In 1939 England, Tally, a student at the progressive Delderton boarding school, convinces the school to allow a group of students to participate in an International Children’s Dance Festival in the fictional European country of Bergania. Adventure ensues as Tally and her friends must rescue twelve-year-old Prince Karil from dastardly Nazi henchmen and smuggle him back to England. Think Harry Potter, without the magic, meeting the Sound of Music. Friendship and kindness triumph over cruelty, rigidity, and snobbism. The story is old-fashioned in the best possible way, featuring a heroic king, wicked villains, loyal companions, and a plucky heroine. The plot moves along quickly with lots of action. Ibbotson’s tongue in cheek humor adds to the enjoyment. The Jewish component of the book is practically non-existent. None of the characters are Jewish, and Jewish refugees are only mentioned briefly. The author herself was a Jewish refuge who left Austria in 1933, and Bergania resembles Austria in its natural beauty and Denmark with its heroic king. Young readers might be confused in that Bergania is a fictional country, but the other information about World War II is accurate. In spite of this reservation, this book is highly recommended. Ages 10 – 14.
The Dragonfly Pool
Hillary Zana has a BA and teaching credential from Princeton University. She was a day school librarian for many years and has written many Hebrew textbooks available through Behrman House Publishers. She currently teaches English and history in the Los Angeles public school system and is a National Certified teacher.
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