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R&R 071 | Harry Potter, book 5

J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
First published in: 2003
This edition: Bloomsbury paperback
ISBN: 0-7475-6107-9
Cover illustrations by Jason Cockcroft

R&R 071 | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The fifth book in J.K. Rowling's successful series starring young wizardry student, Harry Potter, starts off with Harry finding himself (and his cousin Dudley, who's a muggle) under vicious attack by Dementors – the prison guards of Azkaban. Harry insists it is Lord Voldemort's doing… the young wizard's life cannot be risked, and so Harry is soon whisked away into safety by several wizards and witches who have joined together to form the Order of the Phoenix. Something is going on, and Harry doesn't understand; everyone is acting secretive around him, including his best friends Ron and Hermione. Harry also wonders why everybody is fussing over him so much – instead of being out there, tracking down Voldemort…!

I love the idea of the Order of the Phoenix (by this I mean the group of wizards) and of Harry, Ron and Hermione's initiative to train themselves and a group of other students in the defense of the dark arts; chapters concerning the Order and Dumbledore's Army were most definitely my favourites. I really wish there was a bit more of this, but that's probably just me, haha.

But along with book 2 (which is forgettable), this is just not my favourite book in the series. It starts off too slowly, picking up pace after some 400 pages – and by the time I get there, I'm already too frustrated with Umbridge's irritating characteristics to really get into the book. She's almost as irritating as those house elves. I understand that Umbridge, a Ministry Official hell-bent on making Harry's life miserable, is supposed to be annoying… but one can only take so much of her. Because of Umbridge, this is the only Harry Potter book I've needed regular breaks from and couldn't finish in one sitting.

Despite that, the stand-off with Umbridge comes a little too soon and it's pretty anti-climatic. But Rowling had to leave room for the book's real conclusion. A heart-breaking one, and those of you who have read the series probably know what I am referring to (especially if you consider that Azkaban is my favorite Harry Potter book). I am being vague here, but I don't want to spoil anyone who has not yet (!) read the books so bluntly.
Anyway, I have had trouble accepting that Rowling has decided to go in this direction, but do perhaps see how it would further character development… and for the plot of the series in general to continue, stronger than ever. In that respect I do appreciate book 5, because it provides us with the start of the end game .(That's how I look at it.)

One more note regards Harry's romantic endeavours; they are not very interesting in this installment, though I do love that Rowling has written a story of magic, while keeping intact the very real feelings that come with puberty and reaching adolescence. Such as noticing girls, and worrying about who'll ask you to that dance. It makes sense that she includes these experiences for her characters, as they are growing up with each book.

To conclude this one: not liking the book as much as the rest, that doesn't mean I didn't like the book at all. I did. I will continue to re-read this series (including books 2 and 5!) even when I'm 80 years old, because that of feeling I get when reading these books. No other books have ever come close to that.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in itself accomplishes what the others also have. These books, all of them, they bring out that child within, the one that is usually hidden beneath this 26 year-old surface. They make me feel like a kid again, like anything is possible… it's a gift to be able to relive that (what I can only refer to as a) magical time. Rowling and her Harry Potter keep on giving.

R&R series © Karin E. Lips 2008, 2009 and beyond

R&R 048 | The Tales of Beedle the Bard

J.K. Rowling
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
First published in: 2008
This edition: first edition, Children's High Level Group / Bloomsbury, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7475-9987-6
Cover design: not sure who takes credit for that. Illustrations are © J.K. Rowling

Note: I have read all Harry Potter books prior to beginning project Reading & Reviewing (Jan '08) and decided to re-read them for this project. I read Beedle in between re-reading the HP series and decided to review it in between, too 🙂 I've read Deathly Hallows (July '07) prior to reading Beedle.

Photo: thought behind it stems from story Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump, in which a King believes his ordinary twig to be a fully functioning wand of 'tremendous power'.

Harry Potter has had his last adventure; Deathly Hallows was published in 2007 and with it, the series came to its end. But J.K. Rowling did not stop there; for charity and also to offer something extra to the fans, she has penned down five fairy tales ("compiled and edited", of course, by Hermione Granger) and dubbed the little book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a familiar title to those who've read the entire Harry Potter series.

Featured, fictionally, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the little storybook is now a tangible, real book to enjoy by everyone… young and old – just as with the rest of Rowling's books.

The stories:
– The Wizard and the Hopping Pot: a wizard inherits a magic pot from his father, which the latter always used to brew healing potions. Being the new owner of the pot, the son is frequently called upon by people needing his help.
– The Fountain of Fair Fortune: three witches (and a knight) seek the way to a magic fountain, which will help those who bathe in it with their problems. Who will be the one to have his or her problems vanish into thin air?
– The Warlock's Hairy Heart: a warlock is asked by his new wife (procured using the dark arts) to prove that he possesses a heart. Indeed he does, and it's quite a fuzzy one.
– Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump: a King wants to learn magic in order to possess it all. A charlatan pretends to help him, by giving him a twig to use as a "wand", for instance. Whereas the King is easily fooled, Babbitty Rabbitty, the washerwoman, isn't.
– The Tale of the Three Brothers: the story relevant to readers of Deathly Hallows. Three brothers escape Death; as an act of revenge, Death himself grants the brothers three wishes, which will harm them rather than bring them joy.

Much like any fairytale, these stories are each cute as a button, yet still function as a tool to help teach a few valuable lessons to children – when reading between the lines of course. Though The Warlock's Hairy Heart might be too scary for the really small children, the stories qualify perfectly as bedtime stories for the little'uns, even if they have never heard of Harry Potter before (though that seems like an odd thing nowadays – after all, who hasn't heard of Harry Potter). The tales truly are that adorable. And useful.

For Harry Potter fans, the book possesses something worthwhile: every story is succeeded by commentary of Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, who seems to be moonlighting as a reviewer. Plenty of allusions are made to the world of Harry Potter, so the commentary would mostly benefit Harry Potter readers / Dumbledore fans who'd like just a little bit more Albus Dumbledore. He critiques the tales in his usual dry, quipping tone, making The Tales of Beedle the Bard a sweet book of stories as well as an awesome example of reviewing.

Despite the clever and enjoyable commentary added 'by' Albus Dumbledore, the book's "length" is meager for its price; however, the proceeds to go to charity and as I have pointed out before, the stories are a sweet addition to any old school fairytale books for children. For Harry Potter readers, Dumbledore's critique's a bonus, and it also answers a few questions that might be raised after reading Deathly Hallows.

It is worth the buy, then; The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a short, small book, but of a nearly endless value.

R&R series (and its photos, reviews) © Karin Elizabeth 2008-2009

R&R 045 | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
First published in: 2000
This edition: Bloomsbury, 2001
ISBN: 978-0-7475-5099-0

I didn't have a hat. So I ehhhh improvised, haha, and made something resembling a hat instead. Had a blast doing that 😛

For every student at Hogwarts, the new school year has an interesting start. Having had quite the adventure already by attending the Quidditch World Cup, Harry, Ron and Hermione are in awe as Professor Dumbledore announces that the Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts this year. Hogwarts as well as two other, international wizarding schools will each select one champion over the age of seventeen to participate in bold challenges – tests of skill, intellect… but mostly tests of courage. Harry, only fourteen, is excited and relieved that he gets to sit back and witness some exciting events at his school for a change, instead of finding himself at the very center of them…! But Harry is in for a big surprise… and suddenly, it doesn’t matter how old he is.

While on the subject of age, J.K. Rowling allows her characters to mature even further in book 4. Already setting a darker mood in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (book 3), the kids really have a lot of additional growing up to do. As Harry, Ron and Hermione grow up, so do the books themselves, which to me is an interesting development.

Rowling is obviously driven, writing fiction which is initially intended for children, but which is increasingly readable and enjoyable for adults. While Rowling keeps the series’ humor and whimsy intact, it is clear that her fourth book is not ‘as cute’ anymore; Goblet of Fire is grim, scary at times. J.K. Rowling goes a little “off script” with Goblet of Fire, creating new circumstances for her characters, and so many obstacles for her characters to overcome. The Triwizard Tournament seems like a training session, as if Rowling is using the opportunity to prepare her characters for what’s yet to come. And you know it’s going to come. Goblet’s ending clearly functions as the beginning of something else, marking an enormous change in the series as a whole. Innocence is lost.

Once you finish this book, you realize there’s really no way back. Not for the characters in the series, not for you reading the series.

(My only real complaint involves the house elves, possibly the most irritating group of characters ever invented, but the rest of Goblet of Fire makes their presence acceptable.)

R&R series (and its photos, reviews) © Karin Elizabeth 2008-2009

R&R 023 | Harry Potter, book 3

J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (book 3)
First published in 1999
This edition: Bloomsbury 2000, 317 pages
Cover illustrations by Cliff Wright
Flickr post

Have you seen this wizard book reviewer?

Why so Sirius?
I love this character and had to do this. Okay so it's campy and would've been great for Pirate Day. But oh I like it. Also, the corny wand photos just didn't quite cut it for me.
I had sharper images, this one is slightly blurry. But this one had that look down. Screw technique, hollah to the crazy expression.

Harry Potter, the young wizard, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts, when one of the most feared criminals in the history of the magical world escapes that one notorious prison: Azkaban. It soon becomes clear that this murder convict, Sirius Black, is looking for none other than Harry.

Putting on his brave face, Harry continues his studies at Hogwarts, aware nonetheless that Sirius is getting closer to getting what he wants. Despite all the precautions taken by Dumbledore, Harry could well be in more danger than ever…

While re-reading this third installment in the immensely popular series, I was once more convinced that this one is the most exciting of the bunch. Rowling offers plenty of relevant background information to her world and her characters. The interwoven relationships between characters are further explained, and these revelations often leave you feeling surprised.

Keeping true, in great detail, to the world she has created, Rowling allows Harry and his friends to deal with situations most of which force them to mature, pushing them into facing their fears.

With Azkaban comes a turning point; the atmosphere of the series turns darker. While the author keeps her wit and humor intact, she's clearly taken the Harry Potter series to a more serious level with book 3, setting the tone and laying the groundwork for the remaining four books to come.

The somewhat more complex plotline offers twists and turns of a less predictable nature (compared to the first two books); Azkaban raises the bar for the next Potter books, or basically for any book in the genre. If you've just started reading the series, stick it out to book 3 at least. Then form your opinion.


Book review and photo © Karin Elizabeth.