Top 100 Children’s Novels (#14)
#14 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (1999)
(#1)(#1)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#3)(#3) (#3)(#3)(#3)(#3)(#3)(#4)(#4)(#4) (#4)(#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#6)(#6)(#7) (#8)(#8)(#9)(#9)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 197 points
"Goblet of Fire" might be the title that turns the tide of the Harry’s story, but for me, "Azkaban" begins the growth of Harry’s character. It perfectly represents that space between child and young adult, where Harry’s world is expanding, both physical and emotional. It also doesn’t hurt that "Azkaban" introduces my favorite Potter character, Professor Lupin. – Sharon Thackston
When they were starting to get complex and interesting but before they stopped being tightly-editing and thus became bloated. Everything just falls together so that you know Sirius is evil… and then it all flips on its head and just falls together so that you know Sirius is hella messed up, but not evil. – Miriam Newman
As a Potter-phile, it’s hard to narrow the series down to just one book. The first book did a great job setting the stage, and boy, when I read it, I knew it’s a book I would have loved as a kid. The second book felt like a formulaic rehash of the first, but with the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, that shit got real (please pardon my language). Suddenly this world of wizardry was being used to address topics of greater importance, and the emotional world of the characters became rapidly more mature. Sure, I loved all the books that came after, but this one remains my favorite (and my favorite of the movies as well). – Amy (Media Macaroni)
I have always felt that the 3rd book in the Harry series is the strongest. The emotional reality of Harry’s longing for family, the mystery quality of the true identity of Sirius Black, the revelation that your parents may have been less than stellar characters in their own youth (well, at least your father), and the stunning debut of the Dementors (perhaps the most astounding metaphor in all of literature for the illness we know in real life as Depression) put Prisoner of Azkaban at the top of my own personal Harry Potter fetish. – Connie Rockman, Children’s Literature Consultant, Program Coordinator, Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, Stratford, CT
All I can say is, "I solemnly swear I’m up to no good." – Dr. Patricia M. Stohr-Hunt, Chair, Education Department, University of Richmond
To be perfectly honest, it’s my favorite Harry too. It was the first HP I ordered from Britain because, at that time, you could get the English edition faster than the American. I also preferred the English covers (though that love affair was soon to grow sour).
The plot description from Amazon reads, "For most children, summer vacation is something to look forward to. But not for our 13-year-old hero, who’s forced to spend his summers with an aunt, uncle, and cousin who detest him. The third book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series catapults into action when the young wizard ‘accidentally’ causes the Dursleys’ dreadful visitor Aunt Marge to inflate like a monstrous balloon and drift up to the ceiling. Fearing punishment from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon (and from officials at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who strictly forbid students to cast spells in the nonmagic world of Muggles), Harry lunges out into the darkness with his heavy trunk and his owl Hedwig. As it turns out, Harry isn’t punished at all for his errant wizardry. Instead he is mysteriously rescued from his Muggle neighborhood and whisked off in a triple-decker, violently purple bus to spend the remaining weeks of summer in a friendly inn called the Leaky Cauldron. What Harry has to face as he begins his third year at Hogwarts explains why the officials let him off easily. It seems that Sirius Black–an escaped convict from the prison of Azkaban–is on the loose. Not only that, but he’s after Harry Potter. But why? And why do the Dementors, the guards hired to protect him, chill Harry’s very heart when others are unaffected?"
While reviewing this book for the New York Times, author Gregory Maguire considered the ramifications of Harry’s world in the article Lord of the Golden Snitch. Said he, "C. S. Lewis made a literary distinction between fantasy as magical happenings and fantasy as wish fulfillment. ‘Lay the fairy tale side by side with the school story. … We long to go through the looking glass, to reach fairyland. We also long to be the immensely popular and successful schoolboy or schoolgirl.’ Lewis concludes that stories that satisfy the desire for magic are healthy for the imagination and the spirit, while stories that pander to the desire to be Head Boy or sports star are dangerous "flattery to the ego" and leave readers ‘undivinely discontented.’ Maybe Lewis was right, but Rowling is having it both ways, and since Harry‘s triumphs occur in an adjacent world, readers can sidestep most of the undivine discontent."
It is often cited as the best in the series, in spite of the fact that it was the third Harry Potter book. More interestingly, this is the only book in the HP series where the Big Bad, Mr. Voldemort, does not make even a token appearance.
Publishers Weekly said of it, "Rowling’s wit never flags, whether constructing the workings of the wizard world (Just how would a magician be made to stay behind bars?) or tossing off quick jokes (a grandmother wears a hat decorated with a stuffed vulture; the divination classroom looks like a tawdry tea shop). The Potter spell is holding strong."
Said School Library Journal, "The pace is nonstop, with thrilling games of Quidditch, terrifying Omens of Death, some skillful time travel, and lots of slimy Slytherins sneaking about causing trouble. This is a fabulously entertaining read that will have Harry Potter fans cheering for more."
And Kirkus was nicely cheery when it said, "The main characters and the continuing story both come along so smartly (and Harry at last shows a glimmer of interest in the opposite sex, a sure sign that the tides of adolescence are lapping at his toes) that the book seems shorter than its page count: have readers clear their calendars if they are fans, or get out of the way if they are not."
Artists worldwide agree. If you’re going to do a Harry Potter 3 cover, you better throw in a Hippogriff, or at the very least a big black dog.
I remember being very excited when this trailer came out. The film cut out a lot of the book, which was disappointing. There was also a funny inconsistency to the CGI. The hippogriff was quite remarkable. Beautifully done in every way. The werewolf, in contrast, looked like an escapee from a cheapo animation studio. Ah well.
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Filed under: Top 100 Children's Novels (2010)
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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