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Harry Potter Books
J.K. Rowling
Bloomsbury Books (UK), Raincoast Books (Canada), Scholastic Books (USA)
Volume 1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Volume 2 Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber
Volume 3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Volume 4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling
J.K. (Joanne Kathleen) Rowling grew up in Chepstow. She has always wanted to be a writer and wrote her first "book" at the age of six -- a story about a rabbit called Rabbit. She left Chepstow for Exeter University, where her course included one year in Paris. As a post-graduate, she moved to London to work at Amnesty International doing research into human rights abuses in Francophone Africa. She started writing Harry Potter after the idea occurred to her on a Manchester-London train journey. She wrote during her lunch times in cafés and pubs. She then moved to Portugal to teach English as a foreign language, married, got pregnant, kept writing in cafés. By the time her daughter was born, her book was one-quarter finished. She now live in Edinburgh and continues to write in cafés.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Harry Potter Series
Bloomsbury Books (UK)
Raincoast Books (Canada)
Scholastic Books (USA)

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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I'm surprised that outraged adults aren't pounding on J.K. Rowling's door. By her fourth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she has broken most of the unwritten rules of current children's literature.

Bad things happen to good people. Adults lie to children and make bad decisions. Life isn't fair or safe. And here's the kicker. People die in Harry Potter books. Even children. Even good, heroic children. Wow.

I'm not going to bother synopsizing the plot of Rowling's four (so far) books; anybody who hasn't heard about them is either dead or living in Afghanistan. Instead, here are some impressions of a lifelong SF/Fantasy reader who, out of curiosity, read all the books and went to see The Movie.

J.K. Rowling isn't breaking new ground in her slick update of the hoary British boarding school story. Take an Enid Blyton book, make the school co-ed and co-ethnic, and then transform it into a school for wizards, and you pretty much have it. She even has a classic Victorian hero -- the brave orphan boy. But Rowling carries this off very very well.

For starters, her magical world is full of things that ought to be. The people in wizard photographs wave at you, or preen, or try to sneak out of the picture. When your parents are mad at you they send a "howler" -- a message that arrives at breakfast and screams at top volume in front of the whole school. Dishes are washed by magic and the school nurse tells you to eat your chocolate.

The setting and the details are imaginative and fun, but what gives the books weight is how Rowling handles children. She treats them as people with real -- often distressingly real -- problems. Harry finds himself in situations that even an adult would find frightening, such as being singled out and harassed by a vengeful teacher (think bullying boss and vulnerable employee) or having everyone in school shun him because they believe he's done something terrible (consider an adult being falsely charged with a crime).

In fact, these books are surprisingly dark, and that was my one concern after seeing the film version. The Movie soft-pedals some of the truly frightening human interactions in favour of special effects -- a Disneyfication that I hope isn't a sign of things to come.

The Harry Potter series, like the kids books I grew up with, is essentially male focused, with boys and men filling most of the important roles. At first that annoyed me, but after a while I decided I didn't care. The female characters are well portrayed, and what the heck -- boys can use some good role models for a change.

After an endless stream of earnest Problem Books that are supposed to teach kids how to deal with the psycho-social crisis of the week, it's wonderful to read juveniles that focus on an imaginative, entertaining story and yet also have the guts to portray real children with real problems that defy easy solutions.

So I'm a fan. Bring on the sequels!

Copyright © 2001 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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