Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by J.K.Rowling
I think I've mentioned a couple of times (try 600!) that for 13 years I was a Bookseller. As a Bookseller you usually started looking after a couple of nice easy sections such as the Classics, Study Aids or Cookery, checking sales and re-ordering stock until you became a bit of an expert, knowledgable in the most popular study series or which classic was currently on the telly. Inevitably, you would then be asked the Children's Section question... 'Would you like to take over the running of Children's?'
Now, Booksellers usually fell into one of 2 categories at this point. The first type would go out of their way to avoid anything to do with children's books, why? Because they were outright plain terrified that's why! These were grown adults who would rather climb the Eiger than take the back stairs which passed through the children's section for fear of being asked a question and stuck there forever, forced to live out their lives with only a Thomas the Tank Engine display unit and a cuddly Winnie the Pooh for company. I was the second type of Bookseller - 'Sign me up, I'm going to go crackers with this section'!'.
I spent many a happy hour alphabetising Picture Books and reading those lovely children's classics. The company I worked for at the time, clocked quite quickly that children's books were seriously under-represented in the industry and rolled out an away day, training scheme and a discussion board where we could give each other top tips. and it was through this board, I got a message 'There's this book called Harry Potter, it's definitely worth a read'. I rang the Publisher and left a long rambling message and one day a copy of the book arrived addressed to the 'mystery caller' (I had forgotten to leave my name in all the excitement!) Harry Potter magic began to be weaved.
Well we all know what happened next. The book went stratospheric, children and adults fell in love with the novels, successful merchandise was launched, films were released, the wonderful Stephen Fry read the audio books and even now all over Instagram, people still identify themselves by which house they would be sorted into. It super-charged children's Bookselling and from there Young Adult novels and made books for 0-16 year olds a real power house in the Book Industry. It was history making, but best of all? It got people reading again. So after the longest preamble ever, let's get to it shall we?
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy living with his Aunt and Uncle and his cousin, the dreadful Dudley. One day he discovers that not only is he a wizard, but a very famous one because as a baby he was responsible for the downfall of the most dangerous Dark Wizard of them all, Lord Voldemort. One day, he receives a letter confirming he is to attend Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and from there a new magical world is opened up to him. He makes best friends with Ron and Hermione, learns to fly a broomstick, plays Quidditch and meets goblins, trolls, and centaurs. But trouble is brewing. The ancient Philosopher's Stone has been hidden in the school and someone is after it. Are they wanting to bring back Lord Voldemort? Why does Snape hate him so much? Can Harry get to the Philosopher's Stone before something more sinister does?
These books are simply marvellous and this is a great start to the series introducing us to the wizarding world. J.K Rowling has introduced us to the most extraordinary, fascinating and truly magical world and it is a pleasure to be immersed in it. Harry is a great character, not too goody goody, but brave and with a sense of wanting to do the right and fair thing. Hermione is a great role model, intelligent and willing to stand up to her friends and be the voice of reason, whilst Ron is the heart of this group of friends, loyal and at times comedic.
Harry, Hermione and Ron are supported by a great cast of characters; the enigmatic Dumbledore, who knows everything but is rather partial to fluffy bed socks, the giant Hagrid, Groundskeeper and Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts who adores the most vicious creatures and the firm but fair Professor McGonagall. The baddies are great too - child hating caretaker Argus Filch, his sneaky cat Mrs Norris and Severus Snape, dark and foreboding and who detests Harry.
There are many levels to the novel. This first is its obvious appeal to children. I have yet to meet a child who did not want to go to Hogwarts, ride on a broom or have a feast in the Great Hall. It makes children laugh, but the humour is also present at a different level for adults who pick up on certain nuances.
But it is the magic of Hogwarts and the wizarding world that truly shine; Diagion Alley, the magical lessons, the House Cup, and Quidditch. J.K Rowling has crafted a magical world that is a delight to experience. Without Harry Potter, there would have been no Twilight and considerably fewer Young Adult novels.
One of the biggest compliments about the novel came from one of our customers, who appeared one day with her son, both looking absolutely exhausted. She asked when the next book in the series was due to be published. She then explained that she and her son had been reading the books together before bedtime and were so enthralled that they promised themselves 'just one more chapter'. The little boy was going to bed at roughly 2am in the morning because neither Mum nor child could bear to say goodbye to a boy with green eyes and his magical world. And right there we have the essence of the book. It brings adults and children together over a book. What could possibly be more important?