Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Movie

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (PG Movie).  Directed by Chris Columbus. Warner Bros., 2001. 152 minutes. $19.98

Plot: Following along the lines of the book of the same name, eleven year old Harry Potter is living with his cruel and neglectful aunt, uncle, and cousin when he receives a letter telling him he has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Prior to this Harry had not known he was a wizard.  And, as it turns out, Harry’s famous in the wizarding world for not succumbing to an attack by the evil wizard Voldemort.  Once at Hogwarts, Harry, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermoine, get enmeshed in the mystery of the sorcerer’s stone, a magical crystal with the power of immortality.  With encounters with an angry troll, a three headed dog, and a baby dragon, the three friends show a great deal of resourcefulness, determination, and bravery, but danger seems to lurk around every corner.  Will they be able to save the sorcerer’s stone from the evil wizard searching for it?  Will they get through their first year of Hogwarts alive?

Review: Exciting and entertaining, this movie stays amazingly true to the book upon which it is based.  The characters are well developed and intriguing, with a cast of talented actors.  The special effects are well done, if not perfect.  There is a need to suspend disbelief anyway, so why not forget they’re special effects and sit back and enjoy?  The scenery is beautiful and once immersed in the magic of the movie, most viewers will not want to come back to real (I mean, muggle) life.

Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure, Family, Mystery

Viewing/Interest Level: 8+ years

Available in: DVD; Blu-ray; Wide Screen, Full Screen, and Ultimate Editions

Subjects: magic, wizardry, spells, growing up, coming of age, family, friendship

Series Information: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first movie in an eight movie series, movies two through eight are: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (to be released later in 2011)


Bone: Out from Boneville, by Jeff Smith

Bone: Out from Boneville. By Jeff Smith.  Scholastic, 2005.  144 pages. $10.99

Plot: Once the richest man in his community, then found to be a crook, Phoncible P. Bone has been kicked out of Boneville.  His cousins, Fone Bone, and Smiley Bone, help him get out of town in a hurry and they all run away until the townspeople are not following them any more.  The Bone cousins are human-like creatures; they stand upright and have two arms and two legs.  They are blob-like in appearance, with round heads and white, smooth bodies which are smaller than the average human.  When a swarm of locusts surprises the cousins, they get separated, and Fone Bone eventually ends up in a valley with strange, scary rat creatures, unusual weather patterns, a dragon which no one but Fone Bone seems to see, and a lovely young girl named Thorn, who becomes Fone’s friend.  Together they find Fone’s two cousins and manage to escape an attack by the rat creatures.  But will the rat creatures return?  Why do they hunt the Bones?  Will the Bone cousins ever get back to Boneville?

Review: This book has some classic and well-done graphic novel elements: clear, detailed drawings in comic cels, good vs. evil, and mystery and suspense.  The unusual storyline and quirky characters make Bone fresh and unique.  Bone is humorous and, at times, a bit scary, and the artwork reflects this.  The Bone creatures are cute and friendly looking, but the rat creatures are hairy and menacing, with sharp horns and sharp teeth and red eyes.  Bone does what a high quality graphic novel should do, it uses words to enhance the story that the images mostly tell.

Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy

Reading/Interest Level: 8-12 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

ISBN: 978-0439706407

Similar Books: Others in the series; The Adventures of Daniel Boom, AKA Loud Boy; The Dodgeball Chronicles (Knights of the Lunch Table, No. 1)

Subjects: banishment, good vs. evil, survival

Series Information: Out from Boneville is the first in a nine volume Bone series, so the adventure continues…

Selected Awards: The Bone series started first as black and white cartoons, those cartoons and the newer color graphic novels have received numerous Eisner Awards and Harvey Awards.  In 2005, Time Magazine put Bone (a compilation of the 9 book series) on its list of the 100 best English-Language novels from 1923 to the present.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. By J. K. Rowling. Scholastic, 1998.  312 pages.  $13.95

Plot: Harry Potter has never fit in.  He doesn’t fit in at home; he lives with the Dursleys. Aunt Petunia, his deceased mother’s sister, and uncle Vernon are disapproving and neglectful.  His cousin, Dudley, is mean, manipulative and an all around bully.  Harry has a hard time making friends at school as Dudley and his gang harass and torment him so much, no one dares to get close.  Then comes his eleventh birthday and with it, a letter, well, actually MANY letters, but Uncle Vernon intercepts most of them, until one finally gets to Harry.  Harry has always known that his parents died when he was young, but what he didn’t know was that they were a witch and a wizard and they died saving his life.  And, what’s more, Harry himself possesses the power of magic, and he has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  The Hogwarts Express takes students from London to their school, and, in the station, Harry meets his soon-to-be best friend Ron Weasley.  Harry is nervous but excited to go to a place where, maybe, he’ll finally fit in.  But, will he fit in?  He and Ron become close to a third friend, Hermoine Granger and the three of them embark on an adventure solving the mystery of the forbidden third floor, which seems to be hiding something very important.  Along the way Harry learns more about himself and his past.

Review: This is gripping reading at its finest.  The characters are charismatic and unique.  The story is interesting and unpredictable.  Once readers enter the “magic world” they won’t want to leave.  There is nothing overly literary about the writing, but it flows well, and the compelling nature of the story will appeal to many tween readers, who don’t care so much about whether or not a book is considered great literature.  Tweens know what they like, and many like Harry Potter.  This is a great book for boys and girls, reluctant and eager readers alike, and fantasy fans.  The first of a series of seven books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, will leave readers wanting more, and, luckily for them, they can get it!

Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure, Mystery

Reading/Interest Level: 8-12 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook

ISBN: 9780590353427

Similar Books: Other books in the Harry Potter series; The Lightening Thief; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Matilda; there is also a movie with the same title

Subjects: family, friendship, magic, wizardry, spells, growing up, coming of age,

Series Information: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book in a seven book series, books two through seven are: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Lightening Thief: Percy Jackson and The Olympians, Book One, by Rick Riordan.

The Lightening Thief: Percy Jackson and The Olympians, Book One. By Rick Riordan. Hyperion Books, 2005.  400 pages.  $7.99

Plot: Percy Jackson is a kid who hasn’t had it easy, and maybe that’s why he’s so appealing.  Diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, he has had a hard time staying in school, in fact, he has been kicked out of several.  But, when he’s twelve years old, Percy finds out something about himself that he never could have imagined.  His father, who he has never known, is a Greek god.  His mother is mortal, so Percy is a demigod or “half-blood.”  His mother takes him to Camp Half-Blood where he meets other half-bloods and finds out which god his father is.  After discovering the identity of his father, Percy, along with his friends Annabeth, a demigod daughter of Athena, and Grover, a satyr, must go on a quest.  There is trouble brewing amongst the gods and Percy et al must succeed in their quest in order to avoid a large scale battle of the gods.  Will they survive?  Will they succeed?  And who is Percy’s father, anyway?

Review: This book has it all: humor, adventure, mystery, fantasy and likable, dimensional characters.  Percy’s flaws make him all the more real.  Imminently readable and interesting, this book draws readers in with twists and turns, lots of adventure, and a plot filled with Greek mythology references.  Luckily, this book is part of a series, so we don’t have to leave Percy just yet.

Genre(s): Adventure, Fantasy, Realistic Fiction, Mystery

Reading/Interest Level: 9-13 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

ISBN: 9780786838653

Similar Books: Other books in the Percy Jackson series, The Demigod Files (A Percy Jackson and the Olympians Guide), Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie, Harry Potter series

Subjects: family, friendship, war, Greek Mythology, ADHD, Dyslexia

Series Information: The Lightning Thief is the first book in a five book Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, books two through five are: The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian

Selected Awards: 2006 YASLA Best Books for Young Adults List, School Library Journal Best Book of 2005

Wizards of Waverly Place: Alex Tells the World

Wizards of Waverly Place: Alex Tells the World (Season 4, Episode 1, November 12, 2010), TV Program. Producer: It’s a Laugh Productions.  Actors: Selena Gomez, David Henrie, Jake T. Austin, Jennifer Stone, Maria Canals Barrera, David DeLuise.  Series dates: 2007 – present.

Plot Summary: The Russo family lives on Waverly Place in New York City’s Greenwich Village.  With an Italian American father, a Mexican American mother, and three lovely children, the family seems to be living the American dream.  Only, there’s a twist.  The three children, Justin, Alex, and Max, are wizards.  The father, Jerry used to be a wizard, but by marrying a mortal, Theresa, he was relieved of his powers.  Now his children are training to become wizards and they will eventually compete to be the receiver of the family’s magic.  Only one of them can get the magic and stay a wizard forever, the other two will become mortals.  They must keep their powers a secret from the mortal world.  In this particular episode, viewers join the family after they have just escaped imprisonment by the government.  They return exhausted, but safe, to Waverly Place.  But, other wizards are still being jailed, and Alex, the middle child and only daughter, decides she must tell the mortal world about the wizarding world in order to save the other wizards.  This revelation is against all wizarding rules, but Alex feels she has no other choice.  Will Alex become a hero?  Will the wizards be saved?

Review: This program has an interesting premise.  With the popularity of Harry Potter books, a TV show about wizards is a great choice.  This show is less like Harry Potter, and more like many of the tween comedies out there.  There are silly antics, slapstick jokes, outsmarting the parents, and, hopefully, a positive message at the end, in this case, standing up for what is right, even if there are unpleasant consequences.  The characters can be compelling.  Viewers could get caught up in the successes or failures of the wizard training program and relate to the sibling rivalry and friendship issues.  The parents are present, but not too hovering.  The big star of the show, Selena Gomez, has a recording career and has starred in several movies, likely a big draw for this program.

Genre(s): Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Adventure

Viewing/Interest Level: 8 – 12 years

Available in: Cable TV Disney Channel, DVD, online at http://disney.go.com/videos/#/videos/tvshows/

Similar Programs: Good Luck Charlie, That’s So Raven, Hannah Montana

Subjects: justice, speaking out, secrets,

Selected Award: 2009 Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program


The Tale of Despereaux (unabridged audiobook), by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux (unabridged audiobook). By Kate DiCamillo.  Read by Graeme Malcolm.  Random House/Listening Library, 2005.  3 hours, 30 minutes.  $14.99

Plot: From the moment he is born, Despereaux is different.  He is smaller than the other mice his age and his ears are enormous, but what makes him the most different is his behavior and his ideas.  You see, Despereaux isn’t afraid of humans, and, in the mouse world, this is tantamount to heresy.  Despereaux lives in a castle and one day, he meets and falls in love with the beautiful, and very human, Princess Pea.  This is not acceptable to Despereaux’s family or community, so he is harshly punished.  That brings Despereaux to the dungeon, a dark, damp, hopeless place.  In the dungeon lived Chiaroscuro, a rat who loves light, going against all that rats hold dear, though he shared a dislike for mice with his rat brethren.   The story of Miggery Sow, a young girl who, after he mother’s death, was sold to a man by her father, is a tale of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment.  All Miggery, Mig for short, wants is to be a princess.  How do these disparate stories come together?  What will happen to Despereaux, Chiaroscuro, Mig, Princess Pea?  Will this “Fairy tale” end happily ever after?  This story is about hopes and dreams, being comfortable in one’s own skin/fur, and following one’s passion.  Written with feeling, humor, and suspense this book is a wonderful audiobook or read aloud book.

Review:  Graeme Malcolm’s melodious voice and British accent were a perfect match for this fantasy tale that takes place in a castle.  Characters, some heroic, some deeply flawed, come to life as their stories unfold on this audiobook.  Listening to the story allowed for time to consider more about the characters and their motivations.  Listening to the story also provided a wonderful opportunity to imagine and picture all of the characters and happenings.  This story is both dark and light, with some events that could be disturbing to some younger or more sensitive tweens.  It was unfortunate that Miggery Sow, the abused girl whose father sold her to a man, was represented as fat, which was a decidedly negative characterization as it was close on the heels of the description of her as being stupid as well.  The writing seemed to want to turn the reader/listener away from having sympathy or compassion for a girl who clearly deserved both.  Overall, a great fantasy to dive into and enjoy.

Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure

Reading/Interest Level: 9-12 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

ISBN: 1400099137

Similar Books: Mrs. Frisby and  the Rats of NIMH, The Tiger Rising,

Subjects: fitting in, friendship, love, growing up, family, community, hopes, dreams,

Selected Awards: 2004 Newberry Medal (the book)

The Giver

The Giver.  By Lois Lowry. Houghton Mifflin, 1993. 180 pages. $17

Plot: Jonas’ world is seemingly perfect.  There’s no hunger, prejudice, or poverty.  Everybody knows what is and is not allowed, what s/he is responsible for, and what happens when the rules are not obeyed.  Even politeness is codified.  In a society carefully constructed and maintained, twelve-year-old Jonas, dutiful and obedient, is assigned to be the community’s “Receiver of Memories.”  All the so-called “twelves” are given their career assignments in a celebratory ceremony.  Jonas’ position is considered the most honored in the community, and he is to replace an old man who will train him for the job.  As Jonas starts receiving memories he begins to have thoughts he has never had before.  He starts to question his outwardly ideal society and finds out there is more below the surface than he has seen or even considered before.  Is his world utopian?  Dystopian?

Review: Fascinating and frightening, Jonas’ world is cause for thoughtful reflection.  Lowry’s novel raises questions about what it means to be a society and what qualities make a society function.  The story is engaging and interesting.  Lowry’s writing is riveting and though-provoking, allowing the reader to question Jonas’ world along with him.  The Giver contains some events whose plausibility is questionable, but, even so, would make a great choice for a book club or class discussion.

Genre(s): Fantasy, Science Fiction

Reading/Interest Level: 8-12 years

Selected Awards: 1994 Newberry Medal, 1996 William Allen White Children’s Book Award, ALA “Best Book for Young Adults, ALA Notable Children’s Book, ALA Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000, Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

ISBN: 978-0-395-64566-6

Subjects: utopia, careers, society, memories, knowledge, freedom, choice

Main Characters

Jonas: eleven to twelve-year-old main character who is given the honorable career of the community’s “Receiver of Memories,” obedient follower of his society’s many rules until he starts to question some of the community’s accepted methods of doing things

Lily: Jonas’ seven to eight-year-old sister

Jonas’ father: works as a “Nurturer,” a caretaker of new children, is particularly concerned with the development of a “one” named Gabriel, helps Jonas follow society’s rules

Jonas’ mother: works as a Judge, helps Jonas follow society’s rules

Gabriel: a baby in the care of Jonas’ father who eventually comes to live with Jonas’ family, in the hopes that his growth and development, which are slower than expected, will improve

Asher: Jonas’ best friend who isn’t always successful at following the rules and who enjoys fun

Fiona: friend of Jonas and the object of Jonas’ newly recognized “stirrings” of attraction

The Giver: the elderly man currently holding the position to which Jonas has been assigned, holds the societies’ memories, so individuals of the community do not have to experience them.