Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Top 100 Books proves that Jane Austen is the Teacher’s Pet

CLASS lets get reading…

TES (Think, Educate, Share) a website dedicated to bringing the latest teaching news and strategies to educators and the public asked 500 primary and secondary teachers what their top 10 books were. They crunched the numbers and came up with the following list of 100 top books.

It is an interesting list and it ranges nicely from early-ish chapter books — the kind that got us all hooked on reading in the first place, like Dahl and Lewis — to more mature novels like Atonement.

I was glad to see that my girl Jane made the grade (#1, 32, 52, 58). And you’ll recognize lots of other Thought of the Day authors on here too (I put them in italics — if you  are interested in reading the bioBlogs go to the search box to the right and type in their name.)

1. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

3. Harry Potter (series) J.K. Rowling

4. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

5. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

6. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell

7. The Lord of the Rings (series) J.R.R. Tolkien

[Image courtesy Biography online

[Image courtesy Biography online

8. The Book Thief Markus Zusak9. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien10. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald11. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini12. The Hunger Games (series) Suzanne Collins13. The Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger

14. The Chronicles of Narnia (series) C.S. Lewis

15. Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

16. Birdsong Sebastian Faulks

17. His Dark Materials (series) Philip Pullman

18. The Gruffalo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

19. The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger

20. Life of Pi Yann Martel

21. Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

22. Rebecca Daphne du Maurier

23. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Mark Haddon

24. Lord of the Flies William Golding

25. Matilda Roald Dahl

My Roald Dahl collage featuring some of his most popular characters (as drawn by the amazing Quentin Blake).  Surrounding Mr. Dahl and his pups are: at the top left are: The BFG, Sophie, Dahl with his pups, The Enormous Crocodile, Mr. Fox, James, the Grand High Witch, Willy Wonka, and Matilda.

My Roald Dahl collage featuring some of his most popular characters (as drawn by the amazing Quentin Blake).


26. Catch-22 Joseph Heller

27. Millennium (series) Stieg Larsson

28. Animal Farm George Orwell

29. The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

30. Persuasion Jane Austen

31. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

32. Kensuke’s Kingdom Michael Morpurgo

33. Goodnight Mister Tom Michelle Magorian

34. The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck

35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl

36. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne

37. Little Women Louisa May Alcott

English: Bust of Louisa May Alcott

English: Bust of Louisa May Alcott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

38. One Day David Nicholls

39. We Need to Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver

40. The Twits Roald Dahl

41. Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel

42. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini

43. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame

44. Frankenstein Mary Shelley

45. Great Expectations Charles Dickens

46. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis de Bernieres

47. George’s Marvellous Medicine Roald Dahl

48. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

douglas adams inspired "Hitch hikers guid...

douglas adams inspired “Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy” H2G2 http://www.hughes-photography.eu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

49. Room Emma Donoghue

50. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

51. Atonement Ian McEwan

52. Emma Jane Austen

53. Middlemarch George Eliot

54. The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

55. The Color Purple Alice Walker

56. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle

57. Brave New World Aldous Huxley

58. Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen

59. The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

60. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

61. Charlotte’s Web E.B. White

62. Dracula Bram Stoker

63. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

64. A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving

65. The Secret History Donna Tartt

66. The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Scanned drawing.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Scanned drawing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

67. Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky

68. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

69. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy

70. Skellig David Almond

71. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

72. Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell

73. Game of Thrones (series) George R.R. Martin

74. David Copperfield Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

75. Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

76. Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak

77. Twilight (series) Stephenie Meyer

78. Beloved Toni Morrison

79. The Help Kathryn Stockett

80. Sherlock Holmes (series) Arthur Conan Doyle

81. Half of a Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

82. Moneyball Michael Lewis

83. My Family and Other Animals Gerald Durrell

84. Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden

85. On the Road Jack Kerouac

86. Cloud Atlas David Mitchell

87. Wild Swans Jung Chang

88. Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery

89. Les Miserables Victor Hugo

90. Room on the Broom Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

91. Private Peaceful Michael Morpurgo

92. Noughts and Crosses Malorie Blackman

93. Cider with Rosie Laurie Lee

94. Danny the Champion of the World Roald Dahl

95. Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell

English: George Orwell in Hampstead On the cor...

English: George Orwell in Hampstead On the corner of Pond Street and South End Road, opposite the Royal Free Hospital. The bookshop has long gone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

96. The Magic Faraway Tree Enid Blyton

97. The Witches Roald Dahl

98. The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy

99. Holes Louis Sachar

100. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde.

English: Oscar Wilde, three-quarter length por...

English: Oscar Wilde, three-quarter length portrait, facing front, seated, leaning forward, left elbow resting on knee, hand to chin, holding walking stick in right hand, wearing coat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So… what do you think? Did the teachers get an A+ for their list?  Are there any other books that you treasure that didn’t make the top 100?

If you were asked to list your top 10 books what would you include?

Second Character Saturday Alan Rickman: Severus Snape

Blogger’s Note: When I started to thinking about Secondary Character Saturday somehow Alan Rickman kept coming to mind. He’s been around for a long time, he’s been in a LOT of great movies, and he’s almost always in the secondary character spot. He’s PERFECT for this blog segment. But WHICH Alan Rickman role to feature on Secondary Character Saturday? Ah that’s the rub. He’s done everything from rom-com, to Shakespeare, to comic science fiction, to serious drama. Which side of A.R. do I show? Frankly, I couldn’t decide. So I’m claiming the month of MARCH as Alan Rickman Month! (He’s also one of my all time favorite actors so I wont mind spending a month researching him and maybe re-watching a few movies!)

Snape topper

Who: Professor Severus Snape

From: The Harry Potter series

By: J.K. Rowling wrote the fabulous and engaging books. The movies were directed with varying degrees of success by different people. For my money Alfonso Cuarón saved (the movie) franchise from generic blandom with his wickedly good HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and David Yates brought the magic in HP and the Deathly Hallows 1&2.

Released: The character of Severus Snape first appeared in June  of 1997 when Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Great Britain.  We first got to see A.R. as Snape in 2001 with the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Pros: He’s brilliant, of course. He’s got fantastic wand skills and is so fab at potions that he literally rewrote the book. He’s inventive, hard-working,  intuitive. He protects Harry even though he can’t stand him. He teaches Harry Occlumency so he can keep Voldemort out of his mind. He’s acts as a double agent for Dumbledore. And he’s loyal to Lily, his one true and unrequited love. Having made both Lily and Dumbledore (and Narcissa Malfoy) promises he stops at nothing to keep them. He’s the perfect Slytherin.

Still from HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Snape rushes in front of Harry, Ron and Hermione to protect them from a werewolfe. Maybe he's just being a good teacher/adult. But I doubt whether some other teachers at the school would have done the same. [Image courtesy: Warner Brothers]

Still from HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Snape rushes in front of Harry, Ron and Hermione to protect them from a werewolf. Maybe he’s just being a good teacher/adult. But I doubt whether some other teachers at the school would have done the same. [Image courtesy: Warner Brothers]

Cons: Well… he’s mean. He’s REALLY mean to Harry! And that’s just not right! (OK I’ve got that off my chest. But lets face it, Snape isn’t the meanest one of the lot. He’s got nothing on Umbridge.) He’s a bully and he takes out his resentment for what James Potter did to him on Harry.  He’s spiteful, malicious, angry, bitter, resentful, and cruel.  He always favors Slytherin . He’s a double spy for Voldemort. He’s a Death Eater. And he KILLS Dumbledore! He’s the perfect Slytherin.

Most Shining Moment: I agree with Harry Potter Blog Spot who picks Dumbledore’s Death as Snape’s Shining Moment For to honor Dumbledore’s wishes and protect Harry’s (and Draco’s) life, Snape risked the damage his own soul that this horrific act would bring.” [Harry Potter blog spot] It is the crowning action of commitment, loyalty and self-sacrifice, while on the outside (and to the reader)  it looks completely the opposite.

Least Shining Moment: All the times he was meaner than he had to be to Harry and the other students who weren’t in Slytherin … and when he killed Dumbledore.

The Mary Grandpre illustration of Half-Blood Prince.

The Mary Grandpre illustration of Half-Blood Prince.

Yeah, I know I sound schizophrenic, but things with Snape are COMPLICATED. And nothing in the books was more complex and, dare I say, misleading, than Snape’s killing Dumbledore. When it happened it was THE WORST THING EVER in the HP universe and I didn’t think I could ever forgive Snape. Up until then Rawlings had given me enough ammunition to  forgive away his nastiness towards Harry. But this? How could he be redeemed from this? Hmmmm.  Things have changed.

He remained true to himself by remaining loyal to Dumbledore and his lost love. As the stakes and danger increased for him, and Dumbledore pushed him to greater acts of spying and risk, Snape met these challenges bravely, even if irritably, to protect the son of the man he loathed and thereby preserve the memory of the woman he loved. [Ibid]

Something clearly resonates with Snape. He was the top pick of for favorite character in a poll done by the H.P. British publisher Bloomsbury. He received 20% of the votes in the poll that asked readers to rank their favorite 40 characters. (Hermione came in second. Harry was a distant 5th!)

Not to take anything away from the Snape Rowlings painted on the page, but Alan Rickman’s nuisanced performance as the greasy haired potions professor had a lot to do with that high rating. He’s delightful to watch throughout the series. (He makes the first couple of movies bearable with his dark, snarkiness). And as Snape’s story arch progresses Rickman’s performance builds in a measured, restrained, mysterious pace. He respects the character enough not to give anything away. He’s multidimensional in a very limited scope of dimension, many shades of black, as it were. And he’s fun to watch … right up to the moment he makes you cry.

Found this piece of Fan Art on Pinterest (with Maggie's help -- thanks Maggie!) And can not find any one to attribute it to. Sorry.

In another life wake up. by Lily-fox

Sorry the text is small in the comic:This is what it says…
Snape wakes from the dream to find his daughter at his bed side.
She asks “Are you awake?”
He reaches out to touch her red hair — she looks so much like Lily “Yes.”
She smiles “Mommy says pancakes are ready.”

Life is good.


Frankly… (if you haven’t guessed) I’m not a big fan of the HP movies. (LOVED the books — so don’t kick me out the club — but he movies… for the most part … eh.) But Rickman was always worth watching.


So which other A.R. characters should we tackle this month? We’ve got 4 more Saturdays in the month so get your votes in!

  • Hans Gruber (Die Hard’s evil bad guy)
  • Alexander Dane  (Galaxy Quest’s classically trained science officer)
  • Dr. Blalock (the life saving doctor in Something the Lord Made)
  • Judge Turpin (the evil judge in Sweeny Todd)
  • Steven Spurrier (the wine snob from Bottle Shock)
  • Alex (the grief-stricken stranger in Snow Cake)
  • Jamie (the cello playing ghost in Truely, Madly, Deeply), or
  • Col Christopher Brandon (from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensiblity)  — Yeah, I’m doing Branon.

To see how Rickman “elevates the role of a villain from the plain ol’ bastard to a bastard coated bastard with bastard filling.”…go to the excellent blog The Many Faces of Alan Rickman.

Secondary Character Saturday — Ron Weasley

Welcome to the next edition of Secondary Character Saturday.


Rupert Grint played Ron in the Harry Potter movies.

Rupert Grint played Ron in the Harry Potter movies.

Name: Ronald Bilius “Ron” Weasley

From: The Harry Potter series

By: J. K. Rowling

Written in: Ron first appeared in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which was published in 1997.

Why: Ron is the everyman of the Potter series. In the triumvirate that crowns  the Harry Potter food chain you’ve got the hero (Harry), the brains (Hermione), and the foil (Ron). He is flawed, there’s no doubt about it. As the youngest brothers he’s neither the smartest, nor the bravest, nor the funniest.

I’m the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left – Bill was Head Boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy’s a prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they’re really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.” [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by JK Rowling, Scholastic Inc. New York, New York, pg 98]

Throw his little sister Ginny into the mix and he’s not even the cutest. He doesn’t seem to have any special “thing” that he can point to and say “this is what I do best.” So Ron is always searching for his moment in the sun. It doesn’t help that his best mate is the world-famous (at least in the wizarding world) Harry Potter. Ron suffers from insecurity from the start and it gets worse as the books go along. He is also largely clueless when it comes to women. Just ask Hermione. But Ron is loyal, funny, and generous. He’s grounded in a way that neither Harry or Hermione seem to be. And in this way Ron seems the most human of the central characters in the series. (In fact, as a pure blood Wizard he’s the least human. But while other Pure Bloods hold that over mere Mud Bloods it never seems to enter into Ron’s equation of friendship.)

Pros: Loyalty, Nerve, Sense of Humor

Cons: Easily frustrated, occasionally lapses in his loyalty, procrastinates, jealous

Shining moment: Ron’s shining moment (imho) comes in the first book when he plays the game of Wizard’s Chess. It takes both courage and skill to play the game, and Ron willingly sacrifices his piece (and himself) so the others can win the game and advance in their goal to stop Quirell.

“We’re nearly there,” he muttered suddenly. “Let me think… let me think…”
The white queen turned her blank face toward him.
“Yes…” said Ron softly, “it’s the only way…I’ve got to be taken.”
“NO!” Harry and Hermione shouted.
“That’s chess!” snapped Ron. “You’ve got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she’ll take me— that leave you free to checkmate the king, Harry!” [Ibid, pg 283]

Runner up Shining Moment: Working with Harry to save Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets in book two.

Cover of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Cover of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Silliest moment: Probably my favorite Ron moment happens in the second book, and it involves belching slugs. ‘Nugh said.

Least shining moment: He is least likeable in the last book when he leaves Harry and Hermione to finish the quest for the Horcurxes on their own. That is pretty weak. It is almost unforgivable. But Ron is human (well, he’s a wizard, but he has very human tendencies) and his weaknesses and failures make him more relatable to us. And Ron realizes his mistake, of course, and comes back.

Lego Ron

Lego Ron

So I know some of you are not going to like the fact that Ron is listed here as secondary character, but before you throw an unspeakable curse my way please consider that the books are named “Harry Potter and the…” Harry is the primary character.  Ron and every one else are, therefore, secondary.

AND lest you Snape or Luna lovers loose heart, just because I picked Ron this time doesn’t mean I wont pick another H.P. character another time. Saturday comes around once a week after all, and, clearly, I’ve got some pretty strong opinions up my sleeves.

Thanks to Ellie, Maggie, Bill and Stevie for their input on this blog post.

Thought of the Day 7.31.12 JKRowling

“It matters not what a person is born, but who they choose to be.”


English: J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter ...

English: J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Easter Egg Roll at White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joanne Rowling was born on this day in Yate, England in 1965. She is 47 years old.

Her creative writing career began as a little girl when she would tell  her sister Di fantasy stories. At five or six she wrote down a story about a rabbit who got the measles and was visited by a giant bumble bee.

The idea for Harry Potter, a boy who finds out he has magical powers and attends a school for Wizards, came to her while she was travelling from Manchester to London.

Upon graduating from Exeter University Rowling moved to Porto, Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. There she met Jorge Arantes and fell in love. The two married and had a daughter, Jessica, in 1993. When the marriage ended Rowling moved to Edinburgh, to be near her sister. She struggled financially and she and Jessica lived in a small flat and lived on welfare for a while.  While she worked on her postgraduate degree in education (so she could teach in Scotland) She began to write Harry Potter in earnest. Rowling often wrote in coffee shops because taking the baby for a walk was the best way to get her to fall asleep.

Cover of "Harry Potter and the Philosophe...

Cover of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

She completed Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and found an agent. The book was submitted to twelve publishers before finding a home at Bloomsbury Publishing House in London. The publisher thought the target audience for the book would be pre-teen boys so they asked her to use her initials.  She added  “K” as her middle initial in honor of her grandmother. They did an first run of 1,000 copies.

An auction was held for the rights to publish the book in the US (under the name “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”) Scholastic Inc. won the auction and paid a whopping $105,000.

Cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from Amazon.com

The story of the young wizard took off like a golden snitch.

In 1999 the first three books in the Harry Potter series, ...The Sorcerer’s Stone, …The Chamber of Secrets and …The Prisoner of Azkaban held the top three spots on the New York times best-seller list.  The books “earned approximately $480 million in three years, with over 35 million copies in print in 35 languages.” according to biography.com. The following year Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the series became the fastest-selling book of all time. It had a first printing of 5.3 million copies. And in 2000 the British Book Awards pegged Rowling as Author of the Year.

English: Alternate coat of arms of Hogwarts sc...

English: Alternate coat of arms of Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry from Harry Potter book series, by J.K Rowling, with added shading effects. The motto translates to “never tickle a sleeping dragon” vector drawing,.SVG format. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Order of the Phoenix came out in 2003 (an excruciating  three years wait for Potter fans). …The Half-Blood Prince “sold 6.9 million copies in the United State in its first 24 hours, the biggest opening in publishing history.”  This time the British Book Awards gave the book the prize granting it Book of the Year for 2006.  The final book in the series …The Deathly Hallows had the largest pre-order numbers ever.  It sold 11 million copies on the first day it was released in the UK and the US.

All seven books in the Harry Potter series in ...

All seven books in the Harry Potter series in order without their dust jackets. Each hardcover book used a different two-color scheme. The books are the first American editions published by Scholastic. Author’s collection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Films of the books (with different directors and screenwriters) started  in 2001. They were all blockbuster events. And [despite some serious directing/screen writing and even acting quality issues (IMHO) with several of the movies] they all grossed top dollar and were box-office successes.

Director Alfonso Cuaron amped up the creepy and played down the camp in this, the third installment of the HP movies. In my humble opinion this is the best book to movie translation of the series. (Though I do like the Deathly Hallows 1&2 quite a lot as well.)

Royalties from the HP series, movies, merchandise and add-ons have made Rowling Britain’s 13 wealthiest woman.

Although the Harry Potter series has concluded (at least for now, rumor has it that she may revisit Hogwarts) Rowling continues to  write. Her dark comedy about small town politics, The Casual Vacancy, is due out soon.

She works with several charities including Amnesty International, Comic Relief, Gingerbread (formerly One Parent Families), Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Lumos.  And she established the Volant Charitable Trust to combat poverty.

She married Dr. Neil Murray in 2001 and they have two children together.


It is also Harry Potter’s birthday.

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