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

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me.  By Rebecca Stead. Wendy Lamb Books, 2009. 208 pages. $15.99

Plot: It’s the 1970’s and everything is going along fine in sixth grader, Miranda’s life.  He best friend since they were little, Sal, lives in her building and they explore New York City together, often walking by the homeless man on the corner who she calls “the laughing man.”  Her mom has a nice boyfriend, Richard, who Miranda likes.  And sixth grade is OK.  But, then, everything changes.  A boy neither of them knows punches Sal when he and Miranda are walking home from school one day.  And all of a sudden Sal doesn’t want to hang out with Miranda anymore.  Miranda’s mom is preparing to be a contestant on the game show $20,000 pyramid, with Miranda and others’ help.  Miranda finds herself in need of friends and companions.  She makes some new friends, including getting to know the boy who hit Sal; his name is Marcus.  And she starts receiving these mysterious notes.  She finds the first one in her library book.  She wonders how it got there.  Then more notes appear; who are they coming from?  Why doesn’t Sal want to be friends anymore? Will Miranda’s mother win $20,000 and make them rich?

Review: Author Rebecca Stead has accomplished an amazing feat with When You Reach Me.  The book is warm and personable.  Main character, Miranda, is likable and spirited.  Characters are three-dimensional and interesting.  And, through intricate details and careful story telling, Stead has created a book that defies any one (or two) genre category.  It is at once a mystery, science fiction, historical fiction, realistic fiction, and adventure novel.  And covering all those genres serves to strengthen the story and contributes to its ability to appeal to a wide audience, which it does and will.  The writing flows effortlessly, the hints and clues add intrigue, the characters are rich and multi-faceted and the plot is fun.  This would be a great book for a book group and for re-reading, as analyzing the story during a second read would be an interesting and enlightening activity.

Genre(s): Adventure, Mystery, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Reading/Interest Level: 9-13 years

Selected Awards: 2010 Newberry Medal, 2010 ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2010 ALA Best Books for Young Adults Top 10, 2009 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

ISBN: 978-0-385-73742-5

Similar Books: Criss Cross, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Subjects: friendship, identity, time travel


Nancy Drew #105: The Clue in the Antique Trunk, by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew #105: The Clue in the Antique Trunk.  By Carolyn Keene. Aladdin, 2001. 160 pages.

Plot: Nancy and her friends Bess and George are off to White Falls, Massachusetts to visit Nancy’s former neighbor and White Falls history buff, Vera Alexander.  Vera is running the White Falls crafts fair which includes a fundraiser for the White Falls history museum she hopes to break ground on soon.  But, somebody doesn’t want Vera to succeed with the museum.  The building she wants to use was a knife factory whose owner, Zach Calder, was killed with one of the Calder knives.  The townsfolk think they know who the killer is, but no one is sure.  And who stole the antique trunks from Vera’s house that held the items to be auctioned off to raise funds for the museum?  Nancy and her friends have several mysteries to unravel to get to the clue in the antique trunk.  Will they find out who killed Calder?  Will they find out who is trying to stop the opening of the history museum?

Review: In true Nancy Crew style, this mystery has twists and turns that keep the reader guessing.  Slightly updated from the 1930’s, a computer is used to inventory antiques, but not all the way to today, the story still has the old-fashioned feel of most Nancy Drew novels.  Cell phones would have proved useful for Nancy and her friends, but, alas, the story wasn’t that contemporary.  Fans of Nancy Drew won’t be disappointed, and mystery fans who like suspense in an accessible and relatively mild form, will also enjoy this novel.  Excellent mystery for younger tweens, as things always seem to feel in control when Nancy is around.

Genre(s): Adventure, Mystery

Reading/Interest Level: 8-12 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

ISBN: 978-0743423458

Subjects: robbery, history, murder, antiques, friendship, mystery

Character names:

Nancy Drew: intrepid teen detective

Bess Marvin: Nancy’s friend, helps solve mysteries, cousin of George

George Fayne: Nancy’s friend, helps solve mysteries, cousin of Bess

Vera Alexander: Nancy’s former neighbor who invites Nancy and her friends to the crafts fair and hopes to get some help with figuring out who is out to destroy her museum plans

Julie Bergson: Vera’s assistant

Room One: A Mystery or Two, by Andrew Clements

Room One: A Mystery or Two.  By Andrew Clements; illustrated by Chris Blair. Simon and Schuster, 2006. 192 pages. $5.99

Plot: Ted, the only 6th grader in his 10-student school, loves mysteries.  He challenges himself to guess the outcome of mystery novels he reads after getting halfway through the books, and he often gets it right.  But one morning while riding his bike delivery papers along his paper route he sees a girl looking out the window of an abandoned farmhouse.  Who is she?  Why is she there?  Ted uses real life detective skills as he searches for answers.  Along the way, Ted learns about friendship, loyalty, and compassion.

Review: This is a charming story of contemporary, small town life.  There are so many people leaving the area that Ted’s school may even be shut down due to low enrollment.  Ted is curious, maybe even nosy, but always ethical and thoughtful.  The writing flows nicely, and is accessible for younger tweens.  The story has enough depth to work for older tweens, particularly those who don’t like scary mysteries, as this one has a bit of suspense, but is not frightening.  To some extent, this book reads more like a great realistic fiction story than a mystery, though there are elements of mysteries and detective work.  Ted’s dry sense of humor, kindness, and sometimes faulty, but well-meaning, decisions, make him an appealing and likable character.  Giving some attention to issues like the Iraq war and homelessness, this book has a social conscience and gives the reader pause for thought.  Small, simple black and white drawings sprinkled throughout the book add a nice touch of emphasis to certain events of the story.

Genre(s): Realistic Fiction, Mystery, Adventure

Reading/Interest Level: 9-12 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook

ISBN: 978-0689866876

Subjects: friendship, homelessness, veterans, poverty

Selected Awards: 2007 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery

Character names

Ted Hammond: main character, resident of rural Plattsford, NE, the only 6th grader in his school, loves mysteries, sees a girl in the window of an abandoned farmhouse and decides to find out who she is and why she is there

April: the girl Ted sees in the window

Mrs. Mitchell: Ted’s teacher, he confides in Mrs. Mitchell and she helps Ted when he needs it