Harry Potter first arrived in the United States in 1998 in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." (The wonkier sounding original title "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was chaged for a US audience.)
He first appeared with his Aunt and Uncle Dursley and son Dudley, whom, Monitor reviewer Yvonne Zipp noted, are "about as awful as their name." But on his 11th birthday he was whisked away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As a baby, it turns out, Harry somehow survived an attack by the evil wizard Voldemort that killed both his parents. "Harry, it seems," Zipp notes, "is a wizard - or will be once he's trained - and a pretty powerful one at that."
At Hogwarts, Harry learned to play Quidditch and became aware of a mystery involving a sorcerer's stone. He realized that it was his task – along with friends Ron and Hermione – to uncover the evil stalking their school.
In her review of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" Zipp complained of "a too-abrupt ending that doesn't completely satisfy." However, she added, "that may be partly due to a reader's unwillingness to put down the tale. A sequel is due in September. If it's half as charming as the original, all is forgiven."
The 2001 movie version of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was mostly well received. Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars and called it a classic. CNN critic Paul Tatara, however, felt the movie was perhaps too faithful to the book. The directors, he says, were "so careful to avoid offending anyone by excising a passage from the book" that "the so-called narrative is more like a jamboree inside Rowling's head."