Journey to the River Sea

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Journey to the River Sea
Journey to the River Sea cover.jpg
Front cover of the first edition
Author Eva Ibbotson
Illustrator Gina Suter
Kevin Hawkes (US)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's adventure novel
Publisher Macmillan Children's Books
E. P. Dutton (US)
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 299 pp
ISBN 0-333-94740-1
0525467394 (US)
LC Class PZ7.I11555 Jo 2001a

Journey to the River Sea is an adventure novel for children written by Eva Ibbotson and published by MacMillan in 2001. It is set mainly in Brazil early in the twentieth century and conveys the author's vision of the Amazon River.

It was a finalist for all of the major British children's literary awards (below), winning the Smarties Prize, ages 9–11, and garnering an unusual commendation as runner-up for the Guardian Award. Anne Fine, British Children's Laureate (2001–2003) and one of three former winners on the Guardian panel, wrote that "we all fell on Eva Ibbotson's perfectly judged, brilliantly light to read, civilised Journey To The River Sea, in which we are shown how, as one of the characters reminds us, 'Children must lead big lives... if it is in them to do so.' Oh, please let her write another book as fine as this, because, in any other year, we would have handed her the prize without a thought."[1]


Maia Fielding[edit]

Maia Fielding is an orphan and is the main character of the book. Bright, passionate, adventurous, determined and resourceful, Maia is extremely talented in music and has a great zest for life. Maia used to live and study in a boarding school in England; all fees were subsidized by her parents' trust fund. She journeys to the Amazon to live with her relatives, the Carters, who exploit, neglect and abuse her, only keeping her under their roof for the sake of her parents' money. She grows close to her governess, Ms. Minton. She also forms remarkably close bonds with both Clovis King and Finn Taverner, who are, if in different ways, in lonely and vulnerable situations similar to her own. Maia is excited and mystified by the unexplored Amazon and deeply passionate about it once it becomes her home.

Clovis King[edit]

Clovis (real name Jimmy Bates) is an impoverished boy actor who dreams of going home to England. He has a mishap in Manaus and leaves the acting troupe.

Later, Clovis takes Finn's place and goes to England and there becomes heir to Westwood and is reunited with his foster mother who persuades him to reveal his true identity. Clovis tries to reveal his identity on a number of occasions one of which results in disaster and Clovis remains heir to Westwood. He too has feelings for Maia, shown by his implication that he misses her in several areas of the book and by asking near the very end of the book if he could "have Maia when she's grown up."

Finn Taverner[edit]

Finn Taverner a half-Indian, half-English boy who is the true heir of Westwood (his father's aristrocratic home). Loathe to leave his life on the Amazon, however, he spends a long period of time evading those who wish to return him to England. He befriends Maia and comes to trust her completely. With her help, he persuades Clovis to take on his identity and become heir of Westwood in his place. Afterwards, he sails down the rivers along with Maia looking for the Xanti (his mother's tribe) and succeeds. At the end of the book, he, Maia, and Miss Minton all remain in the Amazon, referring to it as "home". It is implied that Finn has romantic feelings for Maia, most notably when Clovis asks if he can "have Maia when she's grown up" and Finn answers "no".

Beatrice and Gwendolyn Carter[edit]

The twins, Beatrice and Gwendolyn, are the main antagonists of the novel. They are vain, spoilt and pretty, and they dislike their cousin Maia. They think only of money, dresses and chocolate. They never go out of their house (except when they go to the town) and are shocked when Maia asks them if they go for walks outside. They always stick together even when they go to the bathroom and lie to their parents about Maia. They are scared by the animals and hate the natives. Later on in the novel, Maia and Finn exploit the twins' greed and have Clovis be caught by them and be thought of as "Finn". The twins lose the money that they received for turning "Finn" after the fire, they are penniless and are forced to become the servants of a mean, rich old lady (Lady Parsons) - a relative of theirs in England - who forces them to constantly work. Although they are the same age as Maia, they are slow at studying and they are often referred to as boring in Maia's point of view. They also enjoy torturing and making Maia's life awful, but in the end their own life becomes miserable because they end up becoming servants. Much like their parents, Beatrice and Gwendolyn are two selfish children who prefer themselves to the well being of others. To a basic account, the prissy, greedy brats better known as the Carter Twins are very much like their given nicknames of 'fiends' and 'nasty pigs'.

Mrs. Carter[edit]

Mrs. Carter is the twins' mother, and Mr. Carter's wife. It is clear she only took Maia in for the money that came with her. She uses this to buy various varieties of insect repellant as she is shown to hate bugs. She is also greedy and shown to be going mad towards the end of the book. When she gets the money Maia brought she doesn't spend it on Maia's needs such as piano lessons for her she just uses it to buy herselp clothes and her daughter twins dresses. She is in debt, and all the other families living in Manaus despise the Carters. When her house is set on fire, she goes to live with a distant relative, who turns Mrs. Carter into her personal maid.

Mr. Carter[edit]

Mr. Carter is the twins' father. He is in debt in Manaus and is wanted for fraud in England after robbing from a bank he worked in. He is shown to be manipulative and has an obsession with collecting famous peoples' glass eyes. At the end of the novel he is sent to prison in the Amazon after failing to pay workers and loan sharks. He also gets taken to prison by Gonzales. Mr. Carter is a very mysterious man; he doesn't really care for his family and spends all day in his messy office obsessing over his collection of eyeballs.he loves his eyeballs so much that when there was a fire he told his wife and the twins he was going to go back in and get Maia but actually he doesnt even try and get Maia he goes straight to his office and saves his eyeball collection. He tells his family that he tried to get to Maia's room but he couldn't get there.

Miss Minton (Bella)[edit]

Miss Minton is the governess of Maia and the twins. She is very arrogant, though loving. Maia in the book has called her Minty as a nickname. She is very slender and only wears black and she is kind and strict at the same time. She loves reading books, the only reason she accepted the job at the carters was because she had no money. She takes a liking to Maia and here love for the jungle.



The story takes place mainly in Manaus and the surrounding rainforest and river systems in Brazil, but there are some scenes in England. Maia moved from England to Brazil. the story also is set in the Amazon jungle and all the wonders in it.


Maia is an orphan living and studying in the Mayfair Academy for Young Ladies in England. However, word comes from Mr. Murray, a lawyer and her guardian, that he has found her relatives who are willing to take her in, called the Carters. Along with a governess, Miss Minton, Maia goes by sea to Manaus, Brazil. On the ship, she meets a boy named Clovis King, who is traveling with his adoptive parents. He wishes to go back to England, to his foster mother, but the Goodleys (the acting troupe) won't let him. Maia promises that she will go and see his play once in Brazil.

The Carters are not as kind as she had hoped for. Beatrice and Gwendolyn, the twins, seem to be brought up strictly to be British. So when time comes to see Clovis's play in the town, the twins tell a lie and say that all the tickets had sold out so they couldn't buy one for her. Maia goes to see Clovis, and she secretly slips out of the Carters house to get there. When she gets lost, an Indian boy takes her to the theatre on his boat. When Maia finally gets to watch Little Lord Fauntleroy, Clovis is acting very well, but in the most important part, his voice cracks and the play is ruined. Later, Maia meets a half-native, half-British boy called Finn Taverner and finds out that he was the boy who gave her a ride to Clovis's act. Men, whom Maia nicknames "the crows", are chasing him because his grandfather had wanted to be the heir of Westwood, the estate of the wealthy Taverner family. Finn doesn't want to go, because he wants to travel up the Amazon to where an Indian tribe(his mother's tribe) called the Xanti live. Afterward, Clovis meets Finn too and Finn suggests that they swap positions because Clovis wants to go back to England and Finn wants to stay in Brazil. Clovis will pretend to be Finn Taverner and become the heir to Westwood, while Finn will explore the "River Sea" (the name given to the Amazon River by locals). The swapping is successful, and for a while, everything seems to be going fairly well. But then one day, Miss Minton disappears. She has plans to rescue Maia from the Carters by taking the place of Mademoiselle Lille, the governess to a Russian family, the Keminskys, Maia's friends Sergei and Olga and their parents, the Count and Countess Keminsky. While she is gone, the twins accidentally start a fire in the Carters's home. Mrs. Carter tries to kill a bug but the sprayer lid comes off, spilling onto the oil lamp, burning the twins' bedroom and finally the whole house. The Carters are sent to the hospital in the river ambulance, but Maia is left on her own. She is found by Finn and he takes her on his boat, the Arabella, to embark on the adventure she had hoped for. Miss Minton and her friend, Professor Neville Glastonberry, chase after them by boat as well. They find the Xanti and for a short time, they live with them and are perfectly happy. Then a problem presents itself. Maia is singing for the Xanti, and the police from Manaus hear her voice and also find Miss Minton's corset, and, thinking they will rescue Miss Minton, Maia, and the curator of the Natural History museum, take them back to Manaus. Clovis confesses that he is not the heir and wishes to go home, but covers it up after Sir Aubrey has a heart attack. Finn goes to Westwood, his father's home, to help Clovis.

In the end, Maia, Miss Minton and Finn all return home (Manaus) and Clovis "Finn" becomes the heir.


Journey to the River Sea won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize for reader ages 9–11. It was identified as runner-up for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize[1] and it made the shortlist for the Carnegie Medal;[2] the Whitbread Award, Children's Book; and the Blue Peter Book Award, Book I Couldn't Put Down.


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