The ideas behind the books
Whitbread Prize for The Amber Spyglass
It is a marvellous achievement for Philip Pullman to have won the prestigious 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year Award for his book The Amber Spyglass. For the first time in the Award's history a children's book has scooped the main prize. The book was first awarded the prize for Whitbread Children's Book of the Year, and thereby became eligible for the overall Whitbread Book of the Year Award.
In winning this prize Philip Pullman has again focused the attention of the general reading public on children's literature. What more could we wish for, in the world of children's literature, than for it to be judged on the same terms as all other contemporary literature? In The Amber Spyglass you will find a fine fantasy adventure. You will also find reference to great literature of previous ages, specifically The Bible and John Milton's Paradise Lost. It also provokes in the reader much thought on the future role of religion in our society, and contemporary moral issues. (Censorship, morality and the law).
I have never understood the need to distinguish children's literature from the rest of literature. Obviously, some stories are unsuitable for telling to young readers, but that should not diminish the standard of storytelling employed in telling stories to the young. And as we are on the point of rediscovering, a great story, well told, is a universal joy. Now, if we want high-quality children's literature, we must all read it and discuss it and recognise its place in society.