“Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high.”*

by chuckofish

Did you know that today is World Book Day? Me neither.

According to Wikipedia, the connection between 23 April and books was first made in 1923 by booksellers in Catalonia as a way to honor the author Miguel de Cervantes, who died on this date.

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To celebrate this day in Spain, Cervantes’s Don Quixote is read during a two-day “readathon” and the Miguel de Cervantes Prize is presented by the Spanish King to honor the lifetime achievement of an outstanding writer in the Spanish language.

I would suggest watching the movie Man of La Mancha (1972) starring Peter O’Toole as the dauntless knight, but I just saw it recently and it is not as great as I remembered it from back in the day.

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In fact, it was pretty bad. So we’ll have to think of something else.

Probably the best way to celebrate Book Day is to read a book! Last weekend I finished Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart which daughter #1 was reading when she was home.  She left her copy in my house…I had read it, of course, years ago when I was an adolescent and then again later at some point. But I read it again, and–boy oh boy–is it good!

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You remember, it is the story of a young English governess, Linda Martin, who travels to the Château Valmy in France in the 1950s to take care of nine-year-old Philippe de Valmy. There she finds herself tangled in a plot to murder her charge and tries to save him, which eventually results in the revelation of a dark secret. This is not some bodice-ripper, but a well-written and intelligent suspense novel, peppered with literary references. Indeed, Stewart introduced

a different kind of heroine for a newly emerging womanhood. It was her “anti-namby-pamby” reaction, as she called it, to the “silly heroine” of the conventional contemporary thriller who “is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along”. Instead, Stewart’s stories were narrated by poised, smart, highly educated young women who drove fast cars and knew how to fight their corner. Also tender-hearted and with a strong moral sense, they spoke, one felt, with the voice of their creator. Her writing must have provided a natural form of expression for a person not given to self-revelation. (You can read more here.)

Nine Coaches Waiting (1958) was actually Stewart’s fourth novel, following Madam, Will You Talk? (1954), Wildfire at Midnight (1956) and Thunder on the Right (1957). She was on the best-seller list many times, but only one of her novels (The Moon-Spinners – 1962) was made into a movie. I wonder why?

Anyway, I recommend Mary Stewart to you–to read or re-read as the case may be. I lent my copy to the boy.

And have a lovely World Book Day!

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*Arnold Lobel