Sunday, March 30, 2014

An American reading the British editions: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

(SPOILER ALERT: I’m sharing details of the Harry Potter series in this post, and in every post on the last Sunday of the month for the next six months. Just so you know!)

It all started in an English bookstore in Brussels, Belgium. I was studying abroad in Fall 2007 and realized I hadn’t brought any books (they are heavy, after all). So I went downtown and picked up a copy of the British edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I read it twice before returning to Indiana.

Fast forward to Ireland, 2009. I wanted to add to my collection, so I acquired the British editions of Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince on a week-long trip to Dublin. The remaining three (Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban) arrived as Christmas gifts later that year. My collection was complete!
Pure and colorful beauty.
Now here’s my deepest, darkest secret: I’ve only read one of them! (Don't worry, I've read the American editions, which my family owns, multiple times. But I'm still a disgrace to the Potterhead community.) So, I made it a goal for 2014 to read and review and thoroughly enjoy all seven of the Harry Potter British editions. And I'm documenting that journey here!

All aboard the Hogwarts Express!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
First Line: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

British vs. American English: I’ve been overseas, so there are some things that I read and don’t even recognize as different. Like car park vs. parking lot or jumper vs. sweater. But here are a few differences that popped out to me.  
(British edition word = intrepretation)
philosopher = sorcerer
Sellotape = scotch tape
lemon ice lolly = lemon popsicle
jacket potato = baked potato
Hallowe’en = Halloween (Okay, so I know this is the same word, but I thought the use of the apostrophe was interesting.)
revising/revision = studying

Laugh-Worthy Moment: Hagrid being a sappy, apron-wearing mum to Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback, even though he was a fire-breathing, quick-growing dragon.

Cry-Worthy Moment: When Hagrid gives Harry the leather-bound book of photographs of his parents, because he didn’t have any pictures of them.

Notable Quote: “The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” (page 216)

Last Line:  “They [the Dursleys] don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic at home. I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer…”

If I knew nothing of books 2-7, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone would appear to be a traditional MG novel. Young and eager protagonist, quirky characters, bonds of friendship and a world of magic. But this is not a stand-alone novel; it’s a brilliant start to a world-changing series. This book hints at the greater themes of the series, including the nature of good versus evil, the prejudice that can fester in any society and the power of a mother’s love.
Rowling shows that she is a great plotter, by seamlessly including scenes with flying on broomsticks, playing chess and showing Hermione’s logic before the trio descends through the trapdoor. Those scenes establish abilities and knowledge so when the trio encountered those obstacles, it was believable that three 11 year-old kids could work through the problems, together. Also, I adore that Rowling crafted her world with so much detail that she was able to foreshadow an event in Half-Blood Prince just over halfway through Philosopher’s Stone. (Though I’m not sure it was intentional foreshadowing, it’d be pretty cool if it was.)
Another great facet of Philosopher’s Stone is friendship. Harry, Ron and Hermione are different, yet they fit well as friends. They each bring something special to the table: bravery, loyalty and intelligence (as well as many other attributes). Their friendship, although easy at the end of PS, did not start as such, which is realistic for middle school kids everywhere. Their initial impressions and misconceptions were overcome by a shared experience.
                “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” (page 132)
Harry and Ron went from being at odds with Hermione, to being best friends. Which is lucky, since her skill and knowledge proved invaluable in the climactic scene.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a humble beginning to an epic series, but it’s also shows the potential and introduces powerful themes, strong friendships and hints at the ultimate showdown between the evil Voldemort and the young and brave Harry Potter.

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