Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Bibliographic Information: Rowling, J. K.  (1999).  Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books. ISBN: 978-0-439-06486-6

Plot Summary: Harry Potter has spent another long summer with the Dursley's, trying to keep them at bay with imaginary threats of magic while not losing his mind. To make matters worse Harry receives an unexpected guest, a house elf named Dobby, on the night of his uncle's important business dinner. Dobby demands that Harry Potter not return to Hogwarts or else! Finding Dobby a little unhinged, Harry tells Dobby that he has no intention of not going to Hogwarts. Despite Harry's pleas Dobby goes wild and commences to make a ruckus through the important dinner hoping that Harry will promise not to return to Hogwarts. This chaos causes Harry's uncle to lose his potential client. As a result of this, Harry is locked in his room and prohibited from leaving to Hogwarts; a fact that makes Dobby happy. Wondering where he has been all summer, Ron and his brothers come to Harry's rescue. Unfortunately the rescue is only the beginning of Harry's adventures.

Harry's hopes for an uneventful year end when Mrs. Norris, the cat, turns up petrified with a message that states "the chamber of secrets is open;" a secret chamber left begin by the founder of the Slytherin house. The attacks only become more frequent and are geared towards "muggle-born" students (those from non-magic families). Harry and his friends must race against time to save their "muggle-born" friends and catch the true villain of the story.

Critical Evaluation: One of the themes that J. K. Rowling focuses on heavily in this book was that of class differences. Characters are generally analyzed either by their power as a witch or wizard or by their lineage and wealth. Characters like the Weasley family are looked down upon by some because they have little money and generally share their worn down belongings until they are forced to buy new items. This is a source of constant ridicule that characters like Draco Malfoy use to try to shame characters like Ron Weasley. Characters are also judged by their lineage and are called "mudbloods" if they do not come from a long line of witches and wizards. This suggests that they are inferior and of "dirty blood" which will in some way ruin the magic world. This distinction of wealth and family background also ties into the conversation of who should be "worthy" to develop their witch/wizardring skills; some preferring that only "pure bloods" have this honor. These social distinctions color each scene and set the tone in terms of the way in which characters will ultimately behave with one another. This also exposes young readers to the conversation of what makes people different and whether or not these differences should influence the things that a person is able to do. In a way, Rowling is making a veiled social commentary of present day class and educational systems and encourages readers of all ages to take a closer look at their own environments and social scenes. .

Reader’s Annotation:
Harry Potter must use his own hidden talent to stop a possible killer and save his friends.
Information About the Author: J. K. Rowling was born in 1965 in England (Rowling, 2012). She went to Exiter University for her undergrad, where she received degrees in French and the Classics (Rowling, 2012). She got the inspiration for her books while riding the train from Manchester to London (Rowling, 2012). She then spent the next five years working on her plot lines for her books (Rowling, 2012). Rowling then moved to Portugal and taught English (Rowling, 2012). Rowling then married in 1992, had a daughter in 1993, and then moved back to Edinburgh when her marriage ended (Rowling, 2012). Rowling continued working on her novels in England and published her first Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (UK version) in 1997 (Rowling, 2012). Her books were an instant success and have sold over 375 million copies worldwide (Rowling, 2012).

Other books in the Harry Potter series include:  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2004), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007), and her newest, The Casual Vacancy (September 27, 2012) (Rowling, 2012).

J. K. Rowling discussing the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie

Genre:  Adventure, Fantasy

Subgenre: Heroes and Heroines, Sword and Sorcery

Curriculum Ties: Could be used in a section about heroes, coming of age, and adventure.

Booktalking Ideas:

1). What element is added by Harry's realization that he is a parseltongue?
2). How does the struggle between original wizard and witch students versus muggle-born students reflect class struggles in modern day society?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Lexile Reading Level 940/ 5-8 grade (Follett's Titlewave, 2012)

Challenge Issues: This book may not be accepted in religious teen library's due to its witch and wizard subject matter. I would use the following items to defend this book if it was ever challenged:

1) Refer to Library Bill of Rights, see items: I, II, and III (
2) Refer to San Diego Public Library collection policy - (  Original site: The American Library Association (ALA) Freedom to Read/View Statement (
3) Refer to California School Library Association (CSLA), Model School Library Standards - September 2010 ( PDF: (
4) Refer t0 American Association for School, Librarians Standards for the 21st Century Learner (
5) Contact Office of Intellectual Freedom for any further support, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223 or
6) Refer to legitimate book reviews, such as: School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book and others; found on either Academic Search Premier, Follett's TITLEWAVE, or

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:
This book may be geared towards a younger audience but is completely appropriate for any age level, especially teen. The book's rich storyline and complex characters offer a lot for the development of teen critical thinking. Also, most teens have grown up with the characters of these books and can relate to many aspects of the stories.

Reference Page:

Rowling, J. K.  (2012).  Biography.  Retrieved July 18, 2012 from

Rowling J. K. (2012).  Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets cover art. Retrieved July 17, 2012 from

Follett's Titlewave.  (2012).  Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets. Retrieved July 16, 2012 from the Follett's Titlewave iPhone app.

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