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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 00:14 GMT
Pullman's magic touch delivers
Philip Pullman
The prize-winning author still writes in his shed
Celebrated children's author Philip Pullman has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours.

Philip Pullman is the award-winning author of children's trilogy His Dark Materials.

He was born in Norwich in October 1946 and spent his childhood travelling because his father and step-father were both in the Royal Air Force.

He lived in Australia, South Africa and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, before moving to North Wales at the age of 11.

After graduating with an English degree from Exeter College, Oxford, he became a teacher for 12 years before taking up a post as a part-time lecturer at Oxford's Westminster College.

Golden touch

It was during his time as a teacher that Pullman began to write children's stories, although his first published novel was for adults.

He eventually left teaching to write full-time and still composes his novels in a shed at the bottom of his garden in Oxford.

Cover of The Amber Spyglass
The book has a dark feel

In 1996, he won the prestigious UK children's award The Carnegie Medal for Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy.

A second instalment, The Subtle Knife, and the third, The Amber Spyglass, followed.

The Amber Spyglass was the first children's book to be awarded the Whitbread Prize in 2002, and the trilogy has been translated into more than 20 languages around the world.

The story follows Lyra Belacqua, a young half-wild orphan girl who is plunged into a fantasy world of good and evil.

But unlike books such as Harry Potter, His Dark Materials explores deeper and darker moral territory.

The trilogy has sold more than each of the four Harry Potter books.

The series will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 during January and the trilogy is also being made into a play which premières at the National Theatre in London on Saturday.

The production was originally due to preview at the beginning of December but the ambitious two-part adaptation had to be postponed after technical problems.

What I like to think of as my audience includes children and it includes adults too
Philip Pullman

Pullman was also the first children's author to be on the long list for the Booker Prize.

The author composes his complex stories with the help of tiny sticky notes to link together scenes on a huge piece of paper in his shed.

Pullman believes his books can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

The question of whether fiction is ever aimed at anyone is a very difficult one," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme after winning the Whitbread prize.

"What I like to think of as my audience includes children and it includes adults too.

"The point about it is that it's inclusive. It doesn't shut anyone out. It doesn't say this story's only for girls or only for boys or only for women or anyone else.

"The story's the important thing."

Soap fan

Not everyone is a fan of the author though - he has been accused of being anti-Christian and he was recently described in The Mail on Sunday as "dangerous".

In The Amber Spyglass, one of the main characters is an ex-nun who has lost her faith.

Pullman said: "Wherever you see organised religion and priesthoods and power, you see cruelty and tyranny and repression. It's almost a universal law.

"It's not just Christianity I'm getting at. The reason that the forms of religion in the books seem to be Christian is because that's the world I'm familiar with."

The release of his most recent book, Lyra's Oxford, saw hundreds of fans attend a book signing by the author in his home town.

Pullman said novels must discuss morality or they will slip into the "trivial and worthless", while speaking at the 2002 Edinburgh Book Festival.

But he is not only interested in the highbrow - his publisher's website says he is a big fan of Australian soap opera, Neighbours.

Pullman is married and has two sons.




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