In Philip Pullman's fable, The Firework Maker's Daughter Lila was, as a baby, "a cross little thing, always crying and refusing her food, but Lalchand [her father] 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, Lila shows a marked talent for pyrotechnics, even inventing her own fireworks with names like "Shimmering Coins" and "Tumbling Demons". However, when Lila tells her father that she'd like to become a master firework-maker, like him, he's appalled. 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 having to marry, so she decides to run away to Mount Merapi, where every firework-maker must go in order 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 wild animals, pirates, and supernatural beings of every kind until, at last, Lila must face the scariest obstacle of all: her own fear.
This is a charming tale, beautifully illustrated, and will appeal to girls who are less fond of "girly" things.
The Firework Maker's Daughter is also available from Amazon.com.