A stunning children's story from a master writer...
Ibbotson has gleaned a hard-won reputation for classical children’s literature of an extremely high Journey to the River Sea and The Star of Kazan), so it was with great expectation that we delved into the new world created by Ibbotson for our children’s consumption.
The Dragonfly Pool, as with several children’s titles of recent months, has the Second World War at its crux, without the gruesome nature of war taking centre stage. Instead, a rather non-descript little girl of somewhat impoverished and yet immaculately spoken, background is the heroine of the piece. Tally is the daughter of an incredibly talented but selfless father, who sees fit to bestow his immeasurable competence as a doctor on the less fortunate; unlike his brother who owns a surgery on Harley Street and an impressive residence as a result. Tally and her father live with two aging and somewhat sassy Aunts. Their lives are full of the glorious indulgence allowed for those ignorant of anything better. With the promise of a new war, however, Tally’s father takes the unprecedented step of sending his beloved daughter away to boarding school – for her own safety. Her father’s best intentions aside, Tally is immediately distraught, particularly as her snooty cousins put on an awfully gaudy display of what to expect from a ‘proper’ school.
Delderton, however, could not be further from the imaginations of what constitutes a ‘proper’ school. Assuming the stance of a progressive educational institution, the children are permitted extreme levels of freedoms; classes are not obligatory, uniforms are not required and there are no prefects or thinly veiled threats of beatings should they misbehave. Delderton is situated in stunning countryside, full of fresh air and fresh wonders. As if this were not enough for Tally to take in, so taken is Tally with the sight of Bergania on a travelogue, that when the school is requested to send a troupe of children to perform in a folk dance festival there, she pushes hard to ensure that she and her newly formed friends will go. As is often the case at times of world unrest, the trip becomes more than Tally could have ever expected; she meets a Prince, discovers the mysterious past of her biology teacher and enters into a desperate race to flee the clutches of the Gustapo.
Ibbotson is surely the queen of children’s fiction; with unquestionable grace and deftness of penmanship, she creates an eloquently described, sumptuously detailed story festooned with an eclectic collection of characters that will appeal to all children. The Dragonfly Pool is a warm, generously plotted and inescapably good read that drives a deep inner hunger for more of Ibbotson’s offerings. If you have never read Ibbotson before, be prepared for something magical. Yet another modern classic.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012