Tag Archives: Philip Pullman


Author: Philip Pullmanclockwork

Illustrator: Leonid Gore

My rating: 4.5 of 5

In a small German town, a group of townsfolk gather by the fireside in the tavern to hear a story. And a horrifying tale it is, in keeping with the usual for Fritz, one of princes and strange happenings and creepy clockwork makers. But things go from typically frightening to truly terrifying when said creepy clockwork maker walks right into the tavern in a gust of wintry air as if he’d stepped right out of Fritz’s story by magic.

I love Philip Pullmans’ writing, both the craftsmanship of it and the variety of it. I think Clockwork might be surprising–and possibly disappointing–to those who know his work mainly from the His Dark Materials books. Rather than being some big fantasy tale, Clockwork is a tightly woven, neat little fairy tale of novella length. And viewed as what it is, I think this book works excellently. The characters are distinct, and you get to know exactly what you need to about them to really appreciate the roles they play in the story. And the interwoven storylines fit together while still leaving just enough unexplained to maintain the eeriness of the story. The atmosphere and the tension that’s developed throughout is one of the strongest points of this story, to my mind–one of the reasons this works best as a novella, since this atmosphere would be impossible (or at least exhausting for the reader) to maintain through a longer story. Finally, this book has the makings of an excellent fairy tale: the sense of rightness, the magic, the darkness, and the happy ending. For those who love a good dark fairy tale, I would definitely recommend Clockwork.



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I Was a Rat!

Author: Philip Pullman

A lonely, older couple find their lives turned upside down when they take in a little boy wearing a page’s uniform and making a most extraordinary claim: “I was a rat.” The boy, who they dub Roger, certainly behaves very rattily–gnawing and eating anything at hand, fearing cats, and having no idea about proper manners. Whatever he may have been, he is certainly a boy now, and old Bob and Joan are glad to accept him as-is . . . only the rest of the country might not take to their ratty boy as readily, especially when the media gets involved. And when things look their darkest, Roger finds an advocate in perhaps the most unexpected person possible–an event which gets its own media twist!

Philip Pullman never ceases to amaze or amuse; he’s a wonderful author! I Was a Rat! is perhaps one of his most unusual works–an extraordinary outtake on the classic Cinderella story, actually, although you won’t see that until the very end. The story is imaginative, touching, and funny–as well as being an excellent satire of the media and their effects on the public’s opinions. Roger is an extremely original character, exactly what you would expect from someone who had been a rat and was magically transformed into a human boy with complete capability but no experience. But beyond his rattiness, Roger is also a really good kid and an interesting one. The variety of other characters in the story is also excellent. Really, I would highly recommend I Was a Rat! to anyone, especially if you enjoy sweet, humorous, and satirical storytelling at its best!

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Two Crafty Criminals!

two crafty criminalsAuthor: Philip Pullman

My rating: 4 of 5

Criminals beware–the New Cut Gang is on the case! For that matter, the innocent should probably be on their guard too, as this rambunctious crew of youngsters are quite as likely to pull their older, slower friends into the chaos as they are to apprehend the crook. Whether it’s aiding a struggling courtship, making a street vendor famous, or breaking someone out of jail, the New Cut Gang is up to the task. And (rather miraculously) they catch the criminals as well!

Two Crafty Criminals! is a fun bundle of hijinks, action, and humor. It portrays 1890s London quite well, particularly in the dialect, but also in numerous historical details and in the general “feel” of the story. The style is a bit younger in intended audience and more hyperbolic that I’m used to seeing in Pullman’s writing, but it works well for the story. Actually, for both stories, as this book was originally published as two shorter stories (around 125 pages each), Thunderbolt’s Waxwork and The Gas-Fitters’ Ball. Both stories go together though, and I’m glad to find them published together. I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys a romping good mystery (or just a good romp).

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The Scarecrow and His Servant

Author: Philip Pullmthe scarecrow and his servantan

My rating: 5 of 5

Although I was originally familiar with Pullman’s work primarily through the His Dark Materials trilogy, it has been pleasant to discover his other works, which are at least as original and enjoyable as the trilogy. In The Scarecrow and His Servant, Jack and his master, an animated scarecrow, wander aimlessly across a country that may or may not be Italy (the names sound Italian, in any case). At least, the wandering seems episodic and aimless initially; however, on closer examination, a clear and well-executed plot appears. There is a strong feel of Don Quixote in the mad romps of this pair, as the scarecrow indulges in his bold but quite mad  fancies while Jack engages his cleverness to pull them back from the brink of disaster time and time again.  Pullman’s combination of engaging characters, amusing situations, and general wit make this a fascinating and enjoyable read which I would recommend to just about anyone.

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