Pullman wins ‘great book’ title

Northern Lights book jacket

Well, well. I thought the first book in the trilogy was good, but not great.

Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights has been named the best children’s book of the past 70 years.

See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6228124.stm

Best children’s book in the past seventy years…. (gack!) SEVENTY YEARS?

Let us ponder that assertion, friends. That means this book is allegedly better than:

  • Bridge to Terebinthia by Katherine Paterson
  • The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
  • Sounder by William H. Armstrong
  • The High King by Lloyd Alexander
  • Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  • The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
  • The Incredible Journey by Shelia Burnford
  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  • The White Mountains by John Christopher
  • The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.
  • Harriet the Spy by Lousie FitzHugh
  • Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Ok. Need I go on? Does anyone really and honestly think Mr. Pullman’s half-plotless third of a story here starring the little lying girl is better than each and every children’s book I’ve listed here, and the dozens of other beloved giants I have not listed?

Seventy years is a lot of children’s books, friends. Both the Mary Poppins series and the Little House series have books published after the cutoff date of 1937.

Don’t get me wrong, armored polar bears and Lapland witches are cool–what’s not to like?–but are they really more beloved of children than the Oompa-Loompahs of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or the mages in A Wizard of Earthsea? Does Northern Lights really and truly have more historical import or greater classical stature than To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee? Is it so much better than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone?

Hmmm… I wonder if the book had had a pro-Christian message rather than an anti-Christian one if it would have received so much hype.