Recently, I asked two of my nephews, separately, which was their favorite Harry Potter novel. They both answered Prisoner of Azkaban, and that surprised me a little bit. My favorite is Half-Blood Prince; I think it's because we finally start to get some answers and significant back-story, and also because I have a big soft spot in my heart for Snape-- but they said that they like the character of Sirius Black, and that the story told in this novel was a good one.
Tonight we watched Azkaban, and I looked carefully for more clues as to why it might be the boys' favorite. I love the Marauders Map, and it was even better in the movie than I imagined it myself. I thought they did a great job with the time turner and that section of the narrative where Harry and Hermione go back to the recent past; the scenes were believably created with a minimum of special effects.
Azkaban also has what I consider to be one of the most poignant plot points in the series. When Harry and Sirius are on the lake shore besieged by swarms of dementors, Harry sees someone across the water casting an amazing patronus that saves them both. When he wakes in the hospital wing, he is glad to have survived, but he is elated when he comes to believe that it was his father who rescued him. Later, when he returns to that moment in time from a different perspective, he finds that it wasn't his dad at all, but rather he himself who saves them.
I always feel sorry for the orphan Harry and the loss and disappointment that I am sure he must feel when he realizes that his father didn't come to his rescue. Harry Potter, though, is a thirteen-year-old-boy in this novel, and his reaction is to exult in his own power (after all, the kid just cast one hell of a patronus). So, in that moment, Harry takes a step away from childhood and toward the independence that we expect from adults, and as I watched tonight, I wondered if it is that turn that resonates with young readers.