Still, opening with a thrilling quidditch match, and closing with another wizardly competition that is also exciting, for...

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 4

As the bells and whistles of the greatest prepublication hoopla in children’s book history fade, what’s left in the clearing smoke is—unsurprisingly, considering Rowling’s track record—another grand tale of magic and mystery, of wheels within wheels oiled in equal measure by terror and comedy, featuring an engaging young hero-in-training who’s not above the occasional snit, and clicking along so smoothly that it seems shorter than it is.

Good thing, too, with this page count. That’s not to say that the pace doesn’t lag occasionally—particularly near the end when not one but two bad guys halt the action for extended accounts of their misdeeds and motives—or that the story lacks troubling aspects. As Harry wends his way through a fourth year of pranks, schemes, intrigue, danger and triumph at Hogwarts, the racial and class prejudice of many wizards moves to the forefront, with hooded wizards gathering to terrorize an isolated Muggle family in one scene while authorities do little more than wring their hands. There’s also the later introduction of Hogwarts’ house elves as a clan of happy slaves speaking nonstandard English. These issues may be resolved in sequels, but in the meantime, they are likely to leave many readers, particularly American ones, uncomfortable

Still, opening with a thrilling quidditch match, and closing with another wizardly competition that is also exciting, for very different reasons, this sits at the center of Rowling’s projected seven volume saga and makes a sturdy, heartstopping (doorstopping) fulcrum for it. (Fiction. All ages)

Pub Date: July 8, 2000

ISBN: 978-0-439-13959-5

Page Count: 734

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school.

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 1

In a rousing first novel, already an award-winner in England, Harry is just a baby when his magical parents are done in by Voldemort, a wizard so dastardly other wizards are scared to mention his name.

So Harry is brought up by his mean Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley, and picked on by his horrid cousin Dudley. He knows nothing about his magical birthright until ten years later, when he learns he’s to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is a lot like English boarding school, except that instead of classes in math and grammar, the curriculum features courses in Transfiguration, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry becomes the star player of Quidditch, a sort of mid-air ball game. With the help of his new friends Ron and Hermione, Harry solves a mystery involving a sorcerer’s stone that ultimately takes him to the evil Voldemort. This hugely enjoyable fantasy is filled with imaginative details, from oddly flavored jelly beans to dragons’ eggs hatched on the hearth.

It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-590-35340-3

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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