Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Harry Potter, Book 3
By Carrie R. Wheadon,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Third Potter is darker, more complex, and fantastic.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
J.K. Rowling borrows from many established stories and myths to piece together her magical world. Kids can look up more about garden gnomes, elves, grims, hippogriffs, boggarts, grindylows, kappas, red caps, hinkypunks, magic wands, flying brooms, etc., compare the author's take with other interpretations, and think about how and why she weaves these magical elements and beings into her stories.
The whole series is full of positive messages about the power of love, friendship, and self-sacrifice. In this book, Dumbledore reminds Harry that the dead never truly leave us, they remain a part of us always. Also, strong messages about bravery and facing fears and how the best way to manage fears head-on is with laughter and fond memories.
Positive Role Models
Main characters Harry, Ron, and Hermione, usually the model of dedicated friends, are at odds for much of the book because Hermione wants to protect Harry by adhering to more safety precautions and Harry wants to live his life like he's not in danger. Hermione is admirable for sticking to her principles, despite the temporary rift it causes. Ron and Harry begin to come around when Hagrid calls them out for valuing things like pets and broomsticks more than their friend whose heart is obviously in the right place. Harry begins to realize that the danger he put himself in during the year was, as Professor Lupin put it, "a poor way to repay" the sacrifice his parents made to keep him alive. Harry makes a very difficult and mature choice, showing some mercy to someone partially responsible for his parents' deaths, and realizing that his parents wouldn't want his friends to become murderers. Professor Lupin is a good mentor to Harry and is the one that helps him face his fear of the dementors.
There's a little diversity at Hogwarts. Lee Jordan is described as having dreadlocks, and the Patil twins are in Gryffindor house. Cho Chang is introduced in this book for the first time as the Ravenclaw Seeker on the Quidditch team. Some diverse family structures are described: Harry lives with his aunt and uncle and Neville with his grandmother. Harry and Ron bond over growing up with second-hand clothes and wishing they had more money; Ron's insecurity over being from a poorer family comes up a lot. Women have prominent roles at Hogwarts: Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout are both heads of houses. There are three girls on the Gryffindor quidditch team. There's only one larger-sized character who isn't a bad guy, and that's Hagrid. Lots of negative language around the size of Dudley and his father and Malfoy's Slytherin friends Crabbe and Goyle, plus Peter Pettigrew in his school years was described as "a fat little boy" by one of the teachers.
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Violence & Scariness
Dementors are introduced here, the black hooded, floating, eyeless and decayed-looking guards that suck happiness out of people and cause them to relive their worst memories -- in Harry's case, he keeps reliving the moment when his mother screams and is killed by Voldemort with a curse. Dementors can also suck souls out of bodies and they almost do once. Magical animals attack and cause injuries. A large dog fights a werewolf. Humans get broken limbs and get knocked out by spells and a fall from a broomstick. A man stands over a bed with a knife. In a moment of uncontrolled magic and anger, an unsavory relative gets blown up like a balloon. Talk of a curse that killed 13 people and an escaped convict after revenge and more details emerge about the death of Harry's parents.
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One "damn" and "b-" spelled that way.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Harry's Aunt Marge drinks wine and brandy, adults drink in a bar, and Hagrid is drunk twice, once out of sadness (Hermione tells him he's had enough and takes away his tankard) and once in celebration.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series about an orphan boy at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The series gets more layered and scarier from here on. Not only does Prisoner of Azkaban introduce the dreaded dementors -- the black hooded, floating, eyeless and decayed-looking guards that suck happiness out of people -- but the overall plotting is much more complex. Professor Lupin and Sirius Black have a number of complicated secrets that come to light near the end, and there's a major betrayal that figures in as well. Younger kids may not keep up with what's going on and will therefore not be set up well to understand the rest of the series. The scariest parts are involving dementors. When Harry encounters them, he relives a buried memory of when his mother screams and is killed by Voldemort with a curse. Dementors can also suck souls out of bodies and they almost do once. Magical animals attack and cause injuries, a large dog fights a werewolf, and humans get broken limbs and are knocked out. Expect a few scenes of drinking by adults, some to excess. In one, Hermione tells Hagrid he's had enough and takes away his drink. There are the usual positive messages from the series about bravery and sacrifice and the power of love. In this book (and much less so in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie), Harry, Ron, and Hermione, usually the model of dedicated friends, are at odds because Hermione wants to protect Harry and Harry wants to live his life like he's not in danger. Hermione is admirable for sticking to her principles and endures the temporary rift it causes. This book is also available in an illustrated edition with art by Jim Kay.
Where to Read
Based on 23 parent reviews
Yes it's intense, but not over-the-top
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Brilliantly plotted threequel focuses on darkness, revenge
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What's the Story?
In HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, Harry Potter flees his aunt and uncle's house after a bad run-in with his uncle's cruel sister. His anger gets the better of him, his magic goes haywire, and somehow Aunt Marge ends up blown up like a balloon and floating on the ceiling. His luck turns again when the Knight Bus comes for him and drops him in London outside of Diagon Alley. And it turns yet again when waiting for him outside the Three Broomsticks pub is none other than Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic. Harry thinks he's expelled for sure and would have been if it wasn't for Sirius Black. It's all over the papers that Black escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban, and less well known that Black may be after Harry, the one who caused Voldemort's downfall and Black's imprisonment. Harry tries to take it in stride -- he's been threatened before -- but when he keeps seeing a black dog everywhere (a sure portent of doom) and is hounded by the happiness-devouring dementors surrounding the school grounds, he's less certain he's safe. Then Black breaks into the castle on Halloween and Harry knows: Nowhere is safe from the escaped prisoner set on revenge.
Is It Any Good?
This Potter sequel wows fans with its twisty plot, shocking reveals, and fantastic new characters. Prisoner of Azkaban takes a big turn toward more sophisticated storytelling starting with the introduction of Professor Lupin. He's not just the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, he has a storied past with Harry's dad, Professor Snape, and even the escaped prisoner that's desperate to storm Hogwarts castle. And Lupin has one big secret the vindictive Snape would just love to divulge. The drama hinges on the clash between Harry's dad's old school friends and enemies, and on a terrible betrayal to them all.
And of course, Harry and friends are caught in the middle, just trying to get through another Hogwarts school year without getting into too much trouble -- though thanks to the Weasley twins' gift of the Marauders Map, sometimes the temptation for trouble is too great. Harry is desperate to win the Quidditch Cup for Gryffindor and will do anything to get the nasty dementors guarding the castle from Sirius Black to leave him alone on the pitch. Lupin teaches Harry the complicated Patronus charm, which ends up saving more than his new broomstick. Much more. And Hermione's insistence on taking every class at Hogwarts gives the trio the cleverest life-saving tool of them all, but they MUST NOT BE SEEN as they race to the double-rescue. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban offers both a thrilling ending and a stellar setup for the rest of the series that from here on out is darker, more complex, and even more rewarding for fantasy fans of all ages.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the rift between Hermione and Ron and Harry in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Why does Hermione give Professor McGonagall the Firebolt? Why does Hermione get upset when Harry uses the Marauders Map to sneak into Hogsmeade? Who was being the better friend to Harry, Ron or Hermione? Have you ever had a friend you worried about, that you told not to do something, even if it upset them?
Which mode of witch or wizard transport would you choose -- Knight Bus, Hogwarts Express, broomstick, hippogriff? Explain why.
What do you think is next for Harry, Ron, and Hermione? Will you read more Harry Potter adventures right away or read other books first?
- Author: J. K. Rowling
- Illustrator: Mary Grandpre
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: January 1, 1999
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 435
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 3, 2022
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