Rowling, J(oanne) K(athleen) 1966(?) (Newt Scamander, Kennilworthy Whisp)
ROWLING, J(oanne) K(athleen) 1966(?)
(Newt Scamander, Kennilworthy Whisp)
PERSONAL: Born July 31, 1966 (some sources say 1965), in Bristol, England; married a journalist (divorced); married Neil Murray (an anesthesiologist), December 26, 2001; children: (first marriage) Jessica Rowling, (second marriage) David Gordon Rowling Murray. Education: Attended Exeter University.
ADDRESSES: Home—Perthshire, Scotland. Agent— c/o Author Mail, Scholastic, Inc., 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.
CAREER: Author of books for children, 1987—. Former teacher in Edinburgh, Scotland.
AWARDS, HONORS: British Book Award, Children's Book of the Year, and Rowntree Nestle Smarties Prize, both 1997, both for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; Children's Book of the Year shortlist citation, and Rowntree Nestle Smarties Prize, both 1998, both for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Whitbread Prize for Children's Book of the Year, 1999, for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; W. H. Smith Children's Book of the Year Award, 2000, for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 2001, for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; Hugo Award for Best Novel, World Science Fiction Society, 2001, for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1997, published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1998, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
(Under name Newt Scamander) Fantastic Beasts andWhere 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.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
ADAPTATIONS: Three 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, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Two more novels about the school career of Harry Potter.
SIDELIGHTS: With fans anxiously awaiting the completion of the next book in her blockbuster "Harry Potter" series, J. K. Rowling is one of the most popular young adult writers of all time. As of 2003, worldwide sales of her books reached 250 million. The books are sold in more than 200 countries and have been translated into sixty languages. Rowling has been lauded by critics and parents for using her magical tales about Harry Potter and his friends at the Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to lure children away from televisions and video games and into the world of reading, creating a new generation of vociferous readers. "Rowling has been compared to C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, chiefly because she has imagined, in considerable detail, a world magically parallel to our own. Unlike these dooming academics, however, her books sparkle with satire," observed Amanda Craig in the New Statesman, who went on to say, "On a more superficial level she is brilliant at the vivid pleasures and pains of childhood, from eating sweets to being bullied."
Readers first met Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (originally published in Great Britain as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone). Harry is a young boy who has been sent to live with abusive relatives after an apparent accident that killed his parents. He is unable to get anyone in his new household to tell him about his parents or what happened to them. Then Harry receives a letter in the mail from Hogwart's, a premier institution of higher learning for witches and warlocks, inviting him to enroll. When Harry attends Hogwart's he learns that his parents—who were also wizards—died at the hands of the dark wizard Lord Voldemort. Harry must soon confront Voldemort, who is threatening to steal the Philosopher's Stone—a stone that promises eternal life.
As a debut children's novel by an unemployed Edinburgh-based schoolteacher and single mother, the book originally did not seem to have a bright future. "When J. K. Rowling first met her agent, Christopher Little, over a lunch in London in 1995," explained a Publishers Weekly contributor, "he felt it only right to sound a cautionary note: 'Now, you do realize, you will never make a fortune out of writing children's books?'" Little could not have been more wrong. Readers could not get enough of Harry Potter and Rowling quickly became one of the most sought-after writers in the world.
Rowling's career is as diverse as the publicists have depicted it. She was born near Bristol, England, the daughter of middle-class parents, attended Exeter University, and became a teacher. Between 1990 and 1994 she transferred to Portugal to teach English, married a journalist there, gave birth to their daughter Jessica, divorced her husband, and returned to the United Kingdom, settling in Edinburgh, Scotland. "Rowling found herself in the classic single-mother trap," explained a Time contributor. "She could not afford child care, so she could not go to work, and when she tried to put Jessica in state-funded care, she was told she was 'coping too well.' For almost a year, until she found teaching work, Rowling lived off public assistance. Every day, to escape her damp, unheated flat, she'd take the baby to the nearest café and write away, nursing a cup of coffee."
Rowling began work on the Harry Potter books in 1990. The idea "just came: bang!" she told a Publishers Weekly interviewer. "From the beginning, she conceived of it as a seven-volume series, 'because I decided that it would take seven years, from the ages of eleven to seventeen, inclusive, to train as a wizard, and each of the books would deal with a year of Harry's life at Hogwart's.'" "Here, Harry Potter takes on the tones of a much-loved fiction genre, the British boys' school reminiscence," stated Cathy Hainer in USA Today. "Classics such as Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim and James Hilton's Goodbye, Mr. Chips come to mind."
Critical reception of the "Harry Potter" novels has been almost universally approving. Craig "loved" Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and hailed Rowling's tale as full of "zest and brio." Writing in the New Republic, Lee Siegel believed that the book was so appealing because of Rowling's "wholehearted absorption in her universe." Siegel also praised Rowling's characterization, noting, "Harry and his friends Hermione and Ron Weasley are good kids, but they are not innocent, Wordsworthian kids. They usually do the right thing, and they always feel bad when they do the wrong thing." Bill Ott of Booklist concluded: "New generations will be reading Harry Potter because it has been so important a part of this generation. Twenty years from now grown-up Harry fans will want to share these books with their own children."
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book in the series, was as well received by fans and critics as the first. At the end of the first novel, Harry was ordered to spend the summer with his relatives, who are spiteful, cruel, "muggles" (not wizards). At the end of the summer Harry receives a warning from an elf named Dobby, and is sprung from his prison-like confines by his best friend, Ron Weasley, and his older twin brothers who rescue Harry in a flying car. The boys crash the car at Hogwart's, an event that foreshadows trouble during the upcoming school year. At school, Harry once again finds himself in the role of an unlikely hero when he hears a mysterious voice and must save his friends from a frightening force that is "petrifying" people at the school. "Rowling might be a Hogwart's graduate herself, for her ability to create such an engaging, imaginative, funny, and, above all, heart-pounding suspenseful yarn is nothing short of magical," concluded a Publishers Weekly critic. Booklist's Sally Estes also praised Chamber of Secrets, saying, "The mystery, zany humor, sense of a traditional British school (albeit with its share of ghosts, including Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom), student rivalry, and eccentric faculty, all surrounded by the magical foundation so necessary in good fantasy, are as expertly crafted here as in the first book."
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released around the same time as Chamber of Secrets. "The third book is basically the same as the first two, but that doesn't matter," pointed out Craig, who explained, "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 Prisoner of Azkaban, an imprisoned mass murderer who handed Harry's parents over to their enemy Voldemort, which led to their demise, escapes. Since it is likely that the prisoner will go after Harry, who somehow defeated Voldemort as an infant, the school is surrounded by Dementors, ominous, frightening hooded characters who have been ordered to protect Harry. Once again, good defeats evil and once again Harry Potter fans are cheering.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire recounts Harry's fourth year at Hogwart's. Because of his famous family, his past heroic actions, and his skill and success at the game of Quidditch (in which players fly around on broomsticks trying to catch a flying ball with a mind of its own), he is quite famous among the students and faculty. In this book, Harry sets out to rescue his innocent godfather from prison. The 734-page book is what Horn Book's Martha V. Parravano called "a wallow." She explained that this is a book "that some will find wide-ranging, compellingly written, and absorbing," while others will find it "long, rambling, and tortuously fraught with adverbs." According to Parravano, "Rowling's emphasis here is much less on school life and much more one the wider wizard world, and, simultaneously, on Harry's more narrow, personal world, as he has his first fight with Ron and asks a girl to his first dance." "This hefty volume is brimming with all of the imagination, humor, and suspense that characterized the first books. So many characters, both new and familiar, are so busily scheming, spying, studying, worrying, fulminating, and suffering from unrequited first love that it is a wonder that Rowling can keep track, much less control, of all of the plot lines. She does, though, balancing humor, malevolence, school-day tedium, and shocking revelations with the aplomb of a circus performer," praised School Library Journal's Eva Mitnick.
Fans had to wait three years for the publication of the next "Harry Potter" book. In the interim, Rowling published a 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 Hogwart's 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 Mitnick. "In her 'Kennilworthy Whisp' persona, Rowling displays an entertainingly dry wit, apparently describing the most preposterous events with a straight face," noted a MouthShut reviewer.
The adolescent Harry returns in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which in many places sold out before it even hit the shelves. Critics and readers noted a change in Harry in this book; he is older, more serious, and angry at times. Harry is annoyed at having to spend the summer with his muggle family when Voldemort is rising to power. He resents being separated from the world of wizardry, even temporarily. Arthur A. Levine commented on Harry's anger in an online review of the book for the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Children's School of Education: "It is one of the ways J. K. Rowling is addressing the transition of her main character from courageous, open-hearted boy to a young man weighed down by all that he has seen. Harry is also struggling, like many adolescents, to adjust to changes that he doesn't always understand in his relationships with friends and mentors." Levine added, "The truth is that teenagers aren't always easy to be around, and Harry embodies that truth, his overwrought emotions seem justified one minute, self-centered the next." In a review for January Magazine, Sue Bursztynski also noted that unlike earlier novels in the series, "this novel is no longer children's literature." Bursztynski theorized that "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."
As devoted fans impatiently await their next Pottermania fix, Rowling, worth over four hundred million dollars, leads a somewhat reclusive life in Edinburgh with her daughter, new husband, and new baby. Despite her incredible success, Rowling does not consider herself a celebrity. In January Magazine, Linda Richards observed, "When J. K. Rowling began writing the novel that would become Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the early 1990s, she didn't see the fame in her own crystal ball. 'I thought I'd written something that a handful of people might quite like,'" Richards quotes her as saying, "'So this has been something of a shock for me.'"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, Robert Allen Papinchak, review of Harry and the Goblet of Fire, p. 74.
Booklist, May 15, 1999, Sally Estes, review of HarryPotter and the Chamber of Secrets, p. 1690; January 1, 2000, review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p. 822, review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, p. 822, Bill Ott, review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, p. 988; March 15, 2000, review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p. 1360, review ofHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, p. 1360; April 15, 2000, Sally Estes, review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p. 1546, review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, p. 1546; December 1, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, p. 693; April 15, 2001, Sally Estes, review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, p. 1561; May 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, p. 1611, Ilene Cooper, review of Fantastic Beasts: And Where to Find Them, p. 1683, review of Quidditch through the Ages, p. 1683.
Books for Keeps, September, 1997, p. 27.
Christianity Today, Michael G. Maudlin, review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, p. 117.
Guardian, February 16, 1999, p. EG4.
Horn Book, November, 1999, audio review of HarryPotter and the Sorcerer's Stone, p. 764; November, 2000, Martha V. Parravano, review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, p. 762.
Library Journal, MOB, review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, p. S53.
New Republic, November 22, 1999, "Harry Potter and the Spirit of Age: Fear of Not Flying," p. 40.
New Statesman, December 5, 1997, p. 64; July 12, 1999, Amanda Craig, review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, pp. 47-49.
New York Times, July 8, 2000, Alan Cowell, "All Aboard the Potter Express," pp. 1330-1332.
People, December 2, 2002, Samantha Miller, "Where's Harry? J. K. Rowling Has a Baby on the Way. Fine, but What about the Next Potter?," p. 211.
Publishers Weekly, December 21, 1998, p. 28; January 4, 1999, p. 30; January 11, 1999, p. 24; May 31, 1999, review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p. 94; July 19, 1999, Shannon Maughan, "The Harry Potter Halo," pp. 92-94; October 11, 1999, audio review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, p. 30; February 15, 1999, p. 33.
Reading Teacher, October, 1999, review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, p. 183.
School Librarian, August, 1997, p. 147. School Library Journal, August, 2000, Eva Mitnick, review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, p. 188; September, 2000, Eva Mitnick, review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, p. 82; June, 2001, Eva Mitnick, review of Quidditch through the Ages, p. 155.
Science Fiction Chronicle, December, 1999, review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, p. 42.
Teacher Librarian, December, 1999, review of HarryPotter and the Sorcerer's Stone, p. 48.
Time, April 12, 1999, p. 86; July 17, 2000, review of Harry and the Goblet of Fire, p. 70.
USA Today, October, 1998.
January Magazine,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."
MouthShut,http://www.mouthshut.com/ (November 21, 2001), "Everything You Wanted to Know about Quidditch."
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (March 31, 1999), "Of Magic and Single Motherhood."
Scholastic,http://www.scholastic.com/ (February 11, 2003), "Meet J. K. Rowling."
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Children's School of Education,http://www.soemadison.wisc.edu/ccbc/ (November 25, 2003), "Harry Potter Reviews and Distinctions."
USA Today Online,http://www.usatoday.com/ (September 10, 2003), Jacqueline Blais, "Not Everyone's Wild about Harry Potter."*