Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family


November 9, 2007

Scholastic Books responds to questions about The Golden Compass

Here is a response from Kyle Good, Vice President of Corporate Communications – Scholastic Books. The gentleman who emailed Mr. Good, is a devout Catholic who has read not one, but all three of the Philip Pullman books, the trilogy His Dark Materials. This seems to fly in the face of the assertion by Mr. Good that most of the trilogy’s detractors have never even read the books.

Interestingly enough, the “Catholic” supporters that Mr. Good cites, are not known to most Catholics, and certainly are not espousing what most would consider an orthodox view regarding the anti-Catholic/anti-God elements contained within these books.

Ultimately, it comes to this: The Golden Compass equals big bucks. Scholastic will rake in the cash, should the New Line Cinema production fare as well as The Lord Of The Rings trilogy or The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

Here is Mr. Good’s email:

Subject: The Golden Compass

Your email regarding The Golden Compass was forwarded to me, and I
appreciate the opportunity to offer a thoughtful, if somewhat lengthy,
response to your concerns.

The Golden Compass is a fantasy adventure set in an alternate world
about a brave and resourceful young girl who sets out to rescue her
best friend and winds up on an extraordinary quest. It celebrates
freedom, love, courage and responsibility. The upcoming film from New
Line Cinema is based on the first book in an award-willing trilogy by
Philip Pullman. Scholastic Media and Depth of Field are also
producers of the film.

The books, published in the U.S. by Random House, have received
numerous awards and honors, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian
Fiction Prize, designation as an ALA Notable Book, ALA top Ten Best
Books for Young Adults, Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book, Publishers
Weekly Best Book of the Year, Texas Lonestar Reading List winner, and
Main Student Book Award among many others. They have earned
widespread critical acclaim including praise from the Archbishop of
Canterbury, and the following reviews:

“Powerful… a fantasy adventure that sparkles with childlike wonder.”
—The Boston Sunday Globe

“Masterful storytelling… with a cast of instantly beguiling characters.”
—The Dallas Morning News

“Extraordinary storytelling at its very best.”
—The Detroit Free Press

“This is a captivating fantasy, filled with excitement, suspense, and
unusual characters.”
—School Library Journal

There has been discussion swirling on the Internet and in the media
that is confusing and contradictory, even though the writers and
outspoken critics have yet to see the film which they are critiquing.
Many of those commenting admit that they have never read Mr. Pullman’s

Literary debate and analysis of the meaning of the Pullman trilogy,
His Dark Materials, like many other great works of fiction, has gone
on since the books were first published more than ten years ago. That
discussion frequently takes place in elementary through college
classrooms worldwide.

Take, for example, this comment from Father P.S. Naumann, S.J., a
lifelong educator from upstate New York, whom we asked for his
perspective on The Golden Compass. He wrote, “Teaching English for
thirty odd years in a Jesuit high school, I kept looking for a
contemporary novel that could, would, and should provoke questions and
discussions. Philip Pullman’s book is an eye-opener and window-opener
that can bring kids, parents, and teachers together to talk. The
windows in our own minds, and in our own Church, open onto a secular
society and a multi-cultural world, as Pope John XXIII knew. How to
deal with that? Sooner or later students will open windows for
themselves; it’s part of growing up. If they don’t ask any questions
in the process, we may have lost our opportunity. The Golden Compass
will help in that direction, and if the book brings kids and parents
together to discuss important ideas, think of the good it’s doing.”
Also consider the writing of Donna Freitas, Ph.D. from Catholic
University, and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Boston
University. Dr. Freitas is a Catholic who rejects the allegation that
Pullman’s work is anti-Christian as she writes in the book she
co-authored with Jason King, Assistant Professor of Theology at St.
Vincent College, Killing the Imposter God: Philip Pullman’s Spiritual
Imagination in His Dark Materials: “Pullman, despite his personal
professions of atheism, has, indeed, created within His Dark Materials
a universe replete with the divine.”—pg. 34.

Philip believes in open, honest free speech and he decries corruption
and abuse of authority. He promotes love, kindness, loyalty, and
courage. He is also a master storyteller who artfully weaves these
themes into brilliant fantasy stories, and he encourages an open,
honest dialogue about his work. As Freitas and King explain, “Pullman
cares supremely about the power of the human imagination and the role
that freedom of interpretation plays in shaping it.”—pg. xviii.

At Scholastic, we offer a wide range of books and materials in our
Book Fairs and Book Clubs in order to serve the diverse communities
across the nation. We recognize that not every book is for every
young person, and we always encourage parents and caretakers to take
an active interest in their children’s reading choices to help
children select the materials that are right for their family and
community values as well as their age and reading level. We also
encourage families to help their children interpret whether what they
see and read in the media and on the Internet is honest, factual and
unbiased and to consider alternate views in pursuit of the truth.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me.


Kyle Good

Vice President, Corporate Communications

Kyle Good
V.P. Corporate Communications
Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
fax: 212-343-6930

The consequences of distraction…

Six children + one distracted mom + a rolling cart full of books = at least one book you would never have allowed your six year old to check out:

Different Like Coco, is on the surface, a children’s book (for ages four to eight, according to Amazon) about Coco Chanel, the French Fashion diva/designer, of days gone by. I certainly have no intention to dive into the rather pathetic life of Coco Chanel; tragedy, feminism, abandonment of societal conventions: all in all, interesting “soap opera fodder.”

As I opened this book to read to my two littles ones (I didn’t even make the connection that “Coco” was “Coco Chanel”), I was greeted with the adorable line drawing of a thin little girl, gleefully stuffing the bodice of her white slip with toilet paper. I closed the book quickly before the inevitable questions, ensued.

Having dismissed the girls, a thorough perusal was in order. Here are a few tidbits for the four to eight year old girl to consider:

*Coco lied about everything, even her confessions because she liked to tell stories (nice little drawing of Coco in the confessional, complete with shocked expression on the face of the priest).

*The nuns at Notre Dame mistreated the poor children. Feeding them second class food and separating them from the “paying” students.

*Coco had, ahem, a “friend”, whom she loved and never married. He did, nonetheless, purchase her first shop.

*Extremely unflattering depictions of over-weight women who simply didn’t measure up to the Coco Chanel ideal.

And so on…

The moral of this story: when rounding up six children and checking out thirty library books, it’s a good idea to take a peek inside the cover of your toddler’s books before you “scan and stack.”

I hate poison ivy.

Hate it.

I try not to use the word hate, very often. It is an extreme word. There is no love or forgiveness in it.

That’s why I’m using it now. I…HATE…poison ivy!

It is November. The temperatures have been in the 50’s during the day and the 20’s and 30’s at night. You’d think this evil weed would die. But, no! It is as tenacious as my dear son is unwary.

He walked to the woods, two evenings ago, to retrieve his father’s ax. Nearly all of the trees in the wooded grove behind our home, have lost their leaves. Zachary lingered in the woods, something he had not been able to do all summer due to his extreme sensitivity to poison ivy. He was gone such a long time, that I jumped in the van and drove down the short trail to make sure he wasn’t stuck in one of the recently set traps.

In the twilight, at the entrance to the wooded path, he stood alone. Cheeks flushed red with the cold, his face radiant with the secret joy of time spent alone in nature.

Radiance has been replaced with the worst rash ever. Eyes swollen shut. Large weeping blisters cover his entire face and neck. We are now one step outside of a trip to the ER.

His greatest suffering? He thought he was safe. He felt his immunity had built up over the summer. He had been using this. He showered. He did everything that he should have. His additional concern: how on earth will he serve Mass in this condition? He most likely won’t.

And that’s why I HATE poison ivy. Yet another aspect of The Fall (pun intended) that reminds us that “the world is our ship, not our home”–St. Therese of Lisieux.

Please pray for my dear boy. Not even chocolate chip pancakes can ease his suffering…

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