Rowling, J.K. 1965–
ROWLING, J.K. 1965–
(Joanne Kathleen Rowling, Newt Scamander, Kennilworthy Whisp)
Surname pronounced "rolling"; born July 31, 1965, in Chipping Sodbury, England; married a journalist (divorced); married, December 26, 2001; children: (first marriage) one daughter; (second marriage) one daughter, one son. Education: Exeter University, graduated, 1987.
Home—Perthshire, Scotland. Agent—Christopher Little Literary Agency, Eel Brook Studios, 125 Moore Park Rd., London SW6 4PS, England.
Children's book author. Amnesty International, former secretary; former teacher of English as a Foreign Language in Portugal; former teacher in Scotland. Writer, 1987—.
Scottish Arts Council grant, 1996; Children's Book of the Year, British Book Awards, and Gold Winner, Nestlé Book Prize, both 1997, and Birmingham Cable Children's Book Award, Young Telegraph Paperback of the Year, Sheffield Children's Book Award, Guardian Fiction Award shortlist, and Carnegie Medal, all for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize in Children's Literature, 1997-98, Publishers Weekly Best Book designation, Booklist Editor's Choice designation, American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book designation, New York Public Library Best Book of the Year designation, and Parenting Book of the Year Award, all 1998, ABBY Award, American Booksellers Association, 1999, and Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 2001, all for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; Gold Award, Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, 1998, Booklist Editor's Choice designation, ALA Best Book for Young Adults designation, and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year designation, all 1999 and Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award shortlist, all for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Whitbread Prize for Children's Literature, Nestlé Smarties Gold Award, Booklist Editor's Choice designation, Los Angles Times Best Book designation, and ALA Notable Book designation, all 1999, all for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; W.H. Smith Children's Book of the Year Award, 2000, and Hugo Award for Best Novel, World Science Fiction Society, Scottish Arts Council Book Award, and Whitaker's Platinum Book Award, all 2001, all for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Prince of Asturias Concord Prize, 2003; Bram Stoker Award in Young Readers category, 2003, and W.H. Smith Book Award in fiction category, 2004, both for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Doctor honoris causa, Edinburgh University, 2004; Quill Book Awards Book of the Year, 2005, and Royal Mail Award for Scottish Children's Book shortlist, and Book of the Year, British Book Awards, both 2006, all for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Best Book award, Kids' Choice Awards, 2006, for "Harry Potter" series.
"harry potter" novel series
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1997, published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1998, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2005.
(Under name Newt Scamander) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, special edition with a foreword by "Albus Dumbledore," Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(Under name Kennilworthy Whisp) Quidditch through the Ages, Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Rowling's "Harry Potter" books have been translated into sixty languages, including French, German, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Finnish, Danish, Spanish, and Swedish.
Five "Harry Potter" books have been adapted for film by Warner Bros.: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 2001, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 2002, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2005, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2006. The "Harry Potter" books were adapted for audiocassette and CD-ROM, read by Jim Dale, Listening Library. The Harry Potter character is also featured in video games and has been licensed for use in hundreds of toys.
Her skill as a storyteller has propelled British fantasy novelist J.K. Rowling into an illustrious company; she has been compared by critics to such classic children's authors as Roald Dahl, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Because her works weave a substantial amount of humor and satire into their fantastic storylines, Rowling's "Harry Potter" novel series has won broad appeal, wooing fans of all ages in addition to becoming a resounding hit among younger readers. The "Harry Potter" series—a seven-book sequence that includes Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince—focuses on a young boy who discovers he has a magical legacy and must attend a special school for witches and wizards. As Harry grows in knowledge, he also travels a path to self-discovery; the series traces his adventures from age eleven onward and details his battles with evil-doers as well as his experiences with friends, parents, schoolwork, and sports.
A former teacher, Rowling caused an overnight sensation when her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone—first published in her native England as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone—quickly sold out of its first edition, then broke U.S. publishing records: Scholastic, Inc. paid 100,000 dollars for publishing rights to the book, the highest ever for a first novel by a children's book author. Beginning a pattern that each of Rowling's popular series installments have followed in turn, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone quickly rose to the top of the U.S. children's best-seller lists before being adapted for audiobook and then for film by Warner Brothers. As she completed further books in her "Harry Potter" series, Rowling continued to make publishing news: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets went to the top of the adult bestseller lists in England shortly after its 1998 release as the series' second installment, and demand for the book by U.S. readers brokered a new era in internet sales of books internationally. Collectively, the "Harry Potter" books, which have sold hundreds of millions of copies worldwide, eventually propelled their unsuspecting author into one of the wealthiest women in the world.
In her series, Rowling spins a magical blend of wit and fantasy, a surreal melange of "the dark juvenile novels of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis," according to Newsweek contributor Carla Power. In fact, the author's life makes for an interesting story in itself: a single mother, she wrote her first "Harry Potter" adventure while unemployed, working during her young daughter's nap time. Even after gaining publishing success and winning numerous awards, Rowling has taken her success in stride, changing her one-bedroom flat in Edinburgh for a comfortable house, but still continuing her habit of writing in cafes.
Rowling was born in July of 1965, in Chipping Sodbury, England. Her father, Peter, is a retired aircraft factory manager, and her mother, Ann was a lab technician. Rowling and her younger sister Di grew up partly in Yate, just outside the city of Bristol, and then moved to nearby Winterbourne. Even as a child, Rowling had a penchant for storytelling, and many of her early tales involved rabbits, since she and her sister desperately wanted one as a pet. Her first written effort concerned a rabbit named Rabbit who contracted the measles and received visits from friends, including a large bee named Miss Bee. As Rowling once commented, "Ever since Rabbit and Miss Bee, I have wanted to be a writer, though I rarely told anyone so. I was afraid they'd tell me I didn't have a hope."
Two moves took the Rowling family to the town of Tutshill near Chepstow in the Forest of Dean, located at the border of England and Wales. This new home brought a long-time country-living dream to fruition for Rowling's parents, both Londoners, and the nine-year-old Rowling soon shared their love of the countryside. She and her sister could wander unsupervised in the fields near their new home and play along the River Wye. "The only fly in the ointment was the fact that I hated my new school," the author once noted. Tutshill Primary was an old-fashioned school with roll-top desks and a teacher who frightened Rowling.
From Tutshill Primary, Rowling moved to Wyedean Comprehensive School, where "I was quiet, freckly, short-sighted and rubbish at sports," as she recalled. English was her favorite subject and she created serial stories for her friends at lunchtime, each tale involving heroic deeds. Trading her eyeglasses for contact lenses lessened feelings of inferiority for Rowling as she entered her teens, and writing became more a compulsion and less a hobby. Attending Exeter University, she studied French, although she later found this course of study to be a mistake. Her parents had advised her that bilingualism would lead to a successful career as a secretary; "Unfortunately I am one of the most disorganised people in the world," she related, admitting that she had a significant disadvantage in the job market for budding secretaries. Eventually finding a job working at Amnesty International, Rowling discovered one positive aspect of life as a secretary: she could use the computer to type up her own stories during lulls at work.
In 1990, Rowling's mother died at age forty-five of multiple sclerosis, and Rowling lost her job soon afterward. This was not all her run of bad luck would provide, however; around this same time, Rowling's home in Manchester was burgled. To put things behind her, she moved to Portugal in September of that year, and taught English as a foreign language. In Portugal Rowling began a story that she thought might become a book, about a child who is sent off to wizard school. During her time in Portugal, she took notes for her story, slowly adding bits and pieces to the life of her protagonist, a boy named Harry Potter. In Portugal she also met and married, had a daughter, and got divorced.
Eventually returning to England, Rowling decided to settle in Edinburgh and set about raising her daughter as a single mother. Accepting a job as a French teacher, she set herself a goal: to finish her novel before her teaching job began. This was no easy task with an active toddler in hand. Rowling confined her writing to her daughter's nap time, much of it spent in coffeehouses where the understanding management allowed her space for her papers. She was able to send off her typed manuscript to two publishers before beginning her teaching post, and several months later the news arrived that Harry Potter would be brought to life between the covers of a children's book. A few months later, the U.S. rights were bought by Scholastic, allowing Rowling to say adieu to teaching.
When readers first meet Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, he is an orphan who has been leading a miserable existence with the Dursley family, his maternal aunt and uncle. Ever since Harry arrived unannounced at their doorstep the Dursleys have felt put upon, their vile son Dudley more so than even his parents. Harry is housed in a broom closet under the stairs, is bullied at school, and is and mistreated by the Dursleys. "Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright green eyes," Rowling writes in her debut novel. "He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Scotch tape because of all the times Dudley had punched him in the nose." Small, skinny, and bespectacled, Harry is an unlikely hero; the only thing physically interesting about him is the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.
When Harry turns eleven, he receives a letter. Although the Dursleys withhold it from him, a second letter manages to get through, and Harry learns he has been admitted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For the first time, Harry learns that his parents were wizards who were killed by an evil sorcerer named Voldemort. Harry himself is something of a legend in wizard circles because of the fact that he survived Voldemort's attack, the same attack that left the unusual scar on his forehead. Before he fully understands what is happening, Harry is swept off into the sky by the giant Hagrid, keeper of the keys at Hogwarts, who is riding a flying motorcycle. Thus begins what Rayma Turton described in her Magpies review as "a ripping yarn" and a "school story with a twist." Instead of boring math and geography, Harry takes lessons in the history of magic and in charms, or defenses against the dark arts. He becomes something of a star at the school's athletic contest, quidditch, an aerial form of soccer that is played astride broomsticks. The new student soon forms friendships with Ron and Hermione and also encounters students who are far less pleasant, such as his nemesis, the sly Draco Malfoy. During his first year at Hogwarts, Harry investigates the secrets of the school's forbidden third floor and battles evil in the form of Professor Snape, whom Harry fears intends to steal the sorcerer's stone and thus gain eternal life. Harry also discovers the secret behind his scar and, in the process, starts to become his own person.
"The language is witty, the plotting tight, the imagination soars," Turton commented in a review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. As a writer for the Associated Press observed, "Rowling has an unerring sense of what it means to be 11, and her arresting, brick-by-brick construction of Harry's world has turned a rather traditional plot into a delight." Hogwarts is a composite of the typical English public school (American readers will recognize it as a private school), yet turned on its head. Harry's rooms are in Gryffindor house, and as a resident there he is a rival of another campus dormitory, Slytherin. Rather than protractors and calculators, Harry's school supplies at Hogwarts include a message-bearing owl and a magic wand. "The light-hearted caper travels through the territory owned by the late Roald Dahl," observed a reviewer for Horn Book, the critic concluding that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a "charming and readable romp with a most sympathetic hero and filled with delightful magic details." A Booklist commentator called the book "brilliantly imagined and written," while a critic for Publishers Weekly noted that there "is enchantment, suspense and danger galore." A classic tale of good versus evil, as well as a coming-of-age novel with a unique flavor, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is not simply a novel about magic and wizardry. As Michael Winerip commented in the New York Times Book Review, "the magic in the book is not the real magic of the book." For Winerip, and countless other readers, it is the "human scale" Rowling gives her story that makes it work. "Throughout most of the book, the characters are impressively three-dimensional," Winerip noted, concluding that the author uses her own special "wizardry" to achieve "something quite special" with her first novel.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Harry returns to second term at Hogwarts in a flying car, and deals with old and new characters alike. One of these newcomers is Nearly Headless Nick, a poor creature upon whom an executioner made a messy cut; another is Moaning Myrtle, a ghost that inhabits Hogwarts' girls' bathrooms. Valerie Bierman, writing in Carousel, noted that the adventures comprising Harry's second outing are "brilliantly scary with horrible happenings, mysterious petrifyings and a terrifying conclusion." A reviewer in Publishers Weekly asserted that, if possible, [ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets … is even more inventive than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Rowling's "ability to create such an engaging, imaginative, funny and, above all, heartpoundingly suspenseful yarn is nothing short of magical."
The title of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban refers to the wizard prison, Azkaban, as Harry learns of the escape of the evil murderer Siruis Black. Black, Harry's godfather, is believed to have helped Voldemort murder the boy's parents, and with the man's escape Harry's life now appears threatened. As security is tightened at Hogwarts, ghastly robed and hooded dementors patrol the campus, but these beings have an especially strong affect on Harry, who hears unearthly, terrified voices whenever they draw near. Dark Arts Defense instructor Remus Lupin teaches Harry an advanced spell that repels the dementors. Werewolves, magic spells, and mysterious disappearances all find their way into Rowling's plot, as Harry and his friends find a way to rescue his friends and family from the soul-extracting dementors and rescue a surprising friend.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban again earned Rowling critical praise as well as Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize for Children's Literature. New Statesman contributor Amanda Craig pointed out that while the novel follows the formula of its two predecessors, "there is comfort in formulas as good as this one and the inventiveness, the jokes, the characterization, and suspense are as enthralling as ever." In Horn Book, Martha V. Parravano deemed the new characters introduced in this outing "particularly interesting," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer described the conclusion of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as "utterly thrilling."
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire fourteen-year-old Harry faces his biggest challenge to date: battling evil Lord Voldemort to make friendship triumphant over discord. At Hogwarts, all are shocked when Harry's name is picked out of the magic Goblet of Fire to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. Surviving the first two challenges, Harry ties for the lead with fellow Howarts alum Cedric Diggory, but when the boys make a synchronized grab for the trophy after tying in the final challenge, they realize too late that it is a portkey—a device that can transport. Confronted by the evil Voldemort, Cedric is killed, Voldemort begins bringing to life a group of horrid Death Eaters, and Harry must face one of the biggest challenges of his life to survive.
Rowling "is highly inventive, funny, a fine plotter, and a superb narrator," wrote Brian Bethune in a Maclean's review of the fourth novel in Rowling's fantasy epic. With Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," noted Kristen Baldwin in Entertainment Weekly, "the author gives her characters complex new dimensions—even exploring the chamber of secrets known as wizard puberty—without losing the whimsy that makes Potter fans long to ditch the Muggle world for a cottage in Hogsmeade." As Entertainment Weekly reviewer Kristen Baldwin observed, the novel "lulls the reader for so long with its lovely, meandering tale that when Rowling finally gets to the Harry/Voldemort showdown, the effect … is shocking." In Newsweek a contributor stated that, "for pure narrative power, this is the best Potter book yet," and Robert Papinchak concluded in his review for People that "Rowling squeezes in more than a few good laughs as she moves toward the electrifying final confrontation," creating a novel that is "absolutely enchanting" and "the best of the series."
Fans had to wait three years for the publication of the next "Harry Potter" book. In the interim, Rowling published Quidditch through the Ages, a supplement to the "Harry Potter" series, under the pseudonym Kennilworthy Whisp. The slim paperback was made to look like a real tome from Hogwarts and was paired with a second Rowling book, Fantastic Beasts: And Where to Find Them, published under the name Newt Scamander. "Harry Potter fans who pride themselves on knowing every minute bit of Hogwart's trivia will devour both books," noted Eva Mitnick in her School Library Journal review.
The ever-older adolescent Harry returns in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which finds him ensconced with his muggle relatives, the Dursleys, during summer break from Hogwarts. When he returns to Hogwarts for his fifth year, he faces more than just an unpleasant Defense against the Dark Arts instructor, end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams, and a peevish house-elf. In addition to divisive political problems within the magical world, Harry also experiences the worst nightmare of his life. Critics and readers noted a change in Harry in this book: he is older, more serious, and angry at times. Steve Wilson, writing in Book, found that "finally, in this installment, Harry gets real" and his "believability as a teenager couldn't have come soon enough." Ilene Cooper, reviewing the novel for Booklist, praised the manner in which Rowling develops her protagonist "from the once downtrodden yet hopeful young boy to this new, gangly teenager showing all the symptoms of adolescence." While Mitnick described Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as "a rich and compelling coming-of-age story," January online reviewer Sue Bursztynski went further, noting that unlike earlier novels in the series, "this novel is no longer children's literature." As Bursztynski theorized, "Rowling has written on several levels for a wide variety of readers. It is a richly realized universe that becomes more complex with each book."
Rowling's sixth book in the "Harry Potter" series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was described as "the darkest and most unsettling installment yet" by New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani. In this installment, Harry comes into possession of a book once owned by someone called the Half-Blood Prince, and the volume helps him earn top grades in his Potions class. Meanwhile, the evil Voldemort and his followers busy themselves in a rash of murders, as well as an apparent hurricane and bridge collapse, while Harry's nemesis Draco Malfoy plots against someone at Hogwarts—but who? When Harry voices suspicion regarding Malfoy's nefarious activities, his warnings fall on deaf ears. Fortunately, working with Dumbledore he learns that Voldemort has placed pieces of his soul into six random objects or horcruxes; if these are destroyed the dark wizard will be vulnerable. The threat to both Harry and Dumbledore mounts, with tragic results, leaving a solemn Harry comprehending his destiny and the path his future life must take.
National Review contributor David J. Montgomery remarked of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that, "once again [Rowling] has spun an immensely enjoyable journey through the magical world of Harry Potter, a near breathless story of heroism, intrigue, and cowardly villainy." Kakutani noted that the novel "pulls together dozens of plot stands from previous volumes, underscoring how cleverly and carefully J.K. Rowling has assembled this giant jigsaw puzzle of an epic." Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Meghan Cox Gurdon concluded that "what leaps out from the [novel's] intricate storyline and wonderfully fresh prose … is the jaw-dropping scope of J.K. Rowling's achievement even before she publishes the last in the series." In Horn Book Anita Burkham noted that Rowling includes "plenty of engaging mystery and suspense" while also telling a strong coming-of-age story, adding that the "likable characters and thrilling situations" characteristic of the "Harry Potter" series are paired with "fresh novelties." "Rowling capably blends literature, mythology, folklore, and religion into a delectable stew," added Booklist reviewer Connie Tyrell Burns, the critic noting that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will leave fans enduring a "long and bittersweet wait for the final installment" in Rowling's epic fantasy.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
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Time, April 12, 1999, "The Wizard of Hogwarts: A Novice Sorcerer's Exploits are Magical to Kids—and Adults," p. 86; July 26, 1999, "Abracadabra! J.K. Rowling's Magical Harry Potter Books Have Cast a Spell on Kids around the World," p. 72; July 17, 2000, review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, p. 70; December 17, 2000, Paul Gray, "The Magic of Potter"; June 30, 2003, Lev Grossman, review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, p. 60; July 25, 2005, Lev Grossman, "J.K. Rowling Hogwarts and All," p. 60.
USA Today, October, 1998.
Variety, November 26, 2001, p. 5; November 29, 2004, Adam Dawtrey, "It's a Wand-erful Life: Rowling Transforms Kid Lit and Embodies Brit Grit," p. A1.
Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2005, Meghan Cox Gurdon, "Magical Prose."
Washington Post, November 2, 1999, p. A21; July 11, 2000, Jabari Asim, "Four's a Charm: The Steady Spell of Harry Potter," p. C1; November 5, 2001, p. A1.
World Literature Today, January-April, 2005, Kathy Howard Latrobe, "Ten English Authors for Young Adults," p. 69.
Hoosier Times Online,http://www.hoosiertimes.com/ (November 29, 1998), "British Author Rides up Charts on a Wizard's Tale"
January Online,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (October, 2000), Linda Richards, "J.K. Rowling"; (February 11, 2003) Linda Richards, "Harry's Real Magic"; (July, 2003) Sue Bursztynski, "Growing up with Harry."
J.K. Rowling Official Web site,http://www.jkrowling.com (October 15, 2006).
Manchester Online,http://www.manchesteronline.co.uk/ (July 18, 2005), Cathy Winston, review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (March 31, 1999), "Of Magic and Single Motherhood."
USA Today,http://www.usatoday.com/ (September 10, 2003), Jacqueline Blais, "Not Everyone's Wild about Harry Potter."*