Tally’s family decides it is best to send her away from London to the safe haven of the countryside as war becomes a more imminent threat. Tally doesn’t want to go to boarding school, but she is a very like-able, very agreeable child who only wishes for the happiness of others, so she complies. What Tally finds at Delderton is more than she could have ever imagined–a free-thinking, free-spirited place where she can imagine being and doing anything she wants.
While at Delderton, Tally sees a news reel about the small country of Bergania and how the country’s king has been steadfast in his refusal to surrender to Hitler and the Nazis. Tally feels a connection to the image of the strong but tired King of Bergania. When word comes to Delderton that Bergania wishes to host an international folk dancing festival, Tally jumps at the chance to travel to Bergania despite the fact that she and her friends know nothing of dancing. Putting together a makeshift dance with makeshift costumes and makeshift music, Tally and her fellow Deldertonians make their way to Bergania.
In Bergania, Tally becomes friends with the unhappy Prince Karil. Karil wishes only to be able to spend some time with his father, to be able to make his own choices, and to have true friends. When Tally offers a friendship that has nothing to do with his status, Karil is thrilled, but his happiness is short-lived as tragedy strikes Bergania. Tally and the other Deldertonians must help save Karil from the fate the Nazi’s have in store for him as well as the fate his own family has planned for him.
Reaction: For pretty much no reason at all, I wasn’t thrilled. It just didn’t strike me. The story was solid and enjoyable. Ibbotson is certainly a talented writer. Most of the characters were very interesting, especially the teachers. I really like the interspersed illustrations drawn by Kevin Henkes. But, Tally was too perfect, parts of the story were too predictable and bit too hokey for me, and I thought it moved a bit slowly and was a tad long. I am in the minority though, so possibly you shouldn’t listen to my opinion. Read the Amazon reviews (all 5 star reviews) and Stacy’s over at Welcome to my Tweendom.
Also, I’m probably not going to use this for my booktalks. Not because of my review but because, while it takes place during the war, it is much more about people and relationships than the war. Don’t get me wrong, the reader is aware that the war is approaching and happening, depending on how far along in the book you are, and it is very important to the story but it’s most important effect was to an imaginary country. But, I’m torn because I liked the description of the warning balloons and the Nazi villains and how people were called up in the draft and other subtle but important things involving life during WWII. I’ll see what I think closer to the date, I suppose.