Book Title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone/Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Release Date: June 26, 1997 (UK)/September 1, 1998 (US)
Orphaned Harry Potter is forced to live with his cruel aunt, uncle, and cousin the Dursleys at Four Privet Drive. Turning ten, Harry is about to discover that magic is real and that he has been selected to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry like his parents before him. Harry discovers he is also a celebrity in the wizarding world in that he survived the attack of Lord Voldemort aka He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as a child with only a scar. Befriending Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, Harry is going to find being a wizard isn’t easy. Voldemort might be coming back and a strange secret housed in Hogwart could be the key to his resurrection.
Written by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for American audiences when publishers feared children wouldn’t be interested in a book with “philosopher” in the title. In addition to the title, the book underwent some slight linguistic changes for the American audiences. The book became the start of a phenomenon and also sparked some controversy with groups believing that it condoned witchcraft. The limited first editions of the book fetch extremely high prices at auction.
I first heard about Harry Potter around Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabah (the third novel in the series). I decided I should know what everyone was reading and “caught” up with this title and the two other books before the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Though this is the shortest of Rowling’s books, it does lay an effective groundwork for the future installments.
Rowling has weaknesses, but they aren’t very easy to see hear due to the simplicity of this first book. The rather short read is concise and filled with enough action and fun to keep young (and the ever-growing adult) readers going. The story sometimes slightly drags at a couple points and adult readers can easily figure out some of the “mystery” behind the story…this is ok since it was written for kids.
What Rowling is really good at is forethought. Regardless what is going on in the story, it feels like Rowling is setting up something bigger in the long run. Characters who are minor players here become big players and throwaway dialogue can become important even in later books. If you haven’t reread the first book in a while, it is interesting to see how much of where the whole story went was laid out here.
Rowling also has a great grasp of characters. I think one of the hardest things to do is name characters. Rowling seems like a natural. The names are fun to say, but don’t fall into that fantasy trap where they are TOO fantasy based. The characters are well developed and likable (or hate-able depending on Malfoy Draco).
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was made into a film in 2001, and between the books and films, Potter-Mania was in full swing. It is easy to forget how Harry Potter began and it is nice to go back to his origins. Rowling is starting to see the financial advantage of keeping Harry alive and new Harry products and stories are starting to pop up. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 1998.