Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Illustrated Edition
Author: J.K. Rowling
Illustrator: Jim Kay
Original Story Published in 1998
This Edition Published in 2016
The second story in the Harry Potter series follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione's second year at magical boarding school Hogwarts. Harry, now twelve, must decide whether or not to even return to the school after a house-elf named Dobby appears in his hated aunt and uncle's house and causes all sorts of trouble. The elf tells him that there is a plot underway, a plot which Dobby feels can only be resolved by Harry not attending Hogwarts this year. What that plot is, and how Harry and his friends fit into it, drives the book.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, as is true of the entire Harry Potter series, becomes more intricate and more mature than its predecessor Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This allows for a bigger story and more convincing villains, and more peril. But this is still a children's book, and between the well-developed world and the funny, fast-paced writing, J. K. Rowling's classic continues to delight children round the world, including my own.
As with the first book of the series, this book has relatively long chapters for a children's book; it is unlikely you will be able to read more than one chapter per night (if you are reading at night) before the kiddos get too tired to continue. However, the writing is again superb, and the story moves at a fast pace and is quickly recalled, so even though we can't progress as quickly as some other books it still reads easily.
As with the first book of the series, there are a great many potential voices to be used when reading this book aloud. Prof. McGonagall continues to be a household favorite (sharp and properly enunciated, like a stern British librarian), and new to this book is Dobby, the house elf mentioned earlier. My voice for him ended up being remarkably similar to the movie's voice; that is to say, high and squeaky and sounding like Dobby is constantly pleading for his life (which is appropriate given the character). A few of the other voices I concocted include:
I'd list a few more but those would count as spoilers, so let's say if you want to provide voices, use the movies as reference.
Jim Kay's marvelous illustrations return in this edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and even if your kids are old enough to not need illustrations I highly recommend buying this edition anyway, if only to see what certain events look like. Each page has some kind of detail, from small tea stains to full-spread drawing of Harry playing Quidditch. It truly is a wondrous thing to have these pictures to go along with an enthralling story.
A theme that reviewers have often applied to Harry Potter books is that they get more mature as their audience got more mature; that is to say, each book gets more perilous and dark than the last. This holds true for Chamber of Secrets. A supporting character is dead and a ghost, and how and why and when s/he died is critical to the plot. A monster is going around the Hogwarts castle and petrifying students (MASSIVE SPOILER) up to and including Hermione. The final battle includes descriptions of blood staining a principal character's arms and robes, and characters come much closer to dying in this novel than they did in Sorcerer's Stone.
There's no cursing, no drugs or smoking, no sex or innuendo, and no off-color jokes in this book. It's only danger, moderate violence, and peril that you need to be aware of, and so I can comfortably recommend this book to ages 6 and over. As always, use discretion if you think your children may need some passages glossed over as being too scary.
As with Sorcerer's Stone, the British jargon has not been changed in this edition for other audiences, so you may find yourself explaining terms like "pudding" to mean dessert or "peckish" to mean hungry. That said, I was surprised that I didn't need to explain certain phrases (e.g. "Have a go") because they make much more sense when said aloud than when simply read. Or maybe my kids were so used to the jargon from the previous book that they just ran with it for this one. Who knows?
"I cannot believe there are MORE of these books! I love Harry Potter and I wish we could read more than one chapter a night."
"I like Peeves (a trickster ghost character). He does good tricks and he makes Mr. Filch (the mean groundskeeper) angry. And Quidditch, I love Quidditch."
"This one was more scary. I didn't like [the monster] because it kept freezing people. But I did like Dobby, he's pretty funny."
Harry Potter's second year at Hogwarts is a fun, occasionally scary adventure-mystery that didn't fail to delight my kids. Throughout the book, Harry, Ron, and Hermione demonstrate bravery beyond their years, and get into (and out of) plenty of trouble along the way. Rowling's classic text and Kay's wonderful illustrations bring this book to life. The chapters are longer than other books, but I'll bet your kids will be just an enthralled as mine were to follow the trio's adventure during Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Recommended Age: 6 and up