________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 4 . . . . October 15, 1999

cover Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

J. K. Rowling.
Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Books, 1998.
256 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55192-244-4.

Subject Headings:
Wizards-Juvenile fiction.
Magic-Juvenile fiction.
Schools-Juvenile fiction.
England-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.
Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4


Life at The Burrow was as different as possible from life in Privet Drive. The Dursleys liked everything neat and ordered; the Weasleys burst with the strange and unexpected. Harry got a shock the first time he looked in the mirror over the kitchen mantelpiece and it shouted, 'Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!' The ghoul in the attic howled and dropped pipes whenever he felt things were getting too quiet and small explosions from Fred and George's bedroom were considered perfectly normal. What Harry found most unusual about life at Ron's, however, wasn't the talking mirror or the clanking ghoul; it was the fact that everybody there seemed to like him.

Mrs Weasley fussed over the state of his socks and tried to force him to eat fourth helpings at every meal. Mr Weasley liked Harry to sit next to him at the dinner table so that he could bombard him with questions about life with Muggles, asking him to explain how things like plugs and the postal service worked.

'Fascinating!' he would say, as Harry talked him through using a telephone. 'Ingenious, really how many ways Muggles have found of getting along without magic.'

Having fallen in love with Harry Potter in his first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, I dove into the second with great enthusiasm and was not disappointed. After a slightly slow start where too much time is devoted to impressing upon us just how dreadful Harry's Muggle (i.e., human) aunt and uncle are and how much Harry hates living with them, we are plunged once again into the world of Hogwarts - the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, of Whomping Willows - trees which hit back if you ram them with a car, and sinister voices which only Harry seems able to hear. Add to this the caricature of a egomaniacal (and incompetent) teacher, school-team rivalries, school best friends as well as best enemies, and you have a formula for fun, interest, and action that keeps you flipping the pages. Since Harry is now a second-year student at Hogwarts, his spells occasionally go right rather than wrong, but his friend Ron's wand was damaged in their encounter with the Whomping Willow, so that his charms tend to backfire, to his comic dismay. Well, would *you* like a case of self-imposed indigestion which has you burping garden slugs? No, but it is a vision gross enough to entrance most young readers. And of course Harry comes out triumphant, having saved the head master from dismissal and the school from dissolution, as well as gaining enough extra points for his "house" to ensure that it wins the trophy for the second year in a row.
     In my review of the previous book of the series, I said it would be a fun read-aloud for any teacher or parent, as well as an engrossing silent read for a reasonably competent child. The same is true of this one. So enjoy!

Highly recommended.

Mary Thomas has just returned from a year in Oxford where the fourth book in the Harry Potter series has recently come out. More to look forward to...

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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