By Philip Pullman
Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Reading Level: 6th grade
Interest Level: 7th-12th grade
Awards: Audie Award for Children’s Titles (2000), Listen Up Award for Young Adults Young Adult Library Services Association, Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2005), Carnegie Medal (1995)
Teaser: There’s another world like ours, well, mostly like ours. Everything is the same except for one thing: everyone in this world has their own personal daemon.
Summary: Lyra is a twelve-year-old girl who lives at Jordan College, Oxford. She has a daemon named Pantalaimon who has not stopped shifting shapes. Daemons are reflections of an individual’s soul. Once a person reaches puberty, their daemon usually settles into a shape (typically an animal form). Lyra sneaks into a meeting one day and saves her uncle Lord Asriel from being poisoned. She also learns about “dust.” Soon after kidnappings start occurring near Jordan College. Lyra’s best friend, Roger, has gone missing. She vows to save him from the Gobblers. Charmed by a woman named Mrs. Coulter, Lyra agrees to leave Jordan College and the Master secretly gives her an alethiometer. Lyra’s journey is just beginning. She learns that Mrs. Coulter is not the woman she had hoped for. She runs away and ends up with the Gyptians who are on their way to save the kidnapped children in the north.
Information about the Author: Philip Pullman writes on his website, “I was born in Norwich in 1946, and educated in England, Zimbabwe, and Australia, before my family settled in North Wales. I received my secondary education at the excellent Ysgol Ardudwy, Harlech, and then went to Exeter College, Oxford, to read English, though I never learned to read it very well. I found my way into the teaching profession at the age of 25, and taught at various Oxford Middle Schools before moving to Westminster College in 1986, where I spent eight years involved in teaching students on the B.Ed. course. I have maintained a passionate interest in education, which leads me occasionally to make foolish and ill-considered remarks alleging that not everything is well in our schools. My main concern is that an over-emphasis on testing and league tables has led to a lack of time and freedom for a true, imaginative and humane engagement with literature. My views on education are eccentric and unimportant, however. My only real claim to anyone’s attention lies in my writing. I’ve published nearly twenty books, mostly of the sort that are read by children, though I’m happy to say that the natural audience for my work seems to be a mixed one – mixed in age, that is, though the more mixed in every other way as well, the better.”
Critical Evaluation: This book began very slowly, but once Lyra leaves Jordan with Mrs. Coulter the plot picks back up. My favorite part about the book is the dialect that Pullman created for Lyra. Her voice is so unique because of how brave and prideful she is. She was the coolest character ever and I hope that I have a kid like her someday. I thought the way the story ended was annoying because all of the sudden there was all this new, unbelievable information about a parallel world. They had been talking about the city in the lights and the city in the dust, but I did not think it was a parallel universe, I thought it was just another magical world.
Curriculum Ties: N/A
Booktalk Ideas: What kind of daemon would you have? Why? Write a paragraph.
Challenge Issues: (Anti) Religious Themes, Supernatural
Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association
Why Did I Pick This: The Golden Compass is about a girl whose destiny is to end destiny. This book challenges ideas of religion and creates a beautiful, fantastic universe that will enthrall young readers.
Pullman, P. (1995). The Golden Compass. New York City, NY: Scholastic Point.