At my library, we’re hosting book discussions for each of the seven Harry Potter books. Upon searching the internet for discussion questions however, I really didn’t find that many that suited my purpose. So I crafted some of my own, and some I found on the Scholastic website, and I thought I’d share them with everyone. Our first book discussion went extremely well, with myself and two parent volunteers leading the discussion with 30 young patrons ranging in age from eight to thirteen years old. EVERYONE had a blast, and we’re looking forward to the next one.
1. J. K. Rowling gives several clues that something is different about Harry Potter. Did you like having chapter one introduce the characters that you’d later meet at Hogwarts, or would you rather have been surprised? What were the warning signs that Harry Potter isn’t like other kids?
2. Harry Potter begins at the Dursley’s house and then discovers that he’s headed for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Can you think of any other books where the characters start in a normal world and discover that it’s different or magical? What are some similarities and differences at both Hogwarts and in the Muggle world?
3. When Harry arrives at Hogwarts, he meets Professor Dumbledore, who is not your average principal. Would you want him at your school? What classes at Hogwarts would you want to take if you had the opportunity? Which teachers do you think you’d like the most and the least?
4. Harry is sorted into Gryffindor, along with Ron and Hermione. How do you think the story would have changed if they hadn’t been placed in the same house? Do you think Harry would have still succeeded against the obstacles without Ron and Hermione?
5. Harry makes two friends at Hogwarts, Hermione and Ron. Each of the three characters has their own strengths and weaknesses, which are all put to use by the end of the book. Discuss what these are, and how they assist in the end. Which of the three characters are you most like and which character do you want to resemble?
6. Neville gets picked on a lot at school. Do you think his actions encourage Draco Malfoy and his friends teasing? When he finally asserts himself, it’s towards Harry, Ron, and Hermoine and not against Draco. What happened? Is it easier to stand up for yourself amongst people you like or people you don’t like?
7. Harry and his classmates spend a lot of time in the library and they use quill pens and scrolls to write their papers. Why do you think they don’t have computers? What other forms of technology are they missing? Do you think you’d be able to give it all up for a chance to attend Hogwarts?
8. J. K. Rowling uses things that you can find in traditional tales, myths, and legends. For instance, the Sorcerer’s Stone is also known as the Philosopher’s Stone, and has been sought-after for years by Isaac Newton and Nicolas Flamel. What other things do you recognize as part of other myths?
9. The author has a lot of fun with names. Did you notice the Mirror of Erised spells “Desire” backwards? What other names give you an idea ahead of time about the character or object? What names are misleading?
10. In chapter Nine, Harry disobeys a direct order and rides on a broom stick for the first time. While this might normally lead to expulsion from school, instead he’s honored with the Seeker position.
* Can you find other instances in the story where Harry’s actions lead to the opposite from what is expected or that he’s given special treatment from the staff or students? Why do you think this happens?
* Is it ever a good idea to disobey the rules?
* Is it fair that Harry gets treated differently, and what would you do if you realized you were being treated differently from other students?
11. Quirrel tells Harry that “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” (page 291) Do you agree with this? Is this the reality of the world? Or if good and evil do exist, what makes them so? Which is more important in the world, power, or good and evil?