Thursday, November 3, 2011

Journey to the River Sea, by Eva Ibbotson

First published in 2001. This edition published in 2002, by Macmillan.

Maia, an orphan, is about to leave the boarding school she has grown up in and start a long sea voyage to Brazil. Up the Amazon River, she will begin a new life with her governess, Miss Minton, and relatives she has never met. In the jungle she will find exotic worlds under the canopy of trees, the colour and life of the local Indians, friendships and adventures like she has never had before. But it can’t all be good, of course, or where would the story be?

Journey to the River Sea is a lovely little story, rich and warm-hearted, with great doses of energy and imagination. The baddies get their come-uppance, the good guys get their happy ending, and everything in-between is uplifting and told with wisdom and humour.

I think perhaps because everything was just as it should be, that I didn’t quite love this as much as I hoped. I found it all just a little too nice and lacking in a bit of pizzazz; although at the same time I can’t really find anything wrong with it. It’s just there is never that sense of danger or intrigue, because I knew, from the tone of the book, that everything would always work out in the end.

I did enjoy the sly digs and knowing humour. It’s great the way Ibbotson took a stab at the ‘baddies’ whenever the opportunity arose – and it’s never nasty, just enough to show them up.

There is a great sense of discovery in Journey, both with Maia discovering what she is capable of, and of a strange and wonderful world waiting to be explored, if only you are brave enough to do so. Actually, the whole book is big on bravery. But the Amazon jungle has a very real presence here, and Ibbotson paints its humidity, its colour, its sound and its secrets with love and energy.

Maia has lots of spirit and enterprise but I really loved Miss Minton – the fearsome old governess with, really, a heart of gold. And not done in a sappy way either. Above all others, I wanted a happy ending for her.

An enjoyable story, with pleasant humour, racing adventure and overall a nicely satisfying quality. I want to read ten ‘children’s classics’ by the end of 2011. This was book one.

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