Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
Journey to the River Sea
Journey to the River Sea is a novel by Eva Ibbotson about a young British girl who relocates to early-20th century Brazil and finds both freedom and confinement there. It's a compelling adventure story that can open up discussions about cultural contact, freedom of expression, and growing up. The following questions can help to facilitate a class discussion on this book, its characters, and its themes.
Questions about Plot and Characters
- In one sentence, can you describe the plot of Journey to the River Sea? What is this story about?
- Who is the main protagonist of this novel? How are we introduced to Maia? What are the first things we learn about her? How would you describe her personality? What are her strengths and weaknesses?
- What does Maia imagine Brazil will be like? Why does she think this? Where do these ideas come from?
- After arriving in Brazil, are Maia's expectations met? Which ones are? Which are not? Why?
- Describe the important characters that Maia meets on her journey? Who are Miss Minton, the Carters, Clovis, and Finn? How would you describe these characters? How does Maia see them? What does each of these characters represent to Maia?
- How do Clovis and Finn complement each other? What do Brazil and England represent to each character? How does this help to shape Maia's impression of these places and societies?
- How does the burning of the Carter home impact Maia? What does this represent to her? How is this a chance for her to fulfill her original dreams of what Brazil could be?
- What is the climax of this novel? How does this represent a chance for the main characters to demonstrate growth or make a choice? How has Maia grown as a character? What choices does she make?
- By the end of this novel, does Brazil represent the same things to Maia that it did at the beginning of the novel? How has her relationship with Brazil and its people changed? How has she changed? How have other characters changed?
- How does this novel deal with large groups and places? Can an entire setting, landscape, place, or people be a character in the novel? Where do we see this? How is Brazil a character in this novel? How is Manaus? How about the Xanti, or British?
Questions about Themes and Characters
- In your opinion, what are the main themes in Journey to the River Sea? Where do we see these themes? What characters, places, or events are most significant to each theme?
- How does this novel balance themes of restriction and freedom? Where do we see each of these? What defines these to various characters? How is Maia's approach to these different than the Carter's? How about Clovis versus Finn? Who changes in their attitudes about these themes throughout the novel?
- What does Maia think of British society? What does she think of Manaus? What does she think of Xanti society? How is she able to transition between all three? What other characters are able to do this? What does Maia like most about each culture? What are the challenges she faces in each?
- How does this novel deal in themes of cultural respect and differences? What characters embrace these themes? Which reject them? What can we learn about this from this novel?
- How does this novel balance the themes of expectations and reality? What are the expectations that people have about Brazil? How do Maia's compare to her classmates? How do expectations define the ways that people deal with the situations in their lives? If Maia came to Brazil with a mindset like the Carters', would she have responded differently to events of the story?
- What does family mean, in this novel? Where do we see this theme? How do different characters approach this idea throughout the story? What kinds of families do we see? How are people impacted by either acceptance, abandonment, or indifference?
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