The Firework Maker's Daughter
London, Corgo, 1995, 101p
This story is a delightful little short read, set in far away China. It feels like a folk tale, full of goddesses and demons, magic and morality. The illustrations by Nick Harris frame the story, with pictures of the characters and events (though surprisingly few pictures of fireworks).
Lila is The Firework Maker's Daughter - she must climb Mount Merapi and face the Fire-Fiend in order to complete her training. It is a dangerous mission, and Lila is not fully prepared, so her friends must come to her aid.
Again, Pullman uses the trope of the child hero. Lila's journey is a dangerous one, but she is a brave and determined girl. Like Lyra, her innocence is a blessing, as she is unaware of the potential risks her journey entails. The friends who help her are a White Elephant, Hamlet, and his young carer, Chulak. Hamlet is owned by the King, and Lila's father helps them escape in order to help Lila. They are a unconventional team, but I would definitely want them to help me.
Whereas many of Pullman's teenage novels are complex and heavy, this is a lovely short read that could be shared and enjoyed by all the family. It has more recently been adapted for the stage, and I imagine it is a delight to see, with fireworks and demons and a giant elephant - the sort of story that translates brilliant into a visual extravaganza.