Return to Hogwarts: Chamber of Secrets

HP & the Sorcerer’s Stone (#1)

The movie based on this book is the worst one of the bunch, and I maintain that the book is only slightly better. Similar to the first installment, Chamber of Secrets is a book for young children. Nothing is too scary, the chapters are short and easy to digest, and a very small cast of characters to keep track of.

I’m never quite sure why I dislike this story so much, but I think it lies in the fact that these three young kids are never in class, always looking for trouble, and rarely if ever caught. Why are three young wizards solving the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets right now when even a cursory look at the evidence should have led any of their teachers to come to the same conclusions? Dumbledore at least should know Moaning Myrtle, the ghost that haunts the bathroom where she died and where the entrance to the chamber is concealed. Dumbledore is supposed to be the most powerful wizard and extremely clever – he never thought to ask Myrtle what she saw once he knew she was the girl that was killed? He was there! Not to mention the people that kept being petrified – no one thought to brainstorm things that could cause people to become petrified and then maybe settle on a basilisk as being linked to Slytherin, who even the teachers know created the chamber himself? I just…I don’t know, I feel like asking me to believe that three 11 year old kids would solve all this when the adults around them never even investigated is asking a bit much.

But this is a kid’s book after all, and if I was a kid reading this it would probably inspire me to ask more questions and to want to be smart enough to solve a mystery like this. I think it’s important to view it from this perspective because at this point in the series Rowling is still writing children’s books. It’s problem solving and standing up for what’s right and fighting what’s wrong no matter how old you are, and that’s a good lesson to learn.

I am reviewing it as an adult though, and for me this book is the weakest of the seven. It does introduce the first Horcrux, which makes it important, and for that I give it a pass. On to the next one.

Return to Hogwarts: Sorcerer’s Stone

The first novel in the series is undoubtedly a children’s book. The chapters are short and simple, the characters easy to remember. The story is easy to follow and the ending is clear and final with a hint of what’s to come in the next year.

I enjoyed watching Harry escape the Dursleys and discover his new world at Hogwarts. His initial shopping trip with Hagrid to get his supplies is always a favorite scene for me, either to read or to watch in the movie. Back to school shopping is exciting, whether it’s in the real world or the wizarding world.

I’m familiar with the troublesome characterizations, especially the goblin bankers. But if I am a young child reading this book, I don’t have a deep analysis of anti-semitism waiting to jump out and criticize this aspect of the book. I’m just a kid in a fantasy world where there are giants and goblins and dragons. Problematic once you realize what it all stemmed from in the author’s mind? ABSOLUTELY. Does a kid realize that? Probably not.

Given that it is a children’s book, I was surprised at how the villain is introduced. Voldemort’s spirit is attached to another person’s body, and he speaks to Harry from the back of their head. Again, as an adult who has seen the movie many times I have a frame of reference. If I am a kid reading this for the first time, I feel like I would have trouble imagining the final confrontation scene without something to go by. I know there are illustrated versions of these books now, but an illustration near this scene would probably do kids a world of good in their understanding of what is happening.

Something the husband complains about a lot and I kind of have to give it to him is the idea of the houses. Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. The house cup idea works and I like that the Sorting Hat lets kids have a say in where they go, but here it’s the issue of stereotypes that raises its ugly head again. If I’m a kid though, I see it as teams. As an adult I see it as “pushy and bold,” “fat with perseverance,” “smart and bitchy,” and “UGLY AND EVIL” and it’s hard to shake that. Every single Slytherin is written as bad and is shown that way in the movies. If ambition and single-mindedness is the Slytherin thing, there has to be a balance in there someplace. And if the house was all evil kids, why not do away with it and stop inviting those kids? Something about this idea seems unbalanced and unfair, and it rose to the fore here in the first book for me.

It’s a cute first book that a kid would be able to read and enjoy. As an adult there’s a lot going on here that is…questionable? but all in all it holds up. Sometimes in society and schools things are so ingrained that it’s easy to criticize from the outside but affecting change from the inside is impossible. I don’t mind criticizing the magical world set up here but I understand that the universe Rowling has set up has been around for hundreds of years and tradition that deep would be defended at all costs, whether right or wrong.

On to the (worst) next one: Chamber of Secrets.

Happee Birthday Harry

HP cake

The onslaught of Harry Potter posts today after my Harry Potter weekend informed me that it is the 20th anniversary of the release of HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I am not sure how I managed to miss these books until I was in college, but they’ve been around since 1997. I was 14 then and I’m only a little upset that I didn’t have these books in high school because I needed as much magic as I could get to survive that period of time. But I digress…

To know me is to know that I absolutely love Harry Potter. I re-read the books about once a year, and one of the Christmas requests that I’m most proud of is that I held out until all the movies were done to ask for the box set. The only thing I have asked for this year is to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Orlando, where I plan to buy everything.

money

There was a MySpace era survey going around Facebook and I thought it would be fun to go through and give my answers.

1. Favorite Character? This one is a three way tie between Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and Molly Weasley
2. Character you relate to the most, or are the most like? Another tie: Minerva McGonagall and Molly Weasley
3. Hogwarts House? Gryffindor (I’m sorted here on Pottermore and my patronus is a Newfoundland)
4. Hogwarts House you thought you were in when you were younger: Ravenclaw
5. Favorite Hogwarts Teacher: McGonagall
6. Favorite Common Room: Gryffindor
7. Least favorite character/ character you hate: Lucius Malfoy
8. Favorite movie Harry (which year?): Deathly Hallows Pt2
9. Favorite movie Ron: Half-Blood Prince
10. Favorite movie Hermione: Prisoner of Azkaban
11. Underappreciated character? Dobby the House Elf (in the movies)
12. Overappreciated character? I don’t think there is one. 
13. Favorite place explored in the books? The Forbidden Forest
14. Where do you wish they explored more in the books? The other houses’ common rooms and spaces.
15. Which cast member is the most like their character? Maggie Smith
16. Would you have brought cat, owl, or a toad? A cat (also, how come Ron gets to bring a rat? That is clearly not on the list.)
17. Favorite film? Half-Blood Prince
18. Least favorite film? Chamber of Secrets
19. Favorite book? Deathly Hallows
20. Least favorite book? Chamber of Secrets

I’m off to finish up the Lunar Chronicles and some Rainbow Rowell novels. Mischief managed. 🙂