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Harry Potter
J. K. Rowling
Novel, Audio Tape, and Movie
Published by Time Warner et al,
Copyright by J. K. Rowling in 1997
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


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We, like so many other grandparents, bought a copy of the first Harry Potter book, looked through it, read the first few pages and gave it to a grandchild. Child's fare, we thought. Turns out we were right. A year or so later, our daughter loaned us her set of audio tapes of the first book. The tapes sat around the house for about six months until we went on a driving trip and we took them along in the car to listen to them. By the end of the first couple of tapes we were enchanted. We became as a small child entering the world of fantasy, suspense, and delight of Harry Potter. Child fare, indeed, it turned out to be.

We received the second set of tapes the same way, our hand-me-down from our daughter, but by the third set of tapes, we were buying our own copy as soon as they came out. The next set we got on CD and the ability to start and stop the tape with precision while we were on the road for a rest stop was very handy. Book 4 was by far the longest and most intricately woven of the plots and there were about 17 CDs to be gone through. That book outlasted a long trip and we began listening to parts of a CD while driving back and forth across town together. Otherwise mundane trips became magic carpets rides with Harry and his friends.

If one were to start now to get into Harry Potter, how best to start? Book, audio, or movie? Audio! Hands down, is the winner. Jim Dale, who reads the books, every word of the books, establishes a vocal pattern for each character that allows you to recognize who's talking without any verbal cues, such as "Hermione said," or "Harry replied." His voices for the characters were so phenomenal that the casting crew could have auditioned actors for the movie based on how well they were able to reproduce the Jim Dale's audio tape for the character. The audio tapes have an enormous advantage over the movie on several points:

1) Every one of J. K. Rowling's words are read. In the movie, her wonderful descriptions, her wonderful names of things, so many beautiful words are left out.

2) With Jim Dale's reading, one soon enters the reality of an old-time radio show. The only thing that breaks the frame of it being a radio show is the missing sound effects, which Rowling's words provide the description for anyway.

3) The movie of the first book goes for 2.5 hours, the audio tapes seem go on for about 15 hours. For us, that meant days and sometimes weeks of enjoyment and suspense. We'd wait in the garage sometimes for an important scene to end so that we'd pick up the next scene on our next outing.

If you're new to Harry Potter, let me set the stage for you a bit. Harry at age 11 or 12 enters Hogwarts School of Wizardry where his parents had been students before. This is a seven year curriculum, so Harry is a "First Year" in Book One and a "Second Year" in Book Two and soon one gets the picture that there will be seven books, one for each year of Harry's tenure at Hogwarts. Each year has its own unique way of Harry's starting school or getting to school. Sometime during the school year, there is some danger that threatens Harry with his life, sometimes several dangers throughout the year. There is the competition for the House Cup. Harry and his close friends Hermione and Ron are members of the Gryffindor House. The other houses are Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. The competition for top house is based on points acquired during the year for good deeds minus demerits for bad deeds plus a special bonus for winning the Quidditch match that usually ends the school year. Quidditch is a combination of soccer, baseball, and football played in the air on witch's brooms. It has all the excitement of a Top Gun dog fight, except instead of Maverick in his F15 jet fighter fighting Russian MIGs, it involves Harry Potter on his Nimbus 2000 broom battling the Slytherin bad guys.

Magic staircases that rearrange themselves as you walk on them, invisibility cloaks, mountain trolls, baby dragons, unicorns, one really evil bad guy who tattooed Harry Potter's forehead, a big burley good guy who loves large dangerous animals, wonderful teachers of sorcery and potions and defenses against the dark arts, portraits on the wall in which the people can talk and even move from frame to frame, books with moving images in them, time travel, flue travel, flying cars, and all kinds of adventures in the dark. If childhood has already lost its magic for you, you likely won't find an magic in these stories, but if you're not sure, then get down to the nearest bookstore and buy yourself the first audio tape set and get ready to enter the magic world of Harry Potter and his friends.


Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne


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