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I would think that few people, adults or children, have not heard of Harry Potter, the young wizard created by J K Rowling in her series of books. The books were written for children, but have taken the adult world by storm as well.
Background Harry Potter is an orphan living with his aunt, uncle and cousin. He is very poorly treated by them, definitely an outsider within the family group. On his 11th birthday, however, everything changes with the arrival of a letter inviting him to attend Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.. Harry's aunt and uncle go to extreme lengths to stop him going, only to find out that the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore, is more than a match for them and Harry is transported to the castle which is home to the school for young wizards and witches.
Up until then, Harry had no idea that he possessed any magical powers, but he soon settles to school life and makes friends, particularly with Ron Weasley, who is one of 7 children and part of wizard family, and Hermione Grainger, a very intelligent girl whose parents are both muggles ( a wizarding term for non magic people).
Harry also finds out that he is unique in the wizarding world - he is the only person known to have survived the killing curse. He has a zigzag shaped scar on his forehead as a result of the curse, which was inflicted by a black wizard, Lord Voldemort, who was responsible for a large number of killings including the deaths of Harry's own parents.
Each of the books written by J K Rowling chart a year in the life of Harry as he progresses through school. He is a very good wizard and an excellent flyer ( on a broomstick).
Lord Voldemort, his sworn enemy, was left virtually dead when the curse rebounded off Harry
and hit himself. He fades away and the plots his comeback, using any of his still loyal followers (known as death Eaters) that he can. In each of the six books written to date Harry has faced Voldemort in some guise or another. The author has said that the series will run to seven books in total, and so far 5 have been turned into films ( the fifth is currently being filmed).
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book of the series and starts with Harry starting year three at Hogwarts school. The wizarding world news is completely dominated by the news of an escape from the wizard prison of Azkaban - the first time that this has ever happened. The prison guards, dreadful creatures known as Dementors, survive by sucking out all the happy emotions from anything or one near them, leaving nothing but cold and shadow. The prisoner who has escaped is Sirius Black - who is believed to have been the person who betrayed the refuge of Harry's parents to Lord Voldemort and thus caused their deaths.
Harry is unaware of Blacks crime - and also unaware that Black is his Godfather. He is made aware by Ron's father that Sirius may be wanting to kill him to finish the job started by Voldemort.
A new teacher starts this year at the school taking on the difficult job of defence against the Dark Arts. An existing teacher, Professor Severus Snape who teaches potions, would dearly love the dark Arts job but has not suceeded in obtaining the post. Snape wa a contemporary of Harrys parents, James and Lily, but he did not get on with James, and he has shown nothing but dislike for Harry, calling him 'arrogant, just like your father'.
The only wizarding town in Britain is introduced to the reader/listener in this book - Hogsmeade. Third years who have parents.guardians consent forms signed are allowed to visit the shops on certain days. Harry;s form hasn't been signed so he misses out on the first trip, but manages the second one with the aid of his invisability cloak and the Marauders map. The map is a gift from two of Ron's brothers, twins George and Fred. The map when magically activated shows the whereabouts of everyone at Hogwarts.
On his trip into town he finds out about his godfather and his hand in the deaths of his parents.
Against Dumbledore's wishes, the Ministry of Magic has Dementors guarding the school against the possible chance of Blacks arrival. They are strictly forbidden to enter the environs of the school, but do so when a quidditch game is in progress, and they casue Harry to fall from his broomstick -only timely intervention form Dunbledore prevents his death. His prized broomstick is destroyed. Quidditch is a wizarding game involving 7 players on each team, and three types of moving ball. The game is played in an arena with three high hoops at either end. These are guaraded by goalkeepers. The quaffle ( a big sphere) is passed between the players with the object of scoring ten points by passing the quaffle through the opponents hoops. Three forwards press this side of the games. There also two bludgers, hard balls which are smacked with sticks by two beater on each side at the opposing players. The seventh player on the team is the seeker - his/her job is to catch the third ball - a tiny golden one with wings called the snitch. cathching this scores 150 points and ends the game. Harry is the seker for his house team due to his great flying skill.
For some reason Harry is much more affected by the Dementors than his fellow students. He asks the new teacher, Professor Lupin why that is - and is told that it is due to the awful events in his past. Professor Lupin then undertakes to hlp Harry deal with the Dementors.
The rest of the book deals with Sirius Black, his real part in the death of Harry's parents and the close and ongoing friendship he has with Ron and Hermione.
The Audio book
I have read and loved all the Harry Potter books and would not normally get an audio book, but my nephew of 6 loves the stories and has seen the films but cannot yet manage the books. I bought the Audio book at a bargain book store in Stockton and thought I would give it to my nephew.
I only intended to listen to the first few minutes but found I could not turn it off. Stephen Fry has a marvellous delivery for speaking books. I imagine it must be down to a number of things - timing, phrasing , emphasis, a good knowledge of the book and its content - but whatever it is, he certainly has it.
Every word is clear and you get the full sense of atmosphere from the tapes - the background sounds are at exactly at the right pitch and sound level.
Once I had listened to all of the tapes I turned them over to my nephew . He really enjoyed the tapes - and it has pushed on his desire to read the books himself so his reading has improved in leaps and bounds.
There are 8 audio cassettes The total listening time is 12 hours 5 minutes. I paid £9 but I think this was probably much cheaper than they would normally be.
The tapes are great for adult or children. Stephen Fry is a great reader - he injects wit and atmosphere effortlessly. The time passes so quickly its frightening!
For car journeys, or illness this would be a great buy - I am definitely going to get the other audio books in the set just for the sheer enjoyment!