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The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  592 ratings  ·  111 reviews
This is the first complete collection of Joan Aiken’s beloved Armitage stories—and it includes four new, unpublished stories. After Mrs. Armitage makes a wish, the Armitage family has “interesting and unusual” experiences every Monday (and the occasional Tuesday). The Board of Incantation tries to take over their house to use as a school for young wizards; the Furies come ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 328 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Big Mouth House (first published September 5th 2008)
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4.19  · 
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 ·  592 ratings  ·  111 reviews

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Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 hap
Kate Coombs
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 m ...more
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of first-class literature.
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
Monica Edinger
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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 more 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 Ph ...more
MB (What she read)
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to MB (What she read) by: I'll read anything of hers I can lay my hands on.
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 their whimsy and sheer fun. So it was truly wonderful to find them collected together for the first time! I revisted many old favorites and found several new to me. What a treasure!

Re-read in 2012.

And re-read again 7/22/14.
Robin Gaphni
Aug 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Lari Don
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-books
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 more of a warm fuzzy memory rather than something sharp ...more
Ghost Ryter
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. But...I 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 werewolf. And who wants a Griffin for a pet anyway
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 don't know the answer, I feel sad for your child.) I do hope fo ...more
Disclaimer: a collection of Aiken's stories was one of my favourite books in my late childhood, and I was bound to be partial. I loved The Serial Garden to bits, for a few reasons apart from the excellent writing and the somewhat darkish feel of some of the stories.

I love how the author incorporates parents (and what parents!) into their children's adventures; whatever transpires at the Armitage's on Mondays (but sometimes other days, too) is a direct result of Mrs Armitage's honeymoon wish. Pa
Because of a wish Mrs. Armitage made while she and Mr. Armitage were on their honeymoon, Mark and Harriet Armitage and their parents have a series of magical, surprising things happen to them, generally on Mondays: unicorns, witches, spells, fairy godmothers, dragons, griffins, and even twenty-three duchesses and a swimming pool full of pink ice cream. These stories were really delightful, and I can't imagine how I've missed reading any of them all these years (probably my fault for tending to a ...more
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Only one and a half stories left, and I don't want it to end.

The stories are so funny and delightful, and I say this as a person who dislikes short stories. Perfect mini fantasy tales which were also enjoyed by my six year old.
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ive been reading The Serial Garden with my younger sister all summer. The stories are occasionally a bit dated, but they are funny and smart and full of earnest emotion. Aiken's style is a tad stilted, but in a way that works, always adding to the humor, wit, and excitement of the tales. Aiken doesn't flinch away from darkness or serious concerns and she never talks down to her audience, but the stories (even the melancholy "Goblin Music" or the heartbreaking title story) never forget that child ...more
The Armitage family is cursed with the gift of never being bored. This collection of short stories--very short, many only 10 pages--follows their whimsical adventures, like the plague of unicorns in the garden, or the time ornery witches transformed the parents into ladybugs. The success is in its continuity: later stories nod at previous events and to events unchronicled (noodle incidents that parallel the ridiculous truth of known events), creating a necessary sense of consequence to endings w ...more
Jared Shurin
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely glorious. Whimsical and joyous and really very perfect.

(For folks shopping for kids, it is worth noting that both of the young Armitage children - Mark and Harriet - have equally fun, active, and interesting adventures which is always really nice to see.)
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Enchanting. I am not a huge fan of short stories, but in this collection the stories are linked because they are all about the same family, so they read more like an episodic novel. This leads to a couple of inconsistencies, but nothing that matters: you simply accept that they were written over a long period, when the author felt like adding to them. They are a little like the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones, with more than a touch of Harry Potter, but they are light and funny and char ...more
Eva Mitnick
Dec 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, children
My expectations were very, very high, so it's not surprising that the first two stories didn't instantly meet them. But I kept reading, and by the end of the collection, I was a citizen of that strange little English village inhabited by a large family of 6" people, a unicorn, a multitude of witches (er, I mean old fairy ladies), druids, and plenty of ordinary folks who mostly manage to live and let live, so far as their magical neighbors are concerned. Lucky, lucky Mark and Harriet, to be able ...more
Erina Lee
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Okay, yes, this is a collection of children stories. Kind of a guilty indulgence. But this book, set in a household where it's common and even expected to find unicorns trampling the lawn and potatoes turned to beautiful glass apples every Monday (and, very occasionally, Tuesday), is so masterfully crafted that anyone of any age can read and enjoy it. The whimsical, surreal air shrouding these stories is easy to be immersed in, written with just the right amount of pacing and not overly simplifi ...more
Kate Pierson
In her introduction Joan Aiken's daughter, Lizza, says, "Thanks to an extraordinarily wide range of reading in her early years, and her belief in the benefits of a powerful imagination, Joan was prepared for almost anything. Brought up on a diet of Dickens, Dumas, Austen, and the Brontes, Kipling, Stevenson, Nesbitt, Trollope, Scott, Victor Hugo, and many, many more, she was equipped, like the hero of a myth, with the tools, or in her case, the imaginative power, to meet any contingency . . . ." ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: most anybody
Recommended to Carmine by: school library journal
Joan Aiken was probably my favorite author as a middle grader and I read it all from the light and humorous 'Arabel and Mortimer' to the psychological thriller 'Nightfall' and all 'the Wolves of Whilloughby Chase' in between, but I had never read any of the Armitage family stories and don't remember my library having them. It was a real treat to discover these and read them. What fun. Clearly would appeal to fans of E. Nesbit or Edward Eager and others who enjoy light family fantasy.

Due to a wi
Oct 18, 2008 added it
Recommends it for: Darsa, Kelly (your children too)
Recommended to Laurie by: Chasing Ray
1. Laura Miller recommends as "Great for reading aloud to younger children" so maybe we'll try it.

2. Updated: We're reading this aloud to Iris at bedtime, and it's quite good (only a few stories we haven't liked). J.K. Rowling clearly owes a serious debt to Joan Aiken. (Not a plagiarism-style debt, mind you, it's just the influence is clear.)

3. Finished! We read the last story last night. And as I type, Iris is curled up on the couch, apparently planning
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
While other girls were reading Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, I was reading Joan Aiken and Madeline L'Engle. The real life girls and their problems with periods and big sisters were all very well, and I enjoyed reading about them, but the girls and boys with pet unicorns and the ability to travel in time, well. They added something to my life I didn't have to worry about. Their's was a world I could escape into and forget all about the horrors of middle school.

So it was nice to see that all of
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I've been a fan of Joan Aiken for a while but I had no idea that she had written some short stories until a fellow good reader recommended them to me.

They are about the Armitage family who lead an interesting life where strange things happen to them on mondays and they own a unicorn! The village they live in also has many interesting inhabitants who cast a variety of spells which have an effect on them! Most of the stories happen to the Armitages. Especially the children Harriet and Mark but a
Mar 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff
The short-story collection in which strange and magical things happen to the Armitage family, but only on Mondays.

All together in a collection is not the way to read these stories; you get inured to their peculiar charm. But every time I left the book behind for a bit and came back to it, the first story I read after the break would win me over all over again.

One of the things I like best about this is the way the characters treat mysterious happenings the same way they treat mundane ones, so t
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved this collection of short stories. They deal with the children in the Armitage family, where Mondays are never normal days (sometimes unicorns turn up in the backyard, etc.) This is wonderful writing. Fanciful enough to hold the attention of children, but clever enough to delight adults. Creative and utterly enjoyable. I had a smile on my face through almost the entire book, although one story nearly moved me to tears. I loved picking this book up and reading one story at a time while my ...more
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new, 2016
This is just marvellous. I love Joan Aiken. These stories are so inventive and gentle and funny but also have a most sensible and practical heroine and hero in Harriet and Mark. Mrs Armitage is also a very sensible woman, and it's her wish to make her "happy ever after" of life with her husband and two children interesting that means that the family always had something exciting happen. But Mrs Armitage also has the sense to be out of the way when the worst excesses of interesting take place :-) ...more
Friend of Pixie (F.O.P.)
Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Why abandoned? I've read other Joan Aiken books and liked them, but this one is a later one (1970s) and rather cynical about parent-child relationships. I don't mind that per se, but Logan isn't old enough to understand the humor, which often focuses on how glad the parents are to be away from their children. The parents are portrayed as fairly idiotic and self-involved. You can tell it's the 70s when at a party, a prize given to the mother is 100 cigarettes. Anyway. the whole feel of the book i ...more
Elisabeth Wheatley
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is full from cover to cover with funny, magical tales safe for the whole family. I started reading a few of the stories to my brothers, and they loved it. The only scary story is the one about "Kitty Snickersee," which was very dark and morbid for an Armitage story and I'm not sure why it was so heavy. Nonetheless, the rest of these stories are a welcome break from heavier reading and I would recommend it to...well, everyone.
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: preeta, because I miss her.
Shelves: children-ya
Almost as good as I remember these stories, but in a different way. The best title is "Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home." Say it a few times. I think it might be a magical phrase. But the best story is the one where the grandmother won't sell her quince tree to a nasty witch, and then the witch turns into a cat and likes being a cat much better than being a person. Because you get to sleep all day. The one with the magic bathmat woven from beard hair that's never been cut is good too.
Wow. I thought this sounded right up my alley, but the stories made less and less sense as the collection progressed. The author also seemed to feel the need to get darker as time went on and by the end even the death of a little girl is just glossed over like it's no big deal. I'm also extremely disappointed that the princess in the garden story was never really resolved. Ugh.
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The Serial Garden 5 40 Mar 28, 2013 03:40AM  

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Joan Aiken was a much loved English writer who received the MBE for services to Children's Literature. She was known as a writer of wild fantasy, Gothic novels and short stories.

She was born in Rye, East Sussex, into a family of writers, including her father, Conrad Aiken (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry), and her sister, Jane Aiken Hodge. She worked for the United Nations Information Offi