Just wrapped up round 1 of the Harry Potter Reading Challenge with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Third read for this book, actually. I’m so happy none of the magic is gone.

I have to say, it’s really fun to revisit this series a couple years after finishing it, mostly because when you know how it ends and who’s who and all the secrets are out, you can pay more attention to the little details and nuances that show that J.K. Rowling didn’t just sit down and bang out a bunch of books one after another. Her attention to detail without making it any less than a fun, easy read of an adventure tale show that she has earned her success for sure! (Not to be confused with other wildly popular series that I will not mention by name lest the sparkly vampires and hormonal werewolves hunt me down… oops. I’ve already said too much.)

I love the way Sorcerer’s Stone introduces the main characters and their unique personalities and sets the greater story arc in motion. The first few chapters show us probably the most rotten substitute parents since Roald Dahl, but when the Hagrid sweeps Harry into the wizarding world, the magic happens (yes, pun totally intended.) The alternate England on the other side of Diagon Alley is alive and imaginative… and somehow more real than life on Privet Drive.

Sure, it’s a neat, quick, light read, and in hindsight, certainly not the best of the series. Some parts fell really rushed and simplified, especially after the depth of the later books. But it’s a great introduction that’s fun for kids and adults before the darker twists in the tale begins. It’s also great to see how much the writing and storytelling improve over the years, and how deftly Rowling allows the characters to grow and mature without sacrificing the identities she showed us in the first book.

What I learned about writing: Stay true to your characters. Let them grow and move and change, but never forget who they are. Details and subtle foreshadowing work wonders (ugh… guess that means I should outline! :)). And there’s a lot of power in a simple story of good and evil, even for (as Dr. Seuss lovingly put it) “obsolete children.”

Yay, first completed part of a reading challenge! Six months + six more HP books… um, gotta read faster! :)