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Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials Trillogy, suitable for a class of 7/8 year olds???

(57 Posts)
MrsSpoon Tue 21-Aug-07 18:57:12

DS1 has come back from his first day back at School bursting with excitement about these books, apparently the teacher has started reading the first to them today. He has asked me to buy them. I have done a little research and I am a little alarmed. We have bought a copy of the first book from e-Bay to try and speed read it ourselves, are the books really suitable for this age group? If nothing else the plot sounds very complicated (or as far as write ups on Wilkepedia etc go) and it seems to be dealing with some very big issues (or is this on a level with Aslan being Jesus etc, ie would go straight above most readers' heads?).

FWIW he's got the Narnia books sitting waiting to be read but feels they are too difficult.

PandaG Tue 21-Aug-07 19:00:49

I would say it is teenage fiction - but maybe the teacher has a real flair for picking out the themes to interest younger children?

I would talk to the teacher myself

MrsSpoon Tue 21-Aug-07 19:06:07

Oh that's what I meant to say Amazon etc all say "young adult".

I think you are right about talking to the teacher, I'm just groaning about kicking up a fuss when they are only just back. [sigh]

dustystar Tue 21-Aug-07 19:06:35

I would say that they are a bit sophisticated for this age group although I'm pretty sure i would have loved them at that age.

OrmIrian Tue 21-Aug-07 19:08:45

I don't know. I would say it was too old and a bit disturbing. I tried them on my 10yr old recently but he struggled. I think 7/8 yr olds would probably be a bit bored by it before it gets too frightening though. Odd choice. I would say Narnia was by far the better choice for that age.

Marina Tue 21-Aug-07 19:11:13

No, I'm sorry, we are quite happy to disregard some age recommendations for ds (a very good reader) but he's eight and I think they are way too young for this trilogy.
There are some scenes in all three of the books that are completely unsuitable for pre-teens.
It's magnificent writing but there is plenty of other engaging and thought-provoking material out there for younger age groups. Pullman should be saved until later.
If you have to speak to the teacher before you've finished the speed-reading, ask him how he proposes to present the story of Tony and his daemon, and Lyra and Will's relationship in the third book.

BecauseImWorthIt Tue 21-Aug-07 19:12:02

They're fantastic books, but I would say definitely too old for 7/8 year olds. The issues as well as the vocabulary and grammatical structures makes them teen/young adult reading.

OrmIrian Tue 21-Aug-07 19:12:29

Is Tony the little boy who has his daemon cut away Marina? If so I totally agree - very distressing. I really don't think the teacher has really though it through.

OrmIrian Tue 21-Aug-07 19:14:43

If she really wants Pullman, the one about the rat who turned into a boy would be better.

Or alternatively choosing a few suitable passages from Dark Materials might be a possibilty rather than the whole kit and caboodle.

Marina Tue 21-Aug-07 19:15:13

Yes Ormirian
I am honestly a bit disturbed that a primary school teacher is suggesting these books.
Epic adventure for this age group can be supplied by writers as diverse as CS Lewis, Ursula K Le Guin, Rosemary Sutcliff etc

MrsSpoon Tue 21-Aug-07 19:17:01

TBH after reading all your replies I am currently wondering what she is playing at too, I figured DS1 must have it wrong but he was able to pick the book when I showed him on-line. She surely wouldn't start a book like that with no intention of finishing it?

OrmIrian Tue 21-Aug-07 19:18:18

Which le guin, Marina? I love Earthsea but I think it's too difficult for that age. Is there something more suitable that you would recommend? I'd love to start them with my children.

Heathcliffscathy Tue 21-Aug-07 19:18:25

oooo yes the earthsea trilogy has scarey bits but more suitable.

having said that, this is NOT on a par with watching for eg spiderman films...which I bet lots of these children have watched. or watership down which i confess i completely misguidedly let my nearly 4 y o watch the other day.

wouldn't be at all concerned about lyra and will's relaitonship marina, it's dealt with in a really subtle way and as an adult you get the subtext but not as a child i don't think.

tony and his demon is hard, but the more i think about it the more i believe that most of these kids will have been exposed to much much worse with none of the fantastic payoffs.

MrsSpoon Tue 21-Aug-07 19:18:57

Perhaps that is what she is doing OrmIrian, picking a few suitable passages, however the problem with that is that it only makes the child want to read more.

Heathcliffscathy Tue 21-Aug-07 19:20:30

ds loves greek myths (he has the orchard book) which is pretty bloodcurdling stuff, he is not 4 yet.

I think perhaps that these things ARE ok, fairy tales for eg are incredibly grim sometimes but deal with very important life themes, as do these books, and to some extent this younger age group won't pick up on the more disturbing aspects imo.

Heathcliffscathy Tue 21-Aug-07 19:21:59

and coming home all lit up about books as good as these....got to be good surely?

I read Silas Marner, when not that far off this age (might ahve been 9). looking back that was TOTALLY unsuitable, but i loved it and it was part of what made me love reading.

do we assume that children can't deal with adult themes such as death and the awful things that we can do to each other, whilst exposing them to all kinds of cartoon violence that is much much worse?

ravenAK Tue 21-Aug-07 19:22:12

She'll never in a million years get as far as 'The Amber Spyglass', unless she's planning on making it the entire curriculum from here till July! So I'd not worry about the Will/Lyra relationship.

I've taught 'Northern Lights' (to 13 year olds). Fabulous book & I'd love my dc to read it at 7, but agree it might be worth raising concerns about some of the potentially distressing sections, eg. Tony.

LazyLineLegilimens Tue 21-Aug-07 19:22:31

Well, my sister is 12 and very bright and regardless of the violence and imagery in the books (though still pertinent points for 7/8 year olds) she can't really "get" the books. They are pretty complicated and intense I think, better for teenagers.

Pruners Tue 21-Aug-07 19:24:08

Message withdrawn

jangly Tue 21-Aug-07 19:24:42

If the Narnia books are too difficult, then the Philip Pullman books will be much more so. And they're boring.

Pruners Tue 21-Aug-07 19:24:57

Message withdrawn

OrmIrian Tue 21-Aug-07 19:25:01

I think there's a difference between children reading books alone and hearing them read in class. You build much more of a relationship with a book by reading it yourself. I read everything and anything as a child - at 8 I read Lady Chatterley's lover - the only damage being I didn't realise what a heap of bollocking trash it was If a teacher tried to read that to a class there would be a riot or total incomprehension.

Heathcliffscathy Tue 21-Aug-07 19:27:42

but do you see what i mean orm....you weren't damaged by lady chatterly in the way you might be were you exposed to, for eg (and a very tame one) jilly cooper riders at that age.

if it is good literature, then within reason, it is for all surely?

OrmIrian Tue 21-Aug-07 19:31:57

I quite agree sophable. But part of the problem is that in a class of 30 kids, some of them won't be remotely ready for Pullman even if some are. I'm not sure they'll be 'damaged' in the way that they might be by visual violence in films, although some might be distressed. But perhaps the worst out come might be to put them off reading. Which would be tragic! And wouldn't it be a shame if she 'spoiled' Dark Materials for them so that they never wanted to bother with it again? I read a lot to my oldest (he's 10 but a lazy arse and doesn't like to read for pleasure and we like reading together) but I can judge his responses and reactions as we go in a way that a teacher of 30 probably couldn't

Marina Tue 21-Aug-07 19:33:23

I agree (Earthsea was what I had in mind) Ormirian. I am ashamed to admit that I raided my parents' bookshelves from a young age too (Robert Graves, George Orwell, DH Lawrence, Laurie Lee etc) and there is a very different dynamic to sharing in class.
What I meant about Lyra and Will, sophable, was more the real chance this tender and beautifully evoked relationship would be picked up on by at least one child with more awareness of sexuality and ruined for the rest of them.
Ds is enjoying the Dalemark Quartet at the moment, by Diana Wynne Jones, but I am not sure I'd want him to be reading this in a group setting either.

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