About the author Philip Pullman
Pullman was born in Norwich, Norfolk, England, to RAF pilot Alfred Outram and Audrey Evelyn Merrifield. The family travelled with his father's job, including to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he spent time at school. His father was killed in a plane crash in 1953 when Pullman was seven. His mother remarried and with a move to Australia came Pullman's discovery of comic books including Superman and Batman, a medium which he continues to espouse. From 1957 he was educated at Ysgol Ardudwy school in Harlech, Gwynedd and spent time in Norfolk with his grandfather, a clergyman. Around this time Pullman discovered John Milton's Paradise Lost, which would become a major influence for His Dark Materials.
From 1963 Pullman attended Exeter College, Oxford, receiving a Third class BA in 1968, in an interview with the Oxford Student he stated that "he did not really enjoy the English course" and that "I thought I was doing quite well until I came out with my third class degree and then I realised that I wasn’t — it was the year they stopped giving fourth class degrees otherwise I’d have got one of those". He discovered William Blake's illustrations around 1970, which would also later influence him greatly
Pullman married Judith Speller in 1970 and began teaching children and writing school plays. His first published work was The Haunted Storm, which joint-won the New English Library's Young Writer's Award in 1972. He nevertheless refuses to discuss it. Galatea, an adult fantasy-fiction novel, followed in 1978, but it was his school plays which inspired his first children's book, Count Karlstein, in 1982. He stopped teaching around the publication of The Ruby in the Smoke (1986), his second children's book, whose Victorian setting is indicative of Pullman's interest in that era.
Pullman taught part-time at Westminster College, Oxford between 1988 and 1996, continuing to write children's stories. He began His Dark Materials about 1993. Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in the US) was published in 1996 and won the Carnegie Medal, one of the most prestigious British children's fiction awards, and the Guardian Children's Fiction Award.
Pullman has been writing full-time since 1996, but continues to deliver talks and writes occasionally for The Guardian. He was awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours list in 2004. Pullman also began lecturing at a seminar in English at his alma mater, Exeter College, Oxford, in 2004. He is currently working on The Book of Dust, a sequel to his completed His Dark Materials trilogy.
About the Author Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist. She is best known for the novel Little Women, published in 1868. This novel is loosely based on her childhood experiences with her three sisters.
Alcott was a daughter of noted Transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail May Alcott. Louisa's father started the Temple School; her uncle, Samuel Joseph May, was a noted abolitionist. Though of New England parentage and residence, she was born in Germantown, which is currently part of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She had three sisters: one elder (Anna Pratt Alcott) and two younger (Elizabeth Sewall Alcott and May Alcott). The family moved to Boston in 1834 or 1835, where her father established an experimental school and joined the Transcendental Club with Emerson and Thoreau.
During her childhood and early adulthood, she shared her family's poverty and Transcendentalist ideals. In 1840, after several setbacks with the school, her family moved to a cottage on two acres along the Sudbury River in Concord, Massachusetts. The Alcott family moved to the Utopian Fruitlands community for a brief interval in 1843-1844, and then after its collapse to rented rooms, and subsequently a house in Concord purchased with her mother's inheritance and help from Emerson. Alcott's early education had included lessons from the naturalist Henry David Thoreau but had chiefly been in the hands of her father. She also received some instruction from writers and educators such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller, who were all family friends. She later described these early years in a newspaper sketch entitled "Transcendental Wild Oats", afterwards reprinted in the volume Silver Pitchers (1876), which relates the experiences of her family during their experiment in "plain living and high thinking" at Fruitlands.
As she grew older, she developed as both an abolitionist and a feminist. In 1847, the family housed a fugitive slave for one week; in 1848 Alcott read and admired the "Declaration of Sentiments" published by the Seneca Falls Convention on women's rights. Due to the family's poverty, she began work at an early age as an occasional teacher, seamstress, governess, domestic helper, and writer — her first book was Flower Fables (1854), tales originally written for Ellen Emerson, daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
In 1860, Alcott began writing for the Atlantic Monthly, and she was nurse in the Union Hospital at Georgetown, D.C., for six weeks in 1862-1863. Her letters home, revised and published in the Commonwealth and collected as Hospital Sketches (1863, republished with additions in 1869), garnered her first critical recognition for her observations and humor. Her novel Moods (1864), was also promising.
A lesser-known part of her work are the passionate, fiery novels and stories she wrote, usually under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard. These works, such as A Long Fatal Love Chase and Pauline's Passion and Punishment, were known in the Victorian Era as "potboilers" or "blood-and-thunder tales." Her character Jo in "Little Women" publishes several such stories but ultimately rejects them after being told that they are "dangerous for little minds." Their protagonists are willful and relentless in their pursuit of their own aims, which often include revenge on those who have humiliated or thwarted them. These works achieved immediate commercial success and remain highly readable today.