Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone #HarryPotter20

As many of you will no doubt be aware, Monday was the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the first book in the Harry Potter series. To mark this occasion Bloomsbury, the publisher who took a risk on an unknown author’s debut in 1997, have produced a set of special editions of her creation. These new versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone are Hogwart’s house themed and available in hardback or paperback.

As the anniversary fell during Independent Bookshop Week (IBW2017) Bloomsbury also commissioned a limited number of tote bags available only in the bookshops that have previously taken part in the IBW celebrations. On Saturday my daughter (who was also born in 1997) and I visited one of my favourite independent bookshops, Mr Bs Emporium of Reading Delights, and came away with a bag each along with hardback copies for the houses Pottermore had previously sorted us into – Ravenclaw and Slytherin. We are both fans of JK Rowling’s wizarding world. As well as the books and films we have enjoyed a fabulous day out at the Warner Brothers studio tour, and my daughter has been to see Harry Potter And The Cursed Child  on stage in London.

It all started though with this book. My review today is of our newly purchased twentieth anniversary editions which each contain extra house themed content. I have read my Ravenclaw book cover to cover and the extras from my daughter’s Slytherin version to compare.

The main story, of course, remains the same as that which I read all those years ago in my now battered original which has passed through the hands of myself and my three children for our numerous rereads.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by JK Rowling, tells the story of the eponymous boy wizard, the boy who lived. Following the death of his parents when he was an infant, Harry has been raised by his aunt and uncle who do not tell him of his magical forebears. With his eleventh birthday approaching Harry starts to receive letters which his uncle destroys before he can read them. It takes a personal visit from Hagrid, trusted gamekeeper at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, for the boy to discover his background and that he has a place at the school.

Each book in the series covers an academic year. With this being Harry’s first he must face every challenge that a new school presents, including classmates. He quickly makes friends with Ron Weasley whose large and somewhat impoverished family are looked down on by Harry’s new rival, Draco Malfoy. Following an incident with a mountain troll, Ron and Harry also befriend Hermione Grainger.

The trio discover that something is being hidden within their school, something valuable and possibly dangerous. Hagrid unintentionally offers clues and the youngsters wilful determination to find out more leads them into numerous escapades. Alongside this they must hone their magical skills. Harry also discovers that he is a natural at Quidditch, the sport of wizards.

The denouement will bring Harry face to face for the second time with his nemesis, and thereby sets the scene for the main plot that runs through all of the books in the series.

The writing is polished and engaging. The inventive wit, especially around language, adds humour to what is an intriguing fantasy adventure. This book has justifiably been credited with encouraging a generation of children to read. It also stands up well to repeated rereading. Despite knowing the story well I enjoyed, once again, immersing myself in this world.

The extras in the twentieth anniversary editions offer information on the history of the chosen house, its founder, relic, livery, ghost, common room and significant alumni. Each also contains detail on how first years are sorted and a fun little quiz.

They are beautifully presented, fabulous for those who are familiar with the whole series from the books or perhaps the films. If coming into the Harry Potter world for the first time be aware, the extras contain spoilers from later books.

Buying this was an indulgence but worthwhile for the pleasure it gives. I hope Bloomsbury produce similar editions for the remaining books in the series as they would make a fabulous, collectable set.

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