Who doesn't love Joan Aiken? I don't think it's humanly possible to read her and NOT love her. I've decided to read all of her short story collections -- in order, of course.
Highlights from All You've Ever Wanted* include:
All You've Ever Wanted:
Matilda, a young orphan, is raised by six of her seven aunts. Though she's never met her Aunt Gertie, her life is not unaffected by her:
...for on her seventh birthday, and each one after it, she received a little poem wishing her well, written on pink paper, decorated with silver flowers, and signed "Gertrude Isabel Jones, to her niece, with much affection". And the terrible disadvantage of the poems, pretty though they were, was that the wishes in them invariably came true.
That doesn't sound so bad, right? Wrong. You all know how magic works in fairy stories -- literally. So when Matilda receives a poem that says, "Each morning make another friend/ Who'll be with you till light doth end", she has 365 new friends by the end of the year, and they WON'T LEAVE HER ALONE, even if she's sick or crabby or has schoolwork to do.
Even if the rest of the stories in the collection were stinkers -- which they aren't -- I'd be tempted to recommend it on the strength of this one story. I loved it.
The Ghostly Governess:
A bunch of the stories are about Mark and Harriet Armitage**, who regularly have odd adventures. In this one, their family rents a house for the summer. At first, Mark and Harriet are delighted to discover that the house is haunted -- but the novelty of learning Latin in the middle of the night soon palls.
I especially loved this story because there isn't a moral. Cool, right? The idea that not all fairy stories have to have morals? In another author's hands, Mark and Harriet would try to help the governess Move On To A Higher Plane because they are Good Children -- in Joan Aiken's, they do it because they're sick of memorizing dates.
Musicians Out of Work and The True History of Good King Wenceslas were both fun -- the first is a continuation of the Bremen Town Musicians and the second... well, that should be pretty obvious.
The Rocking Donkey felt like a cross between Hans Christian Andersen and Roald Dahl, if you can imagine that.
John Sculpin and the Witches and Harriet's Birthday Present are both excellent witch stories.
Cooks and Prophesies was just adorable, and Enchanted Forest Chronicles fans will especially like it.
Super highly recommended. Fabbity fabbity fab. Oh, and I loved Pat Marriott's illustrations, too.
*Check out the price! Good thing I was able to get the book through ILL!
**Who are introduced in Yes, But Today is Tuesday, a story that features a whole herd of unicorns -- and Holly Black will be happy to hear that I liked it! The unicorns are cool, and the story isn't sad at all -- it's actually funny! That deserves more exclamation points!! !!! !!!!
Oh dear. I just turned into a middle school girl. Sorry about that.