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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

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
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
Bloomsbury Books (UK)
Raincoast Books (Canada)
Scholastic Books (USA)

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Pat Caven

O.K. You've seen him everywhere. On the cover of Time, on the New York Times Bestseller Lists, in newspaper articles and TV talk shows. Piles of the books stacked up in windows of your favourite bookstores. They are even being published with black and white dust-jackets so adults won't be embarrassed reading them on the bus. As a bookseller, I can't keep them in stock.

I avoided reading them. I really wanted to like them. And having read Diana Wynne Jones and all the classic children and young adult fantasy, I was frightened. They couldn't possibly do justice to the all the hype surrounding them. Well, put that rabid cynicism away, boys and girls; they do.

Harry Potter is an orphan who believes his parents were killed in a car crash when he was just a baby. Since then, he has been raised by his aunt and uncle -- as nasty a pair of toads as there could ever possibly be. His room is a cupboard under the stairs, he's the household's general servant and dogsbody and he has to put up with his nasty cousin Dudley, a fat, spoiled little twerp that reminds you of every bully you've ever met -- no matter what his age. But on his eleventh birthday Harry makes a stunning discovery. His parents weren't killed in a car accident. They were wizards who died protecting him from a really rotten wizard with plans to take over the world. Now it's Harry's turn to leave the Muggle (the mundane) world behind and go off to study at Hogwarts College, to be trained in his birthright as a wizard.

And so the stage is set for the seven books in this series. Each book is a year at school where Harry is joined by his best friends Ron and Hermione, where he becomes the youngest Seeker in Quiddich history (like basketball, but in the air riding brooms and under attack from flying objects), defeats the sleazy Malfoy and his cronies and uncovers multiple plots to destroy Hogwarts and the magical world he has come to love.

The most interesting thing about these books is that they age. With each book the characters are subtly growing up, the plots are getting more complicated (and a little darker) and we learn more and more about the adult world, both Muggle and Magical. Kids reading these books can grow with them, adults reading them have more to look for. By the time the series is finished, Harry will be eighteen.

In the media they have been compared to C.S. Lewis and The Little Prince. Ostensibly for children, but with deeper meaning for adults. Maybe I'm still just a big kid, but I didn't see any of this. I just enjoyed them for what they are. Great reading that takes you back to that time in your life. They are wildly imaginative, wonderfully funny and well thought out. Rowling has created instant classics that deserve a valued place in children's literature.

And all the hype? We know that will all blow over. But thanks to J.K. Rowling's actual talent (possibly a little magic of her own), what's left behind won't blow away with it.

Copyright © 1999 Pat Caven

Pat Caven was (and perhaps in some ways still is) a local bookseller. She has now wandered into the public domain.

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