The Drag­on­fly Pool

Eva Ibbot­son; Kevin Hawkes, illus.
  • Review
By – January 27, 2012

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.

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.

Discussion Questions