Adventures in the Amazon!

Author Eva Ibbotson, who passed away in 2010, had a way with words. Today’s Flashback Friday selection from 2003 is Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea, In it, Ibbotson creates a multilayered tale that takes readers from England to the Amazon and is peppered with characters from kind to cruel. It’s 1910, and Maia is attending a girl’s academy in England when she gets word that she is no longer an orphan.  An aunt, uncle and their twins have stepped forward as relatives. Excited to have relatives, start a new life and see the Amazon, Maia sets out on a long journey by land and sea with Miss Minton, her governess.  Initially, MIss Minton is rather icy, but eventually Maia and Miss Minton warm to each other and grow close. Upon their arrival in Brazil, life becomes complicated. The Carters, Maia’s new relatives, are horrid people running an unsuccessful rubber plantation who despise the jungle. Maia loves her wild new world, but feels trapped by the Carters. A young actor friend, Clovis, met along her journey and a fellow jungle-loving friend, Finn, play important parts as well in Maia’s adventures.

Ibbotson’s story is enthralling, complex and well written. Readers who love classic tales full of excitement will be drawn into Maia’s journey and the cunning ways she navigates her adventures in the Amazon.

Written by Eva Ibbotson

Copyright 2003

Accelerated Reader Level 5.7

Why I like this book:

It is the kind of book that hooks you and you just have to read one more chapter before you go to sleep.  Maia is relatable and many readers will imagine themselves in South America, excited, scared and brave as is Maia. The word choice, descriptions and adventures are indicative of a classic tale, which I find entertaining and satisfying to read.

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England, Africa, the Flu and Felines….a Classic Adventure!

Back in 2005, Gloria Whelan wrote Listening for Lions, this week’s Flashback Friday feature. It is a tale reminiscent of many classics, with an enthralling story line, settings worthy of a painting and characters deeply ensconced in their desires, whether good or evil. Living in East Africa in 1919, Rachel is but 13 when her parents, missionaries, die of influenza, as does Valerie Pritchard, their neighbor’s daughter. Rachel dearly loves Africa and has no desire to leave. Finding herself in the care of the Pritchards, Rachel feels desperate. As the plot thickens, the Pritchards devise an immoral, if not downright evil, plan. Since they have burned their bridges with the wealthy grandfather of their family, they planned to send Valerie to live with this patriarch in failing health, win him over and have them reinstated in his will. With the death of Valerie, their revised plan becomes to send Rachel, also a redhead, in her place, tricking grandfather in an attempt to still accomplish their greedy goal.  Rachel wants to refuse, but relents, traveling to England and forming a strong bond with their frail grandfather despite the deception.

Scene descriptions bring the settings to life and readers will feel for the predicament in which Rachel has found herself.  Will good win over evil? Will Rachel return to Africa? If you’ve read The Secret Garden and similar classics, give this story a go and you will once again experience the satisfaction of a good story, well told.

Written by Gloria Whelan

Copyright 2005

Accelerated Reader Level 5.7

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My Kind of Courage

You could say that Joseph Johnson is on a run of bad luck. That would be an understatement. True to the times, 1890, Typhoid has taken many lives, among them Joseph’s mother and young sister. His father dies in an accident, leaving Joseph in the care of an unscrupulous man who sells Joseph’s cherished horse, Sarah, to horse traders. This is Joseph’s breaking point. At age twelve, he sets out to rescue Sarah. He is not alone for long, though. He soon adds an unexpected companion, a Chinese boy who speaks no English.  On their horse-trader chase around Washington State, the two encounter characters ranging from villains to kind strangers, gruelling physical challenges and continual danger. Through it all, a touching kinship is formed between the boys. The fast-paced action will keep readers engrossed all the way to the gratifying ending.

A boy facing tough odds, solely focused on saving Sarah, with gritty determination and unwavering bravery.  Some Kind of Courage is my kind of story. Yet, the ultimate review is a one-liner from a fifth-grade boy who is a bit of a reluctant reader. Imagine him holding up the book with a wide grin and saying, “This book is the best!”

By Dan Gemeinhart

Copyright 2015

Accelerated Reader Level 4.8

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