Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
(Scholastic, $17.95) ISBN 0-439-06486-4
Harry Potter is back, in the second book featuring his adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Chamber of Secrets, while a bit darker in tone than the first Harry Potter adventure, will nevertheless captivate Harry-fans.

The story opens back at the dreadful Dursley household, where Harry is banished to his room while important clients have dinner with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley. Alas, a house-elf named Dobby turns up in Harry’s room, warning him that terrible danger awaits at Hogwarts and begging him not to return there in September. When Harry refuses to believe him, Dobby creates havoc and Harry is locked in his room, bars at the window. He’s rescued by the Weasley brothers in an odd flying car, which carries them all back to The Burrow, the poor but happy Weasley household.

Harry’s troubles aren’t over. He and Ron must improvise a trip to Hogwarts in the flying car when the barrier at Kings Cross mysteriously shuts and the Hogwarts Express leaves without them. The trip ends in semi-disaster and instant notoriety when the car crashes into the famous Whomping Willow. Harry and Ron are in big trouble before the term even starts.

Then Harry starts hearing a mysterious, evil voice that nobody else seems to hear. It seems that the dreaded Chamber of Secrets is open again at Hogwarts, and the unknown Heir to Slytherin is poised to wreak havoc on Muggle-blooded students such as Harry and Ron’s friend, Hermoine. When students start being petrified (literally), Ron and Harry have to act. They have a whole retinue of new acquaintances who might help, including Moaning Myrtle, a ghost who haunts the girls’ toilet; Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, a pompous charmer; and former Hogwarts Head Boy Tom Riddle, whose diary Harry finds.

What follows is an engrossing mystery with an appropriate twist and many dashes of humor. And if The Chamber of Secrets lacks some of the joyousness of the first book, it compensates with an effective, darker tale of good vs. evil. The menacing overtones are suitably spooky without being too graphic for youngsters, and the reappearance of Hagrid, Draco Malfoy, the Quidditch team, Albus Dumbledore, and of course, Professor Snape all bring depth to the story. Harry Potter is coming into his own. Don’t miss his second year at Hogwarts, and be prepared to limber up your read-aloud voice for the kids.

--Cathy Sova

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