Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Common Sense Media says

Magical start of bestselling Potter phenomenon.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 
ALA Best and Notable BooksCommon Sense Media Award

What parents need to know

Educational value

J. K. Rowling borrows from many established stories and myths to piece together her magical world. Kids can look up more about Nicholas Flamel (who is also featured in a book series by Michael Scott), centaurs, dragons, 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.

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 Harry gets his hands on an invisibility cloak. Harry always means well, though, and just like the sorting hat says, he has a "thirst to prove himself." Dumbledore (Hogwarts' eccentric headmaster) is a wonderful mentor to Harry, showing up with sage advice at just the right times.

Violence & scariness

Kids are in peril often, but at the hand of fantasy creatures most of the time. A three-headed dog chases Harry and friends. Harry and Draco see a dead and bloody unicorn and are chased by a hooded figure in the Forbidden Forest. Harry and friends fight a troll and knock it unconscious, are nearly crushed by a constricting plant, are chased by flying keys, and pummeled by a life-sized chess board. One character dies. Mostly friendly ghosts roam the halls; the ghost Nearly Headless Nick shows how he got the name. Flashback to the (bloodless) death of Harry's parents and much discussion about how they died and the one who killed them.

Language

One instance of "damn."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this thrill-a-minute story, the first in the Harry Potter series, respects kids' intelligence and motivates children to tackle its greater length and complexity, play imaginative games, and try to solve its logic puzzles. It's the lightest in the series, but it still has some scary stuff for sensitive readers: a three-headed dog, an attacking troll, a violent life-size chess board, a hooded figure over a dead and bleeding unicorn, as well as a discussion of how Harry's parents died years ago. 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.

Parents say

What's the story?

Harry's magical parents were killed by the evil wizard Voldemort when he was just a baby. Miraculously, he survives with only a lightning-bolt scar as a mysterious reminder. Harry is taken to live with his nasty relatives -- muggles, or non-wizards -- who hide the truth about his parents. Ten miserable years later, he gets a visit from a genial half-giant named Hagrid with an invitation to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At the school, Harry makes friends, fights trolls, learns how to play the fantastic aerial school sport, Quidditch, and uncovers a three-headed dog that guards a secret. Meanwhile, he must contend with Professor Snape, who hates him, and Draco Malfoy, a bratty student. When a mystery arises about the Sorcerer's Stone, which is supposed to possess the powers of immortality, Harry discovers that Voldemort is trying to steal it so he can regain his powers.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

How can a parent compete with video-game addiction and the mindlessness of the Cartoon Network? With the wildly popular Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling has solved that dilemma by proving once and for all that kids really can love great books. Twists and turns make this story resemble a junior Grisham thriller in which loose ends are expertly tied and more threads become compellingly unraveled.

Part of Harry's appeal is that he could be any ordinary 11-year-old boy, an underdog readers will root for: small and skinny, with unruly hair, plus glasses held together with Scotch tape. But he is also bright and competent, and he discovers he has an aptitude for magic -- and Quidditch. Rowling has also taken everyday situations such as going to school, playing sports, and doing homework, and convincingly combined them with fantasy to create a world more accessible to tweens than J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. From the school-supply lists ("students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad") to Quidditch ("like soccer in the muggle world ... played up in the air on broomsticks and there's four balls"), the book is packed with entertaining details and creative riffs on modern life.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of the series. For kids who missed the hype and excitement surrounding each book and film adaptation coming out, why do you think the series has been so popular?

  • This series has been commended for getting so many kids to love reading. Which books made you start to love reading? Or are you still looking for them?

  • This book is considered a fantasy because of its magical elements, but draws all kinds of fans -- many who have never read fantasy books before. Do you think Harry's story is more about friendship? Or adventure?

Book details

Author:J. K. Rowling
Illustrator:Mary Grandpre
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:January 1, 1998
Number of pages:309
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Read aloud:6
Read alone:9
Awards:ALA Best and Notable Books, Common Sense Media Award

This review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 0 years old September 28, 2009
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Great, Dark, Mystical and Funny--If your Child is Up for it.

I do hold the belief that J.K Rowling should be ranked right up there with William Shakespeare on the "Measurements of Brilliant Literature" scale. With her tale focusing on a boy whose SCAR is a symbol of wonder, Rowling manages to make her own writing style without making it seem...deranged. She has indeed disproved the old stereotype of "British humor", as each novel--as far as I have read--has more than one hilarious moment in them. Some may seem slightly gross, but appear to be only so in movie format, as the author is polite enough not to go into detail. The book series DOES, however, have a recurring theme of violence, but only when necessary, or when merely to the readers pleasure (because we all wanted Draco to get punched in the face by Hermione. Admit it.) For example, one book features a large snake-like monster (that I wouldn't happen to remember the specific term for at the moment), which is brought down by Harry when he shoves a sword into the roof of its mouth, but again, it never goes into bloody detail. Another concern is that the Defense against the Dark Arts teachers are practically their universe's version of the Red shirts--that makes sense if you watch Star Trek--because they are usually only for the job once, but I do recall that only one died, the other one was fired, and I still haven't finished the third. (Perhaps he quit?) Anyway, the "Harry Potter" series is a fun and unique ride to take with your children without regretting--so saying, if you believe they're ready for EVER SO SLIGHT violence.
Kid, 12 years old February 11, 2011
AGE
7
QUALITY
 
I adore the entire series and love the educational value and positive messages as well as the role model's decisions in the books. There are a few small british obscenities throughout the series (prat, git, stupid idiot) as well as a few swear words as the book series progress (d-m, h-ll, b-ch,a-s) but very brief. Educational value in the sense that study habits are very good by the main characters (Hermione) Two or three instances where characters have heated wand battles and a few injuries are described in detail. A few places where kissing is described and happens and in one place a boy comments about how many children Ronald's mom has, in an almost sexual way.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 16 years old Written byMeggieF January 12, 2010
AGE
6
QUALITY
 

One of my favorites!

One of my favorites! I could read it over and over again!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

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