Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. By J.K.Rowling. (2005). New York: Arthur A. Levine Books.

Plot Summary

In Harry’s 6th year at Hogwarts, he discovers a potions text-book which allows him to ace the class. Its mysterious owner is “The Half-Blood Prince.” As Harry, Ron, and Hermoine ponder the mystery, finish up normal school activities (for wizards,) and begin to solidify their romantic relationships at Hogwarts, something far more serious is brewing. Dumbledore decides to explain to Harry how Voldemort keeps coming back to life: through inanimate objects called horcruxes. At the same time, Dumbledore begins to teach Harry more about Voldemort’s life as a young boy. This knowledge is transferred just in time, as the safety of Hogwarts is threatened by the arrival of Voldemort’s followers, the Death-Eaters.
Critical Evaluation
J.K. Rowling has stated that she has always known that there would be 7 books, and although the first few in the series are not classified as YA, later on as the characters age, the books become more appropriate for teenagers. The idea was that children could grow up with the character of Harry Potter. No other series that I know of has accomplished this as of yet. Harry himself goes through much of what teenagers do, in books 4-7: first kisses and romantic relationships, angst, the wizard-world’s version of the SATs, (NEWTs,) with the addition of his battle against the dark forces of his world. Much like other fantasy books, there is a clear distinction between good and evil, and someone who will do anything in order to live forever.

This particular volume is filled with an intense mystery in who, exactly, the Half-Blood Prince is, and plot threads that lead into the final volume such as Harry’s preparations for meeting, and defeating, Voldemort once and for all. All of these elements together create a great ball of tension and anticipation in readers, who will want to race on to the end of the series…they just may come back to this one, though, in order to spend a little more time with Harry, Ron, Hermoine, Dumbledore, and Hogwarts itself.

Reader’s Annotation

Harry’s 6th year at Hogwarts is filled with mystery, love, and betrayel. Dumbledore entrusts him with the knowledge that he will need to know in order to defeat his archenemy, Voldemort.
About the Author
J. K. Rowling grew up in the outskirts of Bristol, in West England, with her parents and her sister, Di. Di, like Harry Potter, has a small scar on her forehead. Rowling grew up near some neighbors called “The Potters,” whom inspired the name of Rowling’s hero. When Rowling’s mother died, she was devastated, but this perhaps is what strengthened Harry’s feelings about his parents in the novel, and what intensifies his darkest felt moments in the series.

Rowling studied French at The University of Exeter. Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter while riding on a train, and because she had nothing to write with, she simply sat there, generating ideas. She wrote the first book primarily in cafes, and while her young daughter slept.



Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas

-What would high school be like if you were a wizard?
Discuss possible characters who could be The Half-Blood Prince.

Discuss why Harry must learn about Voldemort’s childhood.

Reading Level/Interest Age

Ages 12-16+
Challenge Issues

Harry Potter has been challenged in schools largely because it is the story of “wizards and witchcraft.” Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter in the film adaptations, was interviewed by American Libraries recently, and this is his answer to the challenges:

Do you run into other people who say that the books and films are instruction manuals for paganism and witchcraft? How do you answer them?

I have encountered that occasionally. “Paganism” is one of those words that’s thrown around and can have some terrible connotations, and I detest the word “witchcraft.” I tell them that witchcraft is not real and that I don’t understand what they are complaining about. Harry Potter is about loyalty and friendship and duty and fighting for what’s right. I believe in people and the human spirit(American Libraries, 2010.)

I agree with Radcliffe, that the books are primarily about good versus evil, honor, friendships, and love. These books appeal to so many because they allow for an escape from reality, with characters which are described so well that they become like old friends.

American Libraries. (20100). Harry Potter READs: Actor Daniel Radcliffe on reading and getting kids to love it. Retrieved on December 10th, 2010 from http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/columns/newsmaker/daniel-radcliffe.

Why Did You Include This Book?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sold nine million copies on the first day of its release in 2005.

The popularity of the series cannot be denied. It is nothing less than a worldwide phenomenon. Many teenagers who have grown up with Harry , Ron, and Hermoine now have the opportunity to finish the series and visit the theme park. That time which readers have invested in Harry’s story will not be in vain, as the last two books in the series are exceptionally satisfying.

Best Books:
Best Books for Young Adults, 2006 ; American Library Association-YALSA-Adult Books for Young Adults Task Force; United States
Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2005 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Best of Children’s Books, 2005 ; January Magazine; United States
Booklist Editors’ Choice: Books for Youth, 2005 ; American Library Association; United States
Capitol Choices, 2006 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
Children’s Editor’s Choice, 2005 ; Kirkus Reviews; United States
Choices, 2006 ; Cooperative Children’s Book Center; United States
Kirkus Best Children’s Books , 2005 ; Kirkus Reviews; United States
Notable Children’s Books, 2005 ; New York Times; United States
Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books, 2005 ; Publishers Weekly; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, July 25, 2005 ; Cahners; United States
Top 10 Fantasy Books for Youth, 2006 ; Booklist; United States
YALSA Teens’ Top Ten, 2006 ; American Library Association; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
Books I Love Best Yearly (BILBY) Awards, 2006 Winner Older Readers Australia
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, 2008 Winner Colorado
Golden Archer Award, 2008 Winner Middle/Junior High Wisconsin
Indigo Teen Read Award, 2010 Winner Best Book-to-Flick Canada
Locus Award, 2006 Finalist Best Young Adult Book United States
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, 2008 Winner United States
Quill Awards, 2005 Winner Book of the Year United States
Quill Awards, 2005 Winner Children’s Chapter Books/Middle Grade United States
Royal Mail Award for Scottish Children’s Books, 2006 Winner Younger readers-8-12 years United Kingdom
Soaring Eagle Book Award, 2007 2nd Runner Up Grades 7-12 Wyoming
Soaring Eagle Book Award, 2009 Winner Grades 7-12 Wyoming
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
3 Apples Book Award, 2007 ; Finalist; New York
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, 2008 ; Nominee; Colorado
Golden Archer Award, 2006-2007 ; Nominee; Middle/Junior High; Wisconsin
Soaring Eagle Book Award, 2006-2007 ; Nominee; Wyoming
Soaring Eagle Book Award, 2008-2009 ; Nominee; Grades 7-12; Wyoming
Wisconsin Battle of the Books, 2006 ; Booklist; Middle Level Grades 6-8; Wisconsin
Wisconsin Battle of the Books, 2006 ; High School; Wisconsin
Young Reader’s Choice Award, 2008 ; Nominee; Grades 7-9; Pacific Northwest

About thesuperlibrarian

High School Librarian and obsessive reader! On a mission to read as many SUPER YA books as possible!
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