Cursed Child #1: Act 1, Scenes 1-3

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Oh my gosh, you guys, I am so excited about this! I’ve been wanting to read this play ever since it came out in book form. There’s no way that I would be able to get to London to see it in person, so this is the best that I have.

Here’s what I know about the production:

  • There was some sort of controversy because they cast a Black actress as Hermione.

Here’s what I know about the story:

  • It has something to do with the kids of the original kids from the books.

That’s really all I know. I have been strangely unspoiled for this story. I know next to nothing about it. Which is exciting! I know it won’t match the feeling of getting the original books back in the day, but it’s still pretty cool.

Also, just briefly, because I feel obligated to do so: SPOILER WARNING! I will be going in depth about what happens in the play, but also discussing how they relate to the books. The last Harry Potter book was published 10 years ago, so if you’re spoiled by my reviews, well, you should have read them before now. So there.

I can already tell that this is going to be a very different experience, just because of the format. I’m used to reading scripts, both from being in community theater productions and from studying Shakespeare and other playwrights in college, but having those scripts being part of a Harry Potter story . . . it’s a bit odd, I won’t lie. It means that I had to plan out how to do this, since I can’t rely on doing a chapter at a time – there are no chapters! So let’s jump in.

Scene 1 – King’s Cross

The first scene is only two pages long, so it’s a good thing I’m not doing a review for each scene. That would take forever! Still, this scene is sweet. It takes place just before the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We see Harry Potter, his wife Ginny (Weasley, of course), and their kids: James (the oldest), Albus (age 11, headed for his first year at Hogwarts), and Lilly (the youngest, riding on Harry’s shoulders). I’m not sure how old the other two kids are. It doesn’t say, although it does mention that Harry is 37 at this point.

The two brothers are behaving just how brothers do. James is ribbing Albus about the possibility of getting sorted into Slytherin (I’m assuming at this point that James is another Potter Gryffindor). They are at Kings Cross station, heading to the brick wall that will lead them to Platform 9 3/4.

There’s a cute moment where Albus asks his parents to write to him, but not TOO much because according to James (who naturally knows everything), he should only expect letters from home once a month.

HARRY: We wrote to your brother three times a week last year.

ALBUS: What? James!

Hee hee! So it sounds like maybe James is only one year ahead of Albus in school? Maybe had first year jitters of his own?

I had to admit, this last bit of the scene made me smile. Heading into the platform, Harry gives Albus this bit of advice.

HARRY: Best to do it at a run if you’re nervous.

That’s the same advice Mrs. Weasley gave him all those years ago! All the feels!

Scene 2 – Platform Nine and Three Quarters

They make it to the Platform, and all the children are suitably impressed. They also meet up with more familiar faces: Ron, Hermione and their daughter, Rose.

LILLY: Uncle Ron! Uncle Ron!

RON turns towards them as LILLY goes barreling up to him. He picks her up into his arms.

RON: If it isn’t my favorite Potter.

This is so cute! I have a feeling that Ron is a very good dad and uncle, in a silly bad-dad-joke sort of way.

There’s also this:

HARRY: Parked all right, then?

RON: I did. Hermione didn’t believe I could pass a Muggle driving test, did you? She thought I’d have to Confund the examiner.

HERMIONE: I thought nothing of the kind, I have complete faith in you.

ROSE: And I have complete faith he did Confund the examiner.

Seems like Rose inherited some sass! I love it!

This scene is interesting because a lot of the dialogue is from the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, pretty much word for word. There’s more added to it, fleshing the scene out even more. For example, we see more of Albus’s fear that he will be sorted into Slytherin, but we also see Harry reassure him that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Harry tells him, just like in Deathly Hallows that he was named after a Slytherin, who was one of the bravest men that he had ever known, but that also, the Sorting Hat will take your feelings into account.

Remembering back to The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry was also terrified about being sorted into Slytherin and begged the Hat to put him anywhere else. I’ve often wondered, knowing what we know now, what would have happened if Harry had been sorted into Slytherin. Would he have ended up friends with Draco Malfoy? I can’t imagine that Harry would have participated in the bullying that seemed prevalent with that group, especially since he was bullied so much by his cousin. I just wonder how his relationship with Dumbledore would have been different, not to mention his relationship with Snape. Imagine if he had to have Snape as his Head of House! Would that have made Snape go a bit easier on him? Probably not, given Snape’s history, but you never know. Maybe Snape would have actually given Harry more of a chance. I’ve often wondered how different things would have been if Snape could have moved past his bitterness towards Harry’s father (which, of course, Harry had no control over) and actually been more of a mentor to Harry.

I’m sure there are fanfictions a plenty that speculate on this in greater detail. I’ve learned that when it comes to Harry Potter, there is a fanfiction about everything. Every. Thing. It’s a bit scary.

As the kids board the train to leave, Harry thinks for a moment that it’s odd that Albus is so scared about being sorted into Slytherin. Then there’s this moment.

RON: You know, Gin, we always thought there was a chance you could be sorted into Slytherin.

GINNY: What?

RON: Honestly, Fred and George ran a book.

My first reaction is laughter because this is really funny and totally something the twins would do. My second reaction is absolute devastation because FRED!!!! Pardon me while I go cry in the corner for a while. Seriously, worst death of the series. Worse than Dumbledore for me.

They get ready to leave, because people are looking – these are famous war heroes, after all.

GINNY: Harry . . . He’ll be all right, won’t he?

HARRY: Of course he will.

This makes me wonder why they are so concerned about Albus. Were they this worried about James when he left for Hogwarts the first time? I’m sure each kid is different, but maybe James was just more confident in a rough-and-tumble way. Maybe Albus is just the more quiet and sensitive of the two, which would make them worry more.

Scene 3 – The Hogwarts Express

We get to know Albus and Rose a bit more in this scene and, to be honest, I’m not sure I like Rose all that much. I want to like her. She’s Ron and Hermione’s daughter. I love Ron and Hermione is my spirit sister, so I should like their kid, right?

Eh.

We see in the previous seen that Rose is a bit ambitious (no idea where she got that from *cough*Hermione*cough*). She wants to score well in school and be a star on the Quidditch team.

But then there’s this:

ROSE: Al. We need to concentrate.

ALBUS: Concentrate on what?

ROSE: On who we choose to be friends with. My mum and dad met your dad on their first Hogwarts Express, you know . . .

ALBUS: So we need to choose now who to be friends with for life? That’s quite scary.

ROSE: On the contrary, it’s exciting. I’m a Granger-Weasley, you’re a Potter – everyone will want to be friends with us, we’ve got the pick of anyone we want.

Oh, Rose, Rose, Rose. I love how she assumes that because their parents all met on the train that that’s where they became friends. So not the case, sweetie. Your mum and dad may have met on the train, but they HATED each other. She has so much confidence and is just so smug about it. She knows everyone will want to be their friends because of their status and who their parents are. That sure doesn’t sound like Ron and Hermione. That sounds more like another peer of theirs back in the day . . .

Rose decides that they should check out all the compartments, rate all the occupants on whether or not they would be suitable friends, and then decide where to sit. Okay, I’m just calling it – Rose gets sorted into Slytherin. The ambition on this girl is astronomical!

The first compartment the open only has one occupant – a young kid who introduces himself as Scorpious. Albus doesn’t know who he is, but Rose recognizes him immediately. Scorpious seems like a nice kid, who offers them some of his candy stash because he mum told him that sharing candy would help him make friends. Aw! I feel bad for this kid already! Albus immediately takes him up on the offer, and immediately Rose starts hitting him to try and get him to leave with her. Unfortunately, her ambition does not come with any sort of stealth, because Scorpious notices immediately.

SCORPIOUS: She’s hitting you because of me.

Naturally, Albus doesn’t know what he’s talking about, because it’s crazy. Scorpious reveals that he knows exactly who Albus and Rose are and who their families are. He also reveals that he is the son of Astoria and Draco Malfoy.

Rose, being Rose, doesn’t want to talk about anything, but Scorpious is quick to say that “the rumor” is not true.

SCORPIOUS: The rumor is that my parents couldn’t have children. That my father and my grandfather were so desperate for a powerful heir, to prevent the end of the Malfoy line, that they . . . that they used a Time-Turner to send my mother back . . .

ALBUS: To send her back where?

ROSE: The rumor is that he’s Voldemort’s son, Albus.

A horrible, uncomfortable silence.

It’s probably rubbish. I mean . . . look, you’ve got a nose.

That last part made me laugh out loud, but seriously, this poor kid! Imagine starting school with that hanging over you! It’s terrible! I know that the pure bloods were very concerned with their family lines and, let’s face it, that does sound like something that Lucius might have considered if he found out Draco couldn’t produce an heir. I can’t imagine that Draco would go that far though. By the end of Deathly Hallows, Draco seemed pretty disillusioned with the whole Death Eater thing. Not to mention that he would have to live with the fact that he sent his wife back in time to . . . you know . . . EEWWWWW!!!!

Rose says that they should probably sit somewhere else, but Albus doesn’t want to go. She storms off in a bit of a huff, leaving Albus and Scorpious to share their sweets and start to become friends. It was cute. Reminiscent of Harry and Ron meeting on the train their first year, although some very clear differences, of course.

All right, for an opening, it’s definitely got my attention. And I have to admit, it feels good to be riding on the Hogwarts Express again! I’m going to try to update these every Friday, so check back next week to see the next bit! If you’ve read this, let me know what you thought of the first scenes!

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Banned Books Week 2016

Happy Banned Books Week everyone! This is a week where we celebrate books that have been challenged or banned and also celebrate the freedom to read and write books that help to express ideas and feelings, even if it is unpopular or uncomfortable.

I have always been a big fan of raising awareness for Banned Books Week, mostly because I am very much against censorship. There are so many documented cases where books have been removed from class curriculums, or removed from school libraries altogether, usually due to complaints from parents or school board members who have never even read the book in question. They are afraid that certain subject matter might scar their children for life and that they must shield them from this at all costs.

To some respects, I understand. There is a difference between something not being age appropriate and a subject that you just don’t want your kid to read about. Many of the books that have been banned or challenged share similar themes, the most common one being anything to do with sexuality. True, I don’t think that books like 50 Shades of Gray belong in a classroom, but you have to be pretty naïve to think that your teenage son or daughter isn’t already thinking or talking about sex. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

Part of what bothers me is that in most cases, if a teacher assigns a book that they know might cause issues, they typically have a permission slip to be signed by the parents, and a second book choice if the parents deem the book as inappropriate for their child. Sadly, this isn’t usually enough, even though it seems perfectly fair to me. They aren’t forcing your kid to read the book, but by taking action against it, you are preventing other kids from reading a book that might have just the message they need at that time.

A lot of the books that have been banned, both this year and in years past, have helped students deal with issues like bullying, abuse, questions about their sexuality, drugs, and lots of other subjects that they are exposed to daily, whether in their schools or from what they see online. The best thing about reading these books is that it opens up a dialogue that can allow students to talk through these issues with each other in class, but also to help parents to engage in important conversations with their kids that they may have not otherwise had an opening into. That is such a valuable thing.

I can’t count the number of times a book has opened my mind up to new possibilities, new cultures, and new ideas. That’s what books are for, and shutting off that valuable resource does not protect our kids. Generally, it does the opposite.

The American Library Association has loads of resources to find out more about banned books, including the top ten most banned or challenged books for 2015 and for each year going back to 2001. Shout out to one of my favorite authors, John Green, for getting the top spot last year for his novel, Looking for Alaska. I love this book, and I am always glad when teachers and librarians stand up for it.

Speaking of Mr. Green, here are a couple of videos I recommend where he speaks on the matter: one from this year, and one from 2008 in response to a specific challenge incident.

One other thing the ALA has on their website are a few discussion questions. I’ve decided to pose one each day this week here, along with my answer, and hopefully you guys will also answer. Because discussion is fun!

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The Harry Potter books, definitely. They were mostly challenged in the early 2000s, for reasons of “anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence.”

Um, what?

First off, how can anyone read those books and think they are anti-family? They are anti-Dursleys, that’s for sure, but that is more anti-abusive-family, not families in general. The Weasleys are one of best families in all of literature as far as I’m concerned, and how are they not a great example of what a family should be: warm, loving, supportive, and accepting of all people. They are the only true family Harry has known, and they love him as if he was their own son/brother. Show me the anti-family message here.

Okay, the next points here are “occult/Satanism/religions view point.” I can’t believe I have to actually say this but – these books are fiction. I don’t know how anyone could think otherwise. The books do not promote any sort of religious practice, and certainly don’t promote anything Satanic. It’s magic spells at a magic school, not some sort of textbook on witchcraft. Do you really think that your child wouldn’t be able to tell the difference? That shows a severe lack of confidence in your child’s critical thinking skills. And are you seriously giving your kid a childhood devoid of anything magical? That’s just sad.

Last point – “violence.” This is the only one I can sort of understand. The last books especially get increasingly more intense. The characters are fighting a war, after all. In spite of this, I don’t think any of the violence is gratuitous or graphic, and it certainly isn’t celebrated. It is made very clear that acts of violence have consequences, which is a very good lesson, especially for children. There is a very obvious line between good and evil.

So to sum up, I believe that these claims are unfounded or over-exaggerated. I also believe that the overarching themes of love and friendship and loyalty far outweigh any complaints that the book banners could have.

Please leave your answer, or a link to your blog post, in comments. Happy Banned Books week!

HP Chapter-A-Long: Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter 5

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Chapter 5: Diagon Alley

I am going to keep doing this, I promise! Sure, it’s been a bit sporadic, but I’m trying to get better. My goal is to do this on Fridays now. We’ll see how that goes.

We last left young Harry after being completely shocked that a gigantic man came to hand deliver the letter that Harry’s uncle had refused to let him see. The next day when he wakes up:

“It was a dream,” he told himself firmly. “I dreamed a giant called Hagrid came to tell me I was going to a school for wizards. When I open my eyes I’ll be at home in my cupboard.”

Aw, sweetie. It’s not a dream. It’s only beginning.

Harry discovers quickly that it wasn’t a dream and he and Hagrid set off, but not before Hagrid drops the bomb that Harry actually has money that his parents left for him, and it’s at a wizarding bank run by goblins. It’s really a wonder that this poor kid didn’t drop dead from the shock of it all.

They travel to London, which of course leads them to the Leaky Cauldron, and soon to Diagon Alley. Harry is in for another shock when all the people in the Leaky Cauldron pub not only recognize him, but are thrilled and honored to finally meet him. For a kid who’s always been treated like dirt, suddenly being the center of adoration must have been completely foreign and slightly uncomfortable. Harry also meets a character who I like to call “J.K.-Rowling’s-First-Masterful-Misdirection.” Also known as Professor Quirrell, the current Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

“D-Defense Against the D-D-Dark Arts,” muttered Professor Quirrell, as though he’d rather not think about it. “N-not that you n-need it, eh, P-P-Potter?” He laughed nervously. “You’ll be g-getting all your equipment, I suppose? I’ve g-got to p-pick up a new b-book on vampires, m-myself.” He looked terrified at the very thought.

Who, when the first read this book, pegged this guy as the villain? Anyone? I sure didn’t. Although, to be fair, my introduction with the Harry Potter world started with the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, which was immediately followed by the book, but even in the movie – I never suspected Quirrell of anything at first. It wasn’t until the end when he was revealed that she BLEW MY MIND.

But anyway.

Harry and Hagrid make their way to Diagon Alley, which I have to say, is one of the things I wish I had seen in the movie after reading the book instead of before. I can’t imagine how exciting it must have been to see this magical wonderful place brought to life. I had no expectations of it, so it was still really cool, but not something I had been waiting and waiting to see. I want to visit Diagon Alley so much, especially Flourish and Blotts (the bookstore, naturally).

While at Diagon Alley, we do meet another character who becomes slightly important later on, and unlike Quirrell, I had this one pegged as a pain in the butt from the start.

In the back of the shop, a boy with a pale, pointed face was standing on a footstool while a second witch pinned up his long black robes.

Enter Draco Malfoy, snobby rich kid and bigot extraordinaire. We don’t learn his name here, but it’s obvious that we aren’t done with him.

“Where are your parents?”

“They’re dead,” said Harry shortly. He didn’t feel much like going into the matter with this boy.

“Oh, sorry,” said the other, not sounding sorry at all. “But they were our kind, weren’t they?

“They were a witch and wizard, if that’s what you mean.”

“I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not the same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families. What’s your surname anyway?”

Yeah, he’s a real peach, isn’t he. And I have to wait two more books before Hermione slaps him upside his stupid face. Darn.

Harry and Hagrid continue their shopping, including a stop at Ollivander’s to buy Harry his wand. Mr. Ollivander is creepy as can be, but finds the perfect wand for Harry, a wand that has a very unique property. Each wand has a special substance in the core: unicorn hair, dragon heartstring, phoenix feather. The wand that chooses Harry has a phoenix feather inside it and, according to Ollivander, the phoenix that gave that feather gave one other feather – which happened to be the core of Voldemort’s wand. That’s not traumatic to drop on the kid, no not at all.

Have I mentioned again how amazed I am that Harry is such a well-adjusted child?

Once they are done with their shopping, Hagrid takes Harry back to the train station to send him back to the Dursleys for the rest of the summer. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Harry arrived back home again, after all the insanity that happened in the house on the rocks. Harry is feeling, understandably, overwhelmed

“Everyone thinks I’m special,” he said at last. “All those people in the Leaky Cauldron, Professor Quirrell, Mr. Ollivander . . . but I don’t know anything about magic at all. How can they expect great things? I’m famous and I can’t even remember what I’m famous for.”

I can’t imagine how hard it must be to go from being the house pariah to being hailed as the greatest wizard boy in the world. Harry’s head must be spinning. Hagrid is quick to reassure him that everyone starts from the beginning at Hogwarts and that Harry will be absolutely fine. He gives Harry is train ticket to get to school and, as Harry heads back to the Dursley’s, Hagrid disappears.

Whew! So many things happen to Harry so fast, but he’s nothing if not a survivor. Next chapter, we meet more important characters and get on the train to Hogwarts!

 

HP Chapter-A-Long: Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter 4

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Chapter 4 – The Keeper of the Keys

I love this chapter, I really do! The Dursleys needed to be put in their place and, gosh darn it, Hagrid is the perfect person to do it!

And besides, it’s Hagrid! Hagrid Hagrid Hagrid! I love Hagrid, I truly do.

But let’s start this off by looking at it from Harry and the Dursley’s point of view. Something is banging on the door, so hard that the door completely falls off the hinges and crashes to the floor. Then this enormous man comes through said door and asks for a cup of tea. I might be a little freaked out about this, especially since he recognizes Harry immediately.

I also found in incredibly funny that Vernon is packing. Have you ever seen anyone less likely to know how to handle a gun?

Vernon tells Hagrid in no uncertain terms to leave, but Hagrid will have none of it. He destroys the gun, showing just how strong and powerful he is – don’t let those friendly crinkly eyes fool you. Sure, he’s a big ole teddy bear, but if you get on his bad side, Hagrid can tear you apart.

This part of the chapter also begins the list of things that Hagrid manages to fit into the pockets of his coat. This is one amazing coat and we’re going to keep a tally of what all he can pull out of that thing.

  • A slightly squashed box containing a birthday cake
  • A copper kettle
  • A package of sausages
  • A fireplace poker
  • A teapot
  • Several mugs
  • A bottle of booze

Harry is, of course, confused by all this. Hagrid explains that he’s the Keeper of Keys for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which just confuses Harry even more. He has no idea what Hagrid is talking about. And now we have another example of why, even though Hagrid is a sweetheart, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Hagrid is livid when he discovers that the Dursleys have kept Harry completely in the dark about his past, about what he is, and particularly about who his parents were and what they did. Vernon tries to step in, but you really don’t want to try and interrupt Hagrid, now do you?

“Harry – yer a wizard.”

And now Harry’s life will completely change. Hagrid gives him a copy of the letter that Harry has been trying so hard to receive (and now its addressed to “Mr. H. Potter, The Floor, Hut-on-the-Rock, The Sea” – this will never stop being funny). It is the now famous Hogwarts letter, the one eleven year olds all over the world now hope to get. Oh, and we need  to add a few more things to our list of what’s in Hagrid’s coat.

  • Harry’s Hogwarts letter
  • An owl
  • A roll of parchment
  • A quill

The Dursleys give one more try to reassert their . . . something. Vernon says that Harry is not going to wizard school and, when questioned further, Petunia looses it. She vents her feelings about her sister, who was clearly the favorite in their family growing up (and for good reason it seems), about how she was accepted into Hogwarts and always came home doing weird things. Petunia thought Lilly was a freak and hated the fact that everyone else loved that Lilly could do magic. Petunia also lets slip that the Potters got “blown up” instead of dying in a car crash, which leads Hagrid to explain to Harry what really happened to his parents.

I can’t imagine what this was like for Harry. It’s sad enough to be orphaned, to loose both of your parents before you can even remember their faces. It’s bad enough to be left with horrible family members that treat you like dirt. But then to find out that your parents were murdered by the equivalent of Wizard Hitler, who tried to also kill you, and for some reason couldn’t do it. Something about Harry completely destroyed Wizard Hitler (or Voldemort, which is his actual name). Oh, and by the way Harry, you’re completely famous.

As Hagrid keeps talking, Harry realizes that a number of things are starting to make more sense – how he had been able to do seemingly impossible things whenever he was angry or scared (remember the snake at the zoo!!). Of course, Vernon has to be there to mess it all up. He insists that Harry will not be going to school, finally taking things a step too far.

“I AM NOT PAYING FOR SOME CRACKPOT OLD FOOL TO TEACH HIM MAGIC TRICKS!” yelled Uncle Vernon.

But he had finally gone too far. Hagrid seized his umbrella and whirled it over his head, “NEVER – ” he thundered, ” – INSULT – ALBUS – DUMBLEDORE – IN – FRONT – OF – ME!”

While I would have loved to see Hagrid do something to Vernon, who clearly needs to be taken down a peg or two (or five), Hagrid instead gives Dudley a nice curly pigs tail. That’s it for the Dursleys. They scream and run into the next room, slamming the door. Hagrid tells Harry that he really isn’t supposed to do magic because he was expelled from Hogwarts in his third year. Harry asks why, but Hagrid changes the subject. He gives Harry is coat to use as a blanket, which leaves us with the last thing to add to our list of stuff Hagrid has in his coat.

  • mice

I’m a little concerned for these mice, since Hagrid usually carries an owl as well. But that brings us to the end of the chapter. Next week, we’ll read chapter 5!

HP Chapter-A-Long: Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 – Letters From No One

In this chapter, Harry receives not one, but many letters that his uncle is determined to keep from him. This is the part where we get to see Uncle Vernon go completely bonkers. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer fella. 🙂

Before we get too far though, let’s take a look at the first paragraph. Because I have issues with this.

The escape of the Brazilian boa constrictor earned Harry his longest-ever punishment. By the time he was allowed out of his cupboard again, the summer holidays had started and Dudley had already broken his new video camera, crashed his remote control airplane, and, first time out on his racing bike, knocked down old Mrs. Figg as she crossed Privet Drive on her crutches.

So . . . it doesn’t really say when Dudley’s birthday is, but . . . they locked Harry in his cupboard until summer vacation? Does this mean that he didn’t go to school? Did the school have anything to say about that? Did they even feed the boy? Remember, he is living in a tiny closet. He spent weeks, if not months, locked in there. THESE PEOPLE ARE HORRIBLE!!!!

Also, I’m going to guess that even though Dudley is being reckless and destructive, he’s not being punished AT ALL. Lock that one in a cupboard for a while, won’t ya? Sheesh.

The nice thing is that next year, for the first time, Dudley and Harry will be going to different schools. This is still true, although Harry goes to a far more different school than planned. Harry is glad that he will finally be able to escape Dudley and his friends, although Dudley has told him horrible things about Stonewall High. But it couldn’t be any worse than going to school with Dudley, could it? The mail comes and here’s the bit we’ve all been waiting for.

Harry gets a letter.

Mr. H. Potter

The Cupboard Under the Stairs

4 Privet Drive

Little Whinging

Surrey

See, when I first read these, I was already an adult. So there was never any anticipation about whether or not I would ever get a Hogwarts letter. My kids are still hoping though, so I guess I will live vicariously through them.

Vernon sees the letter and freaks out. He takes it away and, after a hurried talk with Petunia, burns it. Harry is obviously none too happy about it, but there isn’t much he can do. This also leads to the Dursleys deciding to actually give Harry a bedroom, since they think that whoever sent the letter is watching the house because they knew where Harry sleeps. They give Harry Dudley’s second bedroom. Yes, you read that right. SECOND bedroom. Because Dudley is such a wretched little spoiled brat that all his crap can’t fit in just one room. Dudley, as expected, throws an absolute fit about this, but is bewildered when his fit does absolutely nothing. The room is filled with all the toys and things that Dudley has broken over the years, including a television that he put his foot through during a tantrum when his favorite show got cancelled.

Sigh.

None of this does the Dursleys any good though, because another letter arrives, this time addressed to “The Smallest Bedroom.” Vernon once again takes the letter and destroys it, so Harry decides to get up early and wait for the postman to come himself. Unfortunately Vernon expects this and sleeps in front of the door in order to catch him. That day, three letters arrive.

And here comes my favorite bit of the chapter – Uncle Vernon completely loses his mind.

He stays home and boards up the mail slot, using a piece of fruitcake at one point as a hammer (wow, that’s some really bad fruitcake). Does this work?

On Friday, no less than twelve letters arrived for Harry. As they couldn’t go through the mail slot they had been pushed under the door, slotted through the sides, and a few even forced through the small window in the downstairs bathroom.

Now Vernon boards up the entire door, and the back door too for good measure. No one can get in or out of the house. The milkman has to deliver the eggs through the window. At this point, I can’t help but guess that the neighbors are starting to notice that something strange is going on and, since the Dursleys worry so much about what people think . . . yeah, it makes me smile a little.

And there were letters hidden inside each of the two dozen eggs, by the way. How the heck did they do that? Oh yeah, magic. Moving on.

On Sunday, Vernon feels like he can relax. Mail isn’t delivered on Sunday, right? Right? WRONG!!!

Something came whizzing down the kitchen chimney as he (Vernon) spoke and caught him sharply on the back of the head. Next moment, thirty or forty letters came pelting out of the fireplace like bullets. The Dursleys ducked, but Harry leapt into the air trying to catch one –

This scene has become so iconic because of the movie, almost a symbol for the entire series – Harry jumping into the air as letters fly all around him.

The Dursleys (and Harry) take to the road. Vernon spends most of the time muttering to himself and trying to shake off some invisible pursuer. The mind, it is gone. They stop at a hotel, where a bunch of the letters are waiting at the desk.  Oh and have I mentioned that throughout this whole trip Dudley is completely miserable? He can’t eat everything in sight, he can’t loaf around and watch television. He has made himself cry, but to no avail. His misery delights me.

Their final destination is a small rental house on a rock out off the coast. Vernon is thrilled that there are storm warnings, thinking that nothing could possibly get to them here in the middle of nowhere. They settle down for the night, Harry sleeping on the floor with the only blanket he could find, when Harry realizes something. The next day is his birthday. He will be turning eleven. He can see Dudley’s watch and sees that it’s almost midnight, which means that his birthday is almost here.

One minute to go and he’d be eleven. Thirty seconds . . . twenty . . . ten . . . nine – maybe he’d wake Dudley up, just to annoy him – three . . . two . . . one . . .

BOOM.

The whole shack shivered and Harry sat bolt upright, staring at the door. Someone was outside, knocking to come in.

Thus ends the chapter, with the arrival of someone who will turn out to be one of the most beloved characters in the entire series. This is the point where young Harry’s life will be irrevocably changed forever. Hey, even without the whole magic thing, I’m just glad he gets to get away from the Dursleys.

HP Chapter-A-Long: Sorcerer’s Stone Chapter 2

HPSS

Greetings one and all! And welcome to Chapter 2 of my re-read of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In this chapter, we get our first look at what Harry Potter is really like (since all we saw was a baby in Chapter 1).

Here’s my take: Harry Potter is a nice, thoughtful, normal boy (magic aside, of course). As far as I’m concerned, that is a bloody miracle.

And yes, in honor of good ole HP, I will be interjecting Britishisms throughout these posts. Because they’re bloody brilliant. Good? Good.

Harry has lived with his aunt, uncle and cousin for ten years. That has been ten years of being abused, neglected, and treated like he was dirt on the bottom of their shoes. How on earth did he end up without severe emotional issues? How? The Dursleys never even gave him a bedroom in their house – the poor kid has to sleep in a tiny closet (excuse me, Britishisms here, that’s a cupboard) under their stairs. Not to mention the fact that he is constantly made to do all the chores and pretty much wait on them hand and food. His cousin Dudley routinely beats Harry up at school (which I’m sure goes unpunished). But let’s talk for a second about Dudley.

It’s Dudley’s birthday (um, yay?). He has received thirty-seven presents. My birthday is directly after Christmas, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten thirty-seven presents for those two holidays COMBINED, especially not a whole heap of expensive presents, like a new computer, a second television (emphasis on SECOND), and a racing bike. But this is not good enough for Dudders here, because it’s less than he had last year. He’s about to throw a fit until his mother says that they will buy him TWO MORE PRESENTS so that he has more. Let me tell you right now – if I had acted that way towards my parents, every single one of those presents would have gone back to the store (amirite, Mom? I know you read these!). But instead, let’s placate the little selfish spoiled brat. UGH!!

Sorry. Dudley Dursley brings out the CAPSLOCK in me. But here’s a lovely quote that sums him up:

Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel – Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig.

*giggle*

But here’s where we start to see that while Harry is remarkably well adjusted despite the life he has led so far, he’s not the most normal kid in the world. Weird things happen to him. His hair grows back really fast after his aunt gives him a horrible haircut. She tries to make him wear a hideous sweater, but it keeps shrinking until he can’t wear it anymore. He runs away from Dudley’s friends at school and somehow ends up on the roof. Of course, whenever something weird happens around Harry, he is always punished for it, whether there’s any explanation for it at all.

The Dursleys are horrible people, let’s face it. I understand that getting your nephew dumped on your doorstep is difficult, but it’s not Harry’s fault! And to treat any child the way that they’ve treated Harry is horrible, but Harry is part of their family! You should never treat family like this!

So Harry gets to go to the zoo with the Dursleys for Dudley’s birthday because the lady who was supposed to babysit broke her leg and can’t take him (this is something else that they subconsciously blame Harry for). Also funny – that lady is Mrs. Figg, who we find out later is a MEMBER OF THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX!!I love the fact that there are these little tiny things dropped into these first books that become blindingly important in later ones. Although, this does beg another question. Mrs. Figg moved onto Privet Drive to keep an eye on Harry, yes? She’s a squib, so she can’t do magic, but she has been in contact with Dumbledore and, as I said, is a member of the Order. Doesn’t she realize that Harry is being mistreated? She can’t be that blind, can she? And if she knows, why doesn’t she alert Dumbledore?!?!? Dumbledore knows about the prophesy at this point, and has known for a while. He knows that, down the road, Harry will be responsible for the final downfall of Voldemort. He knew Voldy wasn’t gone for good at this point, didn’t he? Why did he let the prophesied savior of wizardkind be abused like this?

It’s so frustrating, knowing what we know now. But oh well. Moving on.

This is where we get the famous snake scene. They visit the reptile house and Harry finds out that he can talk to the snake, sort of. When Dudley and his friend Piers see that, they take over the window to the case where they snake is. The glass to the case disappears and the snake escapes. Naturally Harry is blamed for this too (even though he did technically do it, although he doesn’t realize it yet). The zoo employees can’t explain it, but Piers mentions that Harry was talking to the snake, so that makes him officially a weirdo, right? Later, this will come back, once we learn about Parceltongue, and find out that yes, Harry actually can talk to snakes (and this is unusual, even for magic folk).

As Harry is confined to his cupboard for the night as punishment, he tries to remember his parents. Of course, he can’t, since he was only a baby when he came to the Dursleys, but this just made me feel so sad for him. He knows that he has no other family than these nasty, nasty people who treat him so badly. He has noticed over the years that other people seem to know him, strangers who have come up to him and spoken with him or shook his hand. But he has no idea who these people are and they always seemed to fade away (one of these people being Dedalus Diggle, another Order member). It’s sad that Harry looks at all of these people as possible family members that he didn’t know about because he knows nothing of what being in a family is supposed to feel like.

This kid! I just want to hug him and give him an ice cream sundae!

Before I go, here’s another little gem I would like to share:

“I had a dream about a motorcycle,” said Harry, remembering suddenly. “It was flying.”

Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front. He turned right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beet with a mustache: “MOTORCYCLES DON’T FLY!”

Dudley and Piers sniggered.

“I know they don’t,” said Harry. “It was only a dream.”

Aw, pumpkin. It wasn’t a dream at all.

So that’s my post for Chapter 2! Is anyone else reading along with me? Let me know in comments!

A New (Surprise) Project

So since I have all the free time in the world, and no books at all on my TBR pile, ur, mountain, I’ve decided to embark on a new project. Most likely, as with my other projects, this one will last a little over a month and then disappear, but I hope not. Some of you might remember that I had started another blog called “Chapter’d” where I thought I would try tackling the review-a-book-chapter-by-chapter thing that I had loved following on other blogs, like Mark Reads and Reading With Avengeance.

All well and good, except that keeping up a schedule like that is hard! I was honestly surprised by just how difficult it was.

I have decided, however, to give it a go again. I’ve recently started following the blogs of a few of the folks over at Tor.com, one of which is Emily Asher-Perrin. She is awesome. I have posted a few links to her blogs before. She has also recently started doing a Harry Potter re-read over at Tor and has inspired me to attempt to do the same. Posts will be once a week, probably on Thursday or Friday, and will feature one or two chapters, depending on length.

Why am I doing this? Who knows. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend my time.

So, without further ado, here’s chapter one. 🙂

HPSS

First of all, be very aware that spoilers will abound with these posts. If you haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books, well . . . what are you waiting for!

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

It’s funny, but this first sentence of the entire Harry Potter saga tells you everything you need to know about the Dursleys. It was funny, but when I read this again this time, it reminded me of a similar statement from another fantasy series.

The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected.

Believe me, I am NOT comparing Bilbo Baggins to Vernon Dursley, not by a long shot. What I don’t understand is this pride in being “normal,” that being predictable and keeping your head down is the main way to be a respected member of society.

I mean really, how boring is that!

In the Dursley’s case, it also means shunning those who don’t fit into their brand of normal, which includes Mrs. Dursley’s sister. The thing is though, I can’t imagine that anyone particularly likes the Dursleys all that much, even in the normal world. Vernon is loud and overbearing and yells at his coworkers. Petunia spends most of her time gossiping and spying on her neighbors to see what sordid things they are up to. Who would want to hang out with these people?

And then there’s Dudley. Don’t even get me started on Diddy Dinkums.

When their happy little hum drum life starts to get turned upside down, I can’t help but be happy about it. Vernon is being stalked by a tabby cat (who we all know by now is Professor McGonagall), he sees people wearing brightly colored cloaks walking all over the place (and even gets hugged by one of them). There are shooting stars and owls flying everywhere. You know something strange is going on, but you don’t know exactly what.

And then, over on her blog post at Tor, Emily makes a valid point that shuts down all the fun:

Everything was upbeat and dandy and silly the first time around, and I recall being so curious about this family and the You-Know-Who business and what the cloaked people were fussing over and what a Muggle could possibly be. Then I was rereading it and suddenly it was all, OH RIGHT, JAMES AND LILY POTTER ARE DEAD, IT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT AND THEY WERE ONLY 20 YEARS OLD, AND SIRIUS GAVE HIS BIKE TO HAGRID AND IS CURRENTLY BEING CARTED OFF TO AZKABAN PRISON, NOTHING WILL EVER BE OKAY AGAIN.

The Wizarding World has much to celebrate. Lord Voldemort is gone, at least for now, impossibly vanquished by a tiny baby boy. But also, the most tragic thing in the entire book has just happened – Harry Potter’s life has been changed forever, his parents ripped away from him before he ever has the chance to know them – and the first time reading this, WE HAD NO IDEA HOW AWFUL THIS IS.

It’s also interesting how the movies have changed how I picture certain characters in the books. Take James and Lily, for example. We learn in Deathly Hallows that they were both 20 or 21 when they died, but I never picture them as being that young because the actors in the movies don’t look that young. They were only a few years out of school. It’s also interesting to think that other characters we meet later, Snape for example, are the same age as James and Lily would have been, which would make Snape in his 30’s throughout Harry’s time at Hogwarts. Since Alan Rickman, who plays him so brilliantly in the movies, is a bit older than that, I always picture Snape as being much older than he should be.

Whoa, getting way ahead of myself. Jeez.

So we meet Albus Dumbledore, who you can tell right away is more awesome than the Dursleys will ever be. A powerful wizard, the only person Voldemort ever feared, lemon drop connoisseur . . . but I do have to question his judgment about leaving Harry with the Dursleys in the first place. I understand that he wants Harry to grow up away from all the fame and pressure of being the one who defeated the Dark Lord. “Famous before he can walk and talk! Famous for something he won’t even remember!” Dumbledore explains. But really, the Dursleys? I know they are Harry’s only relatives, but still, couldn’t they find anyone else? The giant squid in the lake at Hogwarts has more kindness and compassion than these people! But Dumbledore is there and I’m not, so my opinion clearly doesn’t matter.

Harry is brought to the Dursley’s by Hagrid, who borrowed Sirius Black’s motorcycle to bring him there. The motorcycle that Sirius won’t need anymore because he will be spending the next thirteen years in Azkaban. Oh my heart. Again, tragedy at every turn! Why did I enjoy this book so much? Oh yeah, because when you first read it, you don’t realize who these people are and the future that is in store for them. Sigh. It’s from Hagrid that we realize that not everyone is celebrating. The lovable giant is in tears thinking of the Potters’ fate, and of poor Harry being abandoned. I love Hagrid so much.

The only thing we do know is that something will be happening in Harry’s future. Left on the doorstep of his “normal” relatives, when he is anything but. Nothing can go wrong with this plan, can it? Well, not wrong exactly, but it’s not going to be an easy life. We’ll find out just how difficult it has been, but not until the next chapter. 🙂

Be sure to check out Emily’s post about Chapter 1. She’s much better at this than I am.