You Should Read This: The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken

The cover of the Serial Garden, fantasy stories by Joan Aiken, reviewed by speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo.

While the stories deal with the members of the Armitage family, a wide cast of characters floats in and out of the stories: visiting wizards, fairy godmothers, a stray unicorn, mischievous cousins and envious witches.

Joan Aiken is most familiar to readers for her children’s novels such as The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea. But she was a talented story writer as well, producing Dahl-esque modern day stories that often rely on supernatural elements.

What: The Serial Garden: The Complete Family Armitage Stories by Joan Aiken is a collection of children’s stories written by Aiken. The Armitage family moves through a landscape reminiscent of the England of the Pevensies or Would-Be_Goods and they have the same, non-cloying sweetness to them.

Who: Read this if you’re a MG or YA author looking for inspiration. Or if you’re a parent looking for some solid reading to share with your children..

Why: Read it because Aiken knows how to construct a short story. Look at how deftly she weaves in elements, tying them all up in endings that are unpredictable but ineffably right.

When: Read it in the evenings, as befits fairy tales.

Where and How: Read it if you’re in the mind for a little gentle silliness and the ghost of a governess conducting midnight lessons.


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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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