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I picked up the book expecting to be able to read it in 24 hours for the last Toppler YLTO held a couple of weekends ago. I has assumed it was a kids book. I do think now it still is a kids book, but one which is not dumbed down for kids. If there was a word that perfectly fitted what Philip Pullman wanted to say, he used it. Who cares if kids don't know the word sardonic. They either learn from the book, or if they are really interested they'll pull down a dictionary or more likely Google (not sure how many houses besides ours has a giant dictionary anymore), or god forbid, ask their parental units. It was not Harry Potter writing, this was seriouz biznezz.
Which was great, but wasn't achievable on my Sunday. But the story was enjoyable, fun and full of adventures. It was also dark, scary, descriptive and had a bit of death in it. I was a bit shocked every time these kind of things happened. Lexx just looked at me and said "I told you it was different." It's true, he did. But you know, since when did I pay attention?
The main thing to note is that I still consider it a kids book. There is always hope in the book. And to me, that is what makes kids books so much easier to handle that adult books. There is always hope that good will prevail. It's not as in your face in this book as most others, but you still feel it. And that's important for kids. Bad stuff happens, but you should always hope.
Otherwise, witches, ghosties, talking bears, gypsies, animal familiars, magic, parallel universes. What's not to love?! The one thing I can't work out is my real surname is rather similar to the main baddie's name. Never mentioned before, by anyone. It's not a common sound either, so I was surprised. And a little chuffed that someone in a book nearly had the same name as me. Trust me, this is a big deal.
I don't know why there is a big hoo ha about how it's all anti-God. It's not. There baddies are an institution that has evolved from the church. It's anti that establishment, for free thinking, and so on. But the first book wasn't a challenge to Christianity (not sure where the others go). Mind you, the people that claim these things probably think that if a caterpillar looks at them funny it's challenging Christianity, so I won't think about it too hard
So read it. Read the sequels, as I am planning to. Read it to your kids, or let them discover it for themselves. Although if you do choose it as a bedtime story, choose your ending points well. And always remind the kidlets there is hope.