didn't die in a car accident, like he'd always been told. Harry's parents were murdered by an evil dark wizard, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and Harry's mother, Lily Potter, died trying to save him when he was just one-year-old. Young Harry finds himself pitted against Lord Voldemort again and again, and he strives to learn everything he can from his wise headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, in order to defeat Voldemort, and save his school, his friends, and the entire wizarding world. “Sometimes the only way out,” Harry learns, “is through.”
No book review can do Rowling's work justice. Many reviewers have said the Harry Potter books tell the age-old story of the fight between good and evil. They do. Other reviewers say it's a magical story, full of made-up words, made-up sports (Quidditch), spells and tales. It's all that, too. It's also a story of friendship, love, perseverance, and courage in the face of death. And, also, even if you've watched the movies and know how it ends, it's also riveting, spooky, and intensely exciting. And full of life. I think that when my daughter is fully grown, raising children of her own, that she'll look back at the Harry Potter books as the most influential of her childhood. Sort of the way I look back at Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and Frances Hodgson Burnett's. Her favorite line is from Book 4:
“As Hagrid had said, what would come, would come, and he would have to meet it when it did.”
Length: 7 books / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.