There are so many things that one can write about the first Harry Potter book, but it really just takes one phrase to describe it effectively: it’s a phenomenon. Whether you belong in those who go crazy about it or not, there is no doubt that this series has written history in the publishing world. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the beginning of a remarkable book series. A series that broke every best-selling record and overnight became a worldwide sensation.
Written by the notorious J.K. Rowling, the first Harry Potter book was published in 1997. As the writer herself has stated, before first sitting down to write her story, she only knew its beginning and its end. The in between, however, was what took her seven entire books to tell. Harry Potter was always a very ambitious plan, especially for the videogames era, and for a time when the young-adult genre was almost non-existent. What was interesting to watch, was a writer, who without preaching, and without coming between the children and their ways of having fun, stood alongside TV and videogames and managed to have her books read widely, her characters followed closely and her lines quoted by all children out there. J.K. Rowling made kids who hated reading, fall in love with books.
Harry Potter has all the necessary elements that a story needs to get kids interested. There is magic and mystery, there is pure and evil, there are mythical creatures and funny characters and, above all, there is a solid plot that never ceases to excite the young reader. Inspired by Disney and Tolkien, Harry Potter is a “mainstream” book of which the main goal is to entertain rather than to educate — at least in this first book of the series. Straightforward, and with no hidden moral messages, Harry Potter is simply the story of a young boy living a miserable life, suppressing his talents and great potential, before realising he’s a wizard and he belongs in a very different world, a place where everything is possible.
Although film critics didn’t fall for it, all kids and quite a few adults loved it when four years later, and with three more books in the series already published, the first movie adaptation was released. Warner Bros surely helped a great deal with this; everything, from the casting to the photography was exactly the way that each young reader had imagined it, if not better. The adaptation faithfully followed the descriptions that were given by the author, leaving out only a few minor details. It’s remarkable how few the changes in the plot were, and even more impressive, the extent in which these changes allowed the story to suit its new medium.
Harry Potter‘s casting must have been rather challenging — a bunch of ten-year-old actors trying to portray the books’ heroes and succeeding in offering high quality performances — this cannot have been something that the cast directors were seeing everyday. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint as Ron and Emma Watson as Hermione manage to remain realistic throughout their coming-of-age years in the series, always convincing their audience of their mixed feelings of courage, curiosity as well as attraction to danger.
The Harry Potter frenzy certainly happened for a reason. The book series ticked all the right boxes in order to excite and please its target audience, and the film adaptations were perfect for the standards that the books had set. The series never disappointed its audience. If anything, it kept its viewers anticipating the trio’s upcoming adventures, until the very end.