by Julia Buckley
September 4 marked what would have been the 87th birthday of the wonderful Joan Aiken. Never heard of her, you say? Then you must check out this amazing website which highlights the more than 100 books Ms. Aiken composed in her lifetime, out of what seemed an endless well of creativity.
Aiken was never tied to one genre. Click on "books" on her homepage to see all of the avenues she travelled when in quest of a great story. One of my favorites is listed under "Wolves Chronicles" (see the picture with the wolf outside the castle). These great tales started with the lovely, Gothic, young adult tale called THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE, which not only wins my award for greatest title, but which kept me spellbound as a youngster.
Aiken came from a highly creative family. The daughter of poet Conrad Aiken and the sister of Jane Aiken Hodge (another favorite from my youth), she never had university training, but began telling (and selling) her stories right out of school.
Aiken won the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1972, but she also won a Guardian Award (for Children's Literature), and in 1999 she was awarded an MBE for "her services to children's literature" (Wikipedia).
Perhaps I love her partly because she was so much a part of my own childhood; but Aiken's work has truly stood the test of time. Jane Austen fans should check out Aiken's works about that writer (click on the bust of Jane), and those who love fantasy should click on the unicorn--Aiken was writing tales of imaginary worlds long before JK Rowling was even born.
Do yourself a favor and read a book by Joan Aiken today! Her website alone is a delightful adventure.