Pullman’s New Trilogy, for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages

books_philip_pullman_09761-jpg-50d08From NPR:


And from The Guardian


Shortly after the publication of The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman gave a reading at the Harvard Coop.  My children dragged me to the event–it was only a few months after volume one of His Dark Materials had appeared–and there he was, seated on a kid’s chair, surrounded by a dozen children, ages 6-12.  For close to 90 minutes, he talked about stories and what it was like to write them, while answering questions from the band of true believers and diehard fans.  It quickly dawned on me that Pullman’s magic derived in part from how seriously he took his readers, talking to them without a touch of condescension.  I felt not a touch of embarrassment about being an adult intruder on the enchanted circle, because he treated my question, asked only because there was one awkward pause near the end, with the same respect that he showed for the children.  Many years later, I was not at all surprised when I read the following

There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book. In adult literary fiction, stories are there on sufferance. Other things are felt to be more important: technique, style, literary knowingness… The present-day would-be George Eliots take up their stories as if with a pair of tongs. They’re embarrassed by them. If they could write novels without stories in them, they would. Sometimes they do. We need stories so much that we’re even willing to read bad books to get them, if the good books won’t supply them. We all need stories, but children are more frank about it.

And it also explained why he led the charge against age-banding for books:


Mr Pullman told The Daily Telegraph: “I don’t mind anybody having an opinion about my books. I don’t mind a bookseller deciding they are for this age group or that, or a teacher giving one of my books to a child because they think it is appropriate.

“But I don’t want to see the book itself declaring officially, as if with my approval, that it is for readers of 11 and upwards or whatever. I write books for whoever is interested. When I write a book I don’t have an age group in mind.

“I have had letters from children of seven who say they have read all the way through His Dark Materials and they have an astonishing knowledge of it. But not every child is the same. A child of nine might be tentative and unsure about reading, and to give them a book that says 9+ will reinforce their sense of failure. The book should be suited to the individual child.”

As someone who still tries to read at a 25 year-old-level, I applaud his effort.