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.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic Press, 2000)

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 fourth book of the series doesn’t start out with Harry. Instead, we get a glimpse of the life of the Riddles – all who mysteriously die in the night of no determined cause. But each had a “look of terror on his or her face” and the long-time gardener overhears a plotting conversation and Harry awakes with his scar hurting. Oh boy.

Difference of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.

Harry is looking forward to the end of his summer and the Quidditch World Cup, between Ireland and Bulgaria. Mr. Weasley has scored the best seats in the house for the Weasley clan and Ron’s two friends. However, Harry takes note of some odd things Ron’s older brother Percy (now working at the Ministry of Magic) says about some peculiarities at the Ministry, as well as some other abnormal things about two heads of Ministry departments, Crouch and Bagman, and the odd disappearance of  Ministry woman in the last known location of You-Know-Who. Although the Quidditch match is quite rousing, something goes horribly wrong…

Death Eaters (Voldemort’s strongest supporters, cloaked and hooded) are storming the place seeking Muggle blood – and Harry, Ron and Hermione are in the wrong place at the wrong time when Voldemort’s Dark Mark is cast into the sky. Ministry officials are overwhelmingly suspicious of Harry, Ron and Hermione, until they find Crouch’s house-elf Winky standing in the spot where the Dark Mark was cast…with Harry’s wand! Crouch immediately dismisses the terrified Winky, but raises the question in everyone’s mind: Why did Crouch send Winky to save him a seat in the Top Box, where the Weasleys, Harry, Hermione, the Malfoys and other Ministry officials were seated, if he wasn’t going to show up for the Quidditch match? Harry knows he has to tell Sirius, still in hiding.

The Goblet of Fire
The Goblet of Fire

Harry and Ron learn before setting off for Hogwarts that there won’t be any Quidditch matches or a Cup to be won – something quite different will be happening this school year. At the feast, Dumbledore explains all: a Triwizard Tournament!

A friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang in which in the past the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued. YIKES!

The tournament has been restricted to wizards age seventeen and older so that unprepared wizards are not at risk. It will be judged by the three headmasters of the competing schools, as well as a few other objective judges including Crouch. One representative from each school (Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang) will be selected by the Goblet of Fire to be the “champion” of their school and compete in three tasks. Yet…Harry’s name is chosen as the fourth competitor! And he must compete – it’s the rules! No one believes him that he didn’t submit his name, and it sets a huge rift between Harry and Ron. A lot of anger lies between them, and Hermione is trying to bring them back together. Meanwhile, the whole school is angry at him, taunting him with ridiculous lies from a reporter’s article, flashing POTTER STINKS buttons. Everyone’s turned on Harry, and he’s definitely got the feeling of being and outcast. Sirius and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Moody, are on alert: someone put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire – because they want him dead!

CONSTANT VIGILENCE!

"Mad-Eye" Moody
“Mad-Eye” Moody

Hogwarts gets a new, but rather old, Professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Indeed, “Mad-Eye” Moody is quite qualified: he used to work at the Ministry as an Auror (a Dark wizard catcher). Snape avoids Mad-Eye (as well as Drumstrang’s headmaster). He goes against Ministry restrictions for teaching: he wants students to be prepared for danger, and teaches students how to recognize the three Unforgivable Curses (one of which killed Harry’s parents), and how to combat them. And he also highly embarrasses Malfoy in quite a humorous way. He is obviously Harry’s secret champion, a fresh delight in the quite ugly and nastiness that is Snape.

They get a weird vibe from Durmstrang’s headmaster, Karkaroff. They’re on even higher alert when Karkaroff bursts into the dungeon during a Potions lesson. Harry fiddles and spills things to stay and overhear their conversation, with Karkaroff showing Snape something in great fear, who shushes him. And Harry finds Crouch himself ransacking Snape’s office from his magical map, which he hands over to Moody. If Crouch is so sick, as the Ministry and Percy Weasley are insisting, why is he sneaking into Hogwarts? Things are not adding up….

Hermione helps arrange for Harry to meet Sirius in late November in the Gryffindor common room. And boy does Sirius have a lot to say! He shares some scary information about Karkaroff, connecting him to Voldemort, and perhaps the reason Dumbledore wanted an Auror at Hogwarts…to keep Harry safe. Sirius is very strict in asking Harry to notify him of any strange happenings, which actually happens quite frequently.

Triwizard Tournament
Triwizard Tournament

Harry and Ron do make up; being boys, they leave things unsaid but Harry is more mindful of Ron and his feelings. The gang work together to help Harry complete the last two tasks. Harry gets in the good graces of Beauxbatons champion Fleur, and Karkaroff, is continually unfair in his judging marks for Harry’s tasks.

All the while, Hermione is hellbent on advocating for house-elves, who are basically slaves. But they’re delighted about their work, which Hermione doesn’t understand. Dobby and Mr. Crouch’s formerly employed Winky come to work at Hogwarts, and Winky reveals that Crouch has some rather dark secrets. Winky upholds that she won’t reveal them, and insists that Mr. Bagman is a bad man….but toward the end of the book we find out that Bagman and Crouch are kind of enemies and exactly what kind of secrets Winky has been keeping.

During Voldemort’s powerful time, Crouch was an avid prosecutor of his supporters – he was definitely on a manhunt. Harry gets the full experience of Crouch coldly sending his only child, his only son, to Azkaban without a trial, without an explanation as to how he got swept into the Dark Arts. Some insisted he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, which even Harry has been accused of…and which a young Bagman was also accused of. But his popularity as an England Quidditch player roused sympathy and support, which eliminated his connection with Voldemort. Crouch was none too happy that his peers let Bagman walk free. Indeed, throughout the entire book, play goes back and forth between Bagman and Crouch making readers think one is connected with Voldemort, who we learn some interesting information about. Harry also finds out who some of the other Death Eaters are, and is very surprised to find one of them is a professor at Hogwarts!

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Even Dumbledore was fooled…

During the final task, Harry saves Cedric’s butt a couple of times…and they find that Durmstrang’s champion is not what he seems. Harry is badly hurt, and he and Cedric make a monumental decision as to the outcome of the winning champion. And what they get is not at all what they expected, as Harry comes face to face with Voldemort again. And this time Voldemort’s out for blood – Harry’s – and death.

The ending is QUITE twisted – readers will definitely be thrown for a loop as all comes together and is explained. It is quite a lot, but brings Sirius to Harry’s side…and dually he reveals himself to Mrs. Weasley and Snape. Snape and Sirius unceremoniously agree to disagree over their tangled past at Dumbledore’s urging, and to help Harry and the wizarding world.

You are on the same side now. Time is short, and unless the few of us who know the truth stand united, there is no hope for any of us. 

Dumbledore sends Snape off on a covert task, that will be revealed in a later book. Sirius is sent to rally “the old gang.” Mr. Weasley is called upon to reach out to contacts in the Ministry who won’t turn a blind eye to the fact that Voldemort is back – and many within the Ministry who were cleared so many years ago are indeed still supporting the murderous Dark Lord.

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Durmstrang champion and Hermione

One thing of great note that’s different from the other books so far is that readers get more exposure to Harry’s inner thoughts – he wants to enter the Triwizard Tournament, he wants to cast an Unforgivable Curse on Snape, etc. This is probably due in large part to the volatile amount of anger Harry has, especially toward Ron, and feeling as if everyone at Hogwarts hates him.

Also of important note is the growing crush of Hermione and Ron. Ron is extremely jealous of Hermoine, how she spends her time and who she spends it with. It will be interesting to see if this continues throughout the series or if Hermione decides she’s had enough of Ron’s oafish ways.

No good sittin’ worryin’ abou’ it. What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does. 

Of the series so far, I think I enjoyed this book the most. It was quite a bit longer, but I loved the entire idea wrapped up in this book – Rowling did some thorough planning and dropped hints at just the right times. 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 Order of the Phoenix.