Ask any Harry Potter fan what their favourite book and film is and there’s a good chance a number will say The Prisoner of Azkaban. It is certainly universally described as the one of the best films and one of the better of the books. For Rowling it was the last to win the Smarties Prize for Children’s Literature (The Philosophers Stone and The Chamber of Secrets also won but none of the later books did) Its not hard to see the popularity of this book within the series, or indeed the next two which are also frequently cited as fans favourites within the series. Let’s be honest The Prisoner of Azkaban is where things begin to kick of in earnest. To my mind while obviously there is an overarching story arc for the series within it there is a smaller story arc which plays out across books 3, 4 and 5. These are the books where the characters begin to grow up and also where we begin to learn more about the wizarding world outside of the school then in the first two book as the host of characters expands. As the first book within this smaller story arc Harry Potter and The Prisoner is Azkaban is therefore interesting.
I feel I have to comment on the film of this book also. It is one of the most popular in the entire series. It’s well directed and the children had all settled into their characters. It’s also cited as one of the best adaptions (personally I think this is due to its more manageable length. Every book after this ran to at least 500 pages which is a lot to cram into a 2 – 2 1/2 hr children’s film. Inevitably the later adaptions suffer as a result). However on this reread I suddenly noticed some discrepancies between the book and film. For instance one of my favourite Dumbledore quotes “Happiness can be found in the darkest of places if only one remembers to turn on the light” doesn’t appear in the book at all. Nor does another favourite “In our dreams we enter a world entirely our own“. Some scenes are also moved around. In the film there are a number of scenes between Harry and Lupin in which Lupin reveals to Harry about his friendship with his parents and we see a rare positive relationship with an adult develop for Harry. They are touching scenes which for the most part don’t occur until the end of the book. These aren’t criticisms and don’t take from either the book or the film but they did throw me a bit, probably because I’ve seen the film a good few times recently so my memory of the plot as it occurs in the book was out a bit.
While I thoroughly recommend this book and indeed all the Harry Potter series I’m going to end this review with a note of caution. For those considering giving the books to a child this is the last I would give without reservation to a child of any age. From here on out the books get darker and may not be suitable for younger children.