Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2)
J.K. Rowling, 1998
Scholastic, Inc.
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780439064873

Summary
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the summer after Harry’s first year at Hogwarts has been his worst summer ever...the Dursleys more distant and horrible than ever before. But just as he’s packing his bags to return to school, a creature named Dobby the house-elf announces that if Harry goes back to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And it turns out, Dobby is right. Harry and Ron miss the Hogwarts Express, so they fly to school in a blue Ford Anglia, crash landing in the notorious Whomping Willow. Soon other worries accumulate: the outrageously stuck-up new professor Gilderoy Lockhart; a ghost named Moaning Myrtle, who haunts the girls' bathroom; the strange behavior of Ron's little sister, Ginny Weasley; rumors about the "Chamber of Secrets," a cavern buried deep below Hogwarts; and a magical diary owned by Tom Riddle, a Hogwarts student of long ago.

Harry is also shocked to discover that he can speak Parseltongue, the language of snakes—a rare ability that Lord Voldemort also possessed—and that anti-Muggle prejudice exists in the Wizarding world, even affecting Harry's friend Hermione.

But all of these seem like minor concerns when someone starts turning Hogwarts students to stone: an evildoer said to be the fearsome Heir of Salazar Slytherin, on of the founders of the school. Could it be Draco Malfoy, Harry's most poisonous rival? Could it be Hagrid whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one person everyone at Hogwarts most suspects: Harry Potter himself? (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—July 31, 1965
Where—Chipping Sodbury near Bristol, England (UK)
Education—Exeter University
Awards—3 Nestle Smarties Awards; British Book Award-
   Children's Book of the Year; Children's Book Award;
   Whitbread Children's Book of the Year; British Book Awards-
   Author of the Year; British Book Awards-Book of the Year.
Currently—lives in Perthshire, Scotland and London, England


Joanne "Jo" Rowling, better known under the pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author known as the creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series, the idea for which was conceived while on a train trip from Manchester to London in 1990. The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, sold more than 400 million copies, and been the basis for a popular series of films.

Rowling is perhaps equally famous for her "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on welfare to multi-millionaire status within five years. As of March 2010, when its latest world billionaires list was published, Forbes estimated Rowling's net worth to be $1 billion. The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £560 million ($798 million), ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in Great Britain. Forbes ranked Rowling as the forty-eighth most powerful celebrity of 2007, and Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fandom. She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, and the Children's High Level Group.

Early years
Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling and Anne Rowling (nee Volant), on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16.1 km) northeast of Bristol. The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four. She attended St Michael's Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce. (The school's headmaster has been suggested as the inspiration for Harry Potter's Albus Dumbledore).

As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories, which she would read to her sister. "I can still remember me telling her a story in which she fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family inside it. Certainly the first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called "Rabbit." He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee." When she was a young teenager, her great aunt gave her a very old copy of Jessica Mitford's autobiography, Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling's heroine, and Rowling subsequently read all of her books.

She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother, Anne, had worked as a technician in the Science Department. Rowling has said of her adolescence, "Hermione [A bookish, know-it-all Harry Potter character] is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I'm not particularly proud of." Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth owned a turquoise Ford Anglia, which she says inspired the one in her books. "Ron Weasley [Harry Potter's best friend] isn't a living portrait of Sean, but he really is very Sean-ish."

Rowling read for a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter. After a year of study in Paris, Rowling moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.

In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry "came fully formed" into her mind. When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately. In December of that same year, Rowling’s mother died, after a ten-year battle with multiple sclerosis, a death that heavily affected her writing: she introduced much more detail about Harry's loss in the first book, because she knew about how it felt.

Rowling then moved to Porto, Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. While there she married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes in 1992. Their child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (named after Jessica Mitford), was born in 1993 in Portugal. The couple separated in November 1993. In December 1993, Rowling and her daughter moved to be near her sister in Edinburgh, Scotland. During this period Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, which brought her the idea of Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book.

After Jessica's birth and the separation from her husband, Rowling had left her teaching job in Portugal. In order to teach in Scotland she would need a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE), requiring a full-time, year-long course of study. She began this course in August 1995, after completing her first novel while having survived on state welfare support.

She wrote in many cafes, especially Nicolson's Cafe, whenever she could get Jessica to fall asleep. As she stated on the American TV program A&E Biography, one of the reasons she wrote in cafes was not because her flat had no heat, but because taking her baby out for a walk was the best way to make her fall asleep.

Harry Potter books
In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on an old manual typewriter. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript. A year later she was finally given the green light (and a £1500 advance) by Bloomsbury, a small British publishing house in London, England. The decision to publish Rowling's book apparently owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next.

Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, her editor Barry Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books. Soon after, in 1997, Rowling received an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing. The following spring, an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic Inc., for $105,000. Rowling has said she “nearly died” when she heard the news.

In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print-run of 1000 copies, five hundred of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 and £25,000. Five months later, the book won its first award, a Nestle Smarties Book Prize. In February, the novel won the prestigious British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year, and later, the Children’s Book Award. Its sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was published in July, 1998.

In December 1999, the third novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, won the Smarties Prize, making Rowling the first person to win the award three times running. She later withdrew the fourth Harry Potter novel from contention to allow other books a fair chance. In January 2000, Prisoner of Azkaban won the inaugural Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year award, though it lost the Book of the Year prize to Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.

The fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was released simultaneously in the UK and the US on 8 July 2000, and broke sales records in both countries. Some 372,775 copies of the book were sold in its first day in the UK, almost equalling the number Prisoner of Azkaban sold during its first year. In the US, the book sold three million copies in its first 48 hours, smashing all literary sales records. Rowling admitted that she had had a moment of crisis while writing the novel; "Halfway through writing Four, I realised there was a serious fault with the plot....I've had some of my blackest moments with this book..... One chapter I rewrote 13 times, though no-one who has read it can spot which one or know the pain it caused me." Rowling was named author of the year in the 2000 British Book Awards.

A wait of three years occurred between the release of Goblet of Fire and the fifth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This gap led to press speculation that Rowling had developed writer's block, speculations she fervently denied. Rowling later admitted that writing the book was a chore. "I think Phoenix could have been shorter", she told Lev Grossman, "I knew that, and I ran out of time and energy toward the end."

The sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released on 16 July 2005. It too broke all sales records, selling nine million copies in its first 24 hours of release. While writing, she told a fan online, "Book six has been planned for years, but before I started writing seriously I spend two months re-visiting the plan and making absolutely sure I knew what I was doing." She noted on her website that the opening chapter of book six, which features a conversation between the Minister of Magic and the British Prime Minister, had been intended as the first chapter first for Philosopher's Stone, then Chamber of Secrets then Prisoner of Azkaban. In 2006, Half-Blood Prince received the Book of the Year prize at the British Book Awards.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in July, 2007, (0:00 BST) and broke its predecessor's record as the fastest-selling book of all time. It sold 11 million copies in the first day of release in the United Kingdom and United States. She has said that the last chapter of the book was written "in something like 1990", as part of her earliest work on the entire series. During a year period when Rowling was completing the last book, she allowed herself to be filmed for a documentary which aired in Britain on ITV on 30 December 2007. It was entitled J K Rowling... A Year In The Life and showed her returning to her old Edinburgh tenement flat where she lived, and completed the first Harry Potter book. Re-visiting the flat for the first time reduced her to tears, saying it was "really where I turned my life around completely."

Harry Potter is now a global brand worth an estimated £7 billion ($15 billion), and the last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history. The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages.

The Harry Potter books have also gained recognition for sparking an interest in reading among the young at a time when children were thought to be abandoning books for computers and television, although the series' overall impact on children's reading habits has been questioned.

Life after Harry Potter
Forbes has named Rowling as the first person to become a U.S.-dollar billionaire by writing books, the second-richest female entertainer and the 1,062nd richest person in the world. When first listed as a billionaire by Forbes in 2004, Rowling disputed the calculations and said she had plenty of money, but was not a billionaire. In addition, the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List named Rowling the 144th richest person in Britain. In 2001, Rowling purchased a luxurious nineteenth-century estate house, Killiechassie House, on the banks of the River Tay, near Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. Rowling also owns a home in Merchiston, Edinburgh, and a £4.5 million ($9 million) Georgian house in Kensington, West London, (on a street with 24-hour security).

On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Neil Michael Murray (born 30 June 1971), an anaesthetist, in a private ceremony at her Aberfeldy home. Their son was born in 2003 and a daughter in 2005.

In the UK, Rowling has received honorary degrees from St Andrews University, the University of Edinburgh, Napier University, the University of Exeter and the University of Aberdeen; and in the US, from Harvard. She has been awarded the Légion d'honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. (During the Elysée Palace ceremony, she revealed that her maternal French grandfather had also received the Légion d'honneur for his bravery during World War I.) According to Matt Latimer, a former White House administrator for President George W. Bush, Rowling was turned down for the Presidential Medal of Freedom because administration officials believed that the Harry Potter series promoted witchcraft.

Subsequent writing
Rowling has stated that she plans to continue writing, preferably under a pseudonym. Although she "thinks it's unlikely" that she will write another Harry Potter, an "encyclopedia" of wizarding along with unpublished notes may be published sometime in the future. In March 2008, Rowling revealed in interview that she had returned to writing in Edinburgh cafes, intent on composing a new novel for children. "I will continue writing for children because that's what I enjoy," she told the Daily Telegraph. "I am very good at finding a suitable cafe; I blend into the crowd and, of course, I don't sit in the middle of the bar staring all around me." (Adapted from Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews
Those needing a hit of magic, morality and mystical worlds can do no better than opening Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets...Older readers will be able to bite into these meaty themes of racism and suspicion of stangers. But younger readers and those looking for the simple pleasures of a delightful read will be thrilled to be back at the fabulously witchy world of Hogwarts. —Cathy Hainer
USA Today


Harry Potter fans will be positively thrilled with this continuation of his trials and tribulations of growing up as a young wizard caught between the supernatural and muggle (real people) worlds. Whisked away in a flying car near the end of a confining, torturous summer with the Dursleys, Harry returns to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. He does this despite numerous warnings and obstacles from about his potential doom. The legend of the Chamber of Secrets appears to be a reality. Petrified school mates, a bathroom ghost named Moaning Myrtle, the reference library, a diary and super-sleuthing lead a familiar cast of characters through this fast-paced who-dunnit. New readers unfamiliar with the previous adventure will be just as enthralled with this fantasy-adventure-mystery tale.
Children's Literature


Fans of the phenomenally popular Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Scholastic, 1998) won't be disappointed when they rejoin Harry, now on break after finishing his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Reluctantly spending the summer with the Dursleys, his mean relatives who fear and detest magic, Harry is soon whisked away by his friends Ron, Fred, and George Weasley, who appear at his window in a flying Ford Anglia to take him away to enjoy the rest of the holidays with their very wizardly family. Things don't go as well, though, when the school term begins. Someone, or something, is (literally) petrifying Hogwarts' residents one by one and leaving threatening messages referring to a Chamber of Secrets and an heir of Slytherin. Somehow, Harry is often around when the attacks happen and he is soon suspected of being the perpetrator. The climax has Harry looking very much like Indiana Jones, battling a giant serpent in the depths of the awesome and terrible Chamber of Secrets. Along with most of the teachers and students introduced in the previous book, Draco Malfoy has returned for his second year and is more despicable than ever. The novel is marked throughout by the same sly and sophisticated humor found in the first book, along with inventive, new, matter-of-fact uses of magic that will once again have readers longing to emulate Harry and his wizard friends. —Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
School Library Journal


With a year at Hogwarts School under his belt, Harry expects the new term to go smoothly, but a wizard's share of surprises and adventures await the likable lad and his friends. Rowling works her magic and leaves readers begging for more.
Library Journal


The mystery, zany humor, sense of a traditional British school (albeit with its share of ghosts, including Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom), student rivalry, and eccentric faculty, all surrounded by the magical foundation so necessary in good fantasy, are as expertly crafted here as in the first book. Fans who have been thirsting for this sequel will definitely not feel any disappointment. In fact, once they have read it, they will be lusting for the next. —Sally Estes
Booklist


This sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) brings back the doughty young wizard-in-training to face suspicious adults, hostile classmates, fretful ghosts, rambunctious spells, giant spiders, and even an avatar of Lord Voldemort, the evil sorcerer who killed his parents, while saving the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from a deadly, mysterious menace. Ignoring a most peculiar warning, Harry kicks off his second year at Hogwarts after a dreadful summer with his hateful guardians, the Dursleys, and is instantly cast into a whirlwind of magical pranks and misadventures, culminating in a visit to the hidden cavern where his friend Ron's little sister Ginny lies, barely alive, in a trap set by his worst enemy. Surrounded by a grand mix of wise and inept faculty, sneering or loyal peers—plus an array of supernatural creatures including Nearly Headless Nick and a huge, serpentine basilisk—Harry steadily rises to every challenge, and though he plays but one match of the gloriously chaotic field game Quidditch, he does get in plenty of magic and a bit of swordplay on his way to becoming a hero again. Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Harry's world by GrandPre's comic illustrations and Rowling's expert combination of broad boarding school farce and high fantasy.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

1. Have you read the The Sorcerer's Stone? If so, did The Chamber of Secrets pick up as you thought it would? If you haven't read The Sorcerer's Stone were you able to easily understand this book?

2. Why do some characters, for example Moaning Myrtle and Nearly-Headless Nick, not leave the world after death? Is it a choice they make themselves? Why isn't Harry able to interact with his dead parents?

3. Do you think that Professor Lockhart is a malicious character or is he simply egocentric? How did your opinion of him change throughout the book?

4. If you could mix up a batch of Polyjuice Potion who would you want to be and why?

5. Why is Harry terrified that he may have some connection to Salazar Slytherin? If Slytherin was so wicked, why is one of the Hogwarts Houses named after him? And why would any student hope to be placed in that House?

6. If Albus Dumbledore is considered one of the greatest wizards of all-time, why is he suspended as Headmaster of Hogwarts? What kind of danger does that leave the school and its future in?

7. Ginny feels foolish for falling under the spell of the diary, especially since her father always warned her "never to trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain." Knowing that, as well as the return of Lord Voldemort, how and why did Ginny get consumed by the diary?

8. In The Chamber of Secrets and The Sorcerer's Stone, Harry is always praised as the hero and gets most of the glory for defeating enemies. Would he be successful without the help of other characters like Ron and Hermione, Dobby, Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid, etc? Why don't they get as much credit as Harry does?

9. Professor Dumbledore tells a doubtful Harry, "It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (page 333) Do you agree?

10. Will you continue the series and read the third Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban? Where do you expect it to pick up? Discuss other predictions for the book.

(Questions by Katherine O'Connor of LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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