Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Book Poster Image
Potter sequel is a creature-packed page-turner.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 25 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 102 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

J. K. Rowling borrows from many established stories and myths to piece together her magical world. Kids can look up more about basilisks, giant spiders, flying brooms, magic wands, 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. See the "Families Can Talk About" section for more discussion ideas.

Positive messages

Full of positive messages about the power of love, friendship, and self-sacrifice. Also, about not letting your background dictate who you become. Harry is afraid of his similarities to Voldemort, but Dumbledore reminds him that it's the choices we make that make us who we are. Also, the wizarding world's version of racism and classism is introduced (some pure-blood wizards despise those who are not) and shown as wrong. Plus a flashy professor provides a lesson about fame at any cost.

Positive role models & representations

Main characters Harry, Ron, and Hermione, models of dedicated friends, are rewarded for their bravery. They are usually punished for rule-breaking, but also get away with quite a bit, especially when they're trying to solve the mystery of the chamber of secrets -- they steal potion ingredients, knock out other students with a sleeping potion, and then impersonate them to get information. It's all in the name of saving other Hogwarts students, though, which of course they do in the end. Dumbledore (Hogwarts' eccentric headmaster) is a wonderful mentor to Harry, showing up with sage advice when needed; Harry shows him loyalty at just the right time and is rewarded with the tools to save the day. A charismatically dishonest teacher gets his comeuppance.

Violence & scariness

Kids are in peril often, but at the hand of fantasy creatures most of the time: giant spiders and an angry tree attack, and a basilisk (giant serpent) has Medusa-like abilities, nearly killing characters and putting them in a rigid, comatose state -- it also chases Harry. Harry falls from his broom and breaks his arm, then bones in his arm are magically and mistakenly removed. A house elf punishes himself by hitting his head repeatedly. In a practice wizards' duel, a (small) snake threatens a student. A spell backfires and Ron coughs up slugs. Two main characters almost die in the book's climax.


Hermione is called a "mudblood" by Draco, an offensive term in the Potter world meaning "dirty blood."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this exciting fantasy may motivate children to tackle its greater length and complexity and play imaginative games. The young heroes find themselves in many tense situations: in a flying car, surrounded by giant spiders, and facing a giant serpent with Medusa-like abilities. Two characters are near death in the book's climax, but they survive. Harry and his best friends Ron and Hermione may partake in plenty of rule-breaking at school but they are great role models; fierce and loyal friends 'til the end and willing to do whatever it takes to save their fellow students. Parents who want to learn more about the series (and spin-off movies and games) can read our Harry Potter by Age and Stage article.

User Reviews

Parent of a 1 and 6 year old Written bychris27w April 9, 2008

Excellent book for age 8 and up!

This book is very good for children who are 8 and older. Strong friendships and loyalties are represented throughout the novel. There are a few passages which m... Continue reading
Parent of a 6 and 11 year old Written byfastraxsg July 1, 2011

bit scarier than the first..

For the first Harry potter if your 7 you will like it for THIS one it gets a bit scarier so probably 8 is a better age when they should watch it! I LOVE HARRY P... Continue reading
Kid, 7 years old May 7, 2011


SCARY!...but good
Kid, 11 years old April 19, 2011


I have read some of it and nothing is wrong with this book!

What's the story?

Stuck with awful relatives for the summer, Harry is relieved to be rescued by his friend, Ron, and Ron's brothers in a flying car. Back at Hogwarts, Harry discovers that the legendary Chamber of Secrets has been opened by the mysterious Heir of Slytherin, releasing a monster who prowls the halls of the school turning mudbloods (those with non-magic parents) to stone. Suspicion soon falls on Harry, who bears more than a passing similarity to Slytherin, including being a Parseltongue (one with the ability to converse with snakes). But Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, have even more reasons to try to track down the real Heir and stop the monster: Ron's little sister has disappeared, and Harry's friend, the gamekeeper Hagrid, may be more involved than he's letting on.

Is it any good?

Though the formula is similar to the first book, this well-written, exciting sequel keeps kids glued to the page. It breaks no new ground in the series, but the plot is a riveting thrill ride filled with giant man-eating spiders, a ghost who lurks in the girls' bathroom, secret underground vaults, time travel, magical-transformation potions, the near death of several major and minor characters, and a climactic confrontation with the greatest evil wizard of them all, Voldemort. J.K. Rowling excels at twists, turns, and surprises, and many will find the identity of the person who opened the Chamber a complete surprise.



Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about year two at Hogwarts. How is this book different from the first in the series? It's often considered many fans' least favorite Harry Potter book (and movie). Why do you think that is? What could have made the book stand out as one of your favorites? What draws you into your favorite stories?

  • Before the last books in the series were published, J. K. Rowling said that this book held a big clue to the plot of the finale. Do you know what that clue is? Is it fun to guess what direction the series will go?

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