The following checklist will tell you all you need to know about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban's suitability for you. The more checkmarks you have, the more you need to tackle this wonder of modern literature.
1. Do you have Daddy issues? ✓ or ✘ 2. Has a creepy middle aged man been sleeping with you for years, unbeknownst to you? ✓ or ✘ 3. Does the full moon make you anxious? ✓ or ✘ 4. Have you ever gorged on chocolate to combat depression? ✓ or ✘ 5. Do you find there just isn't enough time in the day? ✓ or ✘ 6. Are you misunderstood? ✓ or ✘ 7. Do you have an overactive sense of justice that gets you into trouble? ✓ or ✘ 8. Do you break rules whenever you can? ✓ or ✘ 9. Do you scoff at personal danger, especially when it gets in the way of your fun? ✓ or ✘ 10. Are you a dog lover, or would you like to be one? ✓ or ✘
1-2: You'd probably rather be reading Finnegan's Wake, The Book of Mormon or Sally Dick and Jane 3-5: Skip it and watch the movie. 6-8: Time to dust off that copy and give it a whirl. 9-10: Put your existential crisis aside. Shave your moustache. Take a day off work, and read this book. It won't change your life, but it'll be like reading about your dream self.
This is one of those beautiful books from my youth that I absorbed lovingly while lying on my bright, orange-copper, shag carpet in the cool of my bas...moreThis is one of those beautiful books from my youth that I absorbed lovingly while lying on my bright, orange-copper, shag carpet in the cool of my basement bedroom on Queensland Drive.
It wasn't just words on a page telling a story; it was the extension of something that would become and remain an obsession; it was a soothing calm from the pain of physical abuse; it was an imaginary father in pictures and words to make me feel safe from a father of flesh and unpredictable anger.
It was poorly written and shabbily bound. It was Raiders of the Lost Ark not so much abridged as reduced. But even the reduction was a beautiful thing captured in still photo after still photo: Spielberg's sweeping landscapes. Harrison Ford at his roguish best. Egyptian sets. Belloq's classy menace. Dietrich's Nazi jaw. Marion's hard beauty. Frozen action. Bad dates ("You eat 'em").
This is a book as an extension of life.
As a book it is probably crap, and maybe worse than crap, but for a young boy in need of a hero it was a gateway to comfort, to escape, to happiness.
Dallas was on TV, and my Mom was sitting in the kitchen doing her nails. I was in the living room with a blank Player Character Record Sheet, a new ba...moreDallas was on TV, and my Mom was sitting in the kitchen doing her nails. I was in the living room with a blank Player Character Record Sheet, a new bag of dice, a pencil, an eraser and Gygax's masterpiece.
Mom and I could still talk, even separated as we were by the full kitchen wall, and I could smell the mixture of her menthols, nail polish and nail polish remover from the other room. Our home was small and intimate: a great place to be on a Friday night when it was just the two of us hanging out with bad 80s TV, and our own devices. My little sister was in bed down the hall, and my Dad was off playing poker, so it was just me and my Mom and one of the biggest moments of my life.
It was a Friday night, and I was playing D&D with Robert S--- and his friends the next day. It was going to be my first time. Much to my Catholic father's dismay, and after long attempts by my mother to talk me out of it, I'd spent all the money I'd been saving from my paper route on D&D gear. I bought the Dungeon Master's Guide, The Monster Manual, dice, a couple of metal figures (I remember that one was a dwarf with an axe), a sheaf of PC Record Sheets, and the most magical item of them all The Player's Handbook.
I smelled the smell of my Mom's Friday ritual. I was repeatedly distracted by oil barons and their substance abusing wives. And I was totally stunned into paralysis by the giant fracking mess I'd gotten myself into. I had no idea how to make a character. I'd been reading and flipping and trying to figure things out, and I was lost. Each page made me feel more stupid, each page made me angrier, and I exploded, finally, into tears of frustration.
I was in grade seven at the time, and I was only months away from reading Lady Chatterley's Lover. I'd devoured the Scottish play. I'd spent the summer immersed in Middle Earth. I was a math whiz. I had big glasses. I was a geek extraordinaire, and I sat on our turquoise carpet beaten by THE role playing game before I'd even begun. And I just kept crying. Sobbing, more like.
But then my Mom was there.
She had even less clue than I did, but she didn't really need a clue. All she needed was to be there, to be my support, and she did that. She tried to wrestle with the things that were stumping me, and through her struggles I was able to figure out what I was missing. She played the dunski to my pre-teen pseudo-genius, and just the chance to bounce stuff off someone outside my head helped me unlock bonuses and percentages and thieving abilities and armor class, et al. I figured out the attributes, and I made myself a Halfling thief named Malachi (I know...it wasn't tremendously original, but the Halfling dexterity boost gave me an 18 dexterity, and that seemed wicked deadly to me back in those days).
By the time Falcon Crest was over and missed by both of us, with no chance of a rerun, I had created my first D&D character, and I was ready to sit by Lauren L---, the coolest girl in our class, in Robert S---'s super cold, harshly lit, linoleum floored basement.
It didn't take long for all the "cool" kids to leave D&D behind. Mike C---, Paul E---, Lauren L---, Robert S---, they all moved on to headbanging, and that left me, Jeff, and Mark to spend the rest of our Junior High days in a happy D&D oblivion, (I'm still friends with Jeff and Mark, by the way).
I wait patiently for Brontë & Miloš (and now Scout) to grow old enough for our first foray into D&D, and I hope I can be a worthy guide into the coolest worlds of their imagination.
And even though my Mom wasn't my guide, she was my protector that night twenty-six years ago. And she'll always be tied to The Player's Handbook for me.
Too bad she's gone now. I'd love for her to be here when her grand-kids make their first characters. I bet Të makes a magic-user and Loš makes a fighter, and I suppose I'll have to plan a NPC Cleric to keep them alive.
4. And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before Edward Cullen, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Isabella, thy lust is forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6. And I, Isabella, knew that Edward could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
7. And I said: Lord Edward, how is it done?
8. And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in the Cullens, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before we manifested ourselves in Forks; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.
9. Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of Jacob's brethren, the Wolphites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto Edward for them.
10. And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of Edward came into my mind again, saying: I will visit thy wolves according to their diligence in keeping my commandments. I have given unto them this land, and it is a bound land; and I curse it not save it be for the cause of iniquity; wherefore, I will visit thy wolves according as I have said; and their transgressions will I bring down with sorrow upon their own heads.
11. And after I, Isabella, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in Edward; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my wolves.
12. And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, Edward said unto me: I hate you for making me want you so much.
13. And now behold, this was the desire which I desired of him — that if it should so be, that I should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed and turned into a vampire, and the wolves should not be destroyed, that Edward would preserve a record of me and the wolves ; even if it so be by the power of his vampiric arm, that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the woves, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto vampiric salvation—
14. For at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith. And they swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of the Cullens.
15. Wherefore, I knowing that the Edward Cullen was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of me, ye shall receive it.
16. And I had faith, and I did cry unto Edward that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the wolves in his own due time.
17. And I, Isabella, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest.(less)
If I were to delve into some interesting critical analysis of an issue raised in The Philosopher's Stone, or take a critical look at Rowling's authorship, then maybe...but most everything that can be said about liking or disliking the book, about its excellence or its shabbiness has been said.
And while I feel I may eventually take a stand for those who appreciate JK Rowling's world of witches and wizards, who think that these books occasionally achieve real excellence, who connect emotionally to any one of the impressive characters she has drawn, I officially concede my inability to do so here.
But I will make this observation: those who equate the Twilight series to the Harry Potter series for entertainment value, quality of storytelling, cultural influence, influence on literacy, or the writing chops of their authors are people you do NOT want to be taking book advice from.
There is more than something in the Harry Potter series worth reading. I couldn't find anything worth reading in the works of Stephenie Meyer (except that it had been published).(less)
I don't know how true these memories are, but they are my memories, so they are true enough for this. Around 34 or 35 years ago, I went into my elemen...moreI don't know how true these memories are, but they are my memories, so they are true enough for this. Around 34 or 35 years ago, I went into my elementary school library and talked to Mrs. Dogleash (surely Mrs. Dalgliesh, like the famous Liverpool footballer and manager, but we always thought of her as Dogleash). I needed a book. She gave me Owls in the Family.
I remember the orange-gold shag carpet of my bedroom where I sat and read in the evening. I remember a flashlight and my crocheted blanket -- the one that sent out sparks in the dark if I rubbed it against my hair -- as I read past my bedtime. I remember riding my bike up the hill, deeper into our community, to get my Mom smokes (back when Canadian neighbourhoods embedded their little strip malls rather than top loading them at the entrance to their communities). I remember what was left of the prairies if I rode my bike in the other direction, passing cattle and a little slough on some nameless ranch.
And as I nostalgically reread Farley Mowat's Owls in the Family, I found myself remembering the entire story as though I had only read it last week. I would start a chapter and know exactly what Wol and Weeps -- the titular owls -- would be getting up to.
I imagine at least part of this is because I can still contextualize it all, since I lived my own version, sans exotic pets, in my own Canadian childhood. Mowat's Saskatchewan was not all that different from my Alberta. And all of the things Billy (Mowat's youthful self) did, riding his bike through the prairies, drinking from open water sources (mine was the river near our house), getting himself in danger without infantilizing laws and regulations of hyper-protection, these were all things I had done myself, in my own way. So maybe the memory of Billy Mowat's adventures were, thus, burned more deeply in my synapses.
I dunno why, but I had to explore the reasons for my memory a bit here. What I do know is that this book was as excellent today as it was when I read it all those years ago, and I hope my son, who's standing over my shoulder as I type this, will enjoy it as much as I have -- even if our oceanside existence and our socially driven infantilization mean that he will never have the connections with Owls in the Family that I had, I hope his imagination will find wonder in a book that is all about exploration of oneself in the bigger world all around. Maybe his owls can be the crabs of Red Bum Point.(less)
Kennilworthy Whisp's history of Quidditch is rather dry; nonetheless, it does contain some fine entertainments.
His chapter on "The Arrival of the Gold...moreKennilworthy Whisp's history of Quidditch is rather dry; nonetheless, it does contain some fine entertainments.
His chapter on "The Arrival of the Golden Snitch" is particularly fun, especially when talking about the Golden Snidgets that gave rise to what we now call the Snitch. Another high point is his chapter on "Quidditch Teams of England and Ireland," which recounts each team's finest moments and illuminates the long time rivalries that are sure to spring up in any sporting competition.
Overall, Quidditch Through the Ages is a fair overview of the sport for those who are just learning, and a nice light read for those who are already die-hard fans -- even if they are long suffering fans of the Chudley Cannons.
Still, Quidditch Through the Ages doesn't quite reach the heights of Whisp's seminal work -- The Wonder of the Wigtown Wanderers -- which cannot be recommended highly enough (for everyone but fans of their greatest rivals, of course).
This really is the worst book of the Harry Potter bunch, and its lack of quality isn’t helped by its position in the series. For all its faults, Philo...moreThis really is the worst book of the Harry Potter bunch, and its lack of quality isn’t helped by its position in the series. For all its faults, Philosopher’s Stone is a strong first novel and does a great job of sucking its readers in -– even the grown up ones -– and Prisoner of Azkaban, for its balanced mix of suspense, character development, and the first real glimpse of the world beyond Hogwarts and Privet Dr., makes it, for me, the best of the entire series. So Chamber of Secret's number two position is a bad place to be in the Harry Potter world.
What it boils down to is that Chamber of Secrets is kinda dumb. This is the third time I’ve read the book, and the first time I’ve read it out loud to my kids, and it just doesn’t work well. There’s too much idiocy, really. The flying car is dumb. Hermione turning into a half-cat is dumb. Gilderoy Lockhart is dumb (though played extremely well by Kenneth Branagh in the movie). Aragog, the big blind spider, is dumb. And even Dobby is dumb long before he becomes interesting.
For all these reasons the book feels outside the Potter universe. Almost everything in the other book makes sense to me, but this one is bizarre. What makes it worth reading, despite its dumbness, are the bits and pieces that hint at the world we'll see in the future: the introduction of Dobby and the house elves, the first taste of Tom Riddle, the beginning of the long road of love for Ginny and Harry, the naming of Azkaban as a prison that evokes terror, and the introduction of the surprisingly important Moaning Myrtle set us up for what's to come.
Yes it’s a crummy book, but it's not horrible. And kids love it, so that's gotta be worth more than one star (but only just).(less)
For a few years now, I've been interviewing my twins after they finish reading their books, posting those interviews on their own goodreads profile. M...moreFor a few years now, I've been interviewing my twins after they finish reading their books, posting those interviews on their own goodreads profile. My boy, Miloš, finished reading The Tower Treasure a couple of weeks ago, and I reread it just this week (I always reread the books they've read.) You can see my interview with him at this link. And you can see his interview with me right here:
Miloš: Why was the book just okay?
Pa: Well, I enjoyed it for what it was. The mystery was fun, and I really liked that most of the mystery was about finding the actual treasure rather than finding the thief, but the fifties world that they lived can't have really existed, except in books and on early TV, and I didn't like the attitudes that Dixon, he's the author, had about society and good & bad. That kind of stuff.
Miloš: Okay ... which character did you like better, Frank or Joe?
Pa: Are they different characters?
Pa: I don't know. They seemed kind of hard to tell apart. I liked Oscar Smuff best actually. But I guess if I had to pick one of the brothers it would be Joe because he fell over the railing in the old Tower and caught himself. I think hints at a more physical role than Frank's, maybe he'll be more impetuous in other books.
Miloš: Do you want to know why they're different?
Pa: I'd rather "how" they're different, but you can tell me whatever you think.
Miloš: This really has nothing to do with it, but Joe is lighter haired than Frank, and Frank is older than Joe.
Pa: But those are purely physical things. It's not like they're behaviour is different at all, is it?
Miloš: I don't know.
Pa: Why not?
Miloš: It is different in a way.
Pa: What makes Joe Joe? Cause I know you like him best.
Miloš: The fact that at the very end he suddenly popped out good ideas, and he was the one that actually really made them find the treasure because he figured out where it was the old water tower.
Pa: He was the one who said it was there, but Frank was thinking the same thing, remember?
Pa: Is it that Joe wasn't afraid to think out loud, to maybe make a mistake, and Frank was keeping things to himself, and maybe was more self-conscious?
Miloš: But at the same time, Frank is sort of the hero of the tale.
Pa: So you like the underdog, the supporting character.
Miloš: Yeah, sometimes I do the same thing with villains. I like the villains better sometimes like the Evil Emperor Zurg, or something like that.
Pa: I do too. Which is why I like Smuff.
Miloš: Because he's an underdog. Yeah Smuff was a really cool character, and it was very rude to make him miss his flight.
Pa: I wasn't impressed with the Hardy's treatment of Smuff. Like you, that bothered me. it also bothered me that they always assumed Smuff was being "greedy" and wanted the reward, when they wanted exactly the same thing. So how can be better than Smuff when they have same motivation?
Miloš: True. And at the end there, you can see he sort of says something about, or he arrives last on purpose because he doesn't really like the Hardys, does he?
Pa: Or is it because he expects that they're going to humiliate him, so he isn't keen on showing up.
Miloš: Exactly. He doesn't want get mocked for not finding the treasure, and at the end he sort of tells us that since he's been a detective he never is the one to figure it out it is always someone else, which makes him feel even more stupid because he hasn't found anything. So he tells them that.
Pa: Yeah, poor Smuff. So do you have any other questions for me?
Miloš: Not other than, "Was it a good book?"
Pa: It was okay. I'm not sorry I read it again, and I am looking forward to reading the second one --
A let down after the first three, but it does have a strong ending. The main problem is that it didn't capture the attention or imagination of my kids...moreA let down after the first three, but it does have a strong ending. The main problem is that it didn't capture the attention or imagination of my kids like the first three did, and I think that had something to do with the withholding of any real villain until deep into the book. This can work well for adults, but it is harder for kids to get into, I think. (less)