Sunday, April 20, 2008

Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Written by J.K. Rowling
Scholastic Inc., 1998
Fantasy, 3-5

Summary: Harry Potter is an extraordinary child. As a child, he survived the attack of Voldemort, the most evil wizard of all time. Voldemort killed Harry’s parents but did not kill Harry, for his mother’s love saved Harry because she sacrificed her life for Harry to live. Harry was taken to live with his Aunt and Uncle Dursley and their son Dudley. Harry’s aunts and uncles are Muggles, which are ordinary humans with no magical powers. As Harry grows up, he has no idea that he has any magical powers, even though strange things seem to happen at times. For example, when he was at the zoo with the Dursley’s, a snake opened his eyes and winked at Harry, who had asked the snake if he got tired of people tapping on the glass and ever wanted to return to his hometown. Before Harry knew it, the snake was gliding across the floor, the glass of the cage not even broken. Harry was mistreated by his family. He had to live in the cupboard and was at times treated like he was not even there. Dudley and his friends would bully and tease Harry. When Harry began to get letters in abundance, his uncle would not let Harry look at them. The letters eventually would overflow from the windows and doors of the house, and still Harry would not get to read his letters. Uncle Vernon tried to run away from the letters but wherever they went, the letters followed them. Soon Hagrid found Harry. Hagrid is a giant and is the groundskeeper of Hogwarts,which is the school of witchcraft and wizardy. He is surprised and a bit mad that Harry did not know anything about the letters or even that he was a wizard! The letters that have been following Harry informed Harry that he had been informed he was accepted at the school. Harry then left Hagrid to get books, wands, supplies, and an owl for school. On the way to school he makes a new friend named Ron Weasely. Harry was amazed that Hogwarts was a magnificent castle. Harry and Ron were placed in the same house, the Gryffindor house. Here they met Hermione, who would become a great friend. Harry soon realized that Draco Malfoy was a bully, for he continued to tease Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Harry also realized that one of his professors, Snape, was set on humiliating Harry to show how he disliked Harry. Harry soon became the “Seeker” of the Quidditch team. This was an honor, for first-years were never Seekers. They must be very fast and speedy on the broomstick , which Harry was. For Christmas, Dumbledore, the headmaster of the university, gave Harry an indivisibility cloak that was his Father’s. Soon Harry and Ron found a forbidden hallway on accident and find that a three-headed dog is there, guarding something. Harry also found the Mirror of Erised. When he looked into this mirror, he could see his parents smiling and waving at him. When he goes back, Dumbledore is there, and he tells Harry that he must not come back, for the mirror will start to control him. The mirror shows one his most desperate desire of their hearts. Soon, Harry, Ron, and Hermione found what the three headed dog was hiding-the sorcer’s stone which is a stone that makes stone and allow someone to live an everlasting life. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were given detention and had to go with Hagrid into the forbidden forest to find what was hunting the unicorns. Harry finds a bleeding unicorn and sees a hooded figure eating the unicorn. The hooded figure then came swiftly toward Harry and the scar on his forehead was unbearable, for the hooded figure was Voldermort. When Harry awoke, he was knew he had to save the sorcer’s stone, for if Voldermort got the stone, he could rise back to power, which would be dark and evil. Harry, Hermione, and Ron work together to overcome the many different chambers and spells that they must get through to get to the stone. When Harry arrives to the last chamber, he finds Quirrel there, who was helping Voldermort. The Mirror of Erised was also there and when Harry looked in it, he felt the stone being slid into his pocket. Just as Voldermort was trying to kill Harry, Dumbldore came and saved him. The stone was then destroyed forever. Harry’s bravery and courage had stopped Voldermort from rising to power again. Harry, Ron, and Hermione then have to go back home for the summer break and Harry can’t wait to use what he has learned on his cousin Dudley.

Response: When I first began reading Harry Potter, I was not excited. I went into reading this book with some hesitation, for I had trouble imagining a book that contained witches and wizards to be excellent, as reviews and peers have told me. However, after reading the first book of the series, I felt very differently about Harry Potter. This book is more than just witches and wizards, it is about sacrifice, friendship, acceptance, and courage. Harry Potter can teach many lessons to children through his character. Even though Harry was not accepted by his peers or the Durselys, but he did not lose confidence in himself. The way that the Durselys treated Harry was horrifying. I felt compassion for Harry and wanted to see him succeed. Harry is a character who all students can relate to-he has to convince himself that he is a wizard as well as the readers. He, like the students are surprised and amazed at this magical world. Even though Harry is a wizard, he deals with issues that all students must face: friendships, homework, bullies, and standing up for what you believe in.

For me, the theme of friendship is dominant throughout the book. When Harry first meets Ron, he is very open to Harry and asks him all sorts of questions. Harry answers his questions patiently and even shares many of his sweets with Ron. Ron and Harry soon become great friends. They also become good friends with Hermione. When they hear that she is upset and might be in danger because of the troll, they set off to find her even though they were not supposed to. The two boys rescue Hermione from the troll and she tells the professors that it was her fault, because she thought that she could overcome the troll herself. Really, she was in the bathroom crying because Ron had hurt her feelings. Nonetheless, she took the blame and from that point on, Hermione, Ron, and Harry became close friends. They share secrets and fears with each other-Harry tells them that he believes that Snape does not like him. During the Quidditch match, Harry’s broom becomes to get out of his control, and Hermione looks over at Snape and thinks that he is putting a type of curse on Harry’s broom. Hermione sneaks over to him and sets fire to his robe, breaking the spell on Harry’s broom. Harry, Ron, and Hermione work as a team to help Hagrid get rid of his pet dragon, who is causing quite a bit of trouble and to solve the mystery of the Sorcerer’s stone. I believe that Ron demonstrates a true act of friendship, for he is willing to give himself over to the white chess queen. This was an act of sacrifice, for this had to be done in order for Harry to be able to advance to the next chamber. Ron was stuck hard in the head with the stone arm of the queen and knocked out. Harry and Hermione work together to solve the problem of which potion to drink in order to get through the flames. Hermione throws her arms around Harry, telling him to be careful, thanking him for his friendship and bravery.

Indeed, Harry Potter fits the characteristics of high fantasy because he is a hero who is compassionate, courageous, humane and who accomplishes good deeds. Harry becomes deeply involved in the struggle between good and evil, where eventually the entire “good” world was at stake. Harry is a hero who overcomes evil due to his pure heart and bravery.

Teaching Ideas: Students from all ages learn or gain insight from reading Harry Potter. For example, Ashley Rhodes, who is 20 years old, says, “Harry was the first fictional character I could relate to, which is why these books changed my life.” Daniel Boyce, age 12, says, “I think one of the best, most long-lasting ways it has affected my life is that it has taught me how to enjoy reading.” Students can be asked to write an essay or a paragraph about what they have learned or gained from reading Harry Potter. Other ideas include making a brochure about Hogwarts School in which they introduce professors, the different houses, or what the environment around the school looks like. Students can also do a character sketch where they describe each character, and discuss which character they believe they are most like or can relate to. Students can also make models of clay, pictures, or paintings of the many different characters that are introduced by this book. For example, students can make a model of what they believe the three-headed dog, the centaurs in the forest, the troll, unicorn, or Norbeck the Dragon. Students could also make a model of the type of wand that they would like to have, and decorate it any way that they would like!

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