Leaky’s Review of Jim Kay’s Illustrated Edition of “Philosopher’s Stone”

Oct 06, 2015

Posted by: Catherine

Harry Potter and the Philosophers / Sorcerers Stone, Jim Kay, News

It is here–it is finally here. Since it was first announced in a press release in early 2012 (yes–we have been waiting for years), fans have been eagerly awaiting Bloomsbury’s illustrated editions of the Harry Potter books. As we wondered what these books would look like, Bloomsbury took their time, carefully picking an illustrator to take the job. Jim Kay was revealed as the new set of eyes that would be reimagining our beloved Harry Potter series–it wasn’t long before every fan knew his name.

Jim Kay has expressed the extreme pressure he has experienced, undertaking such a monumental project. Harry Potter is so beloved, that the critique of fans, the actors, publishers, and the approval of the author herself could make or break his endeavors. J.K. Rowling, publishers, and many others have expressed not only their approval, but their love for Jim Kay’s vision of Harry Potter’s world. The fans are probably the hardest group of people to win over.

After so many years of waiting, the fans are excited to get their hands on a new Harry Potter book–and because of this help from Father Time, whether or not the images are to individual fans’ taste, Jim Kay’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone will be eaten up from the moment bookstores open today, or UPS trucks show up at your front door.

Even though it is difficult to let go of Harry Potter envisioned in our own heads, by Mary GrandPre, and even by the films, after getting our hands on a copy of Jim Kay’s illustrated edition of Philosopher’s Stone, there is no denying that this Harry Potter book is a work of Art.





Though we hoping that Scholastic would keep the title of “Philosopher’s Stone” for Bloomsbury’s illustrated book project, the US editions of the illustrated books have maintained their US titles and rights of their US publishers. However this does not detract from the cover art of the book that we have seen over the last few months (it is even more beautiful in person).





Though it is a medieval castle full dungeons, cold and damp stone walls, and to Ron’s dismay, spiders, many of us picture Hogwarts as warm and welcoming. A place to call home for many of the lost character’s in Harry Potter–Harry, McGonnagall, and even Tom Riddle. Jim Kay’s sketches, though beautiful, are a bit more foreboding.





On page 91, Harry’s first glimpse of Hogwarts (not pictured) would remind fans of castles in gothic novels–inciting more fear than excitement.Though Harry’s arrival to Hogwarts was during a chilly September night, Hogwarts is an iconic image of beauty, with “it’s windows sparkling in the starry sky.” Some fans will like this new image of Hogwarts, others probably will not.




Even though the majority of artwork portraying Hogwarts is rather dark, there are two images that shine a more warm light on the beloved castle. The first is this scene of Draco during flying class with Madam Hooch, Hogwarts looks more inviting amongst the beautiful fall colors of the foliage in its grounds.





Chapter one throws us right into the lives of the Dursley’s along with J.K. Rowling’s opening words of the Harry Potter series. Jim Kay captures Dudley perfectly–as a over weight, spoiled, crying baby, who could not be more precious to his proud parents.




In the recent fansite interview with Jim Kay, the illustrator mentioned that one of his favorite illustrations in the book was the ghosts. We quite agree with him. The “reverse” method of painting that he used to layer on color, all the while making the ghosts still appear translucent was beautifully executed. The contrast of neon colors against the black make the ghosts glow off the page.




During the interview, when answering the same question about the ghosts, Jim Kay also mentioned that he was particularly fond of drawing the trolls. Famous Hufflepuff, Newt Scamander (who has been making news a lot recently in the muggle world), makes an appearance in Harry’s first year, as the author of one of his textbooks. Jim Kay was sure to high light this, in line with the large film project of Fantastic Beasts, with a two-page spread.




Other Fantastic Beasts make appearances, and are also highlighted across two-page spreads. The first is Hagrid’s precious baby Norwegian Ridgeback, who appears to be a lot more threatening than Baby Norbert (or should we say Norberta?). The adult dragon pictured above is very majestic, and perhaps gives us an idea of what the dragons will look like in book four.





One of the most beautiful images of a Fantastic Beast, is this piece of art portraying the unicorns that Harry, and the other in detention with Hagrid after Draco turns them in on the night Nobert(a) hatched, track in the Forbidden Forest. The image seems to have been made much in the same way as the ghosts earlier in the book, with a “reverse” painting process that makes the unicorn more transparent, and glow off the page.




The second to last image of the book is the famous scene of celebration. Harry won Gryffindor it’s first House Cup of his time at Hogwarts, and just defeated Voldemort for the first time that he can remember. The Great Hall of Hogwarts looks like the hall we are all familiar with, and we finally see Hogwarts as the community and family we know and love. The final image of the book leaves us with an outside perspective of the Great Hall, in a warm and colorful, less foreboding image of our favorite castle.

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There is no denying that Jim Kay’s artwork is a masterpiece. And though the images are beautiful and well crafted, fans’ reactions are most likely to be mixed–given their strong feelings and associations with the books they have grown up with. Though adults will buy these books, and appreciate the artwork attached to their favorite stories, the book does have a more “child story book” feel. It will definitely more difficult to look at the illustrated editions of Harry Potter as novels, and easier to hold this book as children’s literature, with beautiful pictures that will help parents bring in the new generation of young Harry Potter fans. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for no matter how old we grow, most of us will always be children at heart, and associate Harry Potter with the important role it played within our childhood.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.