Wednesday 24 April 2013

"The Dragonfly Pool" by Eva Ibbotson - Reviewed by Pauline Chandler

An exciting adventure story for 8-12 year olds, from Eva Ibbotson, whose ‘Journey To the River Sea’ was a Carnegie medal winner.

When, at the beginning of World War Two, Tally is evacuated from London to a ‘progressive’ boarding school in Devon, her father is concerned that she won’t be happy. He’s quickly proved wrong. Tally loves life at Delderton Hall, where she’s free to choose what to learn and which classes to join. There’s plenty to enjoy, with interesting characters among staff and pupils, all with their own stories. Then there’s the pet’s hut ‘for small animals that can stay in cages’, such as Barney’s axolotl, nature walks at dawn, and drama, where you have to pretend to be a fork or a pillow or a teapot.

What Tally really enjoys is the freedom to express her opinions at school council meetings. Shocked by news of Nazi tyranny in Europe, Tally suggests supporting a small country striving to stay neutral. The king of Bergania has invited schools to join in a folk dancing festival and Tally wants her school to go, but it takes all her determination to persuade her friends to help bring this about. 

In Bergania, the story deals with some stark issues, when the festival is threatened by Nazi bullies. It’s there that Tally meets Prince Karil, whose own education is the opposite of hers. Karil longs to speak and act freely, and to make his own choices about his future, instead of submitting to the strict life mapped out for him as the next king. The dragonfly pool of the title is the place where Karil feels most free, a private place, which he shares with his new friend, Tally.     

‘The Dragonfly Pool’ will appeal to any fans of CS Lewis, Elizabeth Goudge, Francis Hodgson Burnett, Lucy Boston and J K Rowling, all writers who take children on perilous journeys, where, with ingenuity and courage, they take risks, foil bullies and criminals, and break silly adult rules to do what is right and just.   

‘The Dragonfly Pool’ also fits nicely with stories set during World War Two, when children faced evacuation and the real possibility of their parents being killed or of never finding them again.

Eva Ibbotson handles this difficult material with her customary light touch, so that the book is thoroughly entertaining with plenty of humour.     

Pauline Chandler



Pippa Goodhart said...

Oo, I LOVE that book!

Pauline Chandler said...

So do I, Pippa! I love all of Eva Ibbotson's stories, but this is my current favourite.

Elen C said...

I read it for the first time very recently. I loved it, but it is not at all what I expected from the title and cover. I had assumed it would be fantasy. I was delighted when it wasn't.

Pauline said...

Yes, Elen! This is such a lovely book,but the title doesn't tell you anything about the story. My first thought after reading it was to write a piece about misleading titles! Not sure authors can get away with such an obscure title these days.

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