The Serial Garden

Joan Aiken  - published April 2012

October 2008 · 332 pp · hardcover · 9781931520577 | ebook · 9781931520980
April 2012 · 332 pp · trade paperback · 9781931520829
September 2015: second printing.
A Junior Library Guild Selection.

“Joan Aiken’s invention seemed inexhaustible, her high spirits a blessing, her sheer storytelling zest a phenomenon. She was a literary treasure, and her books will continue to delight for many years to come.”
—Philip Pullman

The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories is the first complete collection of Joan Aiken’s beloved Armitage stories — and it includes four new, unpublished stories.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 to stay; and a cutout from a cereal box leads into a beautiful and tragic palace garden. Charming and magical, the uncommon lives of the Armitage family will thrill and delight readers young and old.

The Serial Garden includes Joan Aiken’s Prelude to the series from Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home, as well as introductions from Joan Aiken’s daughter, Lizza Aiken, and best-selling author Garth Nix, and is gloriously illustrated throughout by Andi Watson.

More about Joan Aiken, Liza Aiken, and Andi Watson.

Free Download: download a DRM-free PDF of an unpublished Armitage family story, “Don’t Go Fishing on Witches’ Day,” along with the introduction by Lizza Aiken or read it online.
The Serial Garden is the first title in our imprint for readers of all ages: Big Mouth House.

Readers say:

“What a thrill to discover this gem from the witty and endlessly inventive Joan Aiken.”
— Chris Riddell

“Inexhaustibly imaginative, Aiken was one of the 20th century’s greatest children’s authors. Witty, zany and entirely sane, this is a necklace of diamonds.”
The New Statesman

“It’s a delightful summary of one side of Aiken’s talent: whimsical, funny, a series of brilliantly imaginative ideas stitched together with dream logic. But along with the happiness, there is often a tug of melancholy, of love unrequited and yearnings unsatisfied – as in the title story, in which a cut-out cardboard garden on the packet of an obscure German brand of cereal is the gateway to a vanished past. It is the mixture of irrepressible gaiety and invention with the tragic that makes Aiken one of the great children’s authors.”
The Telegraph

“A delightful whimsical set of stories about young Mark and Harriet Armitage and the fantastical things that just happen to them, where if the lawn is full of unicorns you can count on their father to rush out and try to stop them eating the roses. These stories are funny and often unexpectedly poignant. They also don’t have a wasted word or scrap of information. They’re both charming and genuine in a way that few things manage.”
—Jo Walton

“In a singularly important publishing even, the first complete collection of Aiken’s 24 beloved Armitage cycle of stories appears here for the first time. The family who dwells in and out of magical worlds transcends fantasy and enters the world of classic, entrancing literature. Belongs on every child’s bookshelf. For all ages.”
Smithsonian Magazine’s 2008 Notable Books for Children

“Buy it to read to your kids, and you’ll find yourself sneaking tastes on the sly; a little Aiken is a fine thing to have in your system at any age.”

“The eccentricities of magic are never more comically evident than in the late Joan Aiken’s work. Her The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories (Big Mouth House, 328 pages, $20, ages 5 to 11) is a spectacularly good treasury in the British tradition of practical magic…. You can’t do better than to get your fantasy-reading child hooked on Aiken’s playful, witty magic.”
Parent, The Toronto Star

“The wit is irrepressible, the invention wild…. Such delicious lightness, paradoxically, is the fiction’s raison d’être.”
—Ed Park, Los Angeles Times

“[Aiken’s] most charming stories are the ones recently collected in The Serial Garden…. It’s best to savor them.”
—Adrienne Martini, Locus

“The Armitages’ wacky magic (usually a Monday occurrence) and that of their fantastical town, a place filled with witches and magical beings, rises from the pages when matters go slightly awry, in the manner of Edward Eager and E. Nesbit.”
Kirkus Reviews

“One of the ingredients which add such a sense of playful wit to Aiken’s stories — and which make them so worth rereading — is her genius for wordplay, and this is perhaps most obvious in the fabulous names she gives characters, such as Miss Hooting, Mrs. Mildew, Admiral Lycanthrope, and Lady Nightwood. The title of “The Serial Garden” itself is a play on words, and it is the intelligence and the cleverness of Aiken’s prose which make these stories so suitable for readers of any age. “With the publication of The Serial Collection readers of all ages have the opportunity to enjoy some of the best writing by one of the most superb and timeless fantasy writers.”
—Green Man Review

The Serial Garden is my happiest discovery this year.”
Los Angeles Times

“Joan Aiken wrote Armitage Family stories her whole life, and they are a treat.”
The Cultural Gutter

“The stories seem to spring from what was surely (given the sheer output and popularity of her books) an extremely active and creative mind, in all ways dedicated to the enjoyment of the reader.”
The Short Review

“The Armitage’s world grows richer as it is extended. This is a collection of stories which allow — in fact demand — the reader joins in with their own imagination and remakes the story inside their own head.”
January Magazine

Praise for Joan Aiken:

“These are admirable stories for any age because they are dug from a delightful mind. Many will drop into their readers lives like those enriching stones which break the surfaces of still pools and leave rings long after their splash.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Whether scary, satiric, or poetic, Aiken’s tales have strong settings, memorable characters, insight, and humor.”
School Library Journal

“A consummate story-teller.”
The Times

“A writer of wild humor and unrestrained imagination.”
Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature

“With its fine-tuned combination of folklore and fun. . . . a good source of imaginative tales to read alone or aloud.” —Booklist

“The best kind of writer, strange and spooky and surprising, never sentimental or whimsical.” —Kelly Link (Pretty Monsters)

“Joan Aiken’s magic stories have the right mixture . . . distinguished and sometimes beautiful writing and always in a frame-work of logic.”
—Naomi Mitchison, New Statesman

“This year can boast one genuine small masterpiece. . . . The Wolves of Willoughby Chase . . . almost a copybook lesson in those virtues that a classic children’s book must possess.”
Time Magazine

Table of Contents

Introduction by Lizza Aiken
Introduction by Garth Nix
Prelude by Joan Aiken
Yes, but Today Is Tuesday
Broomsticks and Sardines
The Frozen Cuckoo
Sweet Singeing in The Choir
The Ghostly Governess
Harriet’s Birthday Present
Dragon Monday
Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home (also known as “A Batch of Magic Wands”)
Rocket Full of Pie
Doll’s House to Let, Mod. Con.
Tea at Ravensburgh
The Land of Trees and Heroes
Harriet’s Hairloom
The Stolen Quince Tree
The Apple of Trouble [read an excerpt]
The Serial Garden
Mrs. Nutti’s Fireplace
The Looking-Glass Tree
Miss Hooting’s Legacy
Kitty Snickersnee
Goblin Music
The Chinese Dragon
Don’t Go Fishing on Witches’ Day
Milo’s New Word

On the web:

Publication history

“Yes, but Today Is Tuesday,” “The Frozen Cuckoo,” “Sweet Singeing in The Choir,” “The Ghostly Governess,” “Harriet’s Birthday Present,” “Dragon Monday”
All You’ve Ever Wanted (1953)

“Armitage, Armitage Fly Away Home,” “Rocket Full of Pie,” “Doll’s House to Let, Mod. Con.,” “Tea at Ravensburgh”
More Than You Bargained For (1957)

“The Land of Trees and Heroes,” “Harriet’s Hairloom,” “The Stolen Quince Tree,” “The Apple of Trouble,” “The Serial Garden”
Armitage, Armitage Fly Away Home (1968)

“Broomsticks and Sardines”
A Small Pinch of Weather (1969)

“Mrs. Nutti’s Fireplace”
A Harp of Fishbones (1972)

“The Looking-Glass Tree”
The Faithless Lollybird (1977)

“Miss Hooting’s Legacy”
Up the Chimney Down (1984)

“Milo’s New Word”
Moon Cake and Other Stories (1998)
Reproduced by kind permission of Hodder and Stoughton Limited.

“Kitty Snickersnee,” “Goblin Music,” “The Chinese Dragon,” “Don’t Go Fishing on Witches’ Day”
The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories (2008)


  • Cover art © Beth Adams.
  • Interior illustrations © by Andi Watson.
  • Photo credit: Photo by Rod Delroy.

Previously: A Celebration of the Armitage Family, Books of Wonder, Nov. 16th, with Michael Dirda, Charles Schlessiger, and Lizza Aiken.