The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)

Bibliographic information: The Golden Compass. Philip Pullman. Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. 399p. $6.99. ISBN-13: 9780679879244.
Summary:  Eleven year old Lyra Belacqua lives at the Jordan College surrounded by scholars and with occasional visits from her Uncle Lord Asriel. In Lyra’s world everyone has a daemon, which is their spirit in animal form, her daemon is named Pantalaimon (Pan). One day children start going missing from town, they are being taken by the Gobblers. Lyra overhears her uncle talking about a mysterious substance called Dust in the north, she stores the information for later use. Later that day, Mrs. Coulter visits the college and promises to take Lyra on a trip to the north. Before leaving with Mrs. Coulter one of the Scholars gives Lyra a golden compass with weird symbols all the way around the face. Mrs. Coulter takes Lyra to her home, where she discovers who the Gobblers are and that they have her best friend.
Reading level and interest level: RL: grade 7 and up IL: age 10 and up
Review: This is the first book in the Northern Lights trilogy. Lyra learns about Dust, a mysterious substance dealing with a person’s daemon, up in the northern country. She gains a golden compass that will allow her to see into the future. Lyra discovers that Mrs. Coulter is behind the kidnappings and are bringing children to a facility in the north to separate them from their daemons. Throughout her adventures, Lyra is resourceful enough to find a way to fight for her friend and rescue him. Pullman artfully intertwines Lyra’s world with ours to create a beautiful, magical world all his own. Lyra and Pan share a bond unlike any other where Pan is a constant companion and occasional conscience for Lyra. Look for the sequels The Silver Knife and The Amber Spyglass, equally as good.
Readers’ annotation: Lyra’s best friend has been kidnapped by the Gobblers. She sets out to find him and along the way befriends some gypsies, a witch, and a polar bear who help her on her quest.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: I think that the conflicting religious viewpoints on this book will give children insight into other people’s beliefs. This is insight discussion about different religions and children will have a better understanding of their beliefs as well as others.
Issues present: This book has a tendency to be challenged because “God” is killed and many religious families feel that God is not a being who can be killed. They claim it is anti-religious/atheist. However, it is important for children to be able to understand that there are many different views on religion. Also, since there are fantasy creatures children will be able to understand that this is a book of fiction.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Lyra’s character.
Talk about having your spirit in animal form as a sort of pet.
Lyra’s friends have been kidnapped and now she must save them.
Genre or subject: Fantasy: supernatural monsters, religion
Readalikes: The Chronicles of Narnia, Seraphina, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter
Author’s website:
Awards: Listen Up Award for Young Adults Young Adult Library Services Association, Carnegie Medal in Literature (1995), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (1997), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2005)
Reviews: Booklist:; Publisher’s Weekly:; School Library Journal:
Why I chose it: His Dark Materials is well-known for being controversial because of its anti-religious context and I think it is a wonderful addition to my collection. Also, Pullman is a favorite author of mine.

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Filed under Anger/Violence, Death, Supernatual monsters

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