Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is perhaps the lightest book in the Harry Potter series, with no Voldemort appearances or the intense darkness that surrounds him. This one’s mostly illusion, and it happens to be my favorite one, the one that REALLY makes me wish I could attend Hogwarts. Hogsmeade, the town just outside the school grounds where only magical people live, is my favorite setting in the series outside of the castle. Also, history always gets me, even when it’s fictional, so the background we get on James Potter (Harry’s dad) and his friends and his schooldays is right up my alley. I’d like to give tattered, personable Professor Lupin a handshake and a kindly pat on the back. And I especially love Sirius Black and the dangerous, sinister aura surrounding him that leads so well to a fabulous plot twist at the end (And to think I actually spent three books feeling sorry for Scabbers!)
This plot is very well-constructed. By reading through it a second, and now a third time, I’ve picked up on numerous details scattered throughout the text which verify the eye-opening events in the final plot sequence. It’s a shocker, but the clues are all in there, and it comes full circle in the end, fully explained and believable. I only wish Harry got to live with his godfather instead of having to return home to the awful Dursleys.
And as always, my trip to Hogwarts was vastly entertaining. Consider the following kid-pleasers: The Monster Book of Monsters, the textbook that rips into books and fingers alike; the Knight Bus, a wizard ride for which garbage cans, trees and houses jump out of the way; a sneakoscope, which whirrs when a scoundrel is present; the Fat Lady, the subject of a painting who guards the Griffyndor common room and her temporary replacement, roguish Sir Cadogan, with his mouthful of insults; chocolate frogs with lifelike jumping action inside the stomach; and three more secret tunnels; not to mention the very cool Marauder’s Map, which I’d like just to keep track of my own children.
As always, there is some content that could be called into question. Hogwarts offers lots of fortune-telling subjects such as arithmancy and divination. Professor Trelawney, while everyone knows she’s a fraud, teaches palm reading and crystal ball reading. But at one point, she does go into a trance and delivers a real prophecy. Students also study astronomy, but it’s really more like astrology. Yet these I weigh in the fun, magical spirit of the book, and a simple conversation sufficed to explain to my daughter the danger in taking them seriously. Also, there are three or four mild profanities. And dementors make an appearance in this book. Dementors are “undesirable” magical creatures used as prison guards in Azkaban. They sap all happiness from their surroundings. And their “kiss,” used sort of as wizard capital punishment, sucks the soul of an individual out of his or her mouth, leaving them less than alive and worse than dead.
These are the reasons why I give Harry Potter a personal 12+ age recommendation. Yet, I do recommend them. Few others books are as full of imagination and fun. And this, I think, is the best one of the series.
My other Harry Potter reviews: