Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Harry Potter, Book 2
By Carrie R. Wheadon,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Potter sequel is a creature-packed page-turner.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Author 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.
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. A flashy professor provides a lesson about fame at any cost.
Positive Role Models
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.
There's a little diversity at Hogwarts. Lee Jordan is described as having dreadlocks, and the Indian Patil twins are in Gryffindor house. 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 two girls on the Gryffindor quidditch team. There's only one large-size 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.
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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. Two fathers have a fistfight. A party for ghosts makes light of many ghosts who had been beheaded and can take off their heads for sport. Mentions of Harry's parents dying in a magical attack when he was a baby. Harry is routinely treated poorly and threatened by his aunt and uncle.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A mention that Percy Weasley's younger sister Ginny catches him kissing his girlfriend.
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Hermione is called a "mudblood" by Draco, an offensive term in the Potter world meaning "dirty blood," for being part wizard and part muggle.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series about an orphan boy at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you're flying through the Potter books faster than a Quidditch seeker because kids have been begging, note that after Book 2, the series gets more complex and scarier, and a break between Book 2 and Book 3 may be warranted, especially if you're doing a read-aloud party with siblings of different ages. Harry Potter Age-by-Age Guide as well as details in individual reviews will help you decide. Also of note: this one is tough on kids who are afraid of monsters like giant snakes and spiders. Both attack school kids in tense scenes. Some kids (and a cat) end up in a coma-like state, and two students nearly die in the book's climax. There are also a lot of ghosts, but they are often more silly than scary. Something not in the movie (that otherwise sticks very close to the source material) is Nearly Headless Nick's Deathday Party, where decapitated ghosts throw their heads around for sport. Main characters Harry, Ron, and Hermione are rewarded for their bravery, but after quite a bit of rule breaking. The story is full of positive messages about friendship and that our choices show what we truly are more than our abilities and backgrounds. This book is also available in an illustrated edition with art by Jim Kay.
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What's the Story?
In HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, Harry's summer at his aunt and uncle's house is bad enough when a house elf named Dobby shows up. Dobby warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts, that something dangerous is going to happen, and when Harry won't listen, Dobby performs a hover charm and dumps Aunt Petunia's prize pudding on the floor in the middle of a dinner party. Harry doesn't know what's worse: the threatening owls from the Ministry of Magic accusing him of performing underage magic or getting locked in his room with bars on the windows. When his best friend Ron Weasley and his brothers embark on a midnight rescue in Mr. Weasley's enchanted flying car, Harry's summer is saved. Then September 1 arrives. Ron and Harry are in a panic because they can't get through to Platform 9 ¾ to catch the Hogwarts Express. They decide the only way to make it on time is to chase the train in the flying car. When they get to Hogwarts, their not-so-brilliant plan lands them in serious trouble, but it's nothing compared with the trouble brewing at school. A message appears on a castle wall in blood proclaiming that "The Chamber of Secrets Has Been Opened," and students wandering the corridors alone are ending up in mysterious coma-like states. It's no wonder Dobby didn't want Harry to return to school.
Is It Any Good?
While this sequel doesn't have the impact of the Potter origin story, it's an exciting creature feature with an engrossing mystery to solve. Many, especially older readers, consider this the lesser of the Potter books, but for younger readers, this is an ideal way to ramp up for the rest of the series. The fear is of external forces -- monsters -- not the less tangible, like how the Dementors in Book 3 embody fear itself. And the mystery builds in a more straightforward manner with steps Harry, Ron, and Hermione take to uncover clues: brewing a potion, playing the spy, and breaking all kinds of school rules in the process as they do.
All that said, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets preps young fantasy fans to take on the meatier stories to come. The monsters sure are scary, and the scenes in the Forbidden Forest and the Chamber of Secrets are thrilling. What was Hagrid thinking telling Harry and Ron to "follow the spiders"? And as for the mystery, efforts to solve it may be methodical but the Chamber of Secrets has quite a few secrets to reveal -- some that only come to light in Book 6. Mouths will be hanging open in that climactic moment when the Heir of Slytherin is revealed at last and appetites will be whetted for more Potter mystery and excitement to come.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the big scary monsters in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Are you afraid of monsters? Does reading about them make you more afraid? Ron really hates spiders. How does he deal with his fear? What does it say that someone with such a fear is still in Gryffindor, the house for the bravest witches and wizards?
Kids just getting into the series will find a whole world of Harry Potter available to them, from Chocolate Frogs for sale at the grocery store to theme parks. A diehard Potter fan can spend a lot of money in their lifetime on merchandise and experiences. Do you think this is worth your money? Are there other ways you can celebrate books you love without raiding your piggie bank?
Will you read more of the series? Are you ready for the stories to get darker and more complex? Will you read some other books in between or plow right through as some kids do?
- 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
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: June 20, 1999
- Number of pages: 341
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Common Sense Media Award
- Last updated: June 3, 2022
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