Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

I am having a great time re-reading titles I have recommended for years. Today I read Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson first published in 2001. I find it interesting the way the human brain works. My memory of this book mostly related to the journey along with Amazon River on the Arabella but that happens right near the end of the story. I had completely forgotten about Maia’s time with the awful Carter family.

Maia has lost both her parents which is really a sad beginning but she is not a penniless orphan. Her guardian is managing her money, there is plenty, and she is attending a prestigious and comfortable boarding school so all is well but as the story opens all this is about to change. Mr Murray, her guardian, has found some distant relatives. Adding to this shock Maia is told this family live in Brazil on the Amazon River near the town of Manaus. The family, the Carters, consist of a mother, father and twin girls called Beatrice and Gwendolyn. Maia imagines exotic adventures, wild animals and fun with two friendly girls. For the reader, though, Eva Ibbotson has put in some subtle warning signs and we know her imaginings are about to be shattered.

The twins are diabolical, the father is reclusive with a repugnant hobby collecting false eyeballs and the mother is obsessive about insects and disease. Eva Ibbotson is such a powerful writer I felt at times I could even smell this house in the Amazon with all the insect sprays and perfumes. “All the windows were covered in layers of mosquito netting and the shutters were kept partly closed so that the rooms were not only hot but dark. .. There were no pictures, no flowers. The smell of Lysol was overpowering.”

Maia is a friendly girl and her ability to make loyal friends is an important key to her survival and ultimate success. Her companion is a mysterious lady called Miss Minton but once again Eva Ibbotson gives the reader just enough little hints that we know Miss Minton is kind and very wise and if she is keeping secrets from Maia it is for a very good reason. Maia also makes friends with a young boy called Jimmy or Clovis who has been kidnapped in England and forced to join a troupe of travelling show people. Her other important friend is Finn Taverner. His father has recently died. Finn’s mother was from an Indian tribe called the Xanti. All these characters and others are connected and that is the part of this story I enjoyed the most.

Reading this splendid book again I am very happy I have been recommending it for over ten years. If you love adventure, you love stories where all the little pieces neatly fit together at the end but in ways you simply would not have guessed then this is a book you must read. I do not rate books but I would give Journey to the River Sea ten out of ten. I was interested to read President Obama gave this book as a gift to his daughters (it is a book boys can read too). I now need to read Little Lord Fauntleroy to make even more connections.

I have put two covers on this post because I really like the butterfly one but our library copy is the blue one. If you want to see a really cute video about this book click here. Here are some discussion questions for teachers. If you need to see more of the plot or read some reviews click here.

No comments: