Friday, October 7, 2016 / No comments

Book Feature: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- Illustrated Edition!


2016 so far has been a fantastic (beasts. Sorry, had to!) year for Harry Potter fans. First the announcement that Eddie Redmayne was going to be in a movie about wizarding world author, magizoologist, and Hufflepuff alum Newt Scamander and his adventures that probably influenced him to write his book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Then JK Rowling and crew took us into grown Harry and the gang's world with a brand new stage play/script book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And lastly, just this Tuesday, the new illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets came out. Be still my Potter loving heart!

I absolutely adored the first illustrated Harry Potter book (The Sorcerer's Stone, Or Philosopher's, as it was originally titled. Americans think philosophers are ancient Greek guys who wear togas and ponder the ways of the universe and have very low opinions about humanity, so obviously they changed it to "Sorcerer's" in the US) and completely forgot that it was coming out this Tuesday but thankfully I remembered and was able to pick up a copy from my local Barnes & Noble. To say I wasn't excited to race home right afterwards would be a damn lie!

The illustrated version of Chamber of Secrets does not disappoint. The artistic, yet life-like portraits of the characters are just as engaging as they were in the first book and the random drops and smudges of paint and ink that decorate a large portion of the pages add an artsy flair and atmosphere to the book. Being introduced to new characters, like Gilderoy Lockhart (incredibly blonde and dashing and not too far off than the movie version's Kenneth Branagh) and Molly Weasley (not as I personally pictured her in my head, but still looks like she'd be equal parts loving and fierce) and new creatures (Dobby, much more like how I had imagined him), Aragog (terrifying), Fawkes the phoenix (quite majestic), and the Mandrakes (my personal favorites!) were a delight to see come to life and the Kay's interpretations of Hogwarts are always fun to see (there are just so many possibilities with a magic castle!).

The tone of Chamber of Secrets becomes quite a bit darker than Sorcerer's Stone, and the depictions of Knockturn Alley versus Diagon Alley certainly show that beautifully. There just seems to be so much detail in all of the scenes that even though you may be trying to read the story, you'll be distracted by the gorgeous and entertaining illustrations and just end up staring at them for far too long and then forget where you were in the story and have to backtrack till you remember where you left off (which may have been something that happened to me. Multiple times).

Illustration by Jim Kay/Bloomsbury Publishing Pic 2015
The American version of the Harry Potter books, illustrated by Mary Grandpre (well, just the covers and chapter images) will always hold a special place in my heart, because they were the ones that I read growing up and for the longest time her images were how I pictured Harry and crew's adventures in my head as I read the books, one after the other (and then reading the series again, multiple times over the years). But Jim Kay's inventive and creative illustrations are right up there with Grandpre's. When you first read the books, you imagine the world in your own head, unique to everyone else's. While Kay's interpretation of the characters and wizarding world might not be exactly what I pictured, the fact that he's taken it upon himself to illustrate this hallowed world, beloved by so many in the world, and being able interpret in his own style, yet faithfully to appease us fans? Talk about talent! (Though, to be fair, I really wanted to see his version of the Weasley abode, the Burrow, and unfortunately Kay didn't feature this. Not going to lie, I was a little disappointed. I would have loved to have seen his version of it!)

Illustration by Jim Kay/Bloomsbury Publishing Pic 2015
Illustration by Jim Kay/Bloomsbury Publishing Pic 2015
While I wouldn't change my Harry Potter reading experience from childhood at all, a small part of me wishes that illustrated versions of the books had been around when I was younger, just as another way to fully immerse myself in the world I hold so dear to my heart. But thanks to Kay's illustrations and this new version of books, the magic of Harry Potter will stay alive (not that it would ever go away for me. Psssh! Perish the thought!) and I'm looking forward to whenever the Prisoner of Azkaban (and the rest of the series. Oh geez. Can you imagine how even more thick and heavy the books will be with all of the illustrations plus JK Rowling's 400+ pages? Insanity!) will be released! (Oh my god, illustrations of Sirius, Remus, Professor Trelawney, Dementors, and Patronuses??? I CAN'T WAIT!!)

But for now, grab yourself a copy of the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which is a gorgeous, faithful interpretation of the second book in everyone's favorite boy wizard book series. If you're a Potter fan or just a fan of great fiction in general, you need this in your personal library. It and the first illustrated Harry Potter book deserves spots on your bookshelf!

Illustration by Jim Kay/Bloomsbury Publishing Pic 2015
Now, excuse me while I go reread the illustrated version of the Sorcerer's Stone and then follow it up right away with the illustrated version of Chamber of Secrets. Thank goodness they've only released the first two books or else I would have to cancel all of my plans this weekend!

-Emily
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