Dear reader: If you're just starting the book here: earlier chapters tell how Libby (the main character) moves from America to London.At the English school the kids aren't nice -- and so she decides to go to a boarding school in the country. The chapter just before this one describes saying good-bye to her parents at the train station (try to imagine what that would feel like) and meeting a big girl with red hair named Lindsey these two chapters should make sense! If it doesn't, you can read Blow Out the Moon from the beginning.

If you click the little map in Chapter 15, it takes you to a big map, or plan, of the school with
more pictures -- some big and colored, some black and white.....all of Sibton Park. And remember, if you see the book in a bookstore, please turn it face out for me. Thanks. --Libby (the author and main character)

Chapter 14. Sibton Park

... I woke up a little in the taxi but I didn't REALLY wake up until I was sitting at a long wood table late that night, eating cold roast beef. It was rare (just how I like it), and as I ate, I got more awake. Lindsey Cohen was sitting next to me, and we were at Sibton Park.

The room was big, and bare, with three long wooden tables (all empty), squares of grey stone for a floor, and lots of big windows - it was too dark outside to see anything out of them. It was also a little bit cold.

A grown-up came in and said she'd bring me to my dormitory. She led me through a long passage with coathooks and kids' raincoats all along the walls and a brick floor so old that the center dipped down, from all those feet over the years.

We went up steep stairs and through a wider, fancier hallway with wood floors, then up more stairs into a small room with no furniture in it and down two steps into a long, straight, wide, white hall with lots of closed doors.

The first door on the right had a white wooden sign with neat black letters saying: "Wellington." The next said "Waterloo." Then, above a little step on the left, the door said "WC."

She opened the door and I saw a little white room with just a toilet, no sink or bathtub. I stepped up into it and closed the door.
When I came out, we walked past more doors and stopped at "Nelson." This, she whispered, was my dormitory, and I'd need to get ready for bed quietly, so I didn't wake "the others." Then she opened the door.

The room was big, with tall old-fashioned windows, open (a breeze and a silvery grey light came through them, and outside I could see a leafy branch) and a fireplace and five beds: four with girls in them, one empty. There was a little sink in the corner; she pointed to it and watched me wash and get into bed, then whispered good-night. A dormitory at Sibton Park - not Nelson.

As soon as she was gone, all the girls sat up in their beds. One by one, they said hello and whispered their names, very politely: Rosemary Hitchcock, Sarah Riley, Catherine Marshall, and Hazel Fogarty. They seemed nice (only Sarah Riley had kind of a snobbish voice, I thought).
"My name is Elizabeth Koponen," I said, "but everyone calls me Libby."
"Are you American?" Catherine Marshall said. She was in a bed by itself across from the door - my bed was in the middle of a row of three beds against a wall.
"Yes," I said proudly. I am proud of being an American. "Don't ever give me tea -if you do, I'll have to pour it out on the floor, in honor of the Boston Tea Party."
"What's that?"
I told them about the grown-ups in Boston dressing up like Indians in the middle of the night and dumping all the tea from the English ships into the Boston harbor. There was a little pause when I was done, and then Catherine Marshall said,
"That's interesting."
There was another little pause, and then Hazel Fogarty asked if I'd ever been "away at school" before, and I said no, and they started telling me all about Sibton Park.
"Your first term you'll be teased - new girls always are."

I asked how long you were a new girl, and they said for your first term, but that you weren't an old girl until you'd been there a year. They'd been there for three or four years: they were all older than I was. I asked about the Headmistress, Mrs.Ridley-Day; my father had talked about her a lot - he'd said she was beautiful and a real lady, and that he'd chosen the school because of what she was like. I didn't say that - I just asked the girls if they liked Mrs. Ridley Day.
"Call her Marza, we all do, it's Greek for Mother," Catherine Marshall said.
"Does she have a husband?"
"He's dead - he died in the War."
"That's when she started the school."
"The house is hers," Sarah said.
We talked on and on - I didn't feel sleepy at all and I don't think anyone else did, either. After awhile we stopped whispering and talked out loud. There was a rule against talking after Lights Out, they said, but no one ever obeyed it and people were always getting punished for it:
"One night the whole school was talking -except for Alice and Tina, they're prefects and the oldest girls in the school -"
"and the next day at prayers Marza said that there would be no sweets that day because of it."
I knew that "sweets" are candy.
"Do you usually have sweets?"
"Yes, every day after dinner we line up and can choose two each."
"What kind?"
"Toffees, or acid drop spangles, or peppermints, or boiled sweets. On Sunday we always have Cadbury's."
That wasn't in any of the books. But they seemed to like school as much as the girls in the books did.
We talked on and on. I told them that on the train Lindsey Cohen had hardly talked to me at all, and Catherine said:
"She doesn't like Americans - her father married one and she can't bear her step-mother. I shouldn't worry."

I asked where the horses were, and if they could ride them whenever they wanted, and everyone started talking at once and Hazel Fogarty (they called her "Foggy ") was jumping up and down on her bed, imitating someone who couldn't ride trying to canter and we were all laughing when the door opened.

All the noise stopped and everyone quickly got under the covers. A lady stood tall and straight in the doorway, like a queen. She had grey hair in one long, thick braid that curved over the front collar of her dressing gown. I could see her quite well in the light from the hall and I knew who she was: Mrs.Ridley-Day. She was very beautiful.
She didn't say anything, just looked. Everyone was lying down, breathing quietly and slowly. Then:
"Catherine Marshall, were you talking?"
No answer.
"Hazel Fogarty, were you talking?"
No answer.
"Sarah Riley, were you talking?"
No answer.
She didn't ask Rosemary (later, I found out that the teachers all thought Rosemary was "delicate").
"Elizabeth Koponen, were you talking?"
"Yes, Marza," I said proudly - I had read books about boarding school, I knew you should always "own up" (though never tattle). And I had remembered to call her "Marza."
There was a little pause and then she said, in a different voice,
"You're far too young for this wing of the house." She looked around at everyone and left.
She didn't say anything else, but even after she left, there was no more talking - except that Catherine Marshall whispered,
"When she asks, you don't have to answer."

I think they all went to sleep after that; I didn't - I lay on my back with my eyes open, thinking and listening. The girls were nice, they liked me, Sibton Park wouldn't be like Sr.Vincent's.
The night was very quiet, so quiet that I could hear leaves rustling outside the window.

After awhile I heard a sound I hadn't heard in a long time, a sound that felt safe and familiar even before I knew what it was: a car far away coming closer and closer, getting louder and louder - until its lights swept the room, fast. Then the room got dark again, and slowly, the sound faded away.

I heard that every night in my room in America.

I lay on my back, listening for the next one - finally I heard it. First the engine from far away getting closer and louder - it felt lonely and adventurous from far away, but safe, too; and then exciting when the sound was really loud and the lights swept the room. Then the sound went farther and farther away until I couldn't hear it anymore, and the night was still and peaceful and quiet; until the next safe sound - a car from far away coming closer.


The front gate -- you can see a little of the house, too. This is how Sibton Park looks
from the road. After you go in the front gate, you see this:


and then you get to the front door:


(I’ll show the backs and the sides of the house when I tell about
the next day, because that’s when I saw them. They look much cozier
than this. The house had been added onto over the years and each side of it - there were more than four -- looked quite different. The front was the most formal.)












A dormitory (not Nelson, but with the same sort of beds and
windows). You can see the towel rack next to the sink, but
not the little sink itself.

Chapter 15. Talking to a Real Horse
The next day, there weren't any classes: the first day of term was always a day just for everyone to get settled in.

As soon as I was by myself and could, I thought, do what I wanted (which was after I'd been moved into my new dormitory, The Night Nursery, and been shown around the school), I ran to the big meadow where the horses were.I was a little surprised by how BIG they were and decided not to get too close. There was a dead tree, grey and smooth like driftwood, lying on its side in the sun and I stood near that, watchingthe horses eating grass.

After awhile a big grey one lifted its head up and looked at me. It walked towards me slowly, kind of curiously, with its neck stretched out, swishing its tail. It looked very relaxed. It came right up to me and sniffed me. Then it touched me - sort of nudged me - with its nose. I didn't know what to do. In books they always said horses could tell if you were scared, and that quick movements frightened them, so I just stood very still and tried not to be afraid. The horse bent down its head and shoved me with its nose until I was pushed back against the dead tree and it was standing right in front of me. This wasn't done in a MEAN way - it was as though the horse was old and bossy, and saying "Get over there."

So I did.

Then I was trapped between the horse and the tree; the horse's neck was higher than my head. I stood still and started talking to the horse in a quiet, steady voice, the way people did in books. The horse pushed its nose against my chest - hard - so my back pressed into the tree, and then, very slowly, it rubbed its whole face against me, pushing hard, rubbing up and down my chest and stomach. It closed its eyes and rubbed the space in between them, and then the long bony part of its face that went from between its eyes down to its nose - over and over, up and down my body; then it turned its head and put one foot out in front of the others (even its feet were big) and rubbed one side of its face against me, then the other.
It didn't hurt, except where a bump on the tree was pressing into my back. I kept talking, quietly and calmly. Finally the horse kind of shook itself all over (as though it was saying "Oh! I needed that!"), gave me one last nudge with its nose, and ambled away, head hanging down, neck stretched out, tail swishing. It stopped a few feet away from me and started munching grass again.

That was the first time I ever talked to a horse.

I felt a little proud of myself and very happy. I had talked to a real horse. The books had been right (I like it when things in books turn out to be true) - I'd remembered what they said to do and I'd done it.
When something frightening happens, the best thing to do, I think, is to stay calm, figure out what to do, and then (even if you're afraid) make yourself do it, no matter what. "Make sure you're right, then go ahead," as Davy Crockett said.

Anyway - although it was a little scary at first, it was neat to have been that close to a real horse.

I walked back to the house slowly, out of the meadow and into "the paddock" and up some brick steps. Then I was on a big smooth lawn called the Lower Garden, with bushes cut into fancy shapes - the part of the house I could see from here (the house was huge, with more than a hundred rooms) was made of rose-colored brick; it even looked old (I knew from the little booklet that it had been built in 1300 something). And what I could see was only part of Sibton Park - there was another huge lawn called "the Upper Garden" and a and a Tudor Garden (twisty little brick paths arranged in a complicated pattern around little hedges, with an old sundial in the middle) and tennis courts and the Rose Garden..... Our whole yard in America could have fit into half the Rose Garden. It was strange to think that one person owned all of it, that it used to be her house....

I opened a dark green door in a brick wall and then I knew where I was again - right next to our part of the house. I ran up to the Nursery. Matron was sitting at a round wooden table, folding clothes. She was 16 1/2 but she seemed older than our baby sitters in America - she seemed like a grown-up, not a teenager, maybe because she was so big. She was almost as tall as my father and I think - bigger.
Everyone called her "Matron," but (as I found out later - I didn't remember any Matrons in the school stories) it wasn't her name: it was her job. I don't know what she did while we were having lessons, but when we weren't, she was usually in the Nursery , or someplace else where we could easily find her, and talk to her. She also put us to bed, gave us our baths, and looked after us when we were ill

Everything about her was round: she had a round face and shiny blonde hair in a round bun at the back, very fair skin, and navy blue eyes. That day she was wearing a navy blue dress with a white collar and white rims on the sleeves. This was her first term at Sibton Park, too: she had just left school herself and was only at Sibton Park for one term - she would be going to the University in September. She wanted to be a writer, too. She had told me all this after breakfast, when she was moving me into the Night Nursery and showing me around. I liked her.
When I came in from the meadow, she said:
"My goodness, Libby, look at your jumper! Whatever have you been doing?"
I looked. My sweater ("jumper") and culottes and even my socks were covered with horse hairs. I told her what had happened.
"That must have been Nella. A big grey mare?"
"I don't know if it was a mare or not - it was big, and seemed old."
"She is: twenty at least."
I was pleased that I'd guessed right about the age and decided it would be all right to ask a question.
"Why do you think she did that?"
"Scratching herself."
She explained that horses' faces get very itchy and that they can't scratch themselves or each other, and that a person in wool clothes is the very best thing.
"For their backs they roll on the grass," Brioney (the seven-year old in my new dormitory) said - she was lolling on a bed by the window. "Like this!"
She rolled on the bed, rubbing her back into it, and waved her arms and legs. Her feet were big - although she was younger, Brioney was much bigger than I was. She had big bones and big round eyes that were so blue they sometimes looked green and strong bones in her cheeks - even her mouth was big. That might make her sound ugly but she wasn't - later one of the seniors said Brioney would grow up to be "a beauty." She was kind of babyish, though.
While Brioney was rolling around like a horse itching its back, Clare came to the door. She was in my new dormitory, too, and she was my age. She was a new girl as well. Her last name was Sweeting and she seemed sweet, but I liked her. She had blonde hair and very fair skin; everything about her was light - even her voice.
She came into the room quietly, and then she asked me, kind of shyly, if I would like to go for a walk with her.
"Sure!" I said.
Brioney sat up eagerly, as though she wanted to go too, but Matron said:
"Stay here with me, Brioney - you can choose the after-dinner sweets."
So Clare and I went by ourselves. We were wearing exactly the same clothes: fawn-colored jumpers (we each had on a pullover with a cardigan over it), grey wool culottes, and fawn colored knee socks. Only our shoes were different. Having a uniform was kind of fun, I thought.
She told me that she had an older sister named Carol who had been at Sibton for two years. I didn't say anything and there was a little pause.
Then she asked me what my "hobbies" were.
"What do you mean?" I said. I thought of the school stories. "Things like stamp collecting?"
"Well, yes: Things you're interested in - that you do just for the fun of it."
Playing isn't really a hobby.
"Does writing stories count as a hobby?" I said.
"Yes, of course," she said.
"Well, then: writing. I do write, quite a lot - I'm going to be an author when I grow up." Until that day, I don't think I'd ever told anyone outside the family that - Clare looked interested, and asked more questions. I told her one of the Crazy Old Witch stories and when the Witch said "My foot!" she laughed. Talking about my writing felt strange, but fun, and after that, we talked about lots of other things. We walked around the fields talking until Brioney came out and said it was time for dinner.
(go to Chapter 15 in the book to read the next scene, when she starts meeting more of the girls. There are 37 chapters all together)

A pony in the big meadow (not the horse I talked to that day).
I took this picture myself, with a camera my father had given me.
Another view of the big meadow:

The paddock steps, with the Lower Garden
and part of the house in the background.
Click to see the steps close up.

More of the Lower Garden, with a different angle of the
house in the background:

You can use the map to see where all these things
were and what they looked like.

(When you click, the map gets bigger and has
more pictures attached to it.)

The matron at English boarding schools for younger children looks
after the girls somewhat the way a nanny does - and is called "Matron,"
just as nannies are called "Nanny." The Matron my first term was unusually
young, interested in us, and fun. This isn't our matron, but it is the
nursery, with the same table, and her uniform is the same, too.



Go back to the list of chapters and stories

Thank you for reading this! I don't say "go to the next chapter" here because people say that if the whole story is on the Web, no one will buy the real book. But you can read some long chapters that aren't in the published book on the Web -- and my favorite fairy tales, too.

The paperback is now in bookstores!

If you see it in a bookstore, and only its spine is showing,
please turn it face out so people can see this cover!


And if you don't see it, please ask for it. The bookstore
can order it.

Thank you!

Or you can order it from barnesandnoble, amazon, etc.

It's 224 pages. If you read it, please write and tell
me what you think!

Lots of libraries have the hardcover by now:
if yours doesn't, they can probably get it for you - just ask.