Every so often, I find a book at the library that I am determined to buy my own copy of even before I finish reading it. This time it's the fabulous collection of children's short stories by Joan Aiken called The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories. Yet again, I feel cheated by not having found these stories as a child. I suppose that British 1950's children's fantasy short stories could have been overlooked by my suburban Los Angeles librarian but it's also entirely possible that these books were sitting right on my library shelves and I just never saw them.
This is a collection of twenty-four stories about the Armitage family, written by Aiken between 1953 and 1998. She is also the author of the Wolves of Willoughby Chase series and many other children's novels and some Jane Austen sequels. The Armitages are a mother, father, daughter and son (with a new baby son in the very last story). The children are Harriet and Mark, school-aged youths who live in a world similar to our own -- except for the magic that surrounds them and causes them to have an inordinate number of adventures and problems. Before they were born, their mother wished on a magic ring that "lots of interesting and unusual things" would happen to her children. Her wish came true and the Armitage children were never bored.
In these stories, you can find
-mischievous metal men
-ghosts, griffins and goblins
-intolerable aunts and uncles
-witches with grudges
-witches with a taste for children
and a magical garden that brings about the saddest things to happen in any of these stories. I am not going to wait to put a copy of this book on our shelves. These will make perfect bedtime stories for Z in a year or two.
In love with the magic given to British children,
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