Just when you think that the print versions of J.K. Rowling’s beloved series Harry Potter couldn’t possibly be improved, the fully illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released.
It may be because I am a massive Harry Potter fan, but when I first picked up the book I was taken back to discovering Harry Potter and the magical world for the first time. I would hesitate to call this a surge of nostalgia, but I am not afraid to admit that I did get goosebumps when I opened to the first chapter to see the Dursleys illustrated to perfectly coincide with Rowling’s description.
Throughout the book, illustrations complement and accentuate the story and Rowling’s prose. This is not like a picture book for small children — Rowling and Kay still leave space for your imagination to fill in missing images in the story, and the ones that are present on the pages serve to centre your imagination in a way the movie adaptations never could.
The detail put into the creation of this book is astounding. Whereas most illustrated editions of novels do black and white images on a few pages and a few colour plates in its centre, this edition features some form of colour or illustration on every page. Each one appears as though printed on well-aged parchment paper — the preferred paper of both witches and wizards alike.
While the font of the book does not go to the same lengths as the illustrations of the novel, this is understandable. It would be incredibly exciting to a Harry Potter nerd like me to see the story told through fonts that resemble the writing of all the main characters in the series, but the readability of the novel would suffer. This may sound nitpicky, but it works with the feel of the book and the thought that was put into its creation. They chose to not go overboard on the creativity and this allows the masterful illustrations to star.
This is not like a picture book for small children — Rowling and Kay still leave space for your imagination to fill in missing images in the story.
One of the main complaints surrounding the Harry Potter series and its various incarnations has been the lack of diversity, an issue which is addressed through some of Kay’s illustrations. Two noteworthy examples of this are the illustrations of the suits of armour in “The Midnight Duel” chapter: they are of varying heights, shapes, and body types. The other example comes from the “Quidditch” chapter, in which students of varying ethnicities are shown. While the main characters are all still white, it is refreshing to see that Hogwarts and the wizarding world isn’t necessarily as monoracial as previously thought.
While the movie versions of Harry Potter seemed to depict Hogwarts as a serious place, Jim Kay took some creative license with some of the less well described parts of the castle. Where there was once just a hall filled with suits of armour that I had always envisioned in a manner similar to that of the suits of armour in Beauty and the Beast, Kay gave each suit he illustrated a personality of its own. The same goes for the magical chess pieces, which are described as being somewhat sentient in the novel; Kay again gives each one its own personality.
Having been excited for the release of the illustrated versions of Harry Potter since they were announced, I had a lot of potential to be let down by the final product. I am pleased to say that it doesn’t just meet, but exceeds my expectations. I couldn’t be more excited to see what Jim Kay will do with the remaining six books.