Harry, like many orphans of literature, must fend for himself among dim-witted relatives who neither understand nor appreciate him. The Dursleys are indeed dudleys when it comes to their treatment of Harry, but all of that changes with the arrival of his 11th birthday and his only gift of the day - the knowledge that he is not merely a Muggle (i.e., human), but also a wizard. This translates into instant freedom for Harry in the form of a scholarship to The Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he learns far more than just charms, spells, and potions. Harry perceives that things are often more than they appear to be, that friends will often show themselves when least expected, and that smarts and courage are, indeed, components of a young boy's destiny.
Rowling clearly possesses both an ear and an eye for the unexpected, working her own brand of magic with turns of phrase and flashes of humor that are subtle and sly. In terms of its prose, this book reads like spreading soft butter. Harry is as dear a boy as anyone could hope for, and the characters who support, confound, and downright threaten his life at Hogwarts are lively, engaging, and utterly believable. It is not a feat of intricate plot twists and turns that Rowling uses to such great effect here, but rather the wildly creative and imaginative trappings she weaves in along the way. Brooms bear model names like the Nimbus Two Thousand; magic hats spew out the truth of a person's character as though gathered from the brain around which they sat; and giants bear strength enough to break down walls as well as hearts soft enough to harken after baby dragons.
Published to praise and awards, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is as inventive and engaging a title as one could hope to find. Designated for ages 8 to 12, but written for anyone who loves a good tale well told, this is a book to engage the mind and grab the heart . . . and J.K Rowling is a writer to watch and remember.
Denise Olivieri Yagel is a parent and teacher in Richmond, Virginia. Copyright 1999 BookPage Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 1999
On orphaned Harry Potter's eleventh birthday, mysterious missives begin arriving for him, culminating eventually in the arrival of a giant named Hagrid. Harry learns that his parents died saving him from an evil sorcerer and that he himself is destined to be a wizard of great power. A charming and readable romp with a most sympathetic hero and filled with delightful magic details. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1999 #1
Orphaned Harry Potter has been living a dog's life with his horrible relatives. He sleeps in the broom cupboard under the stairs and is treated as a slavey by his aunt and uncle. On his eleventh birthday, mysterious missives begin arriving for him, culminating eventually in the arrival of a giant named Hagrid, who has come to escort him to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry learns that his parents died saving him from an evil sorcerer and that he himself is destined to be a wizard of great power. Harry's astonished introduction to the life of wizardry starts with his purchase, under Hagrid's guidance, of all the tools of an aspiring sorcerer: wand, robes, cauldron, broomstick, owl. Hogwarts is the typical British public school, with much emphasis placed on games and the honor of the House. Harry's house is Gryffindor, the time-honored rival of Slytherin: he becomes a star at Quidditch, an extremely complicated game played with four different balls while the whole team swoops about on broomsticks. He studies Herbology, the History of Magic, Charms, Potions, the Dark Arts, and other arcane subjects, all the while getting closer to his destiny and the secret of the sorcerer's stone. He makes friends (and enemies), goes through dangerous and exciting adventures, and justifies the hopeful predictions about him. The light-hearted caper travels through the territory owned by the late Roald Dahl, especially in the treatment of the bad guys-they are uniformly as unshadedly awful as possible-but the tone is a great deal more affectionate. A charming and readable romp with a most sympathetic hero and filled with delightful magic details. a.a.f. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 1998 September #1
In a rousing first novel, already an award-winner in England, Harry is just a baby when his magical parents are done in by Voldemort, a wizard so dastardly other wizards are scared to mention his name. So Harry is brought up by his mean Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley, and picked on by his horrid cousin Dudley. He knows nothing about his magical birthright until ten years later, when he learns he's to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is a lot like English boarding school, except that instead of classes in math and grammar, the curriculum features courses in Transfiguration, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry becomes the star player of Quidditch, a sort of mid-air ball game. With the help of his new friends Ron and Hermione, Harry solves a mystery involving a sorcerer's stone that ultimately takes him to the evil Voldemort. This hugely enjoyable fantasy is filled with imaginative details, from oddly flavored jelly beans to dragons' eggs hatched on the hearth. It's slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright 1998 Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 July #3
Readers are in for a delightful romp with this award-winning debut from a British author who dances in the footsteps of P.L. Travers and Roald Dahl. As the story opens, mysterious goings-on ruffle the self-satisfied suburban world of the Dursleys, culminating in a trio of strangers depositing the Dursleys' infant nephew Harry in a basket on their doorstep. After 11 years of disregard and neglect at the hands of his aunt, uncle and their swinish son Dudley, Harry suddenly receives a visit from a giant named Hagrid, who informs Harry that his mother and father were a witch and a wizard, and that he is to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry himself. Most surprising of all, Harry is a legend in the witch world for having survived an attack by the evil sorcerer Voldemort, who killed his parents and left Harry with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. And so the fun begins, with Harry going off to boarding school like a typical English kid only his supplies include a message-carrying owl and a magic wand. There is enchantment, suspense and danger galore (as well as enough creepy creatures to satisfy the most bogeymen-loving readers, and even a magical game of soccerlike Quidditch to entertain sports fans) as Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione plumb the secrets of the forbidden third floor at Hogwarts to battle evil and unravel the mystery behind Harry's scar. Rowling leaves the door wide open for a sequel; bedazzled readers will surely clamor for one. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews
School Library Journal Reviews 1998 October
Gr 4-7-Harry Potter has spent 11 long years living with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, surely the vilest household in children's literature since the family Roald Dahl created for Matilda (Viking, 1988). But like Matilda, Harry is a very special child; in fact, he is the only surviving member of a powerful magical family. His parents were killed by the evil Voldemort, who then mysteriously vanished, and the boy grew up completely ignorant of his own powers, until he received notification of his acceptance at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Once there, Harry's life changes dramatically. Hogwarts is exactly like a traditional British boarding school, except that the professors are all wizards and witches, ghosts roam the halls, and the surrounding woods are inhabited by unicorns and centaurs. There he makes good friends and terrible enemies. However, evil is lurking at the very heart of Hogwarts, and Harry and his friends must finally face the malevolent and powerful Voldemort, who is intent on taking over the world. The delight of this book lies in the juxtaposition of the world of Muggles (ordinary humans) with the world of magic. A whole host of unique characters inhabits this world, from the absentminded Head Wizard Dumbledore to the sly and supercilious student Draco Malfoy to the loyal but not too bright Hagrid. Harry himself is the perfect confused and unassuming hero, whom trouble follows like a wizard's familiar. After reading this entrancing fantasy, readers will be convinced that they, too, could take the train to Hogwarts School, if only they could find Platform Nine and Three Quarters at the King's Cross Station.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews
VOYA Reviews 1998 December
Harry Potter, who believes that his parents were killed in a car accident when he was a baby, lives with his dreadful relatives, the Dursleys. Imagine his surprise when, on his eleventh birthday, he is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraftand Wizardry. Harry learns that he is a wizard, just as his parents had been, and that he survived the attack in which they were killed battling the evil Voldemort. At Hogwarts, Harry discovers his natural skill at Quidditch, a type ofthree-dimensional rugby played on flying brooms; he tastes new treats such as "Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans," which truly do come in every flavor from strawberry and coffee to sardine and ear wax; and he learns that there is evil afoot at theschool. Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermoine, discover that someone at the school is trying to steal a priceless stone with the power to make a person immortal. In a breathtaking final showdown, Harry faces Voldemort and saves the stone, but notbefore he nearly loses his life. Rowling's style is a cross between Roald Dahl and Patricia Wrede. First published in Britain, where it won the British National Book Award for Children's Book of the Year as well as the Smarties Prize, this hilarious and suspenseful book willdelight American audiences as well. And since Voldemort lives on, we can hope that a sequel will be available soon. Libby Bergstrom. [Editor's Note: American readers could soon be getting their wish. According to Publisher's Weekly