Wit and Wild Imagination – Joan Aiken’s Fairy Tales (and a Fairy Tale blog hop)

Fairytale blog hop FacebookHello, and welcome to my blog! I’m Lynden Wade, author of “Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl,” which is published in the fairy-tale anthology A Bit of Magic – the book at the top of the circle of books in the graphic above.

You have found your way to the 2018 Fairy-tale Blog Hop – a hunt through thirteen posts by fairy-tale authors for our favourite numbers. Follow the links at the bottom of each blog post to hop to the next author’s website. Collect our favourite numbers to total up at the end and enter to win a print collection of our books! (There are several anthologies, debuts, and even an ARC for a BLINK YA book you can’t buy in stores yet!) So, for fairy-tale fun and a chance to get 13 shiny books mailed to you, read on!

My Favourite Fairy-Tale(s)

Some of the stories we read as children lose their lustre when we revisit them as adults. Others get better and better. The fantasy stories of Joan Aiken belong the latter group. Some are set in a magical, long-ago world and others in ‘current’ times (she was writing in the 50s and 60s), as she weaves together history, myth, fairy tale and nonsense. Her wit and her wild imagination leave me in awe – so much so, that it’s hard to choose one of her stories for this blog post.

Should I choose “Lullay Lulla” (from Past Eight o’ Clock)?  It’s sweet story about a baby put to sleep by a lullaby over the phone, and its happy ending tinged with longing.

Or should I choose “All You’ve Ever Wanted” (from the collection with the same name) for its gentle send-up of the idea of wishes from fairy godmothers?

Perhaps “A Jar of Cobblestones” (from A Harp of Fishbones) because it’s a tall story set in the gorgeous town of Rye.

Or there’s “The People in the Castle” (from All But a Few) for its up-to-date take on the fairy bride motif.

And there’s “A Small Pinch of Weather” (from the collection with the same name) for its matter-of-fact tone:

The town of Strathcloud, where the Ross family lived, still employed an official Weather Witch. The post was hereditary. So at twenty-one Sophy had automatically become Weather Operator for the Strathcloud Urban District Council at a salary of four pounds a year, a bushel of sunflower seeds, and free upkeep of her bicycle.

How about “Broomsticks and Sardines” for this wonderful exchange between parents?

 ‘ I say, Shepherd, I’m terribly sorry – my children have changed yours into sheep. And now they say they don’t know how to change them back.’

‘Oh, don’t apologize, old chap. As a matter of fact I think it’s a pretty good show. Some peace and quiet will be a wonderful change, and I shan’t have to mow the lawn.’ He shouted indoors with the liveliest pleasure,

‘I say, Minnie! Our kids have been turned into sheep, so you won’t have to put them to bed. Dig out a long frock and we’ll go to the Harvest Ball.’

A shriek of delight greeted his words.

In the end, however, I’ve chosen “The Serial Garden,” from A Small Pinch of Weather.

people in the park
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

It’s one of many featuring the Armitage family (the ones who turn the Shepherd children into sheep.)  Magic slips, or gallops, into their lives regularly, Mrs Armitage accepting it gracefully, Mr Armitage with gloom, the children with a sense of adventure. I like the way the Armitage stories are interspersed in Aiken collections with stories about faraway lands. The events of this particular story are set off by Mr Armitage locking himself in the larder. The rest of the family carry on with breakfast arrangements as they wait for the blacksmith to come and release him. Mark is unhappy with cold rice pudding.

 ‘If you don’t like it,” said Mrs Armitage, ‘unless you want Daddy to pass you cornflakes through the larder ventilator, flake by flake, you’d better run down to Miss Pride and get a small packet of cereal.’

Miss Pride’s corner shop, dusty and little-used, is just like the unattractive convenience shops I remember from my own childhood. It’s not the sort of place you’d expect to find an enchanted cereal packet. But I also remember cut-out models and cereal packet gifts, though the ones I came across were never this exiting! There is a toy garden to make on the back of the packet, and here are 7 parts to make the full model. As Mark gradually assembles all the parts, he finds himself magically transported into the garden. There, he meets a princess who has hidden within to wait for the lover her father didn’t approve of.

There are no spoilers here, but you can rest assured the ending is beautifully plotted and the clues dropped like breadcrumbs on the path. It’s a story that will stay with you long after you close the book.


Do look around my blog while you’re here, and maybe follow me for updates. Do have a look, too, at the anthology my friends and I put together, A Bit of Magic – you can read all about it here.

But don’t forget that your next stop on the fairy-tale blog hop is: https://teralynnchilds.com/fairy-tale-blog-hop/

If you’ve already been to all 13 stops and collected everyone’s favourite number, then go enter to win the grand prize: http://shonnaslayton.com/fairy-tale-blog-hop/


A Bit of Magic
Available on Amazon

Footnote 1:

I’d love to have Ms Aiken’s gift. I’m paying homage to her influence on me with a series of stories about Helen Rowland, who can hear fairies. She is captured by the Elf King, sees a unicorn breaking into her car, and discovers a Greek god in her garden. Unlike the Armitage children, however, her family, plugged into social media and gaming, are oblivious to the world of magic. The stories are quite off-the-wall, and I’m not sure where to send them, but I’d like to develop them as a series before I make that decision. You can read the opening here.

Footnote 2:


I’m also proud to have my story “Sins of the Fathers” published in the anthology The Forgotten and the Fantastical 4. This collection draws not only from fairy-tales but also legends, myths and history, and is aimed at a slightly older audience. Read more about it here.