By Philip Pullman
""Take old Belisaria. She's a seagull, and that means I'm a kind of seagull, too. I'm not grand and splendid, nor beautiful, but I'm a tough old thing and I can survive anywhere and always find a bit of food and company. That's worth knowing, that is."" - from The Golden Compass
What's it about?: The Golden Compass is the first book of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, and is set in a world similar to our own, but with a few very obvious distinctions. The most obvious is the presence of "daemons" — the embodiment of a person's soul in the form of an animal. Everyone has one, including the main character Lyra Belacqua, a curious young girl. When Lyra finds out that children, including her best friend Roger, have begun to go missing she knows she must do something. She discovers that the missing children are being kept in the North by the conniving Mrs. Coulter. Along with their new-found companions, a group of gypsies called the Gyptians, Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon, head to the north and brave the terrifying struggle to save the children. Ultimately, Lyra puts her life on the line when faced with the decision of whether or not to accept her predestined path.
Why your child should read it: The Golden Compass is a collection of genres, styles, themes and wonders. Its alternate universe, daemons, incredible happenings and elaborate characters are classic hallmarks of fantasy fiction. But the book also contains some real science fiction elements, along with ideas on religion and morality. Younger readers will love the adventure tale while older readers will appreciate the more complex themes of corruption and symbolism of the soul. In all, Pullman's book is beloved for a reason: it paints rich and colourful scenes across the imaginations of readers and takes them through a world just different enough from our own that they can at the same time relate, as well as lose themselves, in the fantasy.
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