Book Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2003)

Genre: fiction, young adult (YA), fantasy, supernatural, mystery, suspense

Curriculum Building Ideas:

  • Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Book vs. Movie (i.e. Venn Diagram, Persuasive Essay), Reader’s Theatre, KWL Chart
  • Social Studies: Scale Diagram of Hogwarts, Map of Hogwarts, Timeline of Hogwarts vs. Real World…
  • Math: “Design Hogwarts” – based on information provided from the book, students create floor plans, diagrams or models of what they think Hogwarts looks like; “Potions” – students measure and record ingredients for the science part of this lesson (below)…
  • Science: “Potions” – students use correct measurements of ingredients to predict reactions between chemicals, create a set number of reactions, and record the reaction and observations in their science journals…

*Author’s Note: There have been numerous reviews of Harry Potter to date, and  Rowling has racked up many awards for her books.  I’m going to try and stay away from writing things that can be easily found in other reviews from years past. Note that I am now nearly 24 years old and this is my first time reading Harry Potter, which was published when I was in elementary school. I remember my mother reading them, and then my middle brother. I was into other genres, and for some reason I had an unfounded stigma toward Harry Potter. I have seen the first four movies; I didn’t really keep up with the latter movies. But I didn’t know what was going on because I missed out on so much that was in the books! I wish that I had read Harry Potter as I was growing up, instead of waiting – I feel that I’ve lost a lot of the magic in waiting, and also in seeing the movies before reading the books. Also note that there are spoilers in this review toward the end.

We already know from the first book that Harry is going to encounter a scary, dangerous situation while at Hogwarts – and it is all about him. (Cue Voldemort and his minions.)

Each subsequent book in the series brings additional characters into the life of Harry Potter. And with them come more knowledge, more mystery and more story lines. The fifth book of the series is the most volatile of the series so far. Remember how we thought Ron and Harry’s fight about the Triwizard Tournament was a big deal? That’s chump change compared to what’s going on in this installment of the series.

They want to turn you into someone nobody will believe. Fudge is behind it. 

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Fudge & Lucius Malfoy

Strange things are going on in the wizarding world – most notably, the Ministry of Magic’s rejection that Voldemort is back and on the prowl. They, and along with nearly daily articles in the Daily Prophet, insist Voldemort is dead, that Harry is an attention-seeking prat, AND that Dumbledore is senile! Indeed, the Ministry (namely, Minister Cornelius Fudge) has removed Dumbledore from every board or committee he sits on – even removed him from his position as Chief Warlock on the Wizengamot, The Wizard High Court. And then Dementors show up at Privet Drive, and Harry must use magic to defend himself and protect his cousin, Dudley. (Why he’d want to do that, I can’t imagine!) And…remember that time Dobby sent the cake flying and Harry accidentally blew up his “Aunt” Marge? Well, Cornelius Fudge is none the nice guy this time around. Harry must attend a hearing about his use of underage magic, in front of a Muggle no less! But Harry is not the only person with a wizarding background who lives near Privet Drive….

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The Original Order

Harry is not left to dread the coming day of his hearing. He is swooped up by a group of tight-knit wizards and witches, and taken to a special location: the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. The Order is a collection of witches and wizards assembled to monitor and investigate Lord Voldemort and foil his movements. Dumbledore heads the Order, and Harry learns that his parents, Sirius, Neville’s parents, and many others who died at the hand (or order, rather) of Voldemort. This time around, the Order has taken refuge in Sirius’ childhood home and it is safeguarded by having a Secret-Keeper (none other than Dumbledore himself). Mr. and Mrs. Weasley (and Bill and Charlie) are now members of the Order, with all their children and Hermione already in tow. Percy has had a serious row with his parents, and is cold-stoning them. Members of the Order have various tasks and duties, and it was the negligence of one assigned to be watching Harry on the particular night of August 2nd when the Dementors attacked that got Harry in this ruckus. Along the way, Harry expresses several emotions about Dumbledore and his friends for not revealing the Order sooner, or trusting him with information via owl. He does reconnect with Sirius, albeit Sirius’ grudge of being cooped up. (He is still a wanted man.) Harry learns some surprising information about Sirius’ family that I think will come into play in future books.

Poisonous toadstools don’t change their spots. 

At his hearing, Cornelius Fudge changes the location last-minute, trying to make Harry look bad in arriving late (which he does). Additionally, he has assembled the entire Wizengamot (of which he kicked Dumbledore off) to be present at the hearing. Dumbledore calmly unsettles Fudge, actually bringing him into a fit, over the laws and justification of Harry’s use of magic to ward off the Dementors. Harry impresses many of the Wizengamot that he could do so, but Fudge wants to get the whole thing over with without a proper trial. Dumbledore, of course, calls in a witness to testify on Harry’s behalf. The Council clears Harry of wrong-doing, but there is still a rather bitter, nasty taste left in Harry’s mouth about the whole ordeal, and especially the Ministry under Fudge’s direction.

If Luna was to be believed, the beasts had always been there but invisible; why, then, could Harry suddenly see them, and why could Ron not?

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Harry & Luna Lovegood

Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts and readers are introduced to a new character: Luna Lovegood. Luna is a fourth year with Ginny. She’s the quintessential “out-there” person (as perceived by others to be crazy), has an interest in Harry (in terms of his claims of Voldemort’s return), and she can see something no one else but Harry can see. But that’s not the strangest thing about returning to Hogwarts: Hagrid is nowhere to be found, and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is none other than the toady woman who sat in at Harry’s hearing, employed by the Ministry of Magic to bring Hogwarts under the Ministry’s thumb. Things are not the same at Hogwarts anymore.

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Delores Umbridge

Although it’s a benefit that Hermione and Ron have been selected as the Gryffindor Prefects, it doesn’t keep Harry from holding his tongue and telling the truth in a very tense and emotional argument between Harry and the new professor, Mrs. Umbridge, who criticizes Dumbledore openly and punishes those who talk out of turn by ignoring them like a five year-old. McGonagall herself tells Harry to watch his step around this woman, who additionally sparked a Red Scare by encouraging students to come forth with names of others who are supporting the idea that the Dark Lord has returned. Harry is indeed in a very tough spot, as some of his friends turn their back on him based on the Daily Prophet‘s writings, and the whole school is abuzz about his doings as well…and he’s too prideful to consult Dumbledore about any of this, as Dumbledore hasn’t sought him out to speak to him or would even look at him during his hearing. But it doesn’t end there. Cornelius Fudge is growing more paranoid by the day, convinced Dumbledore is preparing an army of wizards to go up against the Ministry…which explains Umbridge’s presence at Hogwarts. He’s pushing educational decrees into legislation, limiting the powers of Dumbledore at Hogwarts. But Fudge goes a step further, creating the very same inquisition at Hogwarts that Umbridge presented in her first class. Since she is not going to teach students, Hermione and Ron have cooked up the idea that Harry teach them! And they learn that Fudge has created the very thing he is afraid of…

With Harry’s volatile emotions and his anger with Dumbledore he begins experiencing some strange things that create tumult. A secret of Neville’s is revealed and Hermione finds a way to stick it to not only the horrible Umbridge, but also Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle and change public opinion of Harry and his revelation of the Dark Lord’s return…and in the process they lose the person they value the most.

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Of the series so far this book is set apart. Although Harry’s past at Hogwarts has been checkered with his run-ins with Voldemort and his followers, this one is setting some gargantuan ideas in motion that I think will come to fruition in later books. This book was quite a bit longer and Rowling did some fancy footwork, setting the stage so to speak. If you’ve never read the Harry Potter series, I highly encourage you to do so. It is truly an enjoyable (and easy) read. Check out what Harry, Ron and Hermione will run into in the next book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

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