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MirrorMask (children's edition)
Neil Gaiman
The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories, Volume One: Where on Earth
Ursula K. Le Guin
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown
Maud Hart Lovelace
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde, Camille Cauti
Riders of the Purple Sage
Zane Grey
Vampires, Zombies, & Wanton Souls
Marge Simon
The Amber Spyglass  - Philip Pullman Amazing, simply amazing. How does an author make every single parting--human/daemon, human/bear/witch/harpy/mulefa/whatever--and make it sting for me too? I teared up repeatedly. Even more amazing to me-where do you find the guts to write such a children's book? Wars with divine beings, toppling church hierarchy, intimacy between 12 year olds, subverting of church doctrine (reinterpretations of the harrowing of hell, the Adam/Eve/garden myth, challenging notions of the Kingdom of Heaven)--not typical material for children. So how in the world did this series avoid the angst-ridden responses some conservative Christian leaders gave to [b:The Last Temptation of Christ|8737|The Last Temptation of Christ|Nikos Kazantzakis|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347749202s/8737.jpg|1193292] or [b:Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone|3|Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)|J.K. Rowling|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1361572757s/3.jpg|4640799]? Pullman seems the much greater threat to the conservative ways of being the church. Personally, I enjoyed Pullman's imaginative ways of challenging the more authoritarian versions of my faith tradition.

Pullman's ultimate lesson for us is somewhat reminiscent of Tolstoy in [b:The Kingdom of God Is Within You|658|The Kingdom of God Is Within You |Leo Tolstoy|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328863873s/658.jpg|3137652]. Lyra and Pan discuss the meaning of something Will said earlier: "He meant the kingdom was over, the kingdom of heaven, it was all finished. We shouldn't live as if it mattered more than this life in this world, because where we are is always the most important place." Pullman encourages us to live one life at a time, not to allow ourselves to become distracted by hope for a divine kingdom in another realm and in another time. It's when we devalue this life as fallen or corrupt that authoritarians can take control of our access to a god locked away in heaven. The Magisterium serves as the archetype of such a dangerous, authoritarian mediator of divine grace. Pullman's more of an accessible grace-upon-grace type of guy--Grace is prevenient and ever present; we don't need clergy like me controlling means of grace and such. Pullman's an atheist, so we disagree on the source of all grace. But I see his point.

His Dark Materials offers readers an epic scope, well-defined lovable characters, fearless criticism of church doctrine, and deep relationships between all types of beings. I couldn't put it down! An easy 5-star rating for me.