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The Firework-Maker's Daughter Hardcover – October 1, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"A thousand miles ago, in a country east of the jungle and south of the mountains, there lived a firework-maker called Lalchand and his daughter, Lila."

Lila, the heroine of Philip Pullman's charming fable, was, as a baby, "a cross little thing, always crying and refusing her food, but Lalchand built a cradle for her in the corner of the workshop, where she could see the sparks play and listen to the fizz and crackle of the gunpowder." Once out of her cradle, she showed a marked talent for pyrotechnics, even inventing her own fireworks with names like Tumbling Demons and Shimmering Coins. Nevertheless, when Lila tells her father she'd like to become a master firework-maker, he's shocked. Firework-making is no job for a girl, he tells her; besides, with her burned fingers and singed eyebrows, he's afraid he'll never be able to find a husband for her.

If Lalchand is horrified by Lila's ambitions, his daughter is equally appalled by the prospect of a husband. Instead, she decides to run away to Mount Merapi, where every firework-maker must go to claim some of the royal sulphur from Razvani the Fire-Fiend. Lila's adventures on the road to Merapi alternate with those of her best friend, Chulak, and his talking white elephant, Hamlet, who set out after her when they learn something that could mean life or death for Lila. Along the way, they meet pirates, wild animals, and supernatural beings of every stripe until, at last, Lila must face the scariest obstacle of all: her own fear. Pullman invests The Firework-Maker's Daughter with wit, wonder, and more than a few goose bumps. The charm of the prose is reflected in the black and white illustrations by S. Saelig Gallagher that punctuate this slim novel. Though not as sophisticated as Pullman's remarkable fantasy novels The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife, this engaging story does share a courageous heroine, an exciting adventure, and a singular philosophy that ties everything together in a deeply satisfying denouement. (Ages 9 to 12) --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

This comical adventure about a girl who longs to follow in her father's footsteps crackles with Pullman's (The Golden Compass; Clockwork) usual flair. Lila desperately wants to be a firework-maker like her widower father. Although he has raised her amid the dancing sparks, he wants her to have a husband rather than a vocation. With the help of her entrepreneurial friend Chulak, the personal servant to the king's talking white elephant, Lila tricks her father into revealing the secret to his profession, then bravely departs to retrieve the royal sulphur from Razvani the Fire-Fiend at the heart of a volcano. Pullman marries elements of fairy tale with slapstick humor as Lila outwits a vaudevillian band of pirates and scales jagged mountains on her quest. Gallagher's (Blue Willow, reviewed above) softly focused graphite drawings lend magical mystery as Lila fearfully contemplates the dancing fire imps at Mount Merapi and emphasize the absurdity as the elephant, his flanks emblazoned with advertisements, kneels before the Goddess of the Lake in order to save Lila from Razvani. If the tale, first published in Britain in 1995, isn't as polished as Pullman's other works, it's worth the trip just for the climactic fireworks scene in which Lila gets to show her stuff. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) FYI: As of September, Pullman's Sally Lockhart Trilogy is being reissued in paperback: The Ruby in the Smoke; The Shadow in the North; and The Tiger in the Well; as well as The Tin Princess, which features characters from the trilogy. (Knopf, $4.99 paper each ages 12-up ISBN 0-394-89589-4; -82599-3; ISBN 0-679-82671-8; -87615-4)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 870L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books; 1st edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590187198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590187190
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,215,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Philip Pullman never ceases to amaze me with his versatility-- from the complex His Dark Materials series, to his gothic (and surprisingly funny) Count Karlestein, to the creepy Clockwork... The Firework-Maker's Daughter is different from anything I've read by Pullman before, and yet it possesses his trademark wit. Short and aimed at a younger audience, The Firework-Maker's Daughter is nonetheless a lot of fun for even older readers. Lila and her various friends and types of fireworks are absolutely charming. While Pullman's tone is decidedly more satirical than Lloyd Alexander's, if you liked either Alexander's quest-type books or Philip Pullman's other works, you'll enjoy this one.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book to my 2 kids (7 and 10) and they loved it! The tale is an engaging, not too- predictable story of a girl who wants to follow her father's trade. There is much rich langugage and a variety of characters all neatly brought together and woven into the story. There is much imagination and wry wit. If you are looking for a fairly short (just over 100 pages) slightly fantasy/fiction book for your kids, give this one a try!
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By A Customer on November 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved the cast of colourful characters that fill this book. I think my favourite was uncle Rambashi - the failed chicken farmer and part-time pirate. An engaging story with a strong female protagonist - explosive!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this story aloud to 12 kids at summer camp. The children ranged in age from 6 to 10, and all of them were spellbound. We had a couple of interruptions during the last chapter, and each time I had to stop reading, however briefly, they pleaded with me to keep going...please!!!

Any book that can hold the attention of such a varied group of children so strongly must be good! And it is! The characters are distinct and vibrant, the language crackles and swirls delectably, the plot moves briskly and the ending is momentous, wondrous, satisfying and sweet.
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Format: Paperback
"The Firework Maker's Daughter" is a rollicking fairy tale that reminded me of James Thurber's fairy tales like "The White Deer" and "The Thirteen Clocks". It also reminded me a bit of the Oz books. I loved Rambishi the bumbling pirate, and the fireworks display at the end, especially the Bombardenorgelmitsparkenpumpe. This story is much lighter than Pullman's other works, but just as inventive. It would make a great read-aloud story.
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Format: Hardcover
Philip Pullman's wonderful story of the Firework-Maker's Daughter deserves ongoing mention as a timeless title which will earn a lasting place on library shelves. Lola wants to be a fireworks maker - a position usually reserved for men. She learns all she can from her father, but he balks at providing her final instructions in the advanced arts despite her obvious skills - so she embarks on a dangerous journey to the heart of fire to earn her own skills. Absorbing.
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Format: Hardcover
Marvelous tale involves Hamlet, the king's talking white elephant, who escapes with his personal servant to search for a missing friend, Lila, the firework-maker's daughter.
It is told with humorous twists in the style of an ancient legend. The illustrations by Gallagher are extraordinarily wonderful graphite drawings which have a photographic quality and a mythical look of their own.
Eminently readable by ages 10 through adult.
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Format: Paperback
Philip Pullman is an extraordinary writer-- he is more celebrated in Britain than in the US -- so far...but watch for some of his books to be made into films also. This small novel is just as it says on the front cover "sheer genius" -- just charming tale about a little girl who is actually the daughter of a firework maker in China and it celebrates individuality and the extraordinary....who will marry Lila with her burned fingers and strange career? It folows her on the perilous journey to face the terrifying Fire Fiend -- will she survive...hilarious lovable characters who are a perfect complement for readers who love Harry Potter or even for those who don't. Great read aloud book -- could be read through the rest of the summer as a project....enjoy....good for adults and kids-- a great family book...exploring other cultures and other role models.
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