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It’s been a long time since I’ve done a review.  In order to counteract the commuting blues, I’ve been listening to Harry Potter books.

Up until this point I had only seen the movies. I enjoyed them very much, but I like all that magic and sorcery stuff.  The movies where a wonderful escape and better than average entertainment. But truthfully, I’m not sure I understood what all the fuss was about.  Friends and family alike, who had read the books. looked down their noses at me for only seeing it through the movies.

As a side note, let me say that the gentleman who reads the books for the audio version is marvelous, doing voices for everyone.  It brings it alive in a way that silent reading never could. The voices echo in my head long after the CD has been tucked away.

But it is the story of Harry Potter, along with the characters that make it so special.  After listening to the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” I went back to the movie.  What I saw shocked me.  As I said, I had gotten a kick out of it the first time. But this time I noticed how lightly the characters were sketched. How could anyone know who these people were?  I couldn’t believe I could’ve followed the story when great swatches were left out and new unnecessary scenes put in. When Dumbledore gave Hermione 50 points for using logic, why didn’t my logic ask. “Where did she do that?”  A small scene that probably could’ve been done without much fuss.  Where Hermione reads the instructions  and figures out which bottle isn’t poisonous, without using magic.  Done. Explained.  I know there are restraints in film making.  It really would not have made any sense to go through Uncle Vernon Dursley’s thinking that the book begins with. It’s nearly impossible to get the full range of the characters or scenes, I know that.  I just couldn’t believe how light it all felt.  They were so right.

Back to the book, I believe that story first, character second is what makes this so memorable. The story has great appeal for children, but also for adults. Perhaps the children miss some of the more subtle aspects, but not enough to detract from the adventure. It’s so wonderful and magical to go through their years at school, one by one, slowly watching as events from the past unfold, influence and crack open the present.

It’s a story with heart, so that even if you’ve never played “Quidditch” or taken a potions class, you can find a place to relate.  Harry’s longing to know his parents and find out who he is touches all hearts, whether a wizard or not.

The characters are a delicious variety of good guys, bad guys, friends and foes.  Professor Snape who seems so sinister, lurking around, wishing he could be the Defense Against the Black Arts teacher, secretly helping Harry.  Hagrid, big and bumbling, with such a soft inside. How can you not love someone who owns a vicious, three headed monster dog and calls him Fluffy? Harry himself is multi-dimensional character: half whining pedestrian kid and half great wizard with courage and cunning.  Dumbledore, the greatest head master in school history, one of the greatest wizards ever has a sparkle in his eyes and always speaks calmly. Each character is carefully drawn out.

A mark of a great writer is the details. And JK Rowling has given us so many palpable ones.  I love the way she marks the seasons with bits about the weather. The devices she uses to move the arc along shows you are in the hands of a master storyteller. The things she chooses make the story come alive and sparkle, down to the chocolate frogs with moving pictures of great wizards and witches for collecting and trading.

I am completely absorbed and don’t care a whit about the traffic!



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