March 03, 2008

The Green Hell

Maia didn't quite lose everything when her archaeologist parents are killed in a train wreck in Egypt. She still has her school, the Mayfair Academy for Young Ladies, and she still has her guardian and solicitor, Mr. Murray, who, after two years of searching, has found a distant cousin of her father's who is prepared to give her a home. The family seems to be perfect -- they even have a set of girls, twins, right near Maia's age. Can she at last have secured a place for herself in the world?

The only complication is that the Carters live in the city of Manaus, a thousand miles up the mighty Amazon. Maia reads all she can, and when stern-faced Miss Minton, the governess, arrives to accompany her, Maia is ready, she thinks, to take on her new life, piranhas, yellow-fever and savages notwithstanding.

But the Journey to the River Sea is like nothing else. Far from being the Green Hell as it is described, Maia and 'Minty' finds themselves enchanted and entranced by the world of the Amazon, with the varicolored peoples, their beautiful trees and flowers, and their unique ways of embracing their world. Using tinned food and bug spray, dressing themselves in starched gowns and sashes, the slightly mad Carters like to pretend they're still in England, but Maia has come home, and will never be the same...

A gorgeous old-fashioned 'yarn,' the type of adventure that drags one in with lush descriptions, evil tyrants, ghastly hobbies, mistaken identities, melodrama and the splash of a corset sliding overboard. Middle graders and teens alike will eat this one whole in a single serving, and be deeply, happily satisfied.

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