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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman* by David Colbert- young readers book review
Also by or about Philip Pullman:

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1)

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, Book 2)

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3)

Lyra's Oxford
The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman
by David Colbert
Ages 9-12 176 pages Berkley Trade April 2006 Paperback    

Already read The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass? Can’t wait for the much-anticipated movie based on The Golden Compass to come out? If you’re a fan of the “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Philip Pullman, then The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman by David Colbert will fill you in on a lot of the major influences on Pullman’s creative processes and philosophical thinking that led to his writing of the trilogy. Some questions many readers have posed in the past are answered here, such as why Pullman came up with the idea of having animals called “daemons” be partnered with the humans in Lyra’s Oxford; where his conceptions of “Dust” came from; and if he wrote the books as a response to C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia” chronicles.

A fairly substantial negative response to the trilogy is being mounted by some Christians who believe that these books present an anti-Christian viewpoint, or at worst, one that is outright Satanic. The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman explains this attitude as one that has a foundation in the truth - Pullman is an atheist, after all, and he has stated that he, like Milton, present the devil’s viewpoint in a favorable light.

Of course, unlike Milton, the author of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained (who was a strong believer in God and who most likely was not trying to glamorize Satan or his viewpoints, but was trying to point out the errors and flaws inherent in them, despite what one school of critics think), Pullman takes the opposing view and plays the Devil’s advocate. Satan is perhaps arguably the most interesting character in Milton’s previously mentioned works; but, that does not mean that Milton believed him and his perspectives to be superior in any way to God’s. It was done for dramatic reasons, to show that there is a definite lure to humans to take his views but one that should be resisted.

Pullman seems to say, instead, that the belief in a sort of God who wants to withhold certain types of knowledge and wisdom from us and seems to sometimes punish us unfairly, because we thirst for and desire knowledge and wisdom, is an unfair and evil God, a false God whom we should not worship or follow. He, like William Blake, who has been another major influence on Pullman’s perspectives, believes that if there is a “real” God, it can’t be one like the God of the Old Testament; that God must be an imposter. In Pullman’s trilogy, this “imposter” is known as the Authority, and Lord Asriel, Lyra’s father, “schemes to gather an army to fight” him, like Satan does in Paradise Lost before his defeat and fall with his horde of rebel angels. The rebel angels and Lord Asriel, in Pullman’s trilogy, are flawed figures with motives and actions that often are evil, but in fighting against the Authority, they take on a heroic status.

I give this very scanty background only to place my review of David Colbert’s The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman in context. Whatever your religious beliefs or personal feelings about “His Dark Materials” might be (I take it as what it is, a work of fiction that is very well written, and therefore I don’t let any anti-Christian elements that might be perceived in it bother me too much), this is a review of Colbert’s book and how well he reveals Pullman’s influences and informs us of them, not of Pullman’s trilogy itself. Colbert does a very good job of presenting further insight into Philip Pullman and helps to explain many aspects of “His Dark Materials” quite adequately.

David Colbert has written books about other works of literature in the same vein as The Magical Worlds of Philip Pullman, using the same prefix. There’s The Magical Worlds of The Lord of the Rings and The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter, which I haven’t read - but, if they reveal as much information and insight as his book on Pullman does, they are likely to be as useful and informative as this volume on “His Dark Materials.” Fans of Pullman’s writing should enjoy this. It’s a good overview of one of the best and most controversial authors of children’s literature of this or any age.

Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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