Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Released in the US
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first novel in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling and featuring Harry Potter, a young wizard.
It describes how Harry discovers he is a wizard, makes close friends and a few enemies at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and with the help of his friends thwarts an attempted comeback by the evil wizard Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents and tried to kill Harry when he was one year old. It was released in the United States under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by Scholastic Corporation in 1998.
Philip Nel highlighted the influence of Jane Austen, whom Rowling has greatly admired since the age of twelve. Both novelists encourage re-reading, because details that look insignificant foreshadow important events or characters much later in the story-line – for example Sirius Black is briefly mentioned near the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and then becomes a major character in the third to fifth books. Like Austen's heroines, Harry often has to re-examine his ideas near the ends of books. Some social behaviour in the Harry Potter books is remininiscent of Austen, for example the excited communal reading of letters. Both authors satirise social behaviour and give characters names that express their personalities. However in Nel's opinion Rowling's humour is more based on caricature and the names she invents are more like those found in Charles Dickens's stories, and Amanda Cockrell noted that many of these express their owners' traits through allusions that run from ancient Roman mythology to eighteenth century German literature. Rowling, like the Narnia series' author C.S. Lewis, thinks there is no rigid distinction between stories for children and for adults. Nel also noted that, like many good writers for children, Rowling combines literary genres – fantasy, young-adult fiction, boarding school stories, Bildungsroman and many others.
Some reviewers compared Philosopher's Stone to the stories of Roald Dahl, who died in 1990. Many writers since the 1970s had been hailed as his successor, but none had attained anything near his popularity with children and, in a poll conducted shortly after the launch of Philosopher's Stone, seven of the ten most popular children's books were by Dahl, including the one in top place. The only other really popular children's author of the late 1990s was an American, R. L. Stine. Some of the story elements in Philosopher's Stone resembled parts of Dahl's stories, for example the hero of James and the Giant Peach lost his parents and had to live with a pair of unpleasant aunts, one fat and one thin rather like Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, who treated James as a servant. However Harry Potter was a distinctive creation, able to take on the responsibilities of an adult while remaining a child inside.