Golden Compass (Chris Weitz) -2007

In a parallel universe where everyone has a talking pet (demon), a really smart 11-year-old orphan girl (Dakota Blue Richards) goes looking for the lost children to free them from the Gobblers.  Along the way, Dakota enlists many allies including witches, Gyptians, Sam Elliot and a well-spoken armored polar bear.  This universe may not have a traditional government or any fast-food franchises, there is no shortage of evil tyrants and special effects.  However, none of the baddies are a match for clever Dakota and her magic 8-ball/Ouija board (aka golden compass).  This is first of three volumes of a fantasy written by Philip Pullman.  These are on my reading list right behind the Harry Potter series, War And Peace in Esperanto and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  [JAM 2/20/2010]