Ahhhh, this is more like it.
After the slight disappointment of my Chamber of Secrets reread, it has been very pleasing to feel myself back in the warm embrace of a long lost friend with The Prisoner of Azkaban.
From the first page, Rowling hooked me back into Harry's magical world.
She kept the recap of previous stories to a minimum and wove these bits into the story in a far more subtle and natural way (than she did in CoS).
I think one of the major differences with this book compared to the first two in the series, is that it no longer feels like we're adults reading a kids book. There is a darker edge creeping into this story.
Let's face it, those Dementor's and their soul-sucking habits are just plain freaky.
This is also a proper teenage coming-of-age story now in the making.
And typical of that 13-14 yr old experience is the desire to rebel against adult authority just as they discover that those same adults are not the all-knowing, all-wonderful figureheads of their childhood. Shades of grey, complexity and nuance begin to creep into the characterisations and story lines.
The reason these books work so well and win over the hearts and imaginations of children and adults alike is how safe they are. Behind all the scary You-Know-Who Voldemort stuff is a traditional boarding school story, where adults impart knowledge and the children learn to become socially accepted members of their community all wrapped in a heart-warming message about the power of love.
In scary times, the world turns to stories that make them feel better and help them to believe in a better world.
Hogwarts is such a world.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the winner of the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year in 1999 (this prize is now called the Costa Book Award). As fas as I know, it was the only one of the Harry Potter series to win a major book award. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
If you have read The Prisoner of Azkaban recently and would like to leave the link to your review in the comments below, please do. I'd love to read your thoughts.