Beginning in 1910 Edwardian England, ‘Journey to the River Sea’ by Eva Ibbotson tells the story of Maia, a thirteen year old orphan who is being sent to start a new life with relatives thousands of miles away….up the Amazon river! She doesn’t travel alone, however, as she is joined by her strange and unfathomable governess (Miss Minton) who secretly wants to take the journey for reasons of her own.
The world they encounter along the way is just as exotic as they had predicted, complete with new experiences and characters that they would never have met back at home. For Maia, the journey is intriguing and astonishing, yet when they finally arrive at their destination of Manaus, things aren’t quite as planned. The long lost family they are to stay with are nothing if not odd. Mr Carter has tucked himself away from ‘modern life’, his wife is scared of the world around them and the less said about their twins…the better! All of this is sent to test Maia and Miss Minton, but they take it all in their stride and they soon begin to enjoy the way of the Amazon.
This book is so beautifully written and the description of the surroundings, people and world in which Maia now lives will whisk you away with her. For me, this was the quintessential story for children, featuring excellent characters with brilliant narration from Maia, lovely and vivid storytelling and subtle moral undertones (as is to be expected from stories like this).
Journey to the River Sea reminded me of The Water Babies by Reverend Charles Kingsley as some of the themes are quite similar. I also couldn’t help but think of Roald Dahl too, as the descriptive passages are also very reminiscent of some of Dahl’s books for earlier readers such as Esio Trot and The Magic Finger.
This was a very enjoyable read which is perfect for all ages but would be more suited for older children/younger teens as the underlying theme of finding your place in the world, separate from your guardians prevails throughout.
Buy from Waterstones.com
Out now from Pan Macmillan