Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
by J.K. Rowling, illus. by Mary GrandPré
Last, but most certainly not least, Harry Potter is likely well known to you and your family, but this list would not be complete without it. If you are just now embarking on a journey with Harry, you and the children in your life are in for a treat. What child doesn’t love the idea of being secretly special in ways that mark him or her as a hero? That’s what orphaned Harry discovers early on in the Sorcerer’s Stone. The discovery plunges him into a world of magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, departing from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, and stopping first for school supplies, such as Harry’s holly-and-phoenix-feather wand--with a mysterious similarity to the wand of You-Know-Who. Lord Voldemort. Harry is not afraid to call the villain by name, to look evil in the eye and dares try to defeat it. Along the way, there’s a great deal of fun and games, too—Harry’s friendship with Ron Weasley and Hermione, certainly, as well as his success on the Quidditch field. But one word of caution if this is your first time through: Rowling conceived of this as a seven-book series, one for each year that Harry is at Hogwarts. The books grow up with him and take on more turbulent themes as he and the series progress. So while your seven- or eight-year-old might be quite comfortable with books one and two, by the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban, with the introduction of the Dementors (the guards of the prison--my favorite invention of the series), things turn a bit frightening; and by book four (when Harry is 14), Goblet of Fire, a death occurs. This word of caution is only to prepare your youngsters, as they may be eager to read the later episodes before they’re emotionally prepared for them—reading aloud those later volumes together might be a good idea.