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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Published by Scholastic Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Vernon and Pertunia Dursley were happily normal, thank you very much. Thus it was with much distress that they accepted custody of their orphan nephew, Harry Potter. But they were determined to make the best of it, as they understood the word "best."

To them, that meant making young Harry "normal," even if that meant beating the spirit out of him. Yet somehow there was something in him that refused to be crushed, no matter how hard they exerted themselves. Odd things had a habit of happening around him, and refused to stop happening no matter how harshly or how frequently they punished him. By contrast they unabashedly doted upon their fat, spoiled bully of a son, Dudley, who in their eyes could do no wrong.

Shortly after his eleventh birthday, Harry Potter received a letter that was to take him out of the horrors of number four, Privet Drive and his obnoxious relatives. However, he first had to get it. Vernon Dursley was determined not to let him get it, whatever that might take. The first letter he destroyed. When several more arrived the next day, he nailed the mail slot closed, setting into motion an escalating cycle of ever more letters arriving through unlikely passages -- the windows, the chimney. Even trying to run from them and hide in a miserable hut on the seashore only led to a personal delivery by a giant of a man.

Hagrid has no patience with the Dursleys or their mistreatments of Harry, including keeping him entirely ignorant of his heritage. Harry Potter is a wizard, very famous in the wizarding world. The son of two very powerful magic-users, he is the only person to have survived the curse of a certain very powerful Dark Wizard, one so powerful that people avoid saying his name.

It is now time for Harry to come into his heritage and take his place at Hogwarts, the most famous school of witchcraft and wizardry. Hagrid takes him to London, to the hidden Diagon Alley where the wizarding world secretly co-exists with that of Muggles (ordinary, non-magical people), to purchase his school supplies. Then it's off to Platform Nine and Three-quarters at King's Cross station to catch the train that will carry him to Hogwarts.

But his problems aren't over when he arrives. He may be among his own, but wizards and witches are human too, subject to the same faults and failings as Muggles. If anything, having the power to use magic can make them even more harmful. And while the Dark Lord may have been deeply wounded in his disastrous attack on the infant Harry Potter, he is by no means destroyed. Now Harry must face a prejudiced teacher, a bullying classmate, and a shadowy menace from the past. And even doing the right thing can have bittersweet consequences.

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Review posted September 14, 2000

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