Title: The Dragonfly Pool
Author: Eva Ibbotson
What it's about: Just prior to World War II, Tally Hamilton is sent away from her home in London to attend a boarding school. However, Delderton is unlike any other school. The students are quirky, the classes don't cover traditional sources of study, and the teachers are as odd and talented as they are caring. Despite her initial misgivings, Tally soon fits in at Delderton, and she even convinces the school to form a folk-dancing team in order to travel to a cultural festival in the small nation of Bergania. There she meets Karil, the crown prince. But even as Tally and Karil become friends, the threat of the Nazis casts a shadow over the lives of everyone.
What I thought: This is like The Star of Kazan, only even better. There's the same charming prose, with loving descriptions of the natural world. Actually, the beginning of the book, with its setup of Tally's life in London had be fearing this book would simply retread the path of The Star of Kazan. However, I was happily wrong. The action is concentrated on Tally and her friends at Delderton, and I am happy to say that the supporting cast is well drawn, with likable, memorable characters. There's also plenty of excitement and action, with higher stakes than in the other book. I also thought that the friendships between the characters were well-done, with plenty of depth. And I quite liked Tally. You know how when there's a character who's just generally nice, caring, optimistic, etc., there's the potential for her to be an annoying Mary Sue type? I had this worry for Tally, but Ibbotson is so good that the reader is charmed along with the other characters.
Overall: A wonderful piece of historical fiction. Charming and heartwarming.