Great Illustrated Books

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials series)

By Philip Pullman

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1996
Pages : 416
Suggested Ages: 11 and Up
ISBN: 9780679879244

Twelve-year-old orphan Lyra Belacqua lives at Oxford University's Jordan College, where she has managed to avoid being educated by the scholars who look after her and runs wild. In this parallel world to ours, everyone has a daemon attached to them always-a sort of alter ego in animal form. Lyra's daemon is Pantalaimon who can transform himself at will into an ermine, a mouse, or even a moth. When Lyra and Pantalaimon thwart a murder attempt on her uncle, Lord Asriel, by one of the scholars at Oxford, she is drawn into a spiral of danger. She seeks to find out why children, including her best friend, Roger, a boy who works in the kitchen, are being kidnapped by Gobblers all over England. The glamorous and seductively dangerous Mrs. Coulter befriends Lyra and accompanies her to the far north where Lyra hopes to discover more about the phenomena called Dust that appears near the Northern Lights and may be part of another parallel world.

Stalwart teachers will claim this tumultuous fantasy for a novel study, filled as it is with wonderful technological (though fictional) inventions and scientific wonders in an alternate England. Readers will love comparing and contrasting the differences between Lyra's world with that of late nineteenth century England. The most important tool for the resourceful Lyra is the aleithometer, a complex golden compass that only she can operate and use to tell the future. There's an armored polar bear, heinous experiments performed on kidnapped kids to amputate their daemons, witches, and almost 400 pages of electrifying adventure. It's filled with gorgeous writing, too, the first in Pullman's brilliant, challenging, and controversial "His Dark Materials" trilogy, followed by the more complex The Subtle Knife, and ending with The Amber Spyglass. Reviews were mixed on the movie version that came out in 2007, though it won an Oscar for special effects. It's always interesting to compare a book with the movie version.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone. Harcourt, 1966. (And others in The Dark Is Rising series)

DuPrau, Jeanne. The City of Ember. Random House, 2003.

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. HarperCollins, 2008.

L'Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time. Farrar, 1962.

Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Newman, Robert. The Case of the Baker Street Irregular. Simon & Schuster, 1984.

Oppel, Kenneth. Airborn. HarperCollins, 2004.

Pratchett, Terry. The Wee Free Men. HarperCollins, 2003.

Pullman, Philip. The Amber Spyglass. (His Dark Materials series, Book 3) Knopf, 1999.

Pullman, Philip. I Was a Rat! Knopf, 2000.

Pullman, Philip. Lyra's Oxford: His Dark Materials. Knopf, 2007.

Pullman, Philip. Once Upon a Time in the North: His Dark Materials. Knopf, 2008.

Pullman, Philip. The Ruby in the Smoke. Knopf, 1987.

Pullman, Philip. The Scarecrow and His Servant. Knopf, 2005.

Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. (His Dark Materials series, Book 2) Knopf, 1997.

Rice, Bebe Faas. The Year the Wolves Came. Dutton, 1994.

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. Miramax/Hyperion, 2005.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic, 1998. (And others in the Harry Potter series.)

Sage, Angie. Magyk. (Septimus Heap series, Book 1) HarperCollins, 2005.

Sorrells, Walter. Erratum. Dutton, 2008.

Stroud, Jonathan. The Amulet of Samarkand. (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1) Miramax, 2003.

Critics have said

As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures.
Publishers Weekly