The Dragonfly Pool
Dutton Sep 2008, $17.99
By 1939 most English know war against Hitler is imminent. In London, Dr. James Hamilton worries about his extremely popular daughter Tally, born just before her mother died. Thus when a grateful patient arranges for a scholarship at the remote boarding school Delderton, he accepts because he wants her out of the capital though he knows he, his spinster aunts, his patients, and the neighbors will miss his precocious caring daughter.
Tally is unhappy to leave London, but makes friends with other students on the train. She soon finds she loves the school especially the freedom and the lessons by her counselor and biology teacher Matteo. She continues to help other people as that is her makeup. When she attends a movie that has a newsreel, she is excited by the freedom stand by the King of Bergania, who rejects the Nazis’ demands. When Tally learns of a folk dance festival there, she organizes the students to participate, chaperoned by Matteo. There she meets the lonely twelve year old Crown Prince Karil. However, when his father is assassinated while attending the festival, Karil is in danger by those who hope to appease Hitler. Tally and her friends risk their lives to try to help Karil flee to England.
This is an entertaining historical fiction filled with a can do optimism in spite of the mass murdering madman. Tally is terrific, a sort of preadolescent Mary Poppins assisting others with their problems; the middle school audience will admire her determination and courage as she is an excellent role model. The rest of the key characters are also fully developed though they either move forward the vivid story line or increase understanding of the remarkable heroine. My advanced copy did not contain the illustrations by Kevin Hawkes, but if his entries match that of his work in LIBRARY LION, fans are in for an even greater treat. Early teen readers will dive head first into THE DRAGONFLY POOL while demanding their school be more like Delderton.