A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Author borrows many magical creatures, people, and concepts from other fantasy traditions and puts her own spin on them: Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel and their Sorcerer's (or Philosopher's) Stone, wands and potions, unicorns, goblins, centaurs, dragons, giants, trolls, and more.
Friendship and bravery are more important than books and cleverness. There are many kinds of bravery, and it's even braver to stand up to your friends than to your enemies.
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.
There's a little diversity at Hogwarts. Lee Jordan is described as having dreadlocks, and the Patil twins are sorted into the 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 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.
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Violence & Scariness
Kids are in peril often, but it's mostly at the hands of fantasy creatures. A three-headed dog threatens 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 and pummeled by a life-size chess board. Some minor injuries: a dragon bite that swells up and a broken wrist after a fall off a broom. Some bullying and a fistfight. One minor character dies. Mostly friendly ghosts roam the halls; the ghost Nearly Headless Nick shows how he got the name. Talk of Harry's childhood with his Muggle family, how his cousin bullied and hit him and his aunt and uncle neglected him. Harry's uncle points a gun at Hagrid. Flashback to the (bloodless) deaths of Harry's parents and much discussion about how they died and the one who killed them.
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One instance of "damn" and a "Good Lord."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Hagrid mentions having way too much to drink one night and giving away a dangerous secret. At another time Hagrid carries and drinks from a flask, and at Christmas dinner he drinks heavily and kisses Professor McGonagall on the cheek. Vernon Dursley is served brandy after a trying day. Witches drink sherry, and someone smokes a long pipe at a wizard bar. Baby dragons drink a mixture of brandy and chicken blood.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series about an orphan boy who begins his studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The novel respects kids' intelligence and motivates them to tackle its greater length and complexity, play imaginative games, and try to solve its logic puzzles. Book 1 is 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 and how he was raised by an aunt and uncle who neglected him. Some adult wizards drink, especially Hagrid, who drinks to excess more than once. There's little diversity at Hogwarts beyond a few students of color, but women have prominent roles at the school, and the smartest kid in class is Hermione, a girl. The 2015 lavishly illustrated, larger-format edition features a new cover (different from the original U.S. cover pictured here) and more than 100 full-color illustrations by Jim Kay (A Monster Calls) that depict shimmering ghosts amid breathtaking scenes of Hogwarts, character portraits, and pages from magical textbooks. Parents who want to learn more about the series (and spin-off movies and games) can read our Harry Potter Age-by-Age Guide.
Is It Any Good?
There are two kinds of magic in this phenomenal boy-wizard tale, the literal spell kind and the spell cast by a thrilling world for young (and old) fantasy readers to explore. While Harry Potter and his new friends Ron and Hermione get their first lessons in potion making and how to make a feather fly ("swish and flick!"), readers are getting lessons in delightful ideas like owls delivering the post, secret train platforms, pictures and staircases that move, sports played on broomsticks, and even odd-flavored jelly beans. Readers will want to grab their owl, cat, or toad (how can you choose just one?!) and hop on the train to Hogwarts immediately.
But it's not all fun with flying broomsticks. Harry Potter isn't called the Boy Who Lived for nothing. He's an orphan because an evil wizard killed his parents and wanted to kill him, and that evil still lurks at the school. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione uncover a plot to steal the Sorcerer's Stone of the title, more and more school rules must be broken (and some serious house points must be lost) to figure out who the enemy at school really is. Readers will enjoy the twists, danger, and kid wizard heroics that drive the final action.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.