Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Serial Garden

The title: The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories
The author: Joan Aiken
Publication: Big Mouth House*, 2008
Got it from: MC

Before there was Harry Potter, there was his smarter predecessor, Joan Aiken's delightful Armitage family.  Back when Mr. and Mrs. Armitage were first married, Mrs. Armitage made a wish on a wishing-stone that their lives would never be boring.  Years later, young Harriet and Mark Armitage experience a life full of strange occurrences (usually on a Monday), which they take in stride with good humour.  A unicorn that shows up in the garden?  A governess ghost who is still trying to teach?  A doll sized family in the attic?  No big deal.  

Each of these short stories can be read as a self-contained treasure, but they are loosely linked and best read in chronological order.  (Joan Aiken wrote them starting in 1944 and continuing until, incredibly, her death in 2004.)  Each story is really a mystery to solve.  The formula runs like this: bizarre events happen, children uncover the reason why, unexpected resolution, things return to normal, Mr. Armitage makes a hilariously sarcastic comment, The End.  Toward the end of the book, the stories start taking on darker, deeper layers that I won't spoil.  Suffice to say that intelligent adults and children will be satisfied.

*Looking at the back of the book, I see the publisher has the following statement: "A new imprint devoted to fiction for readers of all ages.  We will publish one or two weird and great titles (short story collections and novels) per year. We expect to publish books for readers ages 10 and up."  How awesome is that???

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