Maia Fielding is an orphan, but she is content with her life. And it is a full one: as a student at the much-sought-after Mayfair Academy for Young Ladies in London, under the directorship of two devoted sisters, Maia is surrounded by caring friends and dedicated teachers.
However, on this day in 1910, something other than school is occupying the girl’s attention: for her guardian, Mr. Murray, is meeting with the headmistresses. The adults do not long keep Maia in suspense: it appears that relatives have been found, and they are willing to have her live with them. Yet there is more. The family lives on the other side of the world, in far-off Brazil. So, with warnings from her classmates about the perils of such a place, and accompanied by grim-faced governess Miss Minton, Maia sets off for the unknown land.
The pair’s adventures begin even before they arrive at the Amazon-area home of Maia’s kin. Everything starts with the friendship of a young actor who longs for England. In addition, Maia excitedly anticipates meeting her twin cousins. However, when governess and girl disembark at their new home, nothing is as they envisioned. For Maia’s only relatives are as unpleasant as can be, and do nothing to make her feel welcome. If it were not for Minty (whose appearance is the only forbidding thing about the governess) and the devotion of local Indians, including a mysterious boy, the orphan’s existence would be intolerable. It is the intertwining of the lives of Maia’s new acquaintances that add color and meaning to her life with the Carters.
Incomparable author Eva Ibbotson did it again with this amazing novel. The various threads of her rich, multi-layered story are woven together into a beautiful tapestry. Maia’s tale has everything: suspense, warmth, adventure, surprise revelations, memorable characters. That the author wrote what may be her best book (which says much for it) following a personal tragedy–the passing of her husband of fifty years–adds a sense of longing and searching for love to the tale. Kevin Hawkes’ expressive black-and-white illustrations bring this magnificent location to life. The journey of Maia and Minty–and friends–is one readers will long remember. Ages 10-13
Published by Dutton’s Children’s Books in 2001
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