A lot of things are overhyped these days, but this book isn't one of them.

Harry Potter is an orphaned child, living a miserable existence with his cruel uncle and aunt, and their dreadful, spoilt son, when, suddenly, his luck changes, and he gets the opportunity to go to a new school, Hogwarts.

There are four houses at Hogwarts, and Harry ends up in Gryffindor, who are determined to end Slytherin's hold on the House Cup, and Harry's amazing powers make him their main hope. A star at Quidditch, it looks as if his reckless behaviour looking for the magical Philosopher's Stone, with his friends, will cost Gryffindor dearly. What happens after that...well, that would be telling!

The good characters in this book are delightful, especially the three child heroes (four if you include Neville!) Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, and Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall - and even the fur-wearing Hagrid (speaking as a vegetarian, one of the book's faults is it's not veggie friendly!).

The unpleasant characters are hissable - Snape, Malfoy, and Voldemort, plus one or two surprise baddies. The book has a balanced mix of light and dark, and the vivid descriptions of the Quidditch matches mixes the two.

What makes this book special is really the mix of old-fashioned storytelling, involving wizards, monsters, ghosts, and good and evil, but placed in a modern setting - which, though giving you the feeling you've read something similar before, you know you haven't!

- Paul Rance/

J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone book cover

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John Hegley - Glad To Wear Glasses
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