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Journey to the River Sea

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Eva Ibbotson is my favorite author. Her style is similar to Roald Dahl and E. Nestbit. Whether her setting  is the Amazon Jungle or prewar Vienna, she creates delightful descriptions of her surroundings.  Her characters are always colorful and her villains deliciously creepy.

Like many great heroines of literature, Maia is an orphan.  She is attending boarding school in England when her lawyer discovers that she has relatives living near the Amazon River in Brazil.  While classmates warn her about frightening creatures and wild jungles, Maia does her research and anticipates a grand adventure.  She is especially excited to meet her twin cousins, Gwendolyn and Beatrice.

Maia and her guardian Miss Minchin sail from England to Brazil.   On the ship, she befriends Clovis, another orphan, who is acting with a traveling company.  Clovis hates his life in the theatre and longs to go back to a more civilized life in England.

In Brazil, Maia discovers that her new relatives despise Brazil and most everything else.  They never venture outside avoiding the heat  and the mosquitos.  They reject the fresh bananas and local seafood in favor of imported beet root, corn beef and green jelly from England.  Gwendolyn and Beatrice are especially disagreeable.  From the start, they attempt to make Maia’s life miserable.

Maia is enchanted by the Amazon River, often called the River Sea, and the nearby rainforest where howler monkeys swing from the trees as scarlet parakeets and clusters of butterflies fly overhead.

Maia also meets Finn (yet another orphan) who lives among the natives on the edge of the Amazon. His father was a wealthy man with an estate in England.  He was an outdoorsman who married a native and settled in Brazil.

Two men from his father’s estate, known to the natives as “the Crows”, because of their grey suits, are trying to capture Finn and take him back to England.  The bumbling crows are constantly thwarted by Finn’s friends who send them in the opposite direction.

So Maia and Finn develop an elaborate plan to ship Clovis to England and then set off a journey of their own, with chaperones, down the Amazon River for the most magical journey of all.

This is a great book for fourth grade and up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2016 Newbery Honors Books

So yesterday, the ALA Book awards were announced.  For me, this is a more exciting event than the Oscars, The Golden Globes or the Super Bowl.  I was pleased that two of my favorites were chosen as Newbery Honor untitled (3)Books. (more about the Newbery Award later)

       The War That Saved My Live. by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is a powerful novel that takes a unique focus on the second world war.  Many children were being evacuated out of London and sent to live with families in safer areas of England.  It’s a good novel for 4th-7th grade.

Ada narrates her story. She has a club foot and knows that she is different from other children.  She can’t remember ever leaving her small London flat where she spends her days gazing out the window at the other children and families on their way to school and work.  She knows that her mother is ashamed of her.  Most people assume that Ada is slow minded.  Ada has been gradually teaching herself to walk but it is a painful process.

When Ada learns that her brother Jamie’s class is being sent away from London to escape the bombs, she sees this as a grand opportunity.  Ada and Jamie have lived in squalor for years.  They catch the train with only the clothes on their backs.  When they arrive at their location, all the children are lined up.  People from the community arrive to take the other children into their homes but nobody choses Ada  or Jamie.

The woman in charge takes them to the home of Susan Smith.   Ms. Smith has been a recluse for years. She lets everyone know that she doesn’t like children or anyone else for that matter.   She reluctantly agrees to take the children out of a sense of duty.

There are big changes for Ada and Jamie.  They have to get used to things like baths, changes of clothing, underwear and pajamas.  Susan takes them to the doctor where they are diagnosed with malnutrition and impetigo.   Ada is granted greater mobility when she is given a pair of crutches. Since they are eating three meals a day,  Jamie and Ada decide that Susan must be very rich.

Ada is a gutsy little girl. She and Jamie thrive under the care of Susan who immediately recognizes that Ada is intelligent even though she is not allowed to attend school.  Susan teaches her to read. “That foot is a long way from your brain,” Susan tells her.

Ada becomes a valuable volunteer and makes new friends. She falls in love with a pony   and learns to ride him using an old fashioned side saddle. She even helps capture a spy.

After years of neglect, Ada and Jamie have many struggles with their new life and there is always the threat of their mother who might come to claim them. This is a wonderful story of three people becoming a family even as the war wreaks havoc all around them.untitled (4)

 

 

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a well-written graphic novel about the Roller Derby.  Roller Girl is a good book for upper elementary and middle school.

When Astrid goes to the Roller Derby, she is instantly hooked.  She is so excited about attending Roller Derby  Camp.  She is disappointed that her friend doesn’t want to join her.  The camp is harder than she ever imagined, but Astrid pushes on in spite of  falls and bruises.

Astrid also learns about friendship when she and her closest friend seem to be moving in different directions. Astrid learns to appreciate old and new friendships.

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        Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan was also named a Newbery Honor Book.  I have read two excellent books by this author, Becoming Naomi Leone (upper elementary) and Esperanza Rising (middle and high school).  I am going to reserve this one today.

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        The Newbery Award is given to the  book selected as the most outstanding contribution for  children’s literature.  This year’s  winner is Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena.   This story about a boy and his grandmother has lots of critical acclaim. Many predicted that it would win the Caldecott Award or The Coretta Scott King Award.  Traditionally  Newbery awards go to juvenile fiction and occasionally Young Adult Books.  So I imagine this choice was a surprise to almost everyone.  I will talk about it more when I get more time to look at the book.

The War That Saved My Life won the Odyssey Award for the best audio book production and Echo won the Odyssey Honor Awards. I highly recommend audio books.  They can be great on long car trips.  They are usually narrated by actors.