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