The Golden Compass: Discussion + March Book Announcement

February 28, 2014 2014, classics, readalong, Wendy 129


golden compass readalong

Welcome to the first discussion for The Midnight Garden’s Classic YA/MG Challenge! We’ve pledged to read more childhood favorites this year, and we’re so happy that many of our readers will be joining us. To find out more about the challenge, visit the kick-off post.

This month we’re discussing Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It’s a special favorite of mine, Kate’s, and Kim’s, but K is our guinea pig this time around because she’s never read the book before. Was this your first time reading it, too? Even if you didn’t specifically do the readalong with us, everyone’s welcome to discuss in the comments below!

As always, beware spoilers…

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Kim: Wow, what a story. The pure scope of it and the complexity of its themes stuns me. I love Lyra. I love that not only is she kickass, but also that she is a guile hero. I have a huge soft spot for heroes who achieve their triumphs through wit and cleverness. I am also appreciative that she is not a mini adult. She’s very clearly a child, endearingly so even. At one point she is wondering what the “experimental theology” that she hears adults speaking of could be and she thinks, “Probably the stars had daemons just like humans did, and experimental theology involved talking to them.” It is beautiful to me in its childishness. I find it so sweet in its innocence. And I just adore how fierce and stolid Lyra is.

Wendy: It’s always so interesting to me when I hear that people dislike Lyra. She is certainly prickly and stubborn and willful and a liar, but I love that her about her. She is written like a real child, not like a storybook character whom we’re all supposed to cosset and adore. And of course, she is also frightened and brave and full of deep feeling.

Kate: She is also absolutely, totally, completely a girl. She has feminine qualities, and she grows to be a young woman (in later books) while still being an interesting character we can empathize with. Pullman writes her so well. It’s the opposite of what Zusak did with Liesel (no offense, Kim, I know you LOVE that book) in The Book Thief.

119322K: One thing that really made me smile was how once Mrs. Coulter offers to take her away, Lyra momentarily forgets to rescue Roger. I know that’s a bad thing because its quite a serious thing being kidnapped and all but I just thought it was so being a child. Foolish and self-absorbed. But of course, she does end up journeying to save him.

Kim: I’m not going to love a book unless it tugs at my heart. TGC does that and more. I didn’t didn’t cry, though! I have no idea why I rarely cry at books. I cry very easily in any other situation! It’s weird. I was actually very, very touched by Serafina Pekkala’s heartbreaking recounting of her relationship with Farder Coram and the loss of their son. I think their story would make a great book itself. It would be heartbreaking and devastating and I would love it.

K:  I’d love to see a separate retelling of Serafina and Farder Coram’s relationship. And I also loved the gyptians. The fierce protectiveness they had over each other and the solid feeling of community in them is just so lovely. I loved John Faa and Farder Coram and if there is ever a book depicting the love between Serafina and Farder Coram, I have no doubt that he’d be sexy…is that creepy because he’s like 70, right?

Wendy: I cry every time I read this book, Kim. That scene in the fish house, when Tony is clutching his dried up fish because his daemon, his very soul, is gone? That kills me. I’m tearing up typing this! And then afterwards, when she’s discovered that the old men have unknowingly taken away the one thing he had because they thought they were being kind–Lyra’s fierceness in trying to right what she could made me love her even more.

Kate: OMG Tony. I listened to this on audiobook while driving, and I sobbed openly while driving when it got to him. Like, Claire Danes-level ugly tears. The end of the book makes me cry, too.

K: I think it was a very effective use of imagery giving Tony a little fish to hug in replacement of his daemon. Whose heart wouldn’t break a little at that poor picture?

Kim: I take much delight in that Pullman intended His Dark Materials to be a counter to what he saw as the religious propaganda of The Chronicles of Narnia. I love how Lyra’s eventual fate is a subversion of Susan’s because, honestly, something had to be done about that. I also just love that the series was listed 8th on the most challenged list. Considering that one of the major themes of this work is “freedom through knowledge,” I am left shaking my head with extra scorn and derision toward the challengers.

Kate: Oh, Susan. So upsetting. Have you guys read “The Problem of Susan” by Neil Gaiman? I came across it in his short fiction anthology Fragile Things several years ago, and it broke my heart. It talks about how she’d have had to identify her siblings’ bodies and stuff after the train crash all because she wore lipstick and nylons. So obviously I loved Lyra’s reaction to going shopping with Mrs. Coulter. I spent most of my life wearing hand-me-downs and having to be creative to make horribly out-of-style clothes look good, so the first time I, as an adult, could afford to go to the store and just BUY stuff, was… Ugh, it was magical.

18118Wendy: I’ve read that Lyra hiding in the wardrobe with Pantalaimon was even included as a bit of a counterpoint to Narnia, both to remind readers of that story as well as to highlight the philosophical differences between them. I enjoy both series as works of literature, though certainly philosophically and emotionally I connect much more with His Dark Materials. Both series stand alone on literary merits alone for me, and though I understand why deeper analysis may challenge beliefs for some. I’m not well-read when it comes to religion, but I’m not sure the allegations of “propaganda” are quite fair.

K: I haven’t read past the first book in the Narnia series so I can’t argue its contents further than that. I do see, however, both books having extremely strong religious stances. The Golden Compass is definitely anti-religion. I’ve read articles in which they argue that HDM are more against any organized religion than being specifically anti-Christian. But the fact that in the book, Dust is likened to original sin…I think that kind of drives it home.

Wendy: It’s obvious what his beliefs are, yes. But I meant that I would only accuse a book of indoctrination if it were more direct in its criticism of Christianity; all books are informed by an author’s prejudices and life experiences, and while people can draw the parallels from his essays and interviews, I don’t think that attacking this series on its own as an evil is something that I can accept. No more than I would accept that Narnia deserves to be dismissed for Aslan’s death and resurrection or other Christian themes. Religious interpretation aside, both of them work on their own and can be appreciated on many levels. Children miss out on extraordinary stories in both cases if they are shielded from these books. But I suppose if Philip Pullman is accusing Narnia of propaganda, it’s not surprising he’s accused of the same thing! I guess the word has come to have such negative connotations that I don’t like the extremism and exclusion that’s implied.

K: I don’t think this would’ve been as controversial if it didn’t happen to be a children’s book. The Church has been made the antagonist in other literary works but, of course, I see how reading a story that plants the idea of the Church being wrong and controlling at such a young and impressionable stage scares adults.



Kim: My favorite moment is in Chapter 11, when Lyra and Pan go out on deck of the ship at night and see the northern lights. I’m an atheist. I think the only meaning in the world is the meaning that we create for ourselves every single day. I look at the sky at night and I feel so humbled and so grateful for my existence. Just looking at the stars can bring me to tears; I can’t imagine actually seeing the aurora. It is literally one of my life goals. This passage just perfectly described to me what I imagine it would feel like:

In the evanescent delicacy she felt something as profound as she’d felt close to the bear. She was moved by it; it was so beautiful it was almost holy; she felt tears prick her eyes, and the tears splintered the light even further into prismatic rainbows.

I felt so connected to Lyra then. The profound majesty of the moment is exactly how I imagine I would feel if I were gazing upon the aurora. My heart just swelled and then lazily settled down into the comfort of knowing that I was understood. I loved it.

Wendy: That is one of my favorite moments, too. That awe-inspiring feeling of experiencing something bigger than yourself, and knowing what a speck you are in this vast universe is described so well here.

Kate: Man, even the regular sky makes me feel that way. Just the stars can make me cry. Can you imagine what it must have been like for people before we had any clue what was going on up there?

312407Kim: Can we talk about daemons? You don’t get to choose what your daemon ends up, right? It just is a reflection of who you are? If I had the option to choose I would like a gray wolf daemon. Although, according to a very scientific internet quiz, my daemon would be a fox, the “solitary trickster.” Hmmmmmmm. I find the whole concept of them supremely fascinating. How wonderful and absolutely awful it would be to have an external representation of your soul. My complete lack of poker face betrays me enough already ha. I don’t need a physical representation of my feelings giving me away! Anyway, what would your daemon be?

Wendy: I WANT A DAEMON SO BADLY. The way they’re described in the book is just lovely–I’m especially enchanted by their physical closeness to their humans, and when Pan becomes a small, fierce animal to defend Lyra. It’s fascinating that they often express what their humans can’t or won’t express themselves.

I remember taking the “what’s your daemon?” quiz when the movie came out, but I don’t remember what I got. I’m convinced my daemon is a panther, though. I’m a fairly even-tempered and happy person for the most part, but lurking within is a beast that’s always silently watchful. And ready to pounce.

Kate: Those quizzes never have enough options. I have a really good poker face and am capable of deceiving people pretty easily, but I have very little patience for lying (which is a serious fucking waste of a natural poker face). I can’t imagine a world in which I (or Wendy, for that matter) had a daemon that took a form that wasn’t some sort of cat.

Wendy: Heh. So true.

K: Yea, not a fan of those quizzes. Mostly because I just did one and I got dog. I love dogs, don’t get me wrong but why not a dragon? Ugh. ;)

And I straight up, I laughed out loud when I read about the sailor whose daemon was a dolphin and could never leave the sea.

Kim: Perhaps uncommonly, I actually like the second and third installments more than The Golden Compass. One of my favorite aspects of this series is its philosophical bent, its humanism, and that features so much more later on in the series. I’ve never read anything in fiction that so perfectly and beautifully reflected my own humanist views. “Every atom of me and every atom of you…” and all that. Oh, just thinking of that scene right now makes my heart ache. I really hope that readers who have just read The Golden Compass for the first time will continue on with the series.

K: I’m a little confused. I’ve been warned against the other books in the series but from what you’ve all just mentioned, I’m very intrigued.

Wendy: You’ve been warned against them? They are definitely worth reading, even if they will incapacitate you emotionally. I’ve read The Golden Compass many times (and it’s my favorite), but I admit I’ve never been able to reread the sequels because they’re so heart-breaking. I agree with what Kim is saying re: the humanism in the later books, though, and some of my favorite quotes are from there as well.

Kate: I haven’t re-read the latter books, either. I think they focus a bit too literally on the humanist stuff (as the latter Narnia books focus too literally on Christianity). Especially the second one.


Kim: Here’s my favorite quote from this volume:

The enormousness of the task silenced them. Lyra looked up at the blazing sky. She was aware of how small they were, she and her daemon, in comparison with the majesty and vastness of the universe; and of how little they knew, in comparison with the profound mysteries above them.

Kate: YES. The wallpaper on my phone is the Pale Blue Dot, because looking at it puts things in perspective for me. These sections of The Golden Compass give me that same feeling. Like my heart has dropped out of my chest, somehow taking my capacity to breathe with it, and I can’t even care because none of it matters.

Kim:I love that the adults insist that Dust is too big and difficult for children to understand and Lyra absolutely does not stand for that.

Kate: I also love how this book sets expectations, right from the beginning. It tells you THIS person is a bad guy who is trying to kill THIS person who is related to our protagonist, and within a few chapters, it’s all turned on its head. So you know there’s complexity, and that you can’t trust anyone.

K: I loved that about her! How she kept asking questions and eventually retired from caring if the adults got mad at her for it just because she needed and wanted answers.

Kate: One of the big things I think great children’s literature does is recognize that adults in general are not trustworthy. This book does it better than most.

Wendy: YES. I still remember the first time I saw the un-sunshiney, all-knowing side of adulthood acknowledged as a kid. It was one of the Ramona books where the girls are watched by an elderly neighbor after school, and one day Ramona suddenly realizes that the old lady just doesn’t like her. It was a hugely defining moment for me to see that written on paper. As a child, you may have a vague sense of wrongness about a situation, but it’s quite another to see it articulated in a book. Lyra’s experiences help her to learn about human nature, and I think the way she is written is indicative of the author’s deep respect for children as intelligent, passionate human beings.

Kate: Lyra’s parents are The Worst. I’m glad Lyra was saved, but their hypocrisy in murdering ALL THE CHILDREN but saving the one who is related to them is so, so gross. And they both do it!

Kim: Oh, those two have something real weird going on. Their reunion at the end always makes me cringe. Ew, ew stop it! You are both terrible people and I don’t like whatever is going on here! Lyra takes finding out they are her parents rather in stride, though. Proud of her.

K: Haha, Kim. I thought that “romantic” reunion between them was gross as well. I don’t know how you pictured it but the kissing was full of slobber in my head.

Wendy: I’ve always thought that the very adult, extremely icky relationship between Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter is such an unusual element in a middle grade/YA book. You don’t often see infidelity and illegitimacy in these categories.

Kate: Yeah. During this re-read (or re-listen, as it were), I kept thinking “Those two people fucked. More than one time. They did.” OH! and the way their crazy daemons interacted! So bizarre and disturbing! They are different kinds of animals! So gross!

K: If humans were doing it, would their daemons be doing it, too?

Wendy: The mind boggles. I adore Iorek Byrinson. And I love how Lyra is so unafraid of him, even during moments of great stress, like when he’s just gotten his armor back and is about to pretty much eat a man. (I also enjoyed how she considers telling Iorek to kill the men who begrudged poor Tony his fish, but thought better of it.)

The ending scenes where Iorek and Lyra trick Iofur are just brilliant. And the battle between the two warrior polar bears makes me SO excited and makes me shiver every single time I read it. It’s frightening and gorgeous and humbling all at once.

394363Kate: Lyra’s relationship with Iorek is really, really special. It’s one of my all-time favorite literary friendships. They’re just so unflaggingly loyal.

K: I love it when Iorek calls her Lyra Silvertongue. It’s like being anointed and making it official that an armored bear is for realz Lyra’s homie.

Wendy: Have you ladies seen Philip Pullman’s Twitter? He tweets a lot of cryptic passages from things he’s writing (I believe), and although I don’t get the frame of reference for most of them, it always makes me jump a little to see his name pop up in my feed. I idolize his books so much, it’s like seeing Ray Bradbury or C.S. Lewis (sorry, Mr. Pullman) or Laura Ingalls Wilder tweeting. Surreal.

Kate: I haven’t. I’ll have to check it out. I recently bought his Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm “for David,” and I’m looking forward to reading it soon. Did you guys ever read the Sally Lockhart series? I loved the first book, but the second one was so bad I gave up on the rest of the series.

Wendy: I have the Grimm tales as well, though I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I loved the first Sally Lockhart, but yes, the sequels weren’t quite as good. I’m hoping we’ll see something else from him soon.

So let’s wrap up.  Obviously we three are crazy about this book, but I’d love to know how K would rate this first installment.

K: I always had a feeling I would love this book…and I did. I’m Catholic but I’m open. I’m not easily offended when people attack Christianity because for me, to each his own. I would never deny anyone anything in their search or conclusion of and for truth. And I think, in Lyra, that’s his ultimate goal.

Wendy: Well, I loved having a chance to read this again, and it was so nice to read it together! And now we get to discuss this with our lovely readers. But before we get to that, let’s tell everyone the classic YA/MG book we’ve chosen for our March discussion, and have everyone vote on the April book!


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March Discussion Book: The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary

I am really excited about the book we chose for March, because it seems as though Beverly Cleary’s YA books aren’t nearly as well known as her MG ones. These retro reads are so wonderfully full of quiet drama–each story is about a girl in high school who is learning to be comfortable with herself, and in a way I feel as though these “contemporary” romances were the Sarah Dessen books of their day. Nothing happens in them and yet everything happens at the same time.

I am very fond of Fifteen, which is probably the author’s most famous YA book, but I think The Luckiest Girl is the more emotional and mature one–and probably the one that contemporary readers will relate to most. It’s about a girl who moves from rainy Oregon to sunny California to  to go to school for one school year, and how she meets a tall basketball player with a sunburn on his nose that she finds irresistible, and how she learns to love doughnut holes and a whole bunch of other things. I love this book, and I hope that you’ll join us in reading it!

Title:                            The Luckiest Girl
Author:                        Beverly Cleary
Amazon Links:             Kindle ebook and paperback
Discussion Date:          Friday, March 28th
Hashtag:                     #tmgreadalong


Shelley Latham can’t wait to get to San Sebastian, where flowers bloom in November, oranges grow on the trees, and the sun shines almost every day.

And once she’s there, things get even better. In no time, she catches the attention of two boys: one, a good-looking basketball star, the other, an interesting, fun boy who likes journalism. Shelley feels like the luckiest girl in the world.

Now she’s about to discover the magic of falling in love — and a whole lot more.




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Vote for the April Book!

We’re keeping an internal list of potential readalong books based on your suggestions as well as our own interests.  Going forward, most of the time we’ll be asking you which book you’d like to read with us!

Click the yellow button in the sidebar at the top of the page to vote for the April book. (It’s the one with the girl at the desk!) You have 3 books to choose from, Harriet the Spy, Anne of Green Gables, or A Wrinkle in Time and  the poll closes on Wednesday, March 26th. We’ll announce the results the day of our The Luckiest Girl readalong on Friday, March 28th.

april books


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Whew! So to sum up:

  • we’re reading The Luckiest Girl in March
  • we want you to vote for the April book and

we are dying to know what you thought of The Golden Compass! Was it your first time reading, or is it one of your favorites? What would your daemon be?


Wendy signature teal






129 Responses to “The Golden Compass: Discussion + March Book Announcement”

    • Wendy Darling

      Hi E–as it says in the post, our April book will be announced on Friday, March 28th, which is the same day that we discuss The Luckiest Girl! :) I’m glad you got a copy of the book, and we look forward to chatting with you about it.

  1. E

    What a fantastic discussion – brilliant to read. I love Pullman’s His Dark Materials (although I am from England, so the first book will ALWAYS be Northern Lights to me) and I agreed with so many things you said. I only wish I had people in the Real World who can discuss with me like that. Thank you for sharing

  2. melissa r

    We listened yo the whole series. Quite a lot yo think about.

  3. Katie @ Spirit of Children's Literature

    What a fantastic discussion of The Golden Compass! I read the trilogy for the first time when I was in London for grad school, and couldn’t put down the first two. The third one–I wasn’t as fond of. I did think it was too ‘preachy’ with Pullman’s anti-religious rhetoric. It’s interesting though, because Pullman criticizes Narnia and Lewis, etc. but I think Lewis would be just as opposed to the kind of organized religion Pullman highlights. I think Lewis’s Christianity is much more about freedom and awe and wonder. The whole Susan issue is interesting–I always wondered if Susan did not go to back to Narnia because Lewis wanted to emphasize that people have a choice about going? I understand the controversy about Susan with the growing up issue, the female issue, etc…but I wonder if there is something broader to think about than those issues–the idea that (if Narnia represents a kind of spirituality or a spiritual place) people get to make a choice about whether they want that (or to be there). If someone doesn’t have an interest in something, why would they be forced to participate in it?

    I know loads of people who read the Narnia books and they don’t identify anything religious about them! I think that’s one aspect of a really good story–it may have spiritual themes or religious aspects, but they can also be implicit and not in your face. Then again, there are other readers who do see those themes, in both Pullman and Lewis.

    I love Lyra as a character, and appreciate that she isn’t our typical child protagonist!

    I heard Pullman speak at a conference in Toronto a few years back and was invited to the author’s dinner afterwards. I sat just about across from Pullman at the table but never had a chance to talk to him. Shoot!!!
    Katie @ Spirit of Children’s Literature recently posted…The Spirituality of The Winner’s Curse (2014) by Marie Rutkoski

    • Kate Bond

      Oh man. I probably would have been scared to talk to him if I’d sat across from him. What a cool experience!

      Part of what I love about Gaiman’s short story about Susan is that one of the ladies in it says what you say–that there MUST have been something else going on with Susan beyond what we were told. It can’t just be that she grew up and behaved like a normal teenage girl. And the other lady’s opinion is that even if there was a deeper reason, the reality of the situation is that Susan would have had to be the one who identified the bodies of her parents and siblings. What could a teenage girl have done to deserve that?

      The religion stuff in the Narnia books isn’t really a problem for me until the later novels, when the story seems to contort to fit Lewis’s worldview. Similarly, I’m Agnostic, and the anti-religious stuff was too strong for me in the last Dark Materials book. It really distracted me away from the story.

  4. fishgirl182

    I’ll vote for A Wrinkle in Time for April since I’ve been meaning to re-read that book.

    Funny I did not read The Golden Compass until really recently when the movie came out. I don’t know but it missed my childhood radar and I had never even heard of it. I recall liking the first book but not the others. I am not religious at all so I think sometimes a lot of the religious undertones in some of these books are just lost on me. Though I could just be really dense. I remember I had to listen to the last half of the final book on audio because I just could not finish it on my own.

    And I also bought Pullman’s Grimm fairy tales book and am interested to see where he goes with it. It’s funny how kids books are sometimes the most controversial.
    fishgirl182 recently posted…Liv’s Current Obsession: Why I Love Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

    • Kate Bond

      The funny thing about kids’ books being controversial is that kids don’t even really notice the religious themes.

      I voted for A Wrinkle in Time, too, because it feels like time for a re-read. It looks like Anne is going to win, though. We’ll get to Wrinkle later in the year.

      (I have no opinion on Anne being our next book because I have never read it.)

  5. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I voted for A Wrinkle in Time! I didn’t know you guys were doing book-club-sort-of-discussions. AWESOME. I’m so joining in next time. *dashes to the library website to reserve books* I haven’t read The Golden Compass yet, but it’s so high on my need-to-read-list. I mean, heck, I’m a book lover and I haven’t read THE GOLDEN COMPASS?! It doesn’t seem right. I only just read about the Pullman opposing Lewis controversy today (yeah, I’m only 99 thousand yeas behind) and I didn’t know that, so it’s really quite interesting. I’m totally keen to see Pullman’s side. I grew up reading Narnia, but I was annoyed about certain aspects (like throwing Susan out of Narnia). But yes! I’ve heard The Golden Compass movie isn’t so brilliant, but the costumes where?? I definitely need to read/watch. DYING of curiosity here.
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Keep Calm!! and PANIC by Lauren Oliver

    • K.

      It’s okay, Cait. I consider myself a book lover and I haven’t read the book until now. Yes, these are like book club discussion except it’s all on docs, haha! I only heard about Pullman countering Lewis when the movie was coming out. I didn’t really grow up on either of the series book-wise because I LOVED all the BBC productions. I remember my mom bringing us kids to the library and I would borrow the VHS almost every single time.

    • Kate Bond

      I voted for A Wrinkle in Time, too. Twice. We’re going to lose to Anne, Cait. We’re going to lose by a lot.

      • Wendy Darling

        Actually, Anne and Wrinkle have been neck and neck for ages until today! Anne is ahead by 4 votes at this point. I’m fine with any of the choices, but I am surprisingly riveted by how this horse race is going.

        • Kate Bond

          I’m not voting a third time! I will not compromise the integrity of our democratic system!

          (and I’ve owned a copy of Anne for about ten years now and never read it for some reason, so I should get to it already)

  6. Tabitha

    I wouldn’t even be able to decide on what daemon I would want. It would be so neat to find out what it was by surprise. You know i found it so odd that i enjoyed this one but by the time I reached the end of the second I just wasn’t into it anymore. The third book remains one of very few books I have ever Dnf’d. I used to think I would go back and finish it someday but now have to admit to myself…I really wont.

    I love how all of you are getting together and doing this discussion and reading the same book!
    Tabitha recently posted…Review: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

    • K.

      That’s too bad, Tabitha. I’ve actually had people say they didn’t like the rest of the series as well, so I don’t really know what to do for myself either. And I hate when you lose interest in a series you were so invested in from the beginning. But sometimes they just lose magic, I suppose.

      • Kate Bond

        They do lose magic, and the last one feels kind of pushy in its preachiness. If you are at all religious, it may bother you a bit (it bothered me, because some of the people I love most in the world are very religious). I would still recommend reading them at some point.

    • K.

      I’m quite excited to read The Luckiest Girl. I haven’t read a single Cleary book, can you imagine? They just weren’t exposed to me at all until I began on Goodreads. I can’t wait, though.

    • K.

      I definitely think it’s worth the read, Savannah. The movie was okay. I personally thought Dakota as Lyra was very effective. I think she captured quite well the character’s quiteness…quite determination, quite anger, quite loneliness…

  7. Natalie Crown

    To this day, it takes me a moment to acknowledge that The Golden Compass is THE NORTHERN LIGHTS.

    This was my cover:

    I was so so HAPPY reading this post. His Dark Materials is one of my greatest loves and inspirations. It rivalled Harry Potter for me all those years ago. And I would actually say that the first book, which is my favourite of the three, surpassed Harry Potter. (Although you should TOTALLY still read the other books in the trilogy – amazing and heartbreaking and UGH. You have to meet Will. YOU HAVE TOO.). Basically, these books meant a ton to me and they still do today.

    Lyra was EVERYTHING. She was my idol. I wished I could be like her and I am STUNNED to find that people don’t like her!!!!! You are spot on that her childishness at times is so damn real. I absolutely adore her with all my heart. And so many of the characters in this series have stuck with me. It makes me laugh that you are all so grossed out by Mrs Coulter and Asriel. They ARE gross, but I always kinda loved those characters? I think I always appreciated the fact that they were beautiful and powerful and so very wrong. It was nice to see ‘evil’ represented in that way. To this day, they inspire the villains that I write. Iorek!! Serafina!! Lee!! Just. So. Much. Love. ALLLL the Gypsys!!!

    The religious aspect never strongly impacted me one way or another but I’m grateful that it exists and that it is out there for kids to read. I have Italian family and was christened Roman Catholic. I had my first communion and then was given the choice if I wanted to continue. I did not and since then I have never been religious. But the Italian part of my family is so I’m still connected to that in some ways. That said, it just never bothered me. I suspect my nonna wouldn’t be a fan but hey.

    I could talk and talk about this book forever but I have to go out in a minute. Boo.

    I will just quickly mention that I was lucky enough to visit Oxford towards the end of summer last year, whilst there was a ‘Magical Books’ exhibition going on at the Bodleian Library. Pullman was a BIG feature of that exhibition. And they had some exhibits of his early drafts of this book!! It inspired me so much to see that, in a way (and with much more talent), he starts off just the same as me. He puts pen to A4 lined paper and scribbles away, making notes as he goes.

    Sorry if that sounds weird! Haha. It was just a kinda profound moment for me, I guess.

    I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THESE BOOKS MORE. BUT I HAVE TO GO. Thank you so much for this post!!!
    Natalie Crown recently posted…Crown of Embers – 5/5

    • K.

      Aww, thank you Natalie for this response! We can tell how much these books mean to you! Personally, Harry has a special place in my heart and he refuses to ever be budged! But GC does receive an honorary place…haha! I’m also Catholic and the religious “bashing” here does not bother me. And I suspect, it’s really just adults who are over-thinking. Children will read this mostly as a really fun fantastical story.

      I don’t understand either how people can dislike Lyra. Yes, she’s petulant and very strong willed but she has a mind of her own and isn’t that worth admiring?

  8. Celine

    I read this one a long time ago (as an audiobook), and I remember absolutely LOVING it. I’m glad you guys did, too! I actually didn’t know that it was meant as a counter to the religious propaganda in Narnia. That’s really interesting to read and makes me feel like I should re-read the book and pay attention to that!

    I loved Lyra as well! She was so fierce and smart, and I loved that she still was just a child and not a miniature version of an adult. I see that happening too often in books! And daemons are awesome. I want one. BADLY. I think mine would be a panther or a fox!

    This is a great discussion, ladies! I absolutely loved reading it and you managed to let me learn some new things about The Golden Compass too :)
    Celine recently posted…Midnight Madness Newsletter (41)

    • Kate Bond

      I didn’t notice the religious stuff in Narnia when I was a kid, and I was a Super Christian. I actually wished that we had a god like Aslan–you know, someone we could actually interact with. And who was a kitty. His Dark Materials is even more subtle because (unlike The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) it’s not a retelling of a classic story, so I can totally see how you wouldn’t notice the secular humanism in it.

      • K.

        Haha, when I first read Narnia and then watched the BBC production, the only reason I ever I associated Aslan with something like a god was because first, he came from the sky, second he only comes when he’s absolutely needed and third, because he sounded like one. I didn’t really pick up on them when I first read them either…and I wasn’t even really a child then exactly.

  9. Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the audio version!! It’s one of my all-time favorite audios, definitely. :) If I hadn’t read it for my first time so recently I would have joined you girls. Maybe I will for the next readalong. I THINK the only Cleary I read was The Mouse and the Motorcycle but I really missed out on the rest of hers when I was a kid.
    Btw I totally voted for Anne because I will be ashamed to say I haven’t read it until I fix that. :)
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Showcase Sunday (73)

    • Kate Bond

      I haven’t read Anne, either, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle is the only Cleary book I’ve ever read, so we’re in this thing together, Bonnie.

      And what a LOVELY audiobook. Man. I am a huge fan of audiobooks with a single reader, because they make me feel like I’m a kid and a grownup is reading me a story, but these big full-cast recordings are just incredible.

  10. Lindsey

    Yay, I’m so glad you ladies loved this book. The Golden Compass will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first book that I picked out on my own. Lyra has remained one of my favorite protagonists to this day. And I’m still enchanted with the idea of daemons!

    I haven’t read the other two books in the series but from what you ladies said I’ll be reading them soon. With a box of tissues near by. :)

    Great post, I really enjoyed the way you broke up different aspects of the novel, it was so nice to be reminded of it.
    Lindsey recently posted…And So The Month Ends…

    • Kim

      Oh, how sweet! And what a great first pick! But *gasp* you MUST read books 2 and 3! Get to it! And yes, keep the tissues close. Book 3 is heart destroying. Very sad. Enjoy. ;)

    • K.

      Thanks, Lindsey. I feels a little bit like being back in school, studying English literature where we dissect a novel and learn a whole bunch of stuff, haha. Except, there’s no homework. Funny, Harry Potter was the first book I actually, really bought for myself on my own…with my parents’ money of course.

  11. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I fully intended to read this last month but then I got caught up filling out financial aid and scholarship forms and all my grandiose reading plans fell through.

    Just ask Jasprit, I’ve been the Worst Read-Along Buddy Ever. *sigh*

    Still, I loved this book as a child and have to agree with Wendy that the sequels are definitely worth the read. I don’t remember them as clearly as this novel, but I do remember sobbing at the ending of The Amber Spyglass. It was bittersweet but oh-so-perfect as well. Fantastic discussion, ladies, and I’ll be joining in April for sure if Anne of Green Gables is chosen. I have gorgeous illustrated editions of those books and I haven’t read them, not once, which is basically blasphemous, I know. But I will. Soon.
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…ARC Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

    • Kim

      Ohhh The Amber Spyglass just destroyed me. Ugh, that bench! My heart. I do agree with that is perfect in its bittersweetness. *sigh* I think we’ll be doing Anne of Green Gables at some point even if it’s not the April winner? Not 100% on that but I think so. I can’t *wait* to discuss Anne. I love it so! Glad you’ll be joining us. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes, we’ll do Anne at some point, even if it’s not in April. Right now Anne is running neck and neck with WRINKLE.

      Keertana, I think you might actually enjoy our March book as well, THE LUCKIEST GIRL…

    • K.

      Everyone keeps going on about how the last two books broke their hearts…I’m a little confused if this is a good thing or a bad thing :/

  12. Carina Olsen

    Ah! I can’t believe it’s been almost a year already since I first read these three amazing books. I need to re-read soon. As I really truly loved them. Like you all did as well :D Which makes me so so happy. <3 But ohh. I actually have no idea what my daemon would be. But. I do have a cat, so probably a cat, hih :D I LOVE Lyra as well. She's amazing. Hmm. My favorite of the three books is the second or the third. Because WILL. Heartbreak. So so good. Sigh. I really need to re-read, hih. Also, psst, I'm an adult. Kind of. (20) And I hate the Church. I'm sorry. But I'm not a religion kind of person, as I've had waaaaaay too much bad stuff happen to me, so I kind of liked that part of the book. The anti-religion thing. <3 I live with the Aurora here at the top of Norway, in Alta. Though it has been a while since I went outside to look at it (A) must change that soon :) Also. I love this post so so much. Thank you all for discussing and sharing :D
    Love, Carina
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #122

    • Kim

      The third is my favorite. Wiiiiiiilll. All of my heartbreak forever. :'( Yeah, I get it. I was raised Catholic and had a lot of harmful and oppressive experiences with that. I’m glad to be free of it. I totally understand you.

      Eeeeeeee!!! I’m so envious! Lucky you with the aurora!!!

      • Kate Bond

        I’m pretty indifferent to religion (which is why I identify as agnostic). I grew up religious, too (my paternal grandparents were actually missionaries), and I think that non-religious people who grow up in the church have a very specific take on atheism.

        I am REALLY fascinated by people who go through life and become religious as adults.

    • K.

      Oh, Carina I envy thee! I would probably be staring at the Aurora every single chance I had. And I really want to meet Will now…only problem is, will I end up regretting it? As in, will something terrible happen? Oh!

      • Carina Olsen

        :D It is very pretty. <3 In the summer we have no aurora, but we do have midnight sun, so it's light all the time outside in the summer :) Ohh. Will. Sigh. I am not sure. Something awful does happen, but I could never regret loving Will :D Everyone needs to get to know him. <3 You too :)
        Carina Olsen recently posted…Cress Tuesday #19

  13. Rashika

    I so wanted to read this as soon as I came home last night but I couldn’t because I was dead. I’ve been looking forward to this discussion for SO SO LONG because I couldn’t wait to hear what you ladies thought.

    (all these thoughts will be disjointed because I basically wrote them as I read your discussion :P)

    I definitely agree with Wendy. It always surprises me when people don’t like Lyra. Yes she can be annoying, yes she can be slightly self-centered but she is also 11. If you’re expecting a mini-adult.. you’re in for a long time. Like Kim said, her childishness and naiviety are endearing. Her innocence is refreshing and fun to read and really, she is just ADORABLE (I can say that now :P).

    Tony. Stop. STAPH IT WENDY. Don’t make me break down again. I was dry sobbing when I read that part. Like my eyes became all puffed up and I just couldn’t.

    I also second what Kim said, Pullman totally needs to write Farder Coram and Seraphina’s story. .-.

    Wow, I did NOT know about how Pullman tried to contrast his book with The Chronicles of Narnia. I actually read Narnia AFTER I read the His Dark Materials so I’d had no idea. The first time I read this book, I was the same age as Lyra, I never really saw this as atheist propaganda as so many people claim it was. After re-reading it, I can definitely see why people would feel that way however, I think that people overthink this, it’s clear how Pullman feels about religion and yes that plays a part but the book, the series, is so much more than that on the whole. There is so much more to it. Hell there is so much to BOTH the series and they shouldn’t be viewed as propaganda of ANY SORTS. They should be enjoyed for the amazing pieces of literature they are.

    K. I AM WARNING YOU AWAY FROM THE NEXT BOOKS IN THE SERIES. To avoid major heartbreak. Run away for your life. Or you’ll be tearing up years after you’ve read the books because it hurts so much. My heart broke half the time I was reading this because I knew what would happen in the sequels.

    Iorek is hands down my favorite character. I was looking forward to meeting him the entire time I was reading it. I just always loved him.. and well I wanted my own bear for a short period of time after first reading the book.

    I had so much fun reading your discussion ladies! :)
    Rashika recently posted…Arclight by Josin L. McQuein

    • Kim

      I DEMAND that Farder Coram/Serafina prequel. Get on it, PP!

      Yeah, I really don’t see this series as “atheist propaganda” either. I mean, I get *why* people think that but I disagree. Then again, my philosophy is pretty identical to Pullman’s so maybe I’m just blind to it. There’s a lot going on in the series as a whole and so much more than “this fictional organized religion is harmful!” It seems to me that it’s more about encouraging young readers to question and what could ever be wrong with that?

    • Wendy Darling

      Lyra is such a wonderful character! I don’t know whether I like her or Iorek more, they’re definitely both way, way up there in my faves list! Fortunately, I guess I don’t really have to choose.

      I’m glad we’re in agreement over the propaganda thing, for both series. I get why people would say that who are very religious (or not), but it doesn’t appear that way to me at all. But like I said, maybe I’m just reacting too strongly to that word.

      I would STILL love to have a warrior polar bear. Who could eat people at my bidding. :D

  14. Tanja

    What an amazing discussion ladies! I haven’t read this book just yet, but I think I’ll pay a visit to my library soon. I love those books that are in fact MG but the actually teach you more than you can imagine. Great review :)
    Tanja recently posted…ARC Review: Til Death by Kate Evangelista

    • Kim

      Yesssssss. Get yourself to the library and soon! They are so wonderfully complex for any age but especially MG. The books do not simplify anything “just for children” just as that itself is an important part of the books.

    • Wendy Darling

      How wonderful that your girls experienced this with you! Such a perfect book to read with your mother’s arms around you, all snug in bed. <3 Thanks for stopping by, Kimba.

    • Kim

      Aw, that makes me smile so much that you read this with your daughters! How lovely. I would love to someday be able to do just the same. :)

  15. Diane

    Thank you, thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion of TGC. I’m definitely going to re-read The Golden Compass and will look at it the second time in a new way.

    Beverly Cleary is one of my favorite authors, so I can’t wait to read The Luckiest Girl. I love all three of the choices for April. It will be hard to pick one.

    I’ve never been part of a read-a-long before, but I know that I’m going to love this group and the books we read.

    • Kate Bond

      I’ve only read one of the book options for April (A Wrinkle in Time), and I’ve read it 6 or 7 times because it’s an absolute favorite, so I’m interested in seeing what we end up doing.

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the discussion, Diane! And I’m glad it made you want to revisit the series. They’re such incredible books, and I feel they’re somewhat overlooked in comparison to enormously successful series like Harry Potter. Not that there’s anything wrong with Harry, mind you, I just wish there was more Lyra love, too!

      I am also pretty excited that you’re interested in THE LUCKIEST GIRL! It’s such a lovely story of a girl coming into her own, and I’m really curious to see what contemporary adult readers think of it. I did a readalong of that book with a friend a couple of years ago, and she loved it, so I hope you will, too!

      And yeah, right now the poll seems pretty evenly split between all three of the choices for April, so it should be interesting to see what happens! But I assure you, the ones that aren’t chosen will show up again as options down the road. Readalongs can be SO much fun, I’m so glad you found us. :)

    • Kim

      Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed our discussion. We enjoyed having it. ;) Sooooo happy you’re going to do a re-read yourself! And join us for the future readalongs! :)

  16. Larissa

    Ahhh, I haven’t read the Golden Compass since I was 12 I think. Same goes for the other books in the series. This whole discussion makes me want to re-read them right this instant. I still do remember loving them and how sad I was when they were done. I think re-reading it now will actually allow me to enjoy it more, as I can now can get a deeper understanding of it. Also, you guys are definitely correct about how complex they truly are (:

    I never knew Beverly wrote YA too. Lol I just read her Ramona series when I was younger. I think I’ll be joining this with y’all. I’ve never actually been apart of a read-a-long before! So this is super exciting(:

    Lovely post! This was a brilliant in depth look at the book that managed to make me want to read it again ASAP :)
    Larissa recently posted…Review: Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

    • Kate Bond

      I’ve read so little Beverly Cleary, so I’m really excited about The Luckiest Girl.

      And you should definitely re-read TGC–or listen to the audiobook like Wendy and I did!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yay! “I never knew BC wrote YA” is exactly the reason why I wanted to do this one. I hope you will be able to join us, I love this one so much and have read it again and again and again. Really comforting, sweet, old-fashioned sort of read, but one of the books that I think modern audiences will find an easy transition.

      Readalongs can be very fun…with the right partners. ;)

  17. Kelly

    I must be incredibly slow or just dense, but I’ve actually never heard of this one. It sounds far more advanced than your typical middle grade and really well developed. I’ll definitely be adding this one. I loved the changing covers, have any of you listed to the dramatic reading? I’m giggling at the thought of that, I can imagine David Attenborough doing the voice over.

    Wonder how often they’ve rereleased the books with new covers.
    Kelly recently posted…Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

    • Kate Bond

      It is more advanced. It feels a bit like the Narnia books and Madeline L’Engle’s stuff tonally, I guess, in that there are some thematic (religious or otherwise) things going on in the background that you don’t necessarily pick up consciously as a child.

      I haven’t listened to the Attenborough reading; I listened to the full cast recording that’s available on Audible for this, and I absolutely loved it (except that they should have waited a beat or two longer between chapters, but that’s just me being picky because I listen to a lot of these).

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, don’t feel bad! That’s what we’re here for. ;)

      A few of the covers I chose for the post are of different editions, but there are also some overseas ones. This is a series that I can see going through a lot of changes, as the stories are so epic that I can see people releasing special editions down the road like they do now for classics like The Secret Garden or Narnia.

    • Kim

      Definitely don’t feel bad. This is an older series so it’s not like you’ll see it going around the blogosphere or anything. I hope you’ll really love it when you take a listen! :)

  18. Lucy

    I’ve only read Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, and I love the sound of The Luckiest Girl!

    I’m hanging my head in shame because I checked out the Golden Compass audiobook but didn’t get a chance to listen to it this month :( But I will catch up! Glad you all enjoyed reading it this month.

    This is such a fun feature, and I’m glad you’re spotlighting these blast from the past favorites.
    Lucy recently posted…Returning to Shore by Corinne Demas Book Review

    • Wendy Darling

      Luucccy. You would like THE LUCKIEST GIRL, I just know it. It’s a pretty short and fast read, so I hope you’ll be able to join us!

      And awww. I think a lot of people got behind on this readalong as well, but if we can get just a few people interested in checking it out, I feel we’ve done our duty. :) Besides, it was just a pleasure to read again, and read together, too.

  19. Kristen

    I was not familiar w Beverly Cleary’s YA books, but loved her Ramona books & am certainly going to read The Luckiest Girl – thanks for the suggestion!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Kristen, yay! Yes please do join us for The Luckiest Girl next month. I want so much for more people to experience her YA books. :)

      • Kate Bond

        I’m really excited about this one, too, because I’ve never read ANY of her books. My teacher read us The Mouse and the Motorcycle in elementary school, but I skipped most children’s books and went straight to adult. I really missed out on a lot.

        • Wendy Darling

          Mr. Darling read only a handful of children’s books as well–I do not understand how this happens! Strangely enough, one of those few books was TMATM as well. Curiouser and curiouser.

          Her children’s books are so very endearing and REAL, Kate. Ramona gets into trouble all the time without meaning to, because she can’t resist doing things like touching Susie’s curls and whispering”boing!” because they look so deliciously springy.

      • Wendy Darling

        I don’t know your taste in realistic fiction as much, Kim, but this book is really lovely. I hope you’ll at least pick it up from the library to see if the opening chapters hook you! I won’t hold it against you if you decide against it, though. Much. ;)

        • Kim

          So I just looked at the first pages on Amazon…and I am already smiling! The envelope “to be read by me if I ever have a twelve year old daughter” has me smiling so much!!! I think I am already hooked. Consider me in. :) Btw, the envelope reminds me very specifically of a moment in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I *reallly* hope we get to do that one. I’ll have a very sweet and personal little tidbit to share, related to this envelope thing, when/if we get there. :)

  20. Heidi Schulz

    It has been nearly fifteen years since I first read this series and I was well overdue for a reread. I read it with a far more critical eye this go round and I’m happy to report, if anything, I love it even more now.

    A few things I noticed:

    I love that we are able to see Lyra really being a child in those early pages: Being petulant and disobedient, fighting in the claybeds, exploring the school from rooftop to catacombs—and oh, the trick she tried to play on the skulls! I love that she returns the daemon coins to their rightful places while whispering, “Sorry! Sorry!”
    I thought her distain for female scholars was hilarious, but also realistic given the atmosphere she was being brought up in.

    I really enjoyed the easy way Lrya had of taking on the characteristics of those around her. In the claybeds, she was a general. With Mrs. Coulter, she was sophisticated. She became a gypsy when she lived on the boats, acting and speaking as they did. I love that she is so changeable, trying on different lives just as Pan tried on different forms. That is such a perfect representation of childhood. I thought that perhaps, losing that ability as one ages is why daemons must choose a fixed form. Bittersweet, to know who you are, but to lose the possibility of all the other things you might have been.

    I was very moved by Lyra’s fierce sense of justice and love, from the way she cared for poor Tony (that dried fish!) to her refusal to look away when she thought Iorek was going to be killed. I love that part so much, I have to quote it:
    “Her dear, her brave one, her fearless defender, was going to die, and she would not do him the treachery of looking away, for if he looked at her he must see her shining eyes and their love and belief, not a face hidden in cowardice or a shoulder fearfully turned away.”

    Oh my heart!

    And the daemons! Oh, how I long to have one. I’ve been thinking about what mine might be. At first, I thought perhaps a platypus because I am such a mix of contradictions, that sometimes I don’t even know what I am, but then I settled on a crow. They are inquisitive and seem to enjoy solving problems, but also seem to be a bit mischievous. I feel quite certain my daemon would be one.

    Thank you for such a great read and discussion this month!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Heidi, I love this book more every time I read it! I think eventually it may become to illegal to love it as much as I will in another 15 years.

      I love that Lyra is allowed to be a child, too. I think I have trouble with a lot of modern day heroines, and, if you’ll allow me to trespass here, a lot of MG characters in particular, because so many of them seem so shiny and attractive and carefully flawed that they no longer feel real. I feel like Lyra is running along the rooftops somewhere in an alternate world, though, and maddening the adults around her as only a very precocious child could.

      I did the audiobook this time around, btw, and the voice actor who did Lyra did a wonderful job with the “Sorry! Sorry!” scene with the disapproving ghosts and their missing coins.

      DISDAIN FOR THE OTHER LADIES. Yes. I liked that so much, the same way that I like how cats don’t like everyone who likes them. (hah!) I never thought about the way Lyra learns to adapt with to the different people around her either, nor the parallels with the changing daemons. Hmmm.

      Oh god, that quote! It made me tear up to read it. That whole scene hurts my heart so much. And I love it also because it’s not Roger in that position–it’s Tony, a boy she doesn’t really know. So it’s purely her own feeling for another human being and for the utter horror of the situation, and not Pullman manipulating our feelings over a strong pre-existing relationship.

      I think a crow suits you. Bright, inquisitive, and full of mischief! Heeee.

      PS–I am happy we are reading a Beverly Cleary book for our March discussion before I come see you in Portland!

      • Heidi Schulz

        RE Your P.S.: I *can’t* wait!
        Perfect choice for March. I don’t think I’ve read THE LUCKIEST GIRL, but the cover looks so very familiar. It is reminding me of something I read as a child where the MC wanted to wear a yellow rain slicker and clunky boots like everyone else but her mother made her wear a pretty, feminine floral. I know nothing else about the story, or even what it was, but that stuck with me. Oh the injustices of growing up!

        • Wendy Darling


          The raincoat her mother buys her is pink with a velvet collar and buttons–reading it as an adult, you can feel that exasperation with Shelly for wanting something so plain and ordinary JUST like all the other kids, but completely understanding/remembering that emotion as well.

          • Heidi Schulz

            WHAT. That is a book memory I have always carried for some weird reason, but without remembering what book it was from. This knowledge has changed my life. I really can’t wait to read it now! THANK YOU.
            Now, when I was in third or fourth grade I read a book about a girl who could see or travel to different dimensions. There was something about a matchbook. She lit them all at once and then she was on fire? And I think she was in a bathtub but still on fire underwater. I’m certain I have this all terribly wrong.
            I’ve always remembered (misremembered) that scene and wondered what that book was. Any ideas?
            (Also, totally derailing the conversation here, but these things are important.)

            • Wendy Darling

              Yay! I love that I was able to help, I have a lot of those “I vaguely remember this but can’t remember the title” issues, too. But I made a mistake, Shelly lives in Oregon and spends a semester in SoCal, not the other way around! I got up out of bed to fix it in the post, I’m sorry to be spreading LIES on the internet.

              I don’t know the name of the book you’re talking about, but I wish I did because I want to read it! Do you know Stump the Bookseller? I used them a lot in my twenties when I was trying to track down books I loved as a kid.
              current site:
              old archives:

              They are really helpful in finding obscure titles. If you can’t find it in archives, you can post the question and a bunch of people will try to help you.

            • Wendy Darling

              PS–at first I thought you were talking about “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen, because every time she lit a match she saw images in the flames and in the end she does light them all at once. (And, um, dies frozen in the snow mesmerized by the flames.) But then you said the thing about a bathtub and a fire underwater and my theory went kaput.

              That HCA is one of my favorites, though. So sad.

              • Heidi Schulz

                FOUND IT FOUND IT FOUND IT!
                Charmed Life (Chronicles of Chrestomanci) by Dianna Wynne Jones! (Though I was adding in a bit of The Little Match Girl to the memory.)
                You inspired me to stop saying, “I wonder” and google it. Two mystery books figured out in 24 hours! Callooh! Callay!

    • Kim

      This comment wins all the things.

      What a relief it must’ve been to end up loving the series even more. I’m afraid to read certain books I loved from long ago for fear I’d feel differently now!

      That is such an astute observation. Lyra changes in each environment. Just like Pan. I never put that together before! Losing the ability to change is so, so bittersweet.

      Heh, yeah. I was thoroughly amused by her disdain as well. She is very much a product of those male scholars! It’s just another example, to me, of Lyra being endearingly childish.

      It seems like Lyra feels everything *fiercely* and that’s part of what I love so much about her. Iorek is easily my favorite character next to Lyra and that was *such* an emotional scene. Absolutely wrenching. I wish I was half as brave as Lyra.

      Thank you for this wonderful comment, Heidi! You gave me new things to think on!

      • Heidi Schulz

        Thank you, Kim! It was a relief to know I not only still love this book, but that I love it even more. That’s the mark of quality literature, isn’t it? That it grows with you and continues to teach new things? I’m so glad you all picked it for discussion!

    • Kate Bond

      Oooh, really good point re: Lyra changing based on who she’s with. That’s very, very cool, and something I’d never noticed.

      Another book written by a man that has a similarly realistic and endearing special street rat girl is Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn–you know, if you’re in the market for another book that does this type well.
      Kate Bond recently posted…The Golden Compass: Discussion + March Book Announcement

  21. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    I’ve never read this book nor have I seen the movie *hides*. I didn’t read much when I was a kid, and the book I did read where the ones I could find in second-hand stores and whatnot because there weren’t (and aren’t) many bookstores in my country (There’s just one… and it opened last year). Anyways… based on what I’ve read here, I think I should please my inner child once in a while. I’ll see if my library has this one :)
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…Fashion By The Book (3) The Awakening & Just One Day

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, you’re not alone in that, Marianne–don’t feel bad! We chose this book partly because we know a lot of people haven’t read it yet, but we feel they SHOULD. ;)

      There is only ONE bookstore in your country? Marianne, that makes me so, so sad for you. Thank goodness for The Book Depository and online shopping, though. I hope your library does have a copy of this for you, because it’s an absolutely beautiful book. Full of magic, both literal and in feeling. <3

      • Wendy Darling

        Oh, PS–I just read that interview you did with another blog today! It was fun learning more about you, and I’m embarrassed that I never looked up what “Boricuan” meant. Consider me humbled and educated.

    • Kim

      Definitely don’t feel bad! This is not only a discussion but also an awareness raising effort, I think! We just want to spread the love. :) You *must* let us know if you do end up reading them. They’re truly wonderful.


    I absolutely adored these books. They seemed to start out a bit for the middle grade crowd but I’d say by the end there was absolutely a more adult feel running thru. I thought it enconsed all of my favorite topics, such as weight of responsibility, trust, consequences, love, and always reaching beyond your comfort limit. I read these fairly recently and was blown away by the way I was moved by the series. I would love to have a Deamon and I would want it to be a Direwolf (yes I’m def a Stark). I also thought that the money was brilliantly done. I’m surprised it didn’t get as much attention as it deserved.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes! People ask me all the time whether this series is MG or YA, and my answer is always…both. Or really, it’s appropriate for and can be appreciated by all ages, at least this first book is.

      … weight of responsibility, trust, consequences, love, and always reaching beyond your comfort limit.

      YES to all of this. I respond strongly to these themes in books in all age categories, but I think it’s especially important and meaningful to have them in books for younger readers.

      It really is such a profoundly moving work of literature, isn’t it? I don’t know how often I’ve read TGC, but every time it’s like someone’s ripped out my heart all over again. There’s such dignity and tenderness and fierceness of purpose throughout the whole thing, and such extraordinary beauty as well.

      DIREWOLF. Oh my goodness. K will have to weigh in on that, because she just read the GRRM books recently.

    • Kim

      You just made me grin so much! A direwolf!!!! Excellent choice! :D I must confide that my choice of gray wolf is heavily influenced by my love of House Stark (and especially my beloved Sansa). There are a lot of characters who tend to be favorites throughout literature and television that have an association with wolves. I noticed this coincidence and they just sort of ended up taking a special place in my heart. :)

      • Kate Bond

        Wolves are great. Direwolves are awesome. I do not understand the love of the GRRM books, though. I have read them all, and I think they are complete and utter garbage. I have friends who work on the tv show, and they say it’s much better, but I hate the books enough that I may not be able to appreciate it. Sigh.

        • Kim

          Oh, I LOVE the books. Love love love. If you don’t like the books I *strongly* doubt you’ll like the show. The show takes the problematic aspects of the books and amplifies them times 10 for some inexplicable reason. It makes me angry. **I am about to talk about disturbing rape stuff, fair warning** For instance, in the books the Dany/Drogo wedding night is obviously gross (and also I’m *really* not implying that I think it’s okay in the book. I don’t) because she’s 13 and also forced marriage is terrible. But at least in the book she says “yes” to Drogo and then it fades to black. At the very least there is that even though it’s still terrible. For the show they decided to remove her saying “Yes” and then just depict Drogo actually raping her while the camera zooms in on her crying face. IT’S AWFUL. **end disturbing stuff** And there are so, so many other examples of really awful, awful and unnecessary changes they made. I really don’t get why. The source material is problematic enough. It really didn’t need more terrible stuff added. Ugh, I could rail about this for a good long while. I have a fairly strong feeling you would HATE all of that, as I do.

          • Kate Bond

            I watched the pilot and I found that scene to be VERY upsetting. I’m on the fence about how it was changed–I think people kind of weirdly gave him a pass in the book because he actually seduced his bride before having sex with her, and maybe they needed to up the ante to actual rape on the show because the actress is clearly an adult rather than a CHILD bride, as she is in the book? I don’t know.

            I only read all the books because I was tweeting (this was before there was a GoT show) about how bad the first few chapters of the first one were (specifically, how many things are described as hanging about something like perfume, and then GRRM finally said that PERFUME hung about someone like perfume) and a friend of mine said I couldn’t complain about the writing unless I read all the books. So here I am. Complaining. Because I earned it.

  23. Jennifer | Book Den

    I’m so glad you guys picked The Golden Compass for the readalong. I love Lyra, too. She’s one of my favorites.

    Oh, man. THE FISH HOUSE. :'( The thought of severing a daemon is so terrifying and heartbreaking. It makes me panic just thinking about it.

    My daemon would probably be a sea creature like the sailor’s dolphin, but that would be so inconvenient. If I could choose, I would probably have a dog.

    K, you have got to read the other two books. I, too, enjoyed them more than The Golden Compass. They are so heartbreaking, but so amazing.

    Oh my goodess. Deciding between Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time? Those are both so wonderful. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my defining books as a reader.

    Such a great discussion.
    Jennifer | Book Den recently posted…Book Review | The Troop by Nick Cutter

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m so glad you liked this as the kick-off book, Jen! Lyra’s one of the most unforgettable heroines in any genre, so it seemed fitting that she started us off.

      The fish house is so horrible. :( It’s a relatively brief scene, and yet you’re right–the feeling of panic and terrible sadness is just overwhelming. Poor Pan running around not knowing what to do, and Lyra clinging to him desperately. It’s such a well-written scene, and all the more powerful because it doesn’t wallow in exposition.

      Sea creature! Hee. I’ve loved dolphins since I first read A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT by Madeleine L’Engle, so that tickles my fancy. It’s so weird to live in a place now where you can see them when you go to the beach from time to time, it’s pretty surreal. And it’s one of those things that never gets old. You must have a spirit that yearns for freedom, Jen.

    • Kim

      Yeah, it’s such a classic series and it’s also great to read in winter time! Keep the atmospheres in sync. :)

      The fish house scene is just soooo sad. Everything about Tony’s story breaks my heart, from his capture, to his poor mother missing him, to his sad, sad end.

      I concur. K *must* read the other installments! Book number 3 is soul destroying and one of the very few books to ever make me cry. It’s so worth it, though.

  24. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I loved how Lyra was so very realistic. Granted, that made me not like her at times but I’d feel that way about any child (they can be such pests, when they’re not being smart or adorable). Phillip Pullman has a Twitter? (It’s terrible but I thought he was dead. I think because The Golden Compass series is such a classic, it seems like it’s been around forever.)
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…It’s not you, it’s me: When it just doesn’t work

    • Wendy Darling

      YES. Children can be awful, annoying, boastful creatures, and they act out because they’re scared or lonely. It’s interesting to me that the book doesn’t talk too much about how she’s been all alone all her life, but the way it manifests in her character is pretty clear to me. It’s a masterpiece of a character’s formation and development, and so subtly done, too.

      He does have Twitter! I am bemused by half of what he says, but I still like to follow him because it’s just so strange to have this author I idolize popping up in my feed amongst the YA authors going nuts over a cover reveal or some internet quiz, hah.

      And agreed, I forget sometimes how recently published this book really was. It feels timeless now, and it’ll feel timeless when I’m old and gray, I’m sure.

    • Kim

      Lyra is the best! I practically require my favorite characters to be somewhat unlikeable. That realness is what I’m after, always. Haha I love Pullman’s Twitter account. He’s currently using it to tell us the bizarre story of Jeffrey the Housefly, tweet by tweet. I actually find it endlessly amusing. There’s a silverfish orchestra and a covert insect spy ring. Haha what?? I am just absolutely delighted when I see new tweets in the Jeffrey adventures!

      • Wendy Darling

        I think it’s just human to have failings, you know? Otherwise you have characters who are perfectly agreeable, but so darned nice that it makes you want to scream. Like poor old Melanie Hamilton from Gone with the Wind.

        • Kim

          Right?! You have to have *some* flaws in a character or it’s just not realistic. When I’m being grumpy or sarcastic I like to remind people that it just means I’m fully developed in my character. ;)

      • Wendy Darling

        Hah, yes–it’s the Jeffrey and silverfish tweets that have me bemused, Kim. i don’t know what is going on, but I enjoy it all the same.

        And then sometimes he throws in a tweet about soccer and it’s even more endearing, although I have ZERO interest in that sport. Or any sport, for that matter.

        • Kim

          Haha does he really? That makes it even better. :) All of a sudden I’ll just see “Sviatoslav” in my Twitter feed and that’s the only glimpse I see and I’m already smiling. :) Oh that Philip Pullman!

  25. Emily

    Ooooh! I watched the movie for this one, however, I have to say I was pretty bored :( Looks like since it’s one of your recommendations, I have to pick it up! :) Of course, sometimes movie adaptations are not as great as the novel ;)
    Emily recently posted…Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, the book is MUCH better than the film, Emily. I didn’t dislike it as much as some of my fellow fans did, but it doesn’t even begin to touch on what really makes this book special. I hope you do give it a try sometime! It’s gorgeous, so, so gorgeous.

        • Wendy Darling

          Honestly, I was disappointed, too. Even though it left so much out from the books that would have made it so much better, I loved seeing the warrior bears on screen, as well as the daemons. I also thought it was pretty perfectly cast, between Lyra and Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel and Serafina.

    • Kim

      Ohh the movie does absolutely no justice to the book! They completely erased some important themes and elements and changed the ending! Argh. The book is just so lovely and so good. I hope you’ll give it a shot. :)

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah… They were a little too scared of of how anti-religion–specifically anti-CATHOLICISM–the book is when they made the movie, so they changed a lot of the thematic stuff, which takes away a lot. They also just…I don’t know. They had all the right pieces for the movie, but the magic just wasn’t there. It’s kind of the same thing that happened (for my money, anyway) with the Narnia movies.

      • Wendy Darling

        I would agree with that–both GC and Narnia being stripped of their deeper themes and therefore much of their magic. I like TGC film more than Narnia for the most part, though. Although there was more missing from it, too. Hmmm.

        Also, I love it when you say “for my money.” It reminds me of the kid from a MG series I really liked called The Great Brain set in the late 1800s (based on true stories)–he’s a too-smart-for-his-own-good kid who’s constantly betting other kids that he’s right about stuff and swindling them out of their money. They were hilarious.

        • Kate Bond

          I LOVE saying “For my money” because it sounds like something an old timey dude from New York would say. It’s a bit of an affectation.