CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 1999
"Still got yer letter, Harry?" Hagrid asked.Until his eleventh birthday, Harry seems to be a more or less ordinary boy in spite of the strange lightening-shaped scar on his forehead and the propensity for peculiar things to happen when he gets upset. At that point, however, he receives his letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, takes the train from platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross railway station, and leaves behind the dull and ordinary world of the Muggles (i.e., ours!) to enter the fascinating one of magic where classes are for being taught about potions and spells, and recreation is the game of Quidditch which is played with 4 balls, 6 baskets, and two teams of seven people, all riding broomsticks.
The plot is of the fairly standard good-versus-evil variety, with good triumphing in the final chapter and Harry's "house" (that is, his team, into which he had been placed on entry to the school for the purpose of classes and games) winning the grand prize for the year. Witchcraft gives the story very entertaining twists throughout. Puns abound, as do take-offs on general school rules and regulations. These may be somewhat foreign to Canadian readers, unaccustomed as they are to boarding-school terminology and mystique, but even though some elements will be a bit strange, the plot pulls the reader in and conventions become clear as the story progresses.
As one of the blurbs on the cover points out, Harry Potter invites comparison with the novels of Roald Dahl, and, in my opinion, it comes out a long way ahead. This book is good fun and would be a super read-aloud for home or classroom. What's more, it serves as an introduction to such books as Stalky and Co., by Rudyard Kipling, for those who have found it appealing. Kit Pearson's The Daring Game is another good book with a boarding school setting, in Canada this time, that could be enjoyed and compared with Harry Potter. In other words, it opens windows, and I can't recommend a book more highly than that!
Mary Thomas is at present on leave from her job in elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, but all sabbaticals come to an end, and she is looking forward to returning to the real world in August.
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