Do you have a Favourite Aiken Moment, something from a story, a quotation from Dido perhaps?
If you do, scroll down to the comments box and let me know and I’ll put them up on this page!
I’ll always remember her saying:
“Just because I’m raking leaves it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking”
… just plotting maybe?
Here’s one of my favourite moments from a story about a ghost mouse:
Watkyn Comma – A story of hope
Originally from A Fit of Shivers
And now in a newly published collection of Joan Aiken’s strange stories
The People in the Castle
From Small Beer Press
Read more about the collection in Lizza Aiken’s Introduction
Learn your Etiquette for Princesses
from ‘The Serial Garden’
In the title story, Mark meets the Princess of Saxe Hoffen Poffen und Hamster:
“I say!” Mark was full of admiration. “Can you do spells as well as being a princess?”
She drew herself up.
“Naturally! At the Court of Saxe Hoffen-Poffen, where I was educated, all princesses were taught a little magic, not so much as to be vulgar, just enough to get out of social difficulties.”
In another story in this collection Mark has some unwelcome visitors:
‘The Apple of Trouble’
Illustrated by Peter Bailey for the new UK edition by Virago
Meet the awful Erinyes and Read more of the story here
The Serial Garden ‘The Complete Armitage Family Stories’
Meet Is and Penny – Dido’s two sisters
Is, avoiding the guards on the sinister PLAYLAND EXPRESS has dived into a roll of carpet, and while wondering how to get out again, has a moment for reflection. Interesting that Pen who teaches Is to read makes use of some of Joan’s own stories, like The Three Wishes, and possibly some of her own philosophy? (See more about Joan’s & Penny’s stories further down.)
“She thought about Penny’s stories. There was one about a man who had three wishes and married a swan. If I had three wishes, I know what I’d wish for, thought Is. I’d wish for those two boys to be found, and for us all to be back on Blackheath Edge. She thought about Penny teaching her to read.
“What’s the point of reading?” Is had grumbled at first. “You can allus tell me stories, that’s better than reading.”
“I’ll not always be here,” Penny had said shortly. “Besides, once you can read, you can learn somebody else. Folk should teach each other what they know.”
“If you don’t learn anything, you don’t grow. And someone’s gotta learn you.”
Well, thought Is, if I get outta here, I’ll be able to learn some other person the best way to get free from a rolled-up rug.”
…..more from Is in (snowy!) Humberland:
‘Twelve layers thick of stiff,rolled-up rug, all glued together with fried potatoes, formed a wrap that was solid as oakwood. And when at last her head did begin to emerge from its carpet-collar, Is found that she had nothing much to be thankful for. Instead of being pressed against a filthy carpet, her cheek now lay on stony, gritty, freezing ground. It was dark, with no moon or stars to give comfort; on the contrary, a fine thick snow was falling, blowing like dust into the folds of the rug.
“Snow!” said Is in disgust. Why it ain’t but November!”
But then she recalled how far north she had travelled, into a colder darker part of the country. Humberland.
….A massive stone building loomed up on her right…a church…somewhere she had heard that church doors are always open. The first door she approached had a white paper on it, just visible, and writing on the paper: PLEASE ENTER BY SOUTH DOOR.
There! she could hear Penny’s triumphant voice: now do you see how handy it is to be able to read? Yus, and which way is south? Is retorted, but she acknowledged that if she kept walking round the church she must in the end find the south door.’
Illustration by Pat Marriott
I always thought it would be an interesting exercise to try writing some of Penny’s stories, but I’ve never had the nerve.
My favorite moment: when Dido and Justin are untying Simon (in Blackhearts in Battersea), and Dido says, “Not on your Jemima! You’d probably slice his dabs off.” (And she’s just called Justin a “sapskull” — what a wordsmith she is!)
That would be a lovely idea! In fact Joan already wrote those stories herself, that is what is so mysterious – where can Penny have found them? One of them must have been a time traveller…
I can’t remember all of the ones Penny told to Is, but The Queen with the Screaming Hair is in The Last Slice of Rainbow, and A Leg Full of Rubies, The Rocking Donkey, and The Third Wish were all in a collection called Not What You Expected.
I love it that Is writes a journal – perhaps I should put up some extracts from that – it’s sad that it should get burned up with the house where she hides it, but perhaps later on she also becomes a storyteller? She’s a much more thoughtful character than Dido, but yes, Dido’s language and expressions are unbeatable!