Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

How wonderful to read a school story where the school (a boarding school no less) is celebrated. Delderton Hall, the imaginative creation of Eva Ibbotson, embodies everything a good school should be. The philosophy is to encourage the gifts and talents of each child through kindness, creativity and excellent teachers in a wonderful environment.

Twenty years earlier a very rich couple from America came and build a school on the ruins of Delderton Hall … they believed that only the best was good enough for children and they were as idealistic as they were wealthy. …Each child had its own room… The common rooms had well-sprung sofas, the pianos in the music rooms were Steinways and the library housed over ten thousand books… Delderton was to be a progressive school - a school where children would be free to follow their instincts and develop in a natural way. There would be no bullyings or beating, no competitive sports … no exams – just harmony and self development in the glorious Devon countryside. A school where teachers would be chosen for their loving kindness and not their degrees.”

As World War Two is about to begin Tally, short for Talitha, is sent by her loving father Doctor Hamilton to Delderton Hall. Dr Hamilton is a wonderful practitioner who is loved by his patients and one has arranged a scholarship to Delderton for Tally.

At its heart this is a book about friendship. Tally makes wonderful friends among the teachers and students at Delderton Hall but her most precious friend, Karil, comes from the tiny European country of Bergania. Tally finds she has a connection with this country after seeing a short documentary film at the cinema. Quite by chance just after she sees the film her school receives an invitation to a folk dance festival in Bergania. Tally is a girl with determination and charm and so it is arranged that four girls and four boys will travel from England to Bergainia to perform at the festival. Sadly this beautiful country is in the sights of Hitler. He has sent his henchman Reichsgruppen Fuchrer Anton Steifelbreich to carry out the take over which will involve an assassination.

As with all books by Eva Ibboston I loved The Dragonfly pool and am happy to say a new copy will arrive in our school library very soon. At nearly 400 pages this looks like quite a long book but the plot moves along at a frantic pace with some surprising and delightful twists and turns. You might find the opening chapter a little odd and fragmented but just keep reading and you will find things will quickly fall into place.

If you enjoy books by Odo Hirsch especially Dairus Bell, or the Taspestry series Henry Neff by then you must grab The Dragonfly Pool soon. Children interested in the events of World War Two might also look for The Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin which also features a determined heroine just like Tally.

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