Friday, 22 December 2017

ReadItDaddy's Book(s) of the Week - Week Ending 22nd December 2017 - "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone / The Chamber of Secrets / The Prisoner of Azkaban" by J.K Rowling and Jim Kay (Bloomsbury)

Our triple-headed Cerberus of a Book of the Week collection this week sees us finally let loose on the first three illustrated editions of J.K Rowling's awesome Harry Potter books...
We'd purposely put off getting these for a long time. Partly because I was sure someone would either end up giving us one or more for Christmas, but also because I wanted to put enough distance between polishing off the 'standard' editions of the books, watching all the movies and generally soaking up Harry Potter in so many other forms before letting Charlotte loose on these.

The pictorial Harry Potter books, absolutely gorgeously illustrated by Jim Kay have deservedly become something of a publishing phenomenon. If nothing else, the sheer amount of work that must go into these is jaw-dropping so I picked up all three existing volumes in one gulp myself, just to finally be able to pore over these amazing books and the stunning colour plates that give Jim's take on J.K Rowling's already thoroughly well established characters.

We'd imagine that it must have been an amazing combination of a dream / nightmare gig for Jim. On the one hand, you get to play in someone's book universe and bring your own interpretations of their locations, characters and scenes into stunning life.

On the other hand you have such a huge level of expectation lumped onto your work from folk who love the original novels, and of course love the movie series just as much too. So how on earth do you take something that's become such an intrinsic part of so many book folk's lives and do something new and unexpected with it?

The simple answer is that Jim is an astonishingly talented artist with an incredible imagination. His versions of the characters we all know and love, and also love to hate are tweaked, tuned and 'different' enough to make you sit up and take notice. At the same time there's nothing too upsetting or controversially too far away from our imagined or referenced ideas of what these characters look like and behave like to make his work jarring or annoying (and forgive me for largely talking about Jim Kay's contribution here, rather than J.K's, we already know what an amazing world she's woven and how talented she is as a writer, we really don't need to rake over those coals again do we?

Of the three illustrated volumes, I'd have to say that our favourite is probably "The Prisoner of Azkaban". In all three forms (Original book, movie and now illustrated book) this is where you can tell J.K. Rowling hit her stride, and it's also where some of our favourite characters in the series were either first introduced, or began to really find their own paths and purposes.

Familiar scenes like Harry's escape aboard the Knight Bus are beautifully rendered, and Jim Kay's versions of Sirius and Snape are truly amazing in this volume.

The most surprising thing about the illustrated versions is that even though they're abridged, they're still huge thick weighty volumes that work gorgeously as a way to dig into the series without having to resort to the original chapter books. In fact I almost wish we'd had these years ago, when Charlotte was around 5 or 6, as it would definitely have given me a brilliant excuse to introduce her to the Harry Potter universe a lot sooner (even though now, as a curious 9 year old, it's so good to see her loving the series just as much as I do almost independently of my influence, so that's probably better in the long run).

This close to christmas though, if you're really stuck for something amazing to buy the Harry Potter fan in your life - and they haven't already got these, just get out there and pick up the first three volumes. They're not cheap but dang, they're absolutely glorious and stunning - and worth every single penny.

"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone / The Chamber of Secrets / The Prisoner of Azkaban Illustrated Editions" by J.K Rowling and Jim Kay are out now, published by Bloomsbury (self purchased - not sent for review).