This blog entry will Chronicle (pun intended) a father and son’s first time reading Harry Potter together. I’ll update it after each chapter so that I can capture the most memorable moments. Come back often and check in on our progress and leave us a note or feedback!
I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I know Jax and I will.
Finally! “I did my waiting! Twelve years of it!” (Ok maybe seven years of waiting)! But, the day has finally arrived!!! Tonight Jax and I begin our journey at 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging… to Platform 9 3/4 and finally on to Hogwarts! Wish us luck… then again, we won’t need luck… we’ll be with Professor Dumbledore.
Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived
We first meet the Dursleys and learn of the peculiar happenings surrounding the arrival of Harry Potter on their doorstep.
Jax: “Wait, Harry’s parents are dead, why didn’t Voldemort kill him too????” “Why can’t they say his name?”
Me: Stop asking great questions, damn it! This is going to be harder than I thought!!!
Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass
We finally get to see some magic happen (albeit unbeknownst to the new reader). Harry grows his hair back in one night, flies to the top of the school roof and helps a snake escape from the zoo after literally having a conversation with it, but Jax is most interested in the VCR Dudley gets for his birthday and “why the heck would a kid want to watch a movie on a tape when he could just use Netflix”.
Chapter 3: The Letters From No One
Tonight was a little difficult to get going on the reading (Jax wants to also read his other chapter book that he’s been reading), but I remember it took me a few chapters (and a few tries) to get into this first book when I started too. This chapter, luckily has a little of everything to really hook the reader. Give us a little bit of magic, some funny scenes (everyone getting hit with Dudley’s Smelting stick), a bunch of “bad words” and a shocking “to be continued” chapter ending! This may be the chapter that has him craving more!
Jax summary of this chapter: Harry gets in trouble because someone keeps sending him like two-hundred forty thousand letters. Uncle Vernon let’s Harry have a bigger room so he doesn’t have to stay in the cupboard anymore, but then says a bunch of bad words like “STUPID and DAMN!” (Jax needed to repeat these words multiple times to really drive home their importance, LOL). So then they tried to get away, so the mailman wouldn’t bring anymore letters to a house across the sea, but someone found them on Harry’s eleventh birthday! I think it might be Dumbledore!!!
Chapter 4: The Keeper of the Keys
Tonight, Jax was excited to meet Hagrid again. although not as excited to find out that my Hagrid voice sounded more like a defunct pirate.
I was worried a bit about this chapter as we hear a lot about death and literally get a visual of the green flash that kills Harry’s parents and almost kills him. Jax handled it well and inferred the flash of green light was from “Voldemort’s Stupid Wand!” I’d say even JKR herself couldn’t have described it better.
He also got to open the letter that Hagrid gave Harry which he was excited about. Since the book we are reading has lots of pop-up type 3D visuals in it, there’s some manipulatives that add to the experience as we read. After we finished the chapter I showed him the Hogwarts Letter that I had made for him when he was born. He was wide eyed when he asked if he had to start going to Hogwarts for second grade.
Chapter 5: Diagon Alley
I absolutely love this chapter more every time I read it. JK Rowling’s description of where to find the Leaky Cauldron completely throws the reader’s mind for a loop… it’s one of the most important and fascinating ideas about the wizarding world: “it has always been there, if one has the knowledge to find it.” This is the chapter that hooks so many readers, that makes the Lunas and the Nevilles feel at home. After a few reads I always interpreted this chapter (or more specifically the entering of Diagon Alley) as a place for anyone who feels different: that they can find the place where they belong, as long as they know where to look.
This chapter has really begun to peak Jax’ curiosity the most so far. So much so, that we only got through the first half of the the chapter tonight.
He realized it was the “same place” he had been two years ago and actually asked how people become wizards.
The following interaction actually happened:
Jax: “Wait, Dad. How do they all know him… did they read about him in the newspaper?… but I thought only old people read the newspaper?”
Me: “I guess wizards and old people read the newspaper.”
Jax: “But dad… you read the newspaper?”
Me: “That’s because I’m a wizard.”
Jax: “No, it’s because you’re an old man!”
Chapter 5 continued… After resuming the chapter Jax reminded me that Harry needed to buy his supplies and loved the “fold out” of Diagon Alley this book provided. (Maybe a trip to the Wizarding World at Universal is in store soon?)
The most intriguing part of this chapter was in Olivander’s Wand Shop. Jax face when Hagrid lied to Mr. Olivander about “never using his wand anymore” was priceless. He obviously remembered Hagrid’s pink umbrella. Of course then we learned that Harry’s wand’s Phoenix feather had a brother… and that feather belonged to VOL- He-Must-Not-Be-Named (I loved LOVED Jax catching himself, making sure he didn’t say VOLDEMORT! 💀
We ended the chapter with Harry heading back to the Dursley’s until the start of term and right as Jax’ eyes closed for the night.
Chapter 6: The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
These chapters alone elicit multiple questions during reading… but, try reading a chapter after spending a day visiting Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as we recently visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.
I literally couldn’t read two sentences with out Jax interjecting or questioning something about a character or place that was mentioned… (and it was amazing), every single question gave me goosebumps! He’s starting to catch on.
Our trip to Platform 9 3/4 this past week added a special touch to this chapter
This is where so much of the book and really more importantly the entire series starts to come together. we meet Neville and Hermione and Draco shows his true colors. The chapter is full of foreshadowing, things that I still sometimes notice for the first time all these reads later!
“Dad, wait!!!! Platform 9 3/4… we were there”… “Dad, remember when Harry, Ron and Hermione were outside our room on the train”…………..…. “OK, wait, Draco doesn’t like Hagrid? Remember we saw him on the ride? He was holding his pink umbrella too!!!”
Every word he wanted to reread and every picture he wanted to inspect! It gave me goosebumps! I was closing my eyes as the chapter came to a close and Jax asked if he could stay up and look back at the previous chapters (he promised he wouldn’t read ahead! I hope he doesn’t… but I know I would if I were him!)
Chapter 7: The Sorting Hat
Damn you, Peeves! That damn poltergeist is such a minor character and used for comic relief… but according to Jax, “he’s the funniest so far!!!” Ok, yes he blows raspberries and makes farting noises, but geez Jax… grow up a little bit!
This chapter importantly introduces us to many new characters, the Hogwarts Houses and also forces us to really think about the preconceived notions that we bring with us as we read. Which brings us to the first really, really tough question of our reading.
“Why Slytherin Dad?”
It’s no secret that I’m a Slytherin. It’s tattooed on my arm:
Our hero, who we are experiencing the book through, has very strong feelings about Slytherin:
Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin. “Not Slytherin, eh?” said the small voice. ... You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that — no? Well, if you're sure — better be GRYFFINDOR!”
Jax has a very valid question, “Why are you in Slytherin? Dad, that’s where the bad guys go!”
I’m having an existential crisis at this point in the book. This chapter doesn’t become so much about comprehension, foreshadowing or character introductions… I had to navigate how NOT TO explain the thematic elements, the changes in characters as they develop though a story and most importantly about not judging a book by its cover.
We’re just not there yet. Jax is not there yet. Harry isn’t there yet either and that’s OK.
Chapter 8: The Potions Master
Jax starts the chapter hoping we can get through it in one sitting (which we’ve tried to read at least three separate times already with no success as one or both of us are always too tired to get past the first few pages). But before we even begin Jax asks if at the end of the books Harry will get a new family. I’m chomping at the bit to give him some info, but I can’t, I won’t!
As we move forward, Jax is not at all happy with Professor Snape as we see his character call Neville “idiot boy” and ignore Hermione who clearly knows all the answers. Jax says he’s mean and nasty. I think that’s the perfect first description of early Severus Snape.
This is an interesting chapter, Jax isn’t picking up on some of the more complex story elements yet. For example there have been a few foreshadowing moments already. This chapter especially (IE: When Hagrid avoids eye contact with Harry when asked if he knew anything about the Gringotts break in, or if Snape had a reason to not like Harry). I make sure to not give too much away, but will definitely come back to them later on as the plot unfolds.
Jax continues to develop as a reader and I know the deeper understanding will come with time. JK embeds some of the most subtle clues that I even missed a number of times the first few times I read the books. I’m trying to remember that this first read for Jax is about enjoyment. He and I can do a deep dive the next 394 times we read the books!
Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel
It’s important to note that while JKR weaves her story brilliantly, there are some chapters that are a bit more wordy than others. This chapter is FULL of back and forth dialogue. Therefore, reading to someone who is still developing higher-level comprehension skills as a reader and also knowing that I can not replicate the amazing character voices of audio book narrater Jim Dale it was important to ask some clarifying questions to Jax to check for understanding as we read through chapter nine. This was a long read tonight.
After some think-alouds and a some well planned questioning Jax summed this chapter up pretty succinctly:
- Neville got a red glowing ball and broke his arm
- Draco stole it from him and flew it up into a tree
- Harry was a really good flyer too and scooped the ball out of the air after diving super fast (faster than an airplane) to the ground because Malfoy threw it.
- Harry and Malfoy were going to fight.
- Filch and his cat almost caught them sneaking out for their dual.
- They almost got eaten by a dog with three heads, three snouts and venom dripping from its fangs.
- The dog was standing on a secret entrance.
Not too bad of a summary (with some prompting). Jax loved the appearance of Peeves again and his taunting of the “Ickle firsties!” He made me read (in Peeves voice), “Naughty, naughty, you’ll get caughty” about 14 times and we both laughed harder each time!
Jax ended the chapter with a prediction that the three headed dog was guarded something important in a big vault like at Gringotts.
Chapter 10: Halloween
Jax summed this one up quickly, “Harry got a new broom and learned about the Quidditch balls. Then a troll got in the dungeon and Harry shoved his wand up his nose and Ron did Wingardium Leviosa and killed it with his own club!”
No we’ll pause here to explain how Jax physically acted out the Wingardium Leviosa scene with the troll. I mean standing up on the bed… slowly drawing out the “WINgaaaaaarrrrddddiuuum,” just as Hermione instructed. He got the swish and flick dead on too! She would have been so proud of him.
It took some exposing to come around to the fact that Hermione lied to protect Harry and Ron and that is what bonded their friendship.
As we ended the chapter Jax continued to ask some great questions that I just can’t answer for him yet!
- “When Voldemort was at Hogwarts was he ever a good kid?”
- “Is Deathly Hallows the only time they battle Voldemort?”
- “Why would they want to kill some old man wizard?”
Chapter 11: Quidditch
This was such a fun chapter to read aloud! The majority of the chapter is dialogue, especially that of Lee Jordan who is the Quidditch announcer for Hogwarts. I may have gotten into this a little bit, as I stood and delivered my best play by play of Harry’s first Quidditch match. Jax was caught up in every move as Alicia and Angelina whipped the Quaffle around and Oliver Wood made save after save.
I ran out of breath detailing every move as both Gryffindor and Slytherin players flew around the pitch. Listen I might not be as good as Vin Scully or as well known as Joe Buck, but I think I call a pretty good match… or at least as well as Lee Jordan!
The caveat to this chapter is Jax has been playing Lego Harry Potter on Nintendo Wii and has finally gotten to the point where he (to my dismay) has outplayed our reading. So he was excited to hear how Hermione set fire to Snape’s robes as Harry’s broom was seemingly cursed. He smiled a bit more during this chapter as many different medias are beginning to come together for him right before his eyes. As the chapter ended, I noticed Jax beginning to make some inferences about our main characters:
- “How does Hermione know so many different spells; she is really good at magic!”
- “Hagrid forgets stuff a lot, doesn’t he?!”
- “Why doesn’t Ron do anything?” (This one made me laugh out loud!)
Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised
Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi
“The Mirror of Erised is an ancient, ornate mirror. It has clawed feet and a gold frame inscribed with the phrase ” Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.” The mirror shows the most desperate desire of a person’s heart, a vision that has been known to drive men mad.”
“Jax, what would you see if you looked into the Mirror or Erised?” I asked.
“My family”, he replied, with a sly smile that told me both he was serious, but he also knew that his answer would make my heart melt.
This is one of the most emotionally draining chapters in the series. Harry sees his family, more importantly he sees his parents. They are there, with him and he is happy for one of the first times in his life.
Adding to the dramatics of this chapter Harry receives an anonymous gift which turn out to be his father’s invisibility cloak. Jax explained to me that Harry was both excited and sad to get his dad’s cloak because, “He doesn’t know his dad so he was excited to get it, but it made him miss his dad too!”
Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi
I show not your face but your heart’s desire
Chapter 13: Nicolas Flamel
(Multiple times while I was at work this week I received face time calls from Jax asking about Nicolas Flamel. He has been asking to go to bed early so we can read. This is becoming a thing!)
We have two district “parts” of this chapter. Finding out who Flamel is… and The Quidditch match each playing a significant role in the current chapter. Obviously, we end the chapter with two hooded figures speaking to each other in the forest, which left Jax to predict that Snape and Quirell are working together to get the Sorcerer’s Stone. (The way his eyes lit up when he realized that was going on was phenomenal!!!)
Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
This was an interesting chapter… Jackson is still trying to figure out the Malfoy/ Potter dynamic. oh he did pick up and made a pretty good inference that Hagrid’s egg was a dragon, based on the clues that Rowling gives us along the way.
As the chapter comes to a close with Harry and Hermione leaving the invisibility cloak on the astronomy tower… Jackson comments as Filtch and Mrs. Norris catches them, that I’m sort of like Filtch… because I “always know when he and Oliver are being naughty!”
Chapter 15: The Forbidden Forest
There’s detention for everyone who was
dumb unfortunate enough to get caught last chapter. The troublemakers head to meet Hagrid in the forbidden forest and encounter a hooded figure.
Jax is now completely enthralled as he hides his face under a blanket because he believes Voldemort is the hooded figure and is about to attack from behind a tree in the forbidden forest or maybe from under our sleep number bed… (same difference).
Everyone winds up making it out of this chapter safely (no unicorns we’re harmed in the writing of this blog post).
Chapter 16: Through the Trap Door
In this chapter, Harry, Ron, and Hermione follow the, as Jax believes is Snape through the trapdoor being guarded by Fluffy, hence the chapter title. Jax is obsessed with Fluffy, but also is excited to see that finally the trio has gotten past him.
The highlight of this chapter (selfishly) was reading how Harry dealt with the challenges through the trapdoor, but it was the corridor filled with flying keys that intrigued Jackson.
Chapter 17: The Man With Two Faces