I started the Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson as part of my #readathon session. I had a lovely 15th anniversary edition of this modern day classic, complete with gorgeous blue butterfly. The following day I woke up with a terrible head cold and struggled to work, before realising that I was going to need a couple of days at home in bed to actually get better.
Journey to the River Sea became the perfect easy, delightful read to see me through my first day of feeling miserable at home.
This book was a pleasure in and of itself, but it also brought back so many lovely memories of other favourite childhood characters. Our orphaned heroine, Maia upon hearing that she was being sent to the Amazon to live with cousins she had never met, channelled her inner Jane Eyre, when she gave herself this stern talking to,
Fear is the cause of all evil, she told herself but she was afraid. Afraid of the future…afraid of the unknown. Afraid in the way of someone who is alone in the world.
Followed up quickly by an Anne Shirley-esque remark, ‘And after that I don’t know, but it’s going to be all right.‘ Maia is courageous, funny and intelligent – the kind of child, we all wish we had been more like (well, at least, the kind of child, I wish I had been like).
There’s the forbidding but ultimately lovable governess who provides Maia with thoughtful care, fun and inspiring life advice just like Mary Poppins or Professor McGonagall. The Little Lord Fauntleroy aspect is explored via Clovis, the very homesick and unwilling theatrical orphan boy. The mean twins are Nellie Olsen, John Reed and Veruca Salt all rolled into one (well, actually two, but you know what I mean!) And the lost boy, living with the Indians, has a touch of the Huck Finn’s or Peter Pan about him.
Journey to the River Sea is historical fiction with heart. Set in 1910 England and Manaus on the banks of the Negro River in Brazil, Ibbotson gives us a tale of belonging, bravery and being true to yourself. There’s also a treasure trove of gorgeous geography and anthropological treats along the way, with references to Humboldt, sloths and butterflies, just to name a few.
Highly recommended for mature 10+ readers and all lovers of fine children’s literature.
My post for One Dog and His Boy from 2011 – when my reviews were short, sweet & simple.