Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (#1) by JK Rowling

Published: June 26th 1997Goodreads badge
Bloomsbury Publishing
Pages: 223
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

What Rowling has managed to do from her very first book, is create an entire world, history and character base, but she has also sneakily then refused to divulge any of it. Instead, we get snippets and trickles of information and acts, we learn as Harry learns, but we also get blocked when he does. What Rowling does not want us knowing, what Rowling does not need to tell us, we do not find out. This leads you very eagerly into the sequels I assure you.

What makes Harry as a character so charming is his age I think, but also his innocent naivety and contrasting instinct that he has to help. It’s a weird thing, this 11 year old, who never knew abut magic, the wizarding world, or about the feared He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, yet he still leaps almost instantly into saving it. It is the wonderful courage he has and the deep down sense that he should be doing it and it is his role. We certainly see enough of this reasoning later on.

There are clues hidden throughout, laughs and emotion, always a good combination. But we also get so much more than a basic introduction into a new world, we get enough but not everything, but we also get so much more than you probably ever expected.

The characters are quirky, charming, hilarious, and even the ones you dislike you enjoy reading about. There’s mystery but there’s also exploration of this new wizarding world as Rowling opens the reader up to all the possibilities while not overloading us. It’s the ideal balance of story and information, with more than enough left over to entice us to keep reading, mixed together with seamless precision. As an introduction to a series and a whole complicated world, Rowling has done an impeccable job.

Fun Facts

Written in numerous cafés around Edinburgh, including one called The Elephant House which has a plaque commemorating this.

Is 76 944 words, making it the shortest of the series.

Written between approximately June 1990 and some time in 1995.

First published 26 June 1997 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Cover art was by Thomas Taylor. You can read a fascinating post about him and the cover here.

Called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States because US publisher Scholastic thought that a child wouldn’t buy a book with the word “philosopher” in the title. I mean, really.

The novel won most of the British book awards that were judged by children.

Reached the top of the New York Times list of best-selling fiction in August 1999 and stayed near the top of that list for much of 1999 and 2000.

It has been translated into at least sixty-seven other languages, all of which have gorgeous covers you can see here. (I particularly love the Italian one. Is there a scene where there is a moment with Harry wearing a giant rat hat? I also love the Spanish version because it makes Harry look like a child, unlike the English one where I’ve always thought he looks about 30.)

An illustrated version was released in October 2015, with illustrations by Jim Kay.

Prices for first edition first printings go up to around $6,500 with a selection between $4,000 and $5,000.

A first edition copy containing a rare typo is expected to fetch up to $34,000 at auction.

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