‘Northern Lights’ by Phillip Pullman
Interview with Natalie Harrigan, Child & Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist in training
Why do you like this book?
‘Northern Lights’ takes place in a world very similar to ours but full of fantasy and intrigue. I love how it mixes make-believe elements like witches and armoured bears with important feelings that affect us all – like fear, love, courage and friendship. I am also fascinated with the idea of the human soul living outside of the body in animal form – known in the book as a ‘daemon’.
What does it help children think about?
Lyra has had to leave the well-known streets of her childhood home to embark on a mysterious adventure. Along the way, she has to grapple with her fear of the unknown and with questions about her own identity and family heritage. This may resonate for children and young people who have had to face big changes such as moving house, or starting high school or bigger changes.
Lyra uses her intuition and courage to face new challenges at every turn. As she does so, she can help young readers think about being brave in the face of not knowing, and how hard it can be when questions don’t have easy answers.
What other advice might you give to parents when talking about being brave in the face of the unknown, with their child?
‘Northern Lights’ is a good book for families to talk about together, and begin to think about the challenges and anxieties around growing up and facing changes. It can be reassuring for young people to know that worries about change and uncertainty can be shared and thought about, and that there doesn’t always have to be an immediate ‘solution’ or ‘answer’.