Regular readers of Random will be aware that I adore Eva Ibbotson's books. I discovered them some 25+ years ago when most of them were out of print and tracked them down and purchased any I could lay my hands on and loved each and every one. Then I discovered that she wrote children's books and I read a lot of them as well. then I discovered that all her earlier books were being reprinted, wonderful, and to my astonishment found them with pictures of pretty teenagers on the front and appearing on the Young Adult shelves in the junior section of Waterstone et al.
Please see below a link sent to me by Adele Geras regarding age banding which has had a fair amount of blog and paper space recently. While there are certain books that are obviously for a certain age group, though I will admit to even now enjoying Burglar Bill, The Hungry Caterpillar and others, it seems completely daft to me to allocate books to age bands. Children read at different levels and at different stages in their lives and why one should read a book because you are now 11 when you have been reading stuff for 14 year olds for ages beats me. And what happens if you are not such a good reader but taking your time and getting there and you are spotted reading a book for an 8 year old when you are older? Talk about making a child feel bad.
I have read quite a few of Adele Geras recently, Ithaka and Troy to name but two, and I found them to be absorbing reading experiences. In theory they are not in my age group, I am an adult, an older adult at that and should not be reading stuff like this. Why not? Adele's books seems to be a shining example of those that can be read and enjoyed by everybody at any age. Do read this link and see what you think.
This long preamble is leading up to the fact that I have just read the latest book written by Eva Ibbotson and, as with all her others, it is pure delight from start to finish,but you won't find it on the adult shelves in any bookshop. The heroine of the Dragonfly Pool is Tally, sent to boarding school which makes her cross as she does not want to leave her father or her aunts, she is happy with her life and cannot imagine anything worse than being away at a stuffy school. Well, Delderton Hall is not your normal run of the mill school, pupils are encouraged to think for themselves, to choose to learn, to express themselves. She makes friends with Julia, who has a wonderful talent for drama but refuses to take part in the school play and who is hiding a secret, Kit, who longs to be at a normal school and and play cricket and objects to taking part in a drama class where he has to imagine he is a fork, Tod who is a fierce republican and feels the royal family and all such despots should be cast down and then there is Matteo, her tutor, and a biology teacher with a fierce love of his subject and who lights up his pupil's imagination with his teaching.
The pupils are invited to take part in a festival in the tiny country of Bergania which is being threatened by Hitler in the days just before the start of the second World War. The King is standing firm though there are those in his court who are plotting against him and who wish him and his son, Crown Prince Karil, ill.
Dreadful deeds occur and Tally and her fellow pupils and friends find themselves smuggling Prince Karil out of the country and enduring great dangers to keep him safe. It is a story of friendship - Karil has never had a friend, and now he finds himself being taken care of by children he has never met before, the kind of child he always wanted to be, free to choose and to be himself. There was one place he would seek out, a secret place shown to him by his father when he, in his turn, needed peace in his childhood and where he could be alone and untroubled - the Dragonfly Pool.
"Karil turned alongside a smaller stream; Tally heard the sound of rushing water and they came to a waterfall tumbling down between rocks......they had come to a pool so still and dark and deep that it hardly seemed to belong to the real world....a kingfisher flew off with a flash of blue and emerald.
And over the surface of the water their danced and swooped and circled a host of dragonflies. Shafts of sunlight turned them every colour of the rainbow and in the silence she could make out, very faintly, the dry clatter of their wings.
She said nothing, just shook her head in wonder and Karil knew that it was right to have brought her here"
Now are the powers that be really trying to tell me that I should not be reading this book because I am a lady of 60+ and this is a story for teenagers? Running through all of Eva Ibbotson's wonderful stories, with their atmosphere of enchantment and fairy tale, runs a strong vein of common sense, her heroines are down to earth, sensible and practical as well as sensitive and loving. There is a similarity of character in most of her heroines and I can only assume that each heroine in each book is Eva Ibbotson herself when young. I wish Eva a long long life so she can continue to write and produce these simply enchanting books for us all to enjoy, no matter what age we are.
I read it straight through one evening after work and travel which as you will know from my moanings, has been horrendous this week. thank goodness for books that is all I can say. Sitting waiting for a train to move, waiting for a train to arrive, going home on a route that is four times as long as usual, baking hot and thirsty, all this can be coped with if there is a good book or two in my bag and can shut out the frustrations and delays. I have been fortunate this week that I have found such reads and this gorgeous book has been one of them....