Blog tour: ‘Escape to the River Sea,’ by Emma Carroll, cover by Katie Hickey.

I am sure that many of you will already have been transported back in time with Emma Carroll’s incredible historical adventures, or have been enchanted by Eva Ibbotson’s transportative writing. Lots of you who work in schools may also have used ‘Journey to the River Sea’ as part of a topic on rainforests.

Well, now these two powerhouses of children’s fiction meet in ‘Escape the the River Sea’ – a sequel set at the end of the Second World War, sensitively written by Emma Carroll but featuring the beloved characters created by Eva Ibbotson. It is just as wonderful as I know you’re thinking it must be!

In 1946, Rosa Sweetman, a young Kindertransport girl, is longing for her family to claim her. The war in Europe is over and she is the only child left at Westwood, a rambling country estate in the north of England, where she’d taken refuge seven years earlier.

The arrival of a friend of the family, Yara Fielding, starts an adventure that will take Rosa deep into the lush beauty of the Amazon rainforest in search of jaguars, ancient giant sloths and somewhere to belong. What she finds is Yara’s lively, welcoming family on the banks of the river and, together, they face a danger greater than she could ever have imagined.

Featuring places and characters known and loved by fans of Journey to the River Sea (including, among others, Maia, Finn, Miss Minton and Clovis) this spectacular new chapter in the story tells of the next generation and the growing threats to the Amazon rainforest that continue to this day.

Have you ever paused to admire the cover of a particularly beautiful book and wondered how it came to be? Well wonder no more as Rachel Vale (Art Director – Children’s Fiction, Non-Fiction & Poetry) has written us an exclusive piece sharing the processes behind the creation of the cover for ‘Escape to the River Sea.’

“I’ve been hugely fortunate in my career to work on a number of fantastic books, but every now and again there’s one that stands out just a little bit more. And a sequel to the mesmerising Journey to the River Sea was just that ‘one’.

In 2021 we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Journey to the River Sea with a new paperback cover reissue and an illustrated edition and cover. As a result, our work towards the sequel, Escape to the River Sea started then in terms of type branding and illustrator. I wanted the visual identity to be reassuringly classic but not ‘old fashioned’. Having a lightness of touch that allows it to sit alongside contemporary novels alike.

Katie Hickey was an obvious choice of illustrator whose work is incredibly characterful, atmospheric and lush – a perfect companion for Eva, Emma and their evocative storytelling.

Escape to the River Sea needed to continue our beautiful package, ensuring that it complements our anniversary publishing whilst still standing apart and gloriously on its own as something new and exciting to be explored. I wanted the lush backdrop of the Amazon rainforest very prominent but not dominant. Instead focusing on the three 12-year-old children that feature with a beautiful black jaguar to almost act as your guide and draw you into the cover and story. This also allowed some symmetry with the butterfly, which has become so recognisable as a visual reference for Journey to the River Sea. But colour was also going to be a key component – representing the lush sense of place without it looking the same . . . could blues and a more night-time palette work . . . ?

Nice movement from parrot
Jungle Book in feel
Potential palette
Jaguar great! Work harder?

Katie, as ever was a wonder providing two initial cover roughs, both of which I could see were going to be stunning, even at this early sketch stage. But after sharing with the in-house teams, we were all agreed that we wanted to progress the one that had the jaguar as part of the fore framework. But rather than facing into the scene I was keen to see a version with the jaguar looking around and out of the cover at the reader. Especially as its eyes are described so gorgeously in the text. This relativity small change really pulled the composition together for me, giving Escape to the River Sea its own identity.

The artwork spring boarded from here, through small amendments {bigger, smaller, left a bit, up a bit} to accommodate the branding and ensure the hierarchy of information, both text and art was balanced. I became rather obsessed at this stage in the process by the tiny details which have such a big impact if you get them wrong {which Katie graciously put up with}, before we progressed to colour. Having seen the pencil progress and with the jaguar playing our star, my initial thought of night-time and blues wasn’t going to work. We needed to see this wonderful scene in all its glory and pushed a fresh sunrise palette that allowed our darker elements like the silhouettes of the children to sing.

And voilà, hasn’t Katie created the most beautiful final cover?!”

Another stunning tale from Emma, as expected! She really is one of the U.K.’s best children’s writers. ‘Escape to the River Sea’ is the perfect blend of atmospheric descriptions, plucky children, and a most wonderful adventure.

It also touches on several interesting topics, including Rosa’s family fleeing the Nazi Party as they begins to persecute Jews. The escalating violence they faced before leaving is only briefly touched upon, with the story focussing more on families trying to reunite once the war was over.

A setting like the Amazon Rainforest provides an excellent backdrop for conversations about the devastation caused by illegal land clearing and the impact it has on the lives of indigenous tribes, as well as exploring some of the creatures who live there. I’m sure children will have some interesting thoughts on the morality of clearing huge areas of forest every day.

I would highly recommend this title for readers aged 9+

Library Girl.

*Many thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s