Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recommendation: Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

With the upcoming release of the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II quickly approaching, I thought I would take the time to recommend the series for those who have never read the novels.  To say I love J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is an understatement.  I grew up with Harry, Hermione, and Ron and impatiently waited for each new installment in the series to arrive over its decade of publication (1997-2007).  I have read each book several times and always learn something new about a character, a scene, or life in general.  Professor Dumbledore offers some especially wise words throughout the series.  I have studied the books for school, written conference papers, and taught them in my own English 111 courses.  I am currently collecting research for my own book on the series.  Their versatility is astounding.  (*Note: This recommendation includes spoilers.)

In case you have been living under a rock, the Harry Potter series by author J. K. Rowling is a set of seven books about a young wizard named Harry Potter.  The readers are first introduced to Harry at age eleven as he attempts to survive yet another summer with his awful Aunt and Uncle Dursley.  It is during this summer that Harry discovers the truth about his parents and himself: they are wizards.  This summer marks a turning point in Harry’s life as he learns of the existence of magic and of the wizarding school he will now attend, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  However, Harry’s parents are not able to share in his joy as they were killed by an evil, dark wizard named Voldemort when Harry was a baby.  In fact, Harry is revered by the wizarding community he is just entering for the first time because Voldemort tried to kill Harry too, but Harry lived.  He, therefore, is the only wizard known to survive “The Killing Curse.”  

Store front at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Taken on my Christmas 2010 trip
Each of the seven novels chronicles a year in Harry’s life, starting in the summer and following him through a new year at Hogwarts.  Harry makes many new friends, especially Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and a fair share of enemies such as Draco Malfoy, son of one of Voldemort’s most devoted followers.  Once he learned he was a wizard, Harry’s life changed from one of dull drudgery to exciting, and sometimes deadly, adventure.  In each novel, Harry comes face to face with some lethal form of Voldemort or his followers and must fight for his life.  With each encounter, the fate of the wizarding world becomes harder to foretell, and it is hard to distinguish between friends and enemies.  Finally, in the seventh, and final installment of the series, Harry and Voldemort dual in an epic battle of good versus evil.  Harry’s near death experience and willingness to sacrifice himself for the friends and family that he loves results in Voldemort’s defeat.  Along the way, many friends and family are lost including Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts and Harry’s mentor, and Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather and his father’s best friend, but these losses continue to empower Harry and give him the drive and the confidence to prove that love and friendship will always triumph in the end.

Hogwarts at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Taken on my Christmas 2010 trip
As with much excellent literature - especially that deemed "Young Adult," there have been cries to censor Harry for reasons ranging from anti-family to Satanism, but I emphatically assure readers of this blog that these accusations are preposterous.  The Harry Potter series is so much more than a story about magic and a wizard.  Following the tradition of Homer, it is an epic tale of a boy's search for home - and who hasn't spent days, months, even years wondering where he or she belongs?  It is a story about sacrifice and the never-ending struggle between good and evil.  As the characters grow older, they realize that it is not always easy to distinguish the good guys from the bad.  It is a story about family.  Harry learns that even though his parents are dead, their memory lives in him, giving him strength in times of need and that ultimately, you can build your own family by surrounding yourself with those you love.  And, above all, it is a story about the power of love - Rowling's novels most of all prove that love is the magic that binds humanity together and gives even the most lowly of us the confidence to believe in ourselves and our actions and the actions of those around us and triumph over adversity.

I encourage you readers to look closely - this fantasy world has the ability to teach us more about the real world we live in than you may think.

Best matched with a sense of adventure and compassion for those with a desire to live.

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