The first two books in the series are the hardest for me to get through for a couple of reasons. One: as mentioned in the previous entry, I've read the books repeatedly since I bought the first 2 to read on the family vacay to Hawaii in June 2002 (though, I finished them both before we even landed in Dallas, where we would catch our connecting flight TO Maui, but that's another story). Therefore, I've read them the most times, and I already know every little detail about what's going to happen. Two: they are the most "juvenile" of the entire series, and it's tough for me to get through them because I know the amazing-ness that awaits after they are done. However, in contrast to that, one of the many, MANY reasons I love the series is that the books grow with the reader. A kid who started these at age 11 would thoroughly enjoy this book at their 11-year-old level, and by the time they get to Deathly Hallows, they'd be 21 reading an extremely dense and intense book not written for or catered toward children. It's not a 21 year old reading a book written for an 11 year old anymore.
Still, all that aside, this is the beginning, the one that started it all, and despite everything I just said, I still find that it's so lovely. It's every kid's dream to find out that they have some kind of special power they never knew they had, especially to be a freakin' witch or wizard. I am so glad I was in college when I started this and not a sad kid whose 11th birthday would come and go without one stinking owl. I love so much about this book, from the introduction of the beloved characters to the first glimpses of some of our favorite places (Hogwarts, Diagon Alley) to the spells and lessons and Quidditch and... shall I go on? It's a wonderfully (pun warning!) MAGICAL start to an epic and fantastic series.
FAVORITE MOMENT: I award 10 points to Mr. Neville Longbottom.
I became a HP fan because my buddy C invited me to come see the movie with her and her roommate at the late great second-run theater in Harrisonburg. The first movie was the only one that was released when I started to read the series, so the visuals in it became very important. Why am I telling you this? Because this moment is made for me because I always picture the look on Neville's face when it's announced that he is the reason Gryffindor wins. The first movie isn't known for its acting, though I think the cast of kids do an amazing job, considering this was their first foray into the industry. However, chubby little Matthew Lewis has the most perfect expression of shock and happiness on his face, and it always brings a tear to my eye. Now that I know what Neville will become over the course of the series, it manages to REALLY affect me. (Confession: I saw a promo still for Neville during the Battle of Hogwarts, and I almost burst into tears. I am going to be ONE HOT MESS on July 15.)
FAVORITE CHAPTER: The Mirror of Erised
Why? It's funny, it's deep, it's sweet, and it's full of little details that you don't realize are important until later. To me, it's the embodiment of the book and what's to come of the series. For humor, we have one of my all-time favorite Fred & George sequences (Christmas morning, Gred & Forge frog-marching Percy out of the dorm). For sweet sentimentality, we have Harry having his best Christmas Day ever, where he gets actual presents from people who love him (including his very first Weasley sweater) and a group of redheaded boys that treat him like a brother. And those details? Well, you'll just have to figure that out for yourself.
What always gets me, though, is Harry's discovery of the Mirror itself. The descriptions of his feelings after he realizes it's his family in the Mirror breaks my heart every single time. All he ever wanted was to be loved, to have a true family that treated him with kindness and love and respect. To see that literally reflected to him, along with Dumbledore actually stating that it's the "deepest, most desperate desire" of his heart... well, that's something so tangible and REAL for a so-called "children's book." The entire chapter is so easy to lose yourself in, which happened to me despite the fact that I read the chapter on my morning commute while standing up and squished in the corner of the Metro.
Now, onto Chamber of Secrets: my least favorite, even though it's my girl Ginny's first year AND even after I found out how important it was to the series.
[Side note: the first chapter of SS takes place on the day after Halloween in 1981, which Jo claims is a Tuesday. Sadly, she is mistaken, because I was born on the day after Halloween in 1981, which was a Sunday. And what a wonderful Sunday that was, even for the wizarding world!]