joan aiken

Harriet was sitting alone upstairs in the dormer window over the porch. There was an old basket chair and a shelf full of entrancing books: Jackanapes, The Silver Skates, the Curdie books, and many others with thick, glossy old bindings and gold lettering. The afternoon sun shone in and made a pinkish patch on the floor. Harriet felt drowsy and comfortable.
—  From The Stolen Quince Tree in The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories by Joan Aiken.

Night’s winged horses
No one can outpace
But midnight is no moment
Midnight is a place.

Meet me at Midnight,
Among the Queen Anne’s Lace
Midnight is not a moment,
Midnight is a place—

When, when shall I meet you
When shall I see your face
For I am living in time at present
But you are living in space.

Time is only a corner
Age is only a fold
A year is merely a penny
Spent from a century’s gold.

So meet me, meet me at midnight
(With sixty seconds’ grace)
Midnight is not a moment;
Midnight is a place.”

—  Joan Aiken, Midnight Is a Place

The Kingdom Under The Sea and other stories by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

This was one of my favourite books when I was little. It’s a collection of Eastern European stories, retold by Aiken. When you’re little, you don’t really think about who wrote or illustrated a book, just whether you love it or not. This is a quite perfect collaboration (they did others, of Aiken’s original stories, and they are beautiful and thrilling too.) 

I’s only now (because I’m massively ignorant) that I realise that Pienkowski (who was probably most well known - certainly when I was little - for illustrating the Meg and Mog books) was influenced by, or deliberately drawing on, the work of Lotte Reiniger for this work. 

And of course this is another reason to thank Allen Lane for setting up Penguin. Without Penguin there would be no Puffin, and without Puffin my childhood reading would have been less vibrant, less engrossing, and maybe even (despite weekly library visits) less prolific. 


Jan Pienkowski, illustrator.

A Necklace of Raindrops is a collection of children’s stories by Joan Aiken. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Combined with Jan Pienkowski’s beautiful illustrations they are a treasure. These images are not all from A Necklace Of Raindrops - they’re what Google Image Search offered me - but they are illustrative of Pienkowski’s beautiful drawings.

Joan Aiken’s stories in A Necklace of Raindrops are for younger children, but she also wrote brilliant and haunting novels for older children such as Midnight Is A Place and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

Jan Pienkowski also illustrated the Meg, Mog and Owl books, which are awesome.