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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

[Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban] Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
by J.K. Rowling
Bloomsbury Publishing, plc, 1999
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback, large print, audio CD, audio cassette
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Amazon.com: hardcover, paperback, large print, audio CD, audio cassette
Recommended by: Greg Slade

This is the third book in the series which began with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and continued with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. There has been a good deal of controversy about this popular series, with some people accusing it of introducing children to the occult, and others rebutting by claiming that Rowling is, in fact, subtly embedding Christian themes and symbols into her work. This book would seem to indicate that the former argument, at least, is not true. Rowling introduces, for the first time in the series, practices which are recognisably "magical" as we know them in the real world. "Divination", a new class for Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione, introduces reading tea leaves, palmistry, gazing into crystal balls, etc. Here at last are the occult practices which Rowling's critics have accused her of leading children into from the beginning. Except that the book makes it quite clear that the Divination professor is a melodramatic faker who only fools those students who are most gullible and/or susceptible to flattery. The more intelligent and capable students, as well as the other professors, regard her and her subject with thinly-veiled contempt, and Harry is told repeatedly by other professors that divination is an unworthy subject of study. Professor Dumbledore tells him, "The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed ... Professor Trelawney, bless her, is living proof of that." (p. 311.)

However, the issue of Harry and his friends breaking all the rules without suffering the consequences continues, and even worsens, in this volume. Harry gets away with far more than he has before, and the Minister of Magic as much as says that he can get away with what he does because of who he is. Indeed, one professor reveals to him that his father was the chief mischief-maker at Hogwarts during his time there, and that he is expected to follow in his father's footsteps, and another as much as asks Harry and Hermione to break, not just a school rule, but the law.

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