The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories

The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family StoriesI Wish We Ll Have Two Children Called Mark And Harriet And I Hope Lots Of Interesting And Unusual Things Will Happen To Them It Would Be Nice If They Had A Fairy Godmother, For Instance And A Phoenix Or Something Out Of The Ordinary For A Pet We Could Have A Special Day For Interesting And Unusual Things To Happen Say, Mondays But Not Always Mondays, And Not Only Mondays, Or That Would Get A Bit Dull As A Result Of Their Mother S Honeymoon Wish, Mark And Harriet Armitage Have A Fairy Godmother, A Pet Unicorn, And Are Prepared For Anything Life Can Throw At Them Especially, But Not Always, On A Monday Hatching Griffins In The Airing Cupboard, Latin Lessons With A Ghost, Furious Furies On The Doorstep, And An Enchanted Garden Locked Inside A Cereal Packet Life With The Armitages Can Be Magical, Funny, Terrifying But Never, Ever Dull. Written for children these stories originally appeared, scattered here and there, in collections of Aiken s stories first appearing in the 1950s through to the 1980s as a child I was always so pleased when I found one Now Virago has collected them all together, with a new introduction, along with some stories I haven t read before For those who haven t had the pleasure of meeting them Mr and Mrs Armitage, and their children Mark and Harriet, are a very ordinary family who live in a small village The village just happens to be a little bit magical inhabited by witches, unicorns and tiny disgruntled people As Aiken s introduction explains Mr and Mrs Armitage wanted to have a little adventure in their family life and through a quirk of fate got what they wished for although being a very sensible pair they took great care to ensure that the most magical things were confined to Mondays But when they do have encounters these can range from ghostly governesses to angry Furies Although Mr Armitage s inclination is to deal with most incidents by writing to The Times often direct action is required The earliest stories are a little sketchy Aiken was 17 when she wrote the first one but they go
Joan Aiken is one of the most neglected and splendid Children s writers Best known for her Wolves Chronicles starting with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase about the adventures of children in a darkly Dickensian Alternate world in which James III rules England The tales in the Serial Garden are not as dark but just as inventive and fanciful The short stories follow the adventures of the Armitage family An ordinary British Family of the 1950s however Mrs Armitage on her honeymoon thought happily ever after sounded a little dull and wished on a wishing stone that things would never be boring but they couldn t have adventures everyday so Mondays were good but not always on Monday because that would be boring too The adventures focus primarily on the Armitage children, Harriet and Mark who handle a variety of dangerous and magical happenings with a healthy share of creativity and calm Bri
When I read a writer like Joan Aiken, I remember why I m not giving five stars to a lot of other authors Over the years, Aiken wrote a number of stories about the Armitage family, an ordinary British family who have a unicorn in the garden shades of James Thurber Strange and magical things are especially likely to happen to the Armitages on Mondays, but occasionally they happen on different days, confusing everyone For supposedly old fashioned stories, these tales kick the booty out of most of what s being written today Just to give you one example, watch for the delicious absurdity of two elderly druid brothers fighting over a bathmat made of beard hair, or the fact that the Borrowers type small people in this book are fairly obnoxious and tacky, not darling Then there s the poigna
Exceptional My desert island book From my childhood I already knew and deeply loved several of the stories published here But what inexpressible and absolute delight to find other Armitage stories that I was not previously acquainted with Gaps in my knowledge of Armitage family history have thus now been very satisfyingly filled in.Much as I love my own parents, I should have adored to have had Mr and Mrs Armitage as parents What fun that would have been The Armitages are a close knit family They are utterly English These stories 24 were published between 1953 and 2008 yet Mark and Harriet do not age significantly One unquestioningly accepts as being perfectly normal because these stories are that good This is beautiful, imaginative, humourous sometime satiric , poetic, memor
I was a bit skeptical when I heard about these because I m not a big reader of short stories sorry and so loved Aiken s children s novels that I didn t think these would hold up Well, they do than hold up They are absolutely magical Really The Armitage family comes out of the tradition of families like those of Nesbit or Eager There was for me even a tinge of the Peterkins in these stories though, I assure you that these folks are not nearly as bumbling and there is no lady from Philadelphia to bail them out The humor, often involving magic gone wrong, is in the vein of Diana Wynne Jones There are sad moments too, say the
1 23 09 intial read If, like me, you ve grown up reading Joan Aiken you will enjoy this book I ve always loved the stories featuring the Armitage Family scattered through Joan Aiken s many anthologies for
Thanks goes to our wonderful children s librarian who steered me to this utterly delightful series of short stories Although many of the stories in Joan Aiken s The Serial Garden were originally published over fifty years ago, they were completely new to me It s hard to believe I never discovered them before, and I m sorry that my children who are now teenagers never had the pleasure of hearing them read aloud.The Armitages are an English family in the 1950 s who live a rather magical life It all starts when Mrs Armitage muses to Mr Armitage on their honeymoon that she s worried that living happily ever after could be a bit boring Serendipitously she finds a wishing stone and makes a wish that things won t be dull, and that interesting and unusual things will happen to them, perhaps on Mondays, but not always Mondays because that could get boring too She also wishes that her future children will have a fairy godmother And that their house will have at least one ghost Right then and there, the stories are born.Fast forward twelve years or so, and you meet Harriet and Mark, their two plucky children who manage to handle all that comes their way with grace and humor There are witches and unicorns and best friends who are six inches tall Things often go awry, and yet these two continue on, seemingly unperturbed by the chaos that surrounds them They are curious and fearless, whether they are encountering druid brother
I may have just rediscovered the origin of my own fiction This is the complete collection of all the Armitage stories, written by the fantasy writer Joan Aiken throughout her adult entire life, from the age of 18 in the early 1940s until just a few years ago I read many of these stories in different collections when I was young, but never all together As always when rereading something which inspired me when I was young, but which is now of a warm fuzzy memory rather than something sharp and specific, I was a bit hesitant about reading this collection And the first few stories were almost too short to get my teeth into, and almost devoid of tension just lovely ideas stretched a little but very quickly I was hooked again The stories are about a seemingly ordinary family English, middle class, boarding schools, maid and cook, etc ie not ordinary in my world, but nevertheless an ordinary kind of literary Englishness who constantly have the strangest magical things happen to them furies on their doorstep, a ghost as a lodger, wizards requisitioning their house, u
Well, I m ruined for Mondays now The plain, ordinary, non Armitage Mondays, that is the kind that s no different than any other day ButI don t suppose everyone can be so lucky as the Armitages and get Unicorns appearing on their lawns, or Druids fighting in the exterior bathroom you won in a contest from a soap company.Besides, it wouldn t be any fun to have Furies waiting outside your door, or offended fairy ladies turning your cat into a werewol
Do not take seriously, except the bits that give you pleasure to do so Anything negative you feel is something that she s tweaking the nose of, satirizing Maybe fans of Wodehouse Jeeves would appreciate I m surprised at myself being able to let go of my stick in the mud pragmatism and just dive into these Think of the firm of Wright, Wright, Wright, Wright, and Wrong Think of the riddle What s sadder than a lost child If you d