Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Andi Watson

Joan Aiken's short stories are always bathed in moonlight - fantastical, horrifying, haunting, and gently humorous. In The Serial Garden, all the stories of the eccentrically normal Armitage family are collected for the first time - plus four new stories.

The cons: There are several disconcerting typos in the collection. Also, although it's implied in the introduction (at least to me) that the new stories continue the story of Mr. Johansen, this is not the case. The artwork is rather...odd. The cover illustrations of Harriet and Mark make them look like rather ill adults, while the black and white chapter heading illustrations are extremely childish.

The pros: This is Joan Aiken! The Armitages! Wonderful, magical stories, all together in one place! The four new stories are the chilling "Kitty Snickersnee", hauntingly tragic "Goblin Music", classicly Aiken "The Chinese Dragon", and "Don't Go Fishing on Witches' Day" which shows Mark and Harriet moving into the future.

Verdict: Sadly, Joan Aiken has fallen out of style with most modern children. Poor things, they have deprived childhoods and don't know it. However, if you take the time to booktalk it to those certain kids who will appreciate it, there will be an audience. If you have the budget for a little indulgence, go for it!

ISBN: 978-1931520577; Published October 2008 by Big Mouth House; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library; Purchased for my private collection


Gavin said...

Hi Jennifer, I'm glad you enjoyed the stories, if not the design, of The Serial Garden. It would be great if you could email me (to info at or post the typos you found so that we could correct them if there's a second printing. Cheers, Gavin Grant, Big Mouth House

Jennifer said...

Drat. I had them written down and now I can't find them. The one I specifically remember was in The Apple of Trouble at the end, Mark shoots his uncle in the "eel" instead of heel. I'll have to get the book back from the library to find the other two (-:) Here's hoping for another edition!

Gavin said...

Ah, yes, that's one we have. Sorry about that: we had to retype all the stories and there are certainly a few transcription errors. We're hoping to do another volume of Aiken stories next year, fingers crossed on that.
Thanks again, Gavin.