Today in YA History: October 19, 1946 – Phillip Pullman born!

October 19, 1946: Author Phillip Pullman (“His Dark Materials”) is born in Norwich, England.

As a child, Mr. Pullman and his family traveled to England, Zimbabwe, and Australia for his father’s Air Force pilot job. When Pullman was seven, however, his father was killed in a plane crash. After his mother remarried and the new family moved to Australia, Pullman discovered and fell in love with comics like Superman and Batman. He spent time with his clergyman grandfather, and discovered what would become a major influence on his more popular works: John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

In 1970, Pullman married Judith Speller (they have two sons, James and Thomas.) At 25, he became a teacher for Oxford Middle School and then later Westminster College. He would often write the school plays. Though he loves education, he has been critical of schooling, saying, “My main concern is that an over-emphasis on testing and league tables has led to a lack of time and freedom for a true, imaginative and humane engagement with literature.”

In 1982, Pullman’s first children’s book, “Count Karlstien”, was published. He has written more than 30 novels, plays, and short stories. Much of his work deals with fairy tales or re-told fairy tales.

Though his most well-known work by far is the His Dark Materials trilogy, beginning with Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass if you’re reading in the US). Started in 1993 while Pullman was teaching part-time at Westminster College in Oxford, it was published in 1995 and promptly won the most prestigious British children’s fiction award, the Carnegie Medal. Mr. Pullman left his position with the college in 1996 to write full-time.

The second book, The Subtle Knife, was published in 1995 with the finale, The Amber Spyglass, arriving in 2000.

In 2008, Pullman started working on the sequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy and Lyra’s Oxford. On his website, he speaks about The Book of Dust:

“And finally, The Book of Dust. My work on this has been interrupted over the past couple of years, but the book is growing slowly and before long I shall take it up again full-time. What can I tell you about it? Nothing, except that it’s by far the most important thing I’m doing, and I intend to do it as well as I possibly can. When it’s finished, you’ll hear about it, I guarantee.”

Pullman has “a strong commitment to traditional British civil liberties and is noted for his criticism of growing state authority and government encroachment into everyday life. Later, he and other authors threatened to stop visiting schools in protest at new laws requiring them to be vetted to work with youngsters.” (From BBC News July 16, 2009)

Mr. Pullman also enjoys drawing–check out some of his illustrations for the His Dark Materials series on his site here!

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One thought on “Today in YA History: October 19, 1946 – Phillip Pullman born!

  1. I adore Phillip Pullman, and have already (possibly prematurely) started reading His Dark Materials to my 4 year old son. I had never seen those illustrations before. Thank you so much for sharing them!

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