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  Sorry for the delay in my hit, but I needed to finish reading "The
Subtle Knife"  I too did not see the separation of the children from
their daemons (pg. 42 in the hardback edition) as sexual mutilation.  Is
this process more fully described in "The Golden Compass" or "The Amber
Spyglass"?  Can someone give me a page number?  I read this book
carefully so I don't think I missed it.
  I do not wish to toss off the parent's concerns, but I truthfully
found "The Subtle Knife" very absorbing and I did not think that the
dark characters were modeled solely on organized religion.  I think any
reader who is sophisticated enough to understand this book will be able
to discriminate between the attractions of evil and the intrinsic
validity of living a moral life. It certainly presented that choice in
all its complexities. Now, on to "The Amber Spyglass"!
  I have decided to implement a Material Selection Policy with a
Challenge procedure to help with the next time this issue arises.  I'm
inclined now to keep this book on my shelf and restrict it to 6-8 grade

Below is a copy of my original query.

Dear Members,
>    I recently had a parent express grave concern
> regarding the inclusion
> of this book in our collection - K-8 Catholic
> elementary school.  She
> specifically mentioned the child sexual mutilation
> and the use the
> setting up a quasi ecclestical power structure.
> Have any of you out
> there handled this, I'd be particularly interested
> in the general point
> of view of other Catholic school librarians. TIA.
> Teresa Pelusi, Librarian K-8
> Our Lady of Mount Carmel School
> Doylestown, PA 18901
> tpelusi@home.com

   I owned SUBTLE KNIFE and GOLDEN COMPASS at my last
middle school and will buy again for my new situation.
 However, I can see your concerns.
   The last book in the "His Dark Materials" series
is, in my opinion, a toatlly different tone from the
first two AND much more adult than the first two.
   I do not have an image of the process which is
described as separating their souls from their bodies,
cutting away their familiars, etc. as sexual
molestation or mutilation.  Where did that come from?
Have you read these books?  The kids always died when
they were operated on and the "energy" was saved for
the evil uses.
   However, my concern, in a Christian environment,
would be the way the dark is glorified and evil has
some rewards.  The "good" seem to be hopelessly doomed
in this series.  And in the third and last book ,
there is an explicit sex scene between the two main
characters that is described as something that is
their fate since they must now spend their lives apart
to "save the world."  Strange to say the least in a
series for young adults.
  Also, they are just very long books, only read by
good readers who enjoy the fantastical and science
fiction.  Maybe on optional purchase for your type of
library and many others with middle school age


I have all three in our small collection...and am waiting for someone to

challenge me on something.  I am wondering if I should put my YA sticker
just to cover myself then I would feel that this could give me some
regarding the student's ability to discern among a variety of
role of fantasy, the church policy in history (Inquisition) and ability
see parallels etc....and the argument that some readers do not link it
the catholic church per se, just like somedo not see the link between
Lewis work and the church...
If you get any other respones please share them...and Good luck with
Frankly, I loved the first book but find the rest rather tedious and

Have you read the series? I think the books are very interesting and
they are part of our public middle school library, but I wondered when
they would be questioned given the fuss over Harry Potter. Philip
Pullman presents the church as part of the forces of control which are
in conflict with the forces of knowlege, sort of like the old garden of
eden story ... Keep me posted.


I have The Subtle Knife on my shelf. It's tagged for Middle School only
(6-8). I have a very supportive principal who supports "liberal" yet
quality fiction.


I haven't read the book, but have it in the library because the students
have enjoyed the other books in the series. No one has taken it out as
yet, but I expect that they will soon. We've had students who have read
it from the library, and one mother was concerned that it seemed to
attack religion. The reviews have all been glowing and I remember
reading an interview of Pullman in a recent issue of SLJ (April? May?)
that discussed the Subtle Knife and the religion aspect, if that might

I think that as Catholic school librarians we are more sensitive to
certain themes and can choose to not include them on the shelf, but when
I waffle on this issue in my own library, I usually step back and put
the specific passages in context of the book. At that point the value of
the book usually overcomes the passages that I question. I do have a
(Challenge) policy in place in anticipation of a parent who may think a
book is inappropriate. But, with 7th and 8th grade students who are
ready to move on to more mature themes you can't not put those kinds of
books in the library. I have these books in separate section so that the
younger kids can't check them out. With this particular book, it is not
espousing or teaching anti-religion, is it? It's a point of view and how
are kids supposed to form consciences unless they read or think about
other points of views? They could always skip over that part anyway. I
recently read The Kite, with a few gruesome paragraphs about animal
mutilation that just turned my stomach, so I warn the kids who take out
that book.  Anyway, keeping it out of the library won't keep it out of
the hands of the readers and having it in the library doesn't endorse
the writing. If that were the case, you'd have to take out all the books
on the Holocaust (which I think is more disturbing than fiction) and
drugs and any other book that discusses unpleasant topics.

I realize this isn't answering your question, but you asked for our
point of view, and I always have one of those! As I said, I haven't read
the book and don't know how gory/disgusting/revolting the child
mutilation scene is, but if the descriptions don't further the plot or
characterization and are gratuitous, then that should help decide if it
stays or goes. I'd be interested in hearing how others view this and
what you decide to do. The reason that I wrote a Reconsideration policy
is that I want to be ready in case I have a similar situation.


Thanks to all my colleagues who so graciously shared their point of view
with me.  Your help is invaluable!

Teresa Pelusi, Librarian K-8
Our Lady of Mount Carmel School
Doylestown, PA 18901

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