Journey to the River Sea
by Eva Ibbotson
This book, which won the 2001 Smarties Book Prize and came within striking distance of the Whitbread and Carnegie awards, lives in a different place from the authors other stories, such as The Island of the Aunts
and The Great Ghost Rescue
. Instead of a fantasy about witches, wizards, and ghosts, it is a historical novel set in between the jungles and the Amazon River of Brazil. (If youre wondering about the title of the book, its a reference to how big the Amazon is.)
It begins with an orphan girl named Maia, who is sent from her beloved English boarding school (itself an exotic feature in a book set in the 19th century) to live with her very tiresome relatives near the city of Manaus, on the river Negro in Brazil. Another unusual touch is the fact that her stern governess, Miss Minton, is the only person in the house that Maia can confide in. Certainly not her crooked uncle, who is obsessed with his ghastly collection of glass eyes, or her insect-hating aunt, who is disturbingly (or disturbedly?) bent on keeping up the pretence that they all still live in England. Least of all can Maia trust her twin cousins Gwendolyn and Beatrice, who are about as unlike Fred and George Weasley as any twins could be (except they are greedy little monsters, you must admit).
Maia lives a life somewhat like that of Harry Potter with the Dursleys. Her family has taken her in grudgingly, and seem to care more about the money than about the girl that comes with it. Maias talents, though not in the magical line, are resented and, were it not for Miss Minton, would soon be squashed out of her. And when the air inside the Carters house grows too close for her to stand, Maia escapes to a magical world none of her relatives understands. A world of dangerous beauty, heartbreaking secrets, adventure and discovery. There, in defiance of civilized customs, Maia finds friends she loves and a marvelous world to explore.
But the best of her friends is a boy whose past is catching up to him. And with the aid of the Carters, a pair of nasty detectives from England, intend to shove the civilized world down the boys throat, whether he will or no. It is up to Maia, Miss Minton, and a has-been child actor whose changing voice got him booed off the stage thousands of miles from home, to save Finn from being groomed as the lord of a great English manor...a fate more terrifying to him than alligators, pirhanas, poisoned darts, and malaria put together!
Think of it as A Little Princess with rubber trees. OK, dont. Its better than that. The story will alternately warm you, chill you, raise your blood pressure, and provoke thought and discussion about historical and social issues. Plus, its loaded with gorgeous forests and the exotic appeal of history and foreign cultures.
Recommended Age: 10+
If you would like to contact Robbie, you may do so here.