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coverSlow Start, Improves Immensely; I'll Buy More
Harry Potter & the <something> Stone
Well, i just finished the first "Harry Potter" book.

I find it interesting that, among all of the honours it's won, listed on the back cover, there is no mention of the Newbery Medal or Newbery Honorable Mention status -- they ARE still awarding the Newbery for outstanding children's/YA fiction, aren't they?

I was a bit worried at first, actually holding the book in my hand and reading the blurbs, to find it compared by more than one blurb-writer to the children's books of Roald Dahl (e.g., "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or "James and the Giant Peach").

I happens that i abhominate the children's books of Roald Dahl.

And, at first, it looked as if the blurbs were right -- it was just as twee and arch and coy as Dahl and came across as just as aware of its own cleverness. ((In Dahl's case this reads like a smarmy condecension to the Dear Little Kiddies' Limited Comprehension; in the case of this book it seemed like a First-Time Author trying to be Clever because That's What Kiddies Like...))

And the opening pages, in which she demonstrated her arch inventiveness with such strokes as "Muggles" to mean non-magician humans, and described Harry's home life with his uncle and aunt and cousin in such over-the-top whimsical terms that i almost got seasick reading them, almost put me off the book entirely.

But i persevered and finally got to Chapter Four, in which Harry finds out just who and what he is and his dead parents were and receives his invitation to attend Hogwarts School, the premier school of magic in the World. From there on it's a pretty straightforward Term story, except that the main subject at THIS school is Magic. Harry makes friends, makes enemies, becomes a star on his House's Quidditch team and deduces that one of the Masters is Up To No Good and Must Be Thwarted.

I sort of wonder if the author didn't experience the Mimieux Effect -- i read that when George Pal began filming "The Time Machine", Yvette Mimieux was ((actually)) slightly underage and had never acted in movies before. By the time they finished making the film, they had to go back and reshoot several of her early scenes, because she'd learnt so much about acting in the course of the shoot -- since i understand she is a young single mother who began writing this on scraps of paper in London(?) coffeehouses.

However, Harry and his friends are fun in the Term sequences, and the quest he and two others undertake is sufficiently interesting that it carried me straight along to the end and left me deciding i WILL read the next one -- even if the quest's working-out DID remind me of quest-fantasy computer game...

For those who have read the books of DIana Wynne Jones -- particularly the "Chrestomanci" books, which have similar themes to the "Harry Potter" books, the comparison between Jones and Rowling is natural; i would definitely recommend Jones's books to anyone who has enjoyed the "Harry Potter" volumes.

A point of irritation is that the American publisher apparently feels that those of us in the USA are not sufficiently intelligent or well-educated to understand some things, and has made changes in the text for the US edition -- up to and including changing the title; the "real" title is "...and the Philosopher's Stone". I strongly suspect that there have been changes in the text as well in this book and in "Chamber of Secrets"... i haven't read the other two to check yet.