Friday, November 30, 2007

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

For those of you new to Little Shop, you might not yet know that The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman is one of our all time store favorites for middle grade and YA readers, as well as adult readers of children's literature. And whether you are new or not to this wonderful book, with the movie due in theatres on December 7th, you might have heard the bubbling controversy around this book.

Golden Compass is the story of Lyra, a fiendishly smart and plucky girl destined to save the world. Lyra does not live in our world; rather she lives in a world parallel to ours but very much like what you'd expect to find in Oxford England, with the addition of talking polar bears, zeppelins, and daemons: the physical, animal manifestation of a person's soul.

The controversy surrounds the author Philip Pullman and his faith, or lack thereof. Pullman is an atheist, and some people use that as an argument to not read Golden Compass, or the sequels The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Justin, a Little Shop bookseller, is the husband of a Presbyterian minister and he thinks The Golden Compass is as theologically engaging and interesting as the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

If the fear is that he's somehow hidden an "atheist agenda" in these books, then consider this: if the point of the books is to make an argument for a world without God or religion, then why have the central conflict be about the literal struggle between Good and Evil for control of children's innocent souls? Doesn't that sink any notion of a faithless world? Besides, we haven't seen any huge growth of young witches or wizards in the wake of Harry Potter, and we don't expect any upswing in child atheism either.

Regardless of what Pullman personally believes, this is a wonderful book with an amazing story, inventive characters, and no matter what your faith, truly engages readers of all ages, beliefs, and opinions.

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