Monday, December 01, 2008
The Dragonfly Pool
So every now and again I get a hankering to order some books from the UK. Better covers, different release dates, and all that. This batch included Vivian French's The Bag of Bones, Oliver Jeffers' The Great Paper Caper, and Eva Ibbotson's The Dragon Fly Pool. Now this was a nice box to receive for sure!
I am an unabashed fan of Ibbotson. She is my go-to author for so many students, and the author of books that I read again and again. The Star of Kazaan is a real favourite of mine, and I was wondering how The Dragonfly Pool would sit with me. Well folks, I have a new favourite.
Tally is living with her father and her Aunts in London. Tally's father, Dr. Hamilton, has just been given an offer that he cannot refuse. A scholarship at a boarding school for Tally. His is not a stereotypical doctor's household. They have very little since Dr. Hamilton only charges his patients what he can afford. With Hitler raving on the radio, getting Tally out of London is a priority.
So off to Delderton goes Tally.
When she gets there she is a little surprised. It is not at all like the boarding schools that her cousins told her about. First off, the children are not in uniform. They address their teachers by their first names, and they only have to go to classes if they care to! Delderton is, after all, a progressive school.
Tally's letters home are reassuring to Dr. Hamilton, and she quickly emerges as a leader at the school. When the school Head throws out the fact that they have been invited to a folk dancing festival in Bergania during a school meeting, it is Tally who rallies her fellow students to form a folk dancing group and even make up a dance in order to go. She's not a bully about it either. She just has a way of getting people to agree and get excited about things.
Once the children are in Bergania at the festival they are quickly tossed into a situation that should be too much to handle. It is up to the children, no matter their nationality, to help Prince Karil in his time of need.
I don't want to give too much plot away here, since Ibbotson manages to dodge and weave avoiding predictability all together. Ibbotson's children and adults are all memorable, and even though Tally is the protagonist, there are others that readers may savour just as much (Matteo, perhaps). Friendship, education, class and character are all themes that show up throughout.
I tend to get a chuckle reading about progressive schools since I work at one. Delderton may be a leap or two away from today's progressive schools, but the heart and soul is really there. That the teachers are so caring and allow the students to discover their passions is spot on and a pleasure to read about.
Fans of Ibbotson should love this, as should fans of Creech, Birdsall, and even Cushman. With strong boy and girl characters and a fast moving story, the appeal crosses gender lines as well. A perfect choice for the tweensters during this season of gift-giving!