Eva Ibbotson
Journey to the River Sea


Maia is an orphan girl, and in 1910 she has to move with a governess from England to Brazil, where she will be taken in by distant relatives. A lot of the unexpected things happen and the story has you on the edge of your seat until the last page of the book.


Before Maia leaves England to live in Manaus, a city in the middle of the Brazilian jungle, her classmates regret that she will soon be living in an area with alligators, piranhas, disease-carrying mosquitoes, unbearable humid heat and native Indians with poison arrows. But Maia is not frightened because she has read in a book in the school library:

Those who think of the Amazon as a Green Hell bring only their own fears and prejudices to this amazing land. For whether a place is a hell or a heaven rests in yourself, and those who go with courage and an open mind may find themselves in Paradise.

On the ship crossing to Brazil, Maia and her governess Miss Minton get to know the boy Clovis, a member of a company of actors. Each of the three wears a mental “corset” or has let themselves be put in one. But as their lives continue and they encounter the half-Indian Finn, the three are aided in freeing themselves from the constriction.

Maia is a fresh, sunny girl who initially suffers a great deal at the hands of her foster parents, who only took her in for the money. Above all, the twin girls in the family, who are the same age as Maia, pester and torment her wherever they can.

The author, Eva Ibbotson, knows how to not only let the reader participate in the external events, but also lets them empathize and understand internally. For example, with the young, desperate Clovis, when he first sees the three girls sitting next to each other:

The twins were pretty, but Maia was special with her serious face and kind eyes … Just looking at it made him feel safe, as if he could hold on to it and be all right.

Despite all the drama, the book is also funny and easy to read. It vividly describes how fate gives all those involved exactly what they need.

Highly recommended for older children, teenagers and adults.


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