Conrad Aiken
Joan Aiken's Armitage family is charming - and magical

The White Queen in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" says she believes as many as six impossible things before breakfast. In the title tale from Joan Aiken's "The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories" (Big Mouth House: 330 pp., $20), the impossible things happen after breakfast, and the proof of our belief is the pang at the end, when beautifully sustained fantasy crashes into the everyday. The setup is only mildly outrageous. As Mr. Armitage has locked himself in the larder, his son, Mark, sets out to find suitable breakfast provisions. (Mark's usual accomplice, his sister, Harriet, is out of commission with the measles.) At a...