cover image LYRA'S OXFORD


Philip Pullman, . . Knopf, $10.95 (49pp) ISBN 978-0-375-82819-5

Fans who can't get enough of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy will embrace this small, gifty-looking cloth volume, which packages a short story about trilogy heroine Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon along with such ephemera as a beautifully engraved, fold-out map of the alternate-reality Oxford which Lyra inhabits, a postcard of Oxford sent by Mary Malone (inventor of the amber spyglass that was featured in the trilogy's final installment) and a brochure for a cruise aboard the S.S. Zenobia . A foreword teasingly explains that these items "might be connected with the story, or they might not; they might be connected to stories that haven't appeared yet. It's not easy to tell." The story itself involves a witch's daemon who asks Lyra to guide it to the home of Oxford alchemist Sebastian Makepeace; as the narrative unfolds, Lyra learns that the task is not as straightforward as it appears, and that she herself may be in some danger. Readers can use the map to trace Lyra's path to Makepeace's establishment readily enough, and they might enjoy the "advertisements" and "publisher's notices" printed on the reverse side (one title is by perfidious Marisa Coulter). Making sense of the other materials poses more of a challenge, however. Could the empty bench featured in Malone's postcard be the site of Lyra and Will's farewell in the Amber Spyglass ? Does the voyage of the Zenobia point to a future publication? Those who like their storytelling delivered conventionally may find the presentation precious or frustrating; but puzzle enthusiasts will enjoy poring over the clues. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)