Jan Mark, a fellow twentieth century children’s writer and keen reviewer of contemporary children’s literature in the Times Educational Supplement, was also a staunch Joan Aiken fan.
On the cover of one of Jan Mark’s own books, about the joy of libraries, and their magical power to change the lives of otherwise isolated children, I spotted this magical tribute, for which I am sure she must have been responsible.
Do you recognise the book on the shelf in the library above? It’s a real book, by Joan Aiken, and also tells the story of a lonely child, who had one special book to keep him company on a dangerous adventure; I can’t believe it is there by chance.
Jan Mark wrote about and for real children, and in her book reviews she took other authors severely to task for any slipshod practice, or any ‘writing down’ – she believed children deserved the best, and among these, Joan Aiken, she wrote, was
“a solid gold original to the very end.”
Jan Mark wrote about the last two Wolves Chronicles, the final Dido Twite adventures which were published after Joan Aiken’s death, saying that to keep faith with her readers Aiken was determined to bring the saga to a conclusion even ‘if it meant taking some wild leaps…and leaving some things unexplained.’
Writing about Aiken’s long writing history, and especially her lifetime’s collections of fantasy stories, where almost anything could happen, and often did, and the most terrifying wishes sometimes came true, Jan Mark concluded with a lovely tribute:
“For half a century anyone who wanted a new Joan Aiken story had only to wish, and another one would be along shortly. I grew up with her books and watched successive generations adore them. Impossible to believe there will be no more.”
Jan Mark is herself much missed, but thanks to her many supporters is having a revival, and you can read about her life and prize winning books for children at https://janmark.net/
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More about Joan Aiken, The Wolves Chronicles and all her books as always at