Daily Archives: September 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone review

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

Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998. 978-0-590-35340-3

Reasons for ban/challenge: Anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence

Synopsis: Harry Potter knows there is something different about him, but living with an aunt, uncle, and cousin who despise anything abnormal certainly makes believing it harder. Then, he receives a mysterious letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and without a second thought, is taken into a world where everybody knows his name and regards him as a hero – but he doesn’t know why. Turns out an evil wizard killed his parents and he was the only one to survive, making him more special than he ever thought. Harry meets Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger at Hogwarts, and after saving Hermione from a Mountain Troll, the three forge a friendship that Harry had only dreamed about. The three also uncover a mystery within the Hogwarts walls and it will take each of their own distinct abilities to solve the puzzle and save the school.

Why I picked it up: I had finished reading the third book (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and thought it would be good to go back and read the series from the beginning.

Why I finished it: Fantasy literature had been laying dormant for a long time when Rowling came to the scene with her story about a boy wizard pieced together from notes written on coffee shop napkins and airplane sick bags. Harry hung about in bookstores, unassuming at first, and then suddenly exploded as readers of all ages discovered the wizarding world. The writing is simple, but the world it creates is fantastic, unique, and imaginative in a way that many writers still hope to achieve. Though the book’s primary focus is in the wizard world, the values of friendship and love are what drive the story. It also doesn’t hurt that Harry and his pals have a knack for getting in trouble and finding themselves at the center of conspiracies that threaten their lives and their world. While the reader’s world is not so perilous, they are drawn into this place where magic happens, where there are games centered around flying on a broomstick, where one can transform from cat to woman, where there are jelly beans of every flavor that promise to delight and disgust at the same time, where unicorns and centaurs are part of the natural wildlife. What makes it the most fun to read over and over again is that there is something new to be drawn from the text each time, some new clue to discover, which as the series goes on, add up to the climactic end. Harry originally got on the map by drawing in readers of any age, both avid and reluctant, and will no doubt continue to be discovered by future generations eager to know the Boy Who Lived.

Other related materials: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (movie); Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan; Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor;  The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens; Knightley Academy by Violet Haberdasher; Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins; Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks; The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart;  The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima; Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

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Bridge to Terabithia review

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

HarperCollins, 1977. 978-0-690-04635-9

Reason for challenge/ban: Occult/Satanism, offensive language

Synopsis: Jess Aarons wants to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade, maybe even the whole school. He’s practiced and practiced all summer and can’t wait for school to begin so he can run in the races. On the first day of school, Jess is paired up with new girl Leslie Burke, who has moved into the farmhouse not far from Jess, to race. She beats him and all the other boys in the class, and running no longer becomes fun. Jess and Leslie gradually warm up to each other after Jess saves her from school bully Janice Avery on the bus ride home. While exploring the woods near the farm, the two find a rope hanging from a crab apple tree used to swing across the river. Jess and Leslie then create the magical world of Terabithia, where they are the king and queen. Then, Jess’s world is shattered by tragedy and Leslie’s friendship and love might be the only thing that holds him together.

Why I picked it up: It was a book for a cereal box book report I did when I was in sixth grade.

Why I finished it: This book is reflective of the friendships created by people who seem to have nothing in common. The fact that the friendship is a platonic relationship between a boy and a girl at an age where the two start to notice each other is what allows the story to connect with the reader. Every reader can remember their first best friend in school and how that relationship shaped them and the gift of strength and courage that comes from having someone you know will stick by you in all things in all circumstances. It is a story about the power of imagination and the certain magic of everyday things that create an escape from school and family. It makes us realize that even the simplest things are not simple, that people are not who they first appear to be, and that love comes in all forms. Jess and Leslie’s friendship helps them grow in a sense of self-reliance and interdependence that makes them able to deal with whatever comes their way. It’s a moving portrait of what it is like to grow up, to learn, and to remember the little things that make life so precious.

Other related materials: Bridge to Terabithia (movie); Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli; Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli; Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli; The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman; The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson; M.C. Higgins, The Great by Virginia Hamilton; Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh; Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia McLachlan; The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reed Banks; Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech; Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; The Misfits by James Howe; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

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