Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson – a Review

Title: Journey to the River Sea

Author: Eva Ibbotson

Published: 2001

Age Rating: 11+

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

I don’t know quite what I expected when I originally picked up this book, but from the moment I spotted the beautiful hardback volume in the charity shop (in the 4 for £1!), I was hooked. Maia is a young orphan, who for a while had been living in a boarding school in London following her parents death, but when it is discovered she has relatives living in Brazil on the edge of the Amazon River, the young girl is eager to meet them and be part of a jolly family home, once more. The family Maia can’t wait to be part of is the Carters – Mr and Mrs Carter, and their twin daughters – Beatrice and Gwendolyn, but little does she know that the only reason they agreed to accept Maia into their family was her fortune.

Maia’s travelling partner (from London to Brazil) and new governess is Miss Minton, a strange and striking character, established in her description: “Maia’s travelling companion was a most extraordinary looking person. Her eyes, behind thick spectacles were the colour of mud, her mouth was narrow and her nose was thin and sharp, and her black felt hat was tethered to her hair with a hat pin in the shape of a viking spear.” The description in this book, as this exert clearly demonstrates, is excellent. Eva Ibbotson was inspired to write this book when her friend visited a city called Manaus which is situated at the mouth of the river Amazon, but surprisingly, Ibbotson didn’t go to Brazil or Manaus when researching for this novel. Instead she read books, looked at pictures, watched films and videos of wildlife, talked to travellers, and tried to learn some Portuguese in order to write this excellent tale, and I find it amazing by the knowledge and realistic description packed into the book, that Eva hadn’t actually been there.

Anyway, back to Maia and Miss Minton’s journey to Brazil. I imagined it to be a longer process in the book (considering the title) but despite this, it was just as satisfying, and again, Eva Ibbotson fits as much description and knowledge in as possible. Maia meets a boy called Clovis on her journey who belongs to a small acting company called ‘The Pilgrim Player’s’ who act in different theatres on their travels. Maia promises to come and see Clovis take the leading part in a play he is going to act in at the theatre in Manaus.

When the companions actually arrive at the Carter’s home, Maia is surprised with the family she has entered; they are not very welcoming and have some very strange ways. For instance, Mrs Carter has the house practically polished with disinfectant and every morning she makes a patrol of the entire house shooting insects with a flit gun. She is obviously not happy with creepy crawlies inside her house, but that isn’t the strangest of her ways. It is a rare occasion when any member of the household exit the house – that is except from when the twins attend their dancing and piano classes, or go to the theatre in Manaus.

Maia is disappointed at the Carter’s ways because she was so looking forward to spending time in Brazil with the twins, running freely and enjoying her new life, but she might as well have been back in England. But then action descends on the usually quiet Manaus and occupants of the edge of the ‘River Sea’, as two Englishmen arrive – Mr Low, and Mr Trapwood who claim to be searching for a young boy who must be brought back to England as soon as possible. “The boy is son of an Englishman called Bernard Taverner who settled out here and is now dead.”

It’s a mystery…


I don’t want to spoil the rest of the book for those who haven’t read it because Eva Ibbotson tells the story so well. But I highly, highly recommend this book, to all age groups because it is an enchanting, fascinating read. The reason why I awarded it a much deserved five star rating. Also great for anyone doing a project on Brazil / the river Amazon. I think I’d learn more reading and enjoying this book, than a factual book on either of these topics. Enjoy!

I think I might review ‘The Secret of Cliff Castle’ next week (don’t worry – we will get round to ‘The Hound of the Baskerville’s!) so please, look out for that next Wednesday. And it will be on Wednesday next week!! And don’t forget to comment on any of these reviews! I would love to read your feedback.


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