J. K. Rowling Rowling, J. K. - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

J. K. Rowling 1966–-

(Full name Joanne Kathleen Rowling) English novelist.

The following entry presents an overview of Rowling's career through 2000.

The basic premise for Rowling's “Harry Potter” series came to the author while riding on a train from Manchester to London in 1990. Her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) achieved immediate worldwide success, and Rowling followed the first novel with several sequels: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000). Combining many traditional elements of fantasy fiction and the fairytale, Rowling's stories provide a familiar backdrop for readers who can empathize with a young protagonist adrift in a sometimes cruel and challenging world. Full of clever wit, sly humor, high imagination, and brilliant invention, Rowling creates a world of mystery and magic in which Harry is able to free himself from the bonds of his cruel aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, and escape into the pleasant and peculiar setting of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry also finds refuge and friendship amongst his companions at Hogwarts. Critics acknowledge that the Potter books are masterfully inventive and display an acute sense of child psychology. While aimed primarily at a younger market, many adults have found the series to be a compelling, adventurous read, and take delight in the many humorous, macabre, and occasionally violent episodes.

Biographical Information

Rowling was born in 1966 in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, England. Her father, Peter, was an aircraft factory manager, and her mother, Ann, a lab technician. Rowling grew up in Winterbourne, a hamlet close to the Welsh border, and lived four doors down from a family named the Potters, which is presumably where she drew inspiration for her main character's name. Her family moved again when she was nine, to Tutshill in the Forest of Dean. During her high school years, she was made head girl, despite the fact that she was generally a shy student. Rowling read often as a child, and began writing when she was six years old. According to interviews, she admired the works of writers such as E. Nesbit, Elizabeth Goudge, and Noel Streatfeild, among others. Although Rowling wanted to pursue a writing career, her parents convinced her to study French at Exeter University, with the hope that she would become a bilingual secretary.

Rowling's rise to her position as an acclaimed author is virtually one of rags-to-riches. According to reviews, Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter book in 1990 after her revelation on the train. She was working full-time and in a long-term relationship. Shortly afterward however, her mother died, and Rowling lost her job with the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. At the age of 26, Rowling moved to Portugal to teach journalism, and there met Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes. They married October 16, 1992. During their brief marriage, she gave birth to a daughter, Jessica. Rowling separated from Arantes in 1993, and returned to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be near her sister. For almost a year afterward, Rowling lived with the aid of public assistance, struggling to survive and support her daughter as a single parent. Rowling recounts that during this time, she took daily trips to a nearby café with her infant daughter to escape their unheated apartment. Rowling's situation began to improve when the Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish her first book, and she found a job as a French teacher. After a number of rejections, she eventually sold Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to British publisher Bloomsbury for about $4000. A few months later, Arthur A. Levine Books bought the American rights, and Rowling was able to stop teaching. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was published in the UK by Bloomsbury Children's Books in 1997. Renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the book was published in the United States in 1998.

Prior to writing about Harry Potter, Rowling wrote short stories and novels, but never attempted to publish them because of a lack of confidence in her work. Since the success of the first novel, Rowling has published three sequels: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Rowling intends to write a series of seven books, with each book chronicling one year in the life of Harry Potter at the Hogwarts School. Work on a film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is planned to start late in 2000. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was named Children's Book of the Year, and won the British Book Award and the Rowntree Neslte Smarties Prize in 1997. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets received a Children's Book of the Year shortlist citation and the Rowntree Smarties Prize in 1998. Rowling won the Smarties Prize in 1999 as well, for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In addition to these awards, Rowling was named author of the year by the British Book Awards in 2000, and also received her first honorary degree, from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Major Works

Readers are introduced to Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Orphaned while still an infant, Harry has been reluctantly and negligently raised by his relatives, the Dursleys. At the approach of his eleventh birthday, mysterious letters begin to arrive addressed to Harry. His Aunt and Uncle intercept his letters until one is delivered in person by a giant wizard named Hagrid, who arrives to escort Harry to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry learns that he is a wizard, and that his parents died saving him from Voldemort, an evil sorcerer. Somehow, Harry survives Voldemort's attempt to kill him, leaving him with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. Harry's introduction to the life of a wizard begins with the purchase of school supplies: a wand, robes, cauldron, broomstick, and message-carrying owl. On the train to Hogwarts, Harry meets Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Upon arrival, the three students are placed into houses by a magical sorting hat. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all placed into the house of Gryffindor. At Hogwarts, Harry takes classes such as Herbology, the History of Magic, Charms, Potions, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, and he becomes a star at Quidditch, an extremely complicated game played on broomsticks. He, Ron and Hermione spend their free time exploring areas of the forbidden third floor at Hogwarts, trying to discover the secret of the sorcerer's stone.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets relates events during Harry's second year at Hogwarts. Someone is turning residents of the school into stone, leaving threatening messages that refer to a mysterious Chamber of Secrets and to an heir to the house of Slytherin. Harry is frequently nearby when the attacks occur, and he is soon suspected of being the culprit. In addition, he hears a mysterious, threatening voice in his head that speaks of escape and murder. Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover that a figure known as “Tom Riddle” is seeking to destroy all students at Hogwarts who have any non-wizard, or Muggle, ancestry. The book culminates with Harry's fight against a giant serpent in the depths of the Chamber of Secrets. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a reportedly dangerous killer named Sirius Black breaks out of Azkaban, the wizard prison, and is suspected of heading towards Hogwarts to murder Harry Potter. To guard Harry, the school is surrounded by Dementors, who are hooded, faceless demons that drain feelings of peace and hope out of those they encounter. In this book, Harry's Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher guards a dangerous secret; Hermione suddenly has the ability to be in more than one place at a time; and Ron's pet rat, Scabbers, is mysteriously wasting away. Using his Invisibility Cloak and a secret map, and with the aid of Ron and Hermione, Harry escapes the confines of the school's campus to lead readers through an intricately twisted plot with a surprising conclusion. Rowling designed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to be the culmination of books one, two and three. For the first time, she touches on themes such as political intrigue, jealousy, fame, and romance. Almost as long as the first three novels combined, the story opens with a description of events at the 422nd Quidditch World Cup before shifting to Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts. When Voldemort's sign, the Dark Mark, appears in the air at the Quidditch World Cup, the wizard world is thrown into a state of alert, and it appears evident that Voldemort's strength is returning. The fourth book focuses on the Triwizard Tournament held at Hogwarts, in which champions from three wizard schools compete for a thousand Galleons in prize money. Events throughout the story foreshadow a climactic future conflict between Harry and Lord Voldemort.

Critical Reception

Rowling is praised for her highly imaginative and creative talent. Her work is intricately plotted, and she is often compared to authors Roald Dahl, P. L. Travers and C. S. Lewis. The first four books of the “Harry Potter” series have been translated into thirty-three languages, in 130 countries. In November 1999, Rowling's books occupied the top three spots on the New York Times Bestseller List. Overall, her books are liked by adults as well as children, and are favored by both genders. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had the largest first printing ever recorded. Critics and readers alike have noted Rowling's ability to collect and use interesting words and names in her books. Though critics comment that the plots of the first three books are rather formulaic at times, almost all state that the books are nevertheless highly entertaining and well worth reading.

One of the most striking things about Rowling's works is the amount of excitement they have generated. Initial marketing of the series was minimal—most of its popularity spread by word of mouth. The books are upbeat, humorous and light-hearted, making them very different from much of the children's and young adult fiction currently published. Many people feel that the Harry Potter books turn non-readers into book lovers. Some factions, however, deem the books as anti-christian, and are working to have them banned from public schools and libraries. Christian parents, the driving force behind this movement, are suspicious of books that contain descriptions of sorcery and witchcraft. According to the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, the “Harry Potter” collection tops the list of the ten books most challenged in 1999. Overall, however, the series has received the support of parents, teachers, and librarians who contend that the books have renewed the public's interest in reading.

Principal Works

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone [published in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 1998] (novel) 1997

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [published in the United States in 1999] (novel) 1998

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (novel) 1999

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (novel) 2000

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Shannon Maughan (review date 15 February 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Race for Harry Potter,” in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 246, No. 7, February 15, 1999, p. 33.

[In the following review, Maughan declares that the success of Rowling's “Harry Potter” series is not simply beginner's luck. Maughan also discusses the issue of territorial rights, concerning the books' publication history in the U.K. and the United States.]

Rarely has there been a success story as sweet as that of Scottish author J. K. Rowling. Her book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published in Britain in 1997. The attendant praise and accolades (winner of the 1997 British Book Award and Smarties Prize, among others) brought...

(The entire section is 1695 words.)

Shannon Maughan (review date 19 July 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Harry Potter Halo,” in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 246, No. 29, July 19, 1999, pp. 92–4.

[In the following review, Maughan contends that the increasing popularity of hardcover fiction is due in part to the success of the “Harry Potter” books.]

What are kids clamoring for these days? Believe it or not, it's hardcover fiction. Sure, young people have always been drawn to great books, from Charlotte's Web to Redwall to The Golden Compass. But since last fall, middle-grade and young-adult readers, including both girls and—gasp!—boys, have been buying and reading new hardcovers like never before. And, according to many children's...

(The entire section is 1838 words.)

J. K. Rowling with Roxanne Feldman (interview date September 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Truth about Harry,” in School Library Journal, Vol. 45, No. 9, September, 1999, pp. 136–39.

[In the following interview, Rowling shares the origins of the “Harry Potter” books, her own background, and her expectations for the series.]

Slide over Mr. Clancy, Mr. King, and Ms. Higgins Clark. Make room for J. K. Rowling. In three short years, the 33-year-old British writer has been transformed from a hapless, yet-to-be-published novelist into one of the hottest authors on Earth. Her first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the tale of an orphan who is sent to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, soared onto bestseller...

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Roger Sutton (review date September–October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Potter's Field,” in Horn Book Magazine, Vol. 75, No. 5, September–October, 1999, pp. 500–01.

[In the following review, Sutton ponders the uproar over Harry Potter.]

On this occasion of our 75th anniversary issue, I'm reminded what a constant presence the past is at the Horn Book offices. When, as we do here with some regularity, we invoke past editors of the Horn Book, we don't bother with chronology. They aren't Back Then but (with the exception of my immediate predecessor) Up There and at the same time, with physical as well as intellectual evidence at hand, Still Here. We often call upon them while assigning books for review. Something...

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Judith Rosen (essay date 4 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Harry Banned?” in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 246, No. 40, October 4, 1999, p. 10.

[In the following essay, Rosen presents the viewpoints of those who oppose the “Harry Potter” series.]

There's something about Harry Potter that has been labeled “anti-Christian.” Although Kris Moran, director of publicity at Scholastic, the series’ U.S. publisher, said, “We're not aware of anything negative,” the rumblings are just starting to be heard elsewhere.

In the past two weeks, Beverley Becker, associate director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, has gotten word of three challenges to the popular J. K. Rowling series, in...

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Andrew Stuttaford (review date 11 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “It's Witchcraft,” in National Review, Vol. 51, No. 19, October 11, 1999, p. 60.

[In the following review, Stuttaford remarks that Harry Potter follows in the footsteps of the finest of children's stories.]

It's enough to make you choke on your fava beans. In bookstore new-fiction aisles, this was meant to be the summer of Hannibal Lecter: aesthete, Renaissance scholar, and serial killer. Instead he has had to share the limelight with Harry Potter, the schoolboy hero of a series of British children's books. The second of these, The Chamber of Secrets, was released in the U.S. at about the same time as Thomas Harris's Hannibal. On...

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Francine Fialkoff (review date 15 October 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Potter for Parents,” in Library Journal, Vol. 124, No. 17, October 15, 1999, p. 60.

[In the following review, Fialkoff discusses the appeal the “Harry Potter” series has to adults.]

Like every other 11-year-old in America, mine is devouring Harry Potter. But so are many adults, and the phenomenon extends beyond those who have 11-year-olds, or, indeed, any children at all. In the UK, where Potter was born in the imagination of author J. K. Rowling, the publishers have even replaced the original cartoony cover of the first book with a more symbolic and evocative cover that won't embarrass adults who are toting it on the tube.


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Shannon Maughan (review date 1 November 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Keeping Up with Harry,” in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 246, No. 44, November 1, 1999, p. 36.

[In the following review, Maughan describes the marketing of the “Harry Potter” books and the resulting reading frenzy.]

As the industry's traditionally busy fall continues apace, Harry Potter is clearly the runaway story of the season. J. K. Rowling's first two books about wizardry student Harry have been riding high on the New York Times bestseller list for months, but with the release on September 8 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (which promptly joined its predecessors in bestsellerdom) and the paperback of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's...

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Andrew Stephen (review date 1 November 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Dame Enid Wows the Yanks,” in New Statesman, Vol. 128, No. 4460, November 1, 1999, p. 24.

[In the following review, Stephen traces the rising success of J. K. Rowling and her books about Harry Potter, and comments on the growing “Americanisation” of the British series.]

Yes, I was right when I said last week you never know who you'll meet next in Washington. Last week I found myself lunching on successive days in the company of J K Rowling (currently the most successful novelist in the world), the Right Honourable Chris Smith (Minister for Culture and Sundry Other Things Too) and Sir Christopher Meyer (the cleverest British ambassador here for...

(The entire section is 992 words.)

Brooke Allen (review date 1–15 November 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A World of Wizards,” in New Leader, Vol. 82, No. 13, November 1–15, 1999, pp. 13–14.

[In the following review, Allen comments on Rowling's unprecedented popularity.]

A phenomenon is afoot in the publishing world. As I write, the top three slots on the New York Times best-seller list are not occupied by Frank McCourt or Roddy Doyle, nor even by crowd-pleasers like Danielle Steel or Tom Clancy. They are held by a charming and unpretentious children's series about a young wizard named Harry Potter, the creation of J. (for Joanne) K. Rowling, a single mother living in Edinburgh. Entirely unknown until the publication of Harry Potter and the...

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Lee Siegel (review date 22 November 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Harry Potter and the Spirit of the Age: Fear of Not Flying,” in New Republic, November 22, 1999, p. 40.

[In the following review, Siegel applauds the works of J. K. Rowling because they, in all their imagination, have brought reality back into society's escapist literature and “fantasy culture.”]

Once upon a time, a boy on a broomstick flew into a nation that was significantly free from tradition and prescribed custom. So great was its freedom in this regard that it turned every social incident and every cultural expression into a symbolic occasion that might supply a sorely needed orientation to national life. If two teenagers went on a rampage of...

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Christian Century (review date 1 December 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Christian Century (review date 1 December 1999)

SOURCE: “Wizards and Muggles,” in Christian Century, Vol. 116, No. 33, December 1, 1999, p. 1155.

[In the review below, the critic recounts the position some parents have taken against “Harry Potter,” deeming the series anti-Christian.]

Books of fantasy can help us see the ordinary in fresh ways.

Scottish author J. K. Rowling has written a wildly popular series of children's books about Harry Potter. Harry discovers on his 11th birthday that he is the son of two legendary wizards murdered by an evil magician named Voldemort. Harry has been living with his loathsome...

(The entire section is 553 words.)

Alison Lurie (review date 16 December 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Not for Muggles,” in New York Review of Books, Vol. 46, No. 20, December 16, 1999, pp. 6–8.

[In the following review, Lurie summarizes the story of Harry Potter and describes the similarities between the lives of Harry and friends and that of American and British students.]

Why are so many of the best-known children's books British or American? Other countries have produced a single brilliant classic or series: Denmark, for instance, has Andersen's fairy tales, Italy has Pinocchio, France has Babar, Finland has Moomintroll. A list of famous children's books in English, however, could easily take up the rest of this column.


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Charles De Lint (review date January 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in Cornwall, Vol. 98, No. 1, January, 2000, pp. 35–6.

[In the following review, De Lint states that the “Harry Potter” books extend beyond the realm of fantasy and young adult literature precisely because they are books that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.]

I'm a late convert to this series, but since you might be as well, I think it's worth a brief discussion. Originally published as young adult novels, the Harry Potter books have gained widespread fame outside the limits of both the fantasy and young adult fields for one good reason: they...

(The entire section is 652 words.)

Julia Eccleshare (review date 3 January 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Harry in the Winner's Circle,” in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 247, No. 1, January 3, 2000, p. 34.

[In the following review, Eccleshare comments on the seemingly boundless success of the “Harry Potter” series.]

The success of J. K. Rowling's series of books about Harry Potter knows no bounds. For the third year running, a Harry Potter title has won gold in the Nestle Smarties Prize for the 9–11 age range. Chosen to be on the shortlist by a panel of adult judges, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book in the series, then romped home as the winner when children from 50 schools around the country made it their choice for the gold...

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J. K. Rowling with Brad Crawford (interview date February 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Six Questions: J. K. Rowling,” in Writer's Digest, Vol. 80, No. 2, February, 2000, pp. 10–11.

[In the following interview, Crawford discusses the very busy life of J. K. Rowling.]

J. K. Rowling (pronounced ROHE-ling) has made a lot of friends lately, and she doesn't know most of them. According to Publishers Weekly, there are 8.9 million hardcover and paperback Harry Potter books in print. Her US publisher had to move up the publication of the second book in the series because fans of the first were busily ordering the UK edition from Amazon.com. The series has been translated into 28 languages, and Christopher Little, Rowling's agent, receives...

(The entire section is 768 words.)

Cathi Dunn MacRae (review date March 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Harry Potter Update: Is It for Young Adults?” in Urbana, Vol. 89, No. 4, March, 2000, pp. 137–38.

[In the following review, MacRae states that “Harry Potter” is more than just a children's series.]

Several months ago I received a review copy of a new British fantasy novel just released in the US: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. I glanced at the cover, skimmed the flap copy, and decided I wasn't interested in the book because (1) it clearly was a children's book and (2) it was fantasy. …

I began hearing more and more about the phenomenal success of Harry Potter and its sequels but continued to ignore...

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Michael Rogers (essay date 1 March 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Harry Potter Most Challenged,” in Library Journal, Vol. 125, No. 4, March 1, 2000, p. 19.

[In the essay below, Rogers writes that “Harry Potter” tops the list of the ten most challenged books in 1999.]

The best-selling “Harry Potter” series of children's books by J. K. Rowling tops the list of the ten books most challenged in 1999, according to the American Library Association's (ALA) office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF).

The Potter books drew complaints from parents and others concerned about their focus on wizardry and magic. The OIF received 472 reports of challenged titles in 1999. A challenge is defined as a formal, written...

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Dot Wordsworth (review date 8 April 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mind Your Language,” in Spectator, Vol. 284, No. 8957, April 8, 2000, p. 19.

[In the following review, Wordsworth examines the word “muggle”, the term Rowling uses to refer to those without any magical abilities.]

‘Oh, not Harry Potter!’ whined Veronica when she saw the cover of a book lying on the kitchen table. She is of an age that defines itself by having outgrown books supposedly for children. But she need not have worried, because all that remained was the cover, and the pages I had preserved and marked with fascinating insights in manuscript had fallen into my knitting-bag or the cat's basket or somewhere, and I won't be able to find them...

(The entire section is 457 words.)

Shannon Maughan (review date 17 April 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “New Heights for Harry,” in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 247, No. 16, April 17, 2000, p. 29.

[In the following review, Maughan discusses the film adaptation of the “Harry Potter” books.]


After three books that have, in some combination, dominated bestseller lists for more than a year and a half, and a firestorm of media attention, it might seem old-hat to refer to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter as a phenomenon. But the term is still accurate, as Rowling's young wizard continues to blaze through uncharted territory, setting new benchmarks for popularity wherever he goes. Here,...

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School Library Journal (essay date May 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

School Library Journal (essay date May 2000)

SOURCE: “Harry's Defense Team,” in School Library Journal, Vol. 46, No. 5, May, 2000, p. 17.

[In the following essay, the critic describes “Muggles for Harry Potter,” a national organization dedicated to fighting efforts to ban J. K. Rowling's titles in schools.]

“Muggles for Harry Potter” is a national organization launched to fight efforts to restrict access to J. K. Rowling's titles in schools. Eight associations—representing booksellers, librarians, publishers, teachers, writers, and citizens—formed the group to counter growing censorship of the Harry Potter series. “Muggles...

(The entire section is 189 words.)

Bobbie Combs (review date 10 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 2000, p. K418.

[In the following review, Combs states that reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a satisfying experience, and was definitely worth the wait.]

So, was it worth the wait?

You bet.

With the publication of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the story of Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, J. K. Rowling proves once again that she is a riveting storyteller. Rowling's fans have been clamoring for more about Harry since the publication last year of the third book, Harry...

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Chauncey Mabe (review date 10 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in Sun-Sentinel, July 10, 2000, p. K439.

[In the following review, Mabe reports that despite the “unseemly hype” preceding it's publication, the fourth installment in J. K. Rowling's “Harry Potter” series will not disappoint readers.]

Despite the unseemly hype preceding the publication of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—surely the work of Muggles—there was really no reason to fear that the fourth installment in J. K. Rowling's incredibly popular series of children's fantasies would disappoint.

It doesn't.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire...

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Kathleen Merryman (essay date 10 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An essay on the “Harry Potter” books in Tacoma News Tribune, July 10, 2000.

[In the following essay, Merryman strongly praises the “Harry Potter” books, and states that a certain amount of fantasy is healthy and enables children to learn important values for life.]

Aren't you glad you're not J. K. Rowling?

Imagine the responsibility.

What her stories have built—aside from the most profitable publishing phenomenon in recent memory—is a community of kids.

And their grown-ups.

I'd bet my car that at this very moment, there are children in Bombay, Federal Way, London, Capetown,...

(The entire section is 610 words.)

Robert Munsch (review date 10 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “This Is More than Hype: Harry Feels Like Me,” in Globe and Mail, July 10, 2000, p. R3.

[In the following review, Canadian children's book author Robert Munsch lightheartedly gives his reaction to the success of the “Harry Potter” books and explains his reasons for enjoying the series.]

So I walk into The Bookshelf in Guelph, Ont., and there is a whole shelf of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire residing in the recommended reading section.

This is interesting because the recommended reading section at The Bookshelf means just that, a whole shelf of books that the staff recommends. Publishers do not buy space here—so it's...

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Nancy Pate (review date 10 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in Orlando Sentinel, July 10, 2000, p. K42.

[In the following review, Pate affirms that what is rumored about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is true, but chooses not to give any of its secrets away.]

Dragons and giants and mazes, oh my! Death Eaters and Dark Marks and curses, gee whiz! And let's not forget You-Know-Who..

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire offers all of the above and more—much more— in its 734 deftly plotted, thrill-packed pages. The pivotal fourth book in the phenomenally popular series about a fledgling wizard is too long to be...

(The entire section is 717 words.)

Susan Perren (review date 10 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Yarn Unfolds as It Should—in Mystical Fashion,” in Globe and Mail, July 10, 2000, p. R3.

[In the following review, Perren confirms certain rumors surrounding Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in Rowling's series, and feels the book lives up to its high expectations.]

Well, it's a doorstopper. Weighing in at almost two pounds, over 600 pages long, Harry Potter IV is a lot of book. You wouldn't be blamed for asking the obvious: Is this logorrhea writ large?

And the answer? Maybe. It all depends how much time you want to spend with Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Hagrid, et al.


(The entire section is 861 words.)

Andrea Sachs (review date 17 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Harry Is Back Again,” in Time, Vol. 156, No. 3, July 17, 2000, p. 70.

[In the following review, Sachs comments that the hype surrounding the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was unnecessary, but the book itself is as enchanting as it promised to be.]

A few seconds past the wizarding hour of midnight last Saturday, the most annoying and unnecessary marketing campaign in publishing history finally delivered the goods. J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would have sold millions of copies had its U.S. and British publishers simply dumped them in bookstores, unannounced, and then got out of the way as word of mouth...

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Stefan Kanfer (essay date 19 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Popular Harry Potter Book Series Offers a Lesson in Business,” in Tribune Business News, July 19, 2000.

[In the following essay, Kanfer explains why he thinks literary excellence is good business, as illustrated by the success of the “Harry Potter” books.]

More than 3 million copies of the latest Harry Potter are in print, with more en route. The evidence is irrefutable, and measurable in any bookstore.

The success of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books demonstrates that literary excellence—even when coupled with ethical seriousness—is good business.

Rowling presents a moral universe with abiding values: There,...

(The entire section is 1126 words.)

Makund Padmanabhan (review date 24 July 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Growing Up with Harry,” in Hindu, July 24, 2000.

[In the following review, Padmanabhan states that Rowling has shifted fictional gears in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and that the series appears to have arrived at a pivotal stage.]

It is exquisitely fat and meaty and children all over the world are said to marvel at its plump comeliness. Even so, the very size of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (640 pages dressed in handsome hardback) is the least significant characteristic that sets it apart from its three relatively anorexic predecessors.

The first three novels in the planned seven-part series do have their...

(The entire section is 1125 words.)

Further Reading

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)


Bouquet, Tim. “The Wizard behind Harry Potter.” Reader's Digest (December 2000): 95–101.

Biographical sketch of Rowling.

Plummer, William and Blonska, Joanna. “Spell Binder.” People Weekly (12 July 1999): 85–6.

Brief biographical sketch of Rowling.


Johnson, Sarah. “First Review: New Harry Potter ‘A Cracker.’” London Times (7 July 2000).

Positive review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Jones, Malcolm. “Magician for Millions.” Newsweek (23 August 1999): 58....

(The entire section is 185 words.)