Madeline and Ruby's father is, "The Bird Guy", a famous bird tracker who's been sent away on assignment to a secluded Central American volcanic island. Strangly, the weeks turn into months and then their father totally breaks all communication. Stunned, hurt and confused, Ruby, Madeline, their mother and a friend (Ken-Neth) decide to fly to the island to sort things out in person. Shortly after arriving, his employer La Lava arranges a meeting with their father.
The family's excitement turns quickly to disappointment when he seems distant and almost angry to see them. His reaction hurts their mother so much she starts attending relaxation and yoga classes. The classes seem to numb her, making her passive and aloof. So Madeline and Ruby decide its all up to them to figure things out on their own. They team up with a young islander boy called Kyle. What they uncover is shocking, unfathomable and puts them in all in extreme danger. Who can they turn to for help on a desolate volcanic island?
From Helen's Website: "The first time I left the United States was at the age of fourteen on a family trip to central Mexico. Later I spent four summers living in Costa Rica, Brazil, and Argentina. I had some adventures, but nothing quite as dramatic as Mad and Roo’s.
Now I live in Brooklyn, New York, with my splendid husband Adam. He’s an artist and he made the book trailer for Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green. In June 2012, we had a baby girl named Ruth, whose current hobbies include keeping us up all night and learning how to laugh."
SETTING PACE AND STYLE
Taking place in a Central American Volcanic Island with rain forest vegetation this story is ready, willing and able to captivate even the most reluctant reader. Pacing is overall pretty fast, with many tense, edge of your seat sort of moments. Every so often though the story would hit a slight lull, filling the readers mind with rain forest descriptions or veering off on a slight subplot story line. Just when I was beginning to lose patience it would quickly get back on task. Narration is done in first person through the eyes of twelve year old Madeline.
CHARACTERS AND PLOT
Madeline (Mad) the twelve year year old lead in this story has a knack for puzzling out problems. This is a gal who is insightful and whenever faced with a perilous situation finds a way to use calm and collective reasoning to sift through it all. She seems to see everything from a third person perspective, enabling her to zone in on all angles of a situation and size it up.
Ruby (Roo) a nine year old pistol, full of spunk and vigor is Mad's sister. She loves animals, nature and following in her father's footsteps. It was impressive how much knowledge she picked up on about endangered species and a jungle environment just from paying close attention to her father. Plus, her code breaking skills really proved useful in deciphering her father's crazy letter.
Kyle is the fourteen year old grandson of Señora and Senor V. He's also a big fan of conservationists and bird watchers. Mad's dad just happens to be his idol. In the beginning his role is to babysit Madeline and Roo, as the story progresses he becomes more of a friend, then crush for Madeline and a valuable sidekick to Roo.
PLOT: When two kids uncover an evil plot of a big corporation which involves holding their father hostage, and a Lazarus bird, they will try anything under their power to rescue him.
This is a great book for readers of all ages interested in exploring, rain forests, ecology, nature and Lazarus species.. If you want a special read about Central America, volcanic islands and exotic birds facing extinction, this is your book, especially if you like reading about sisterly bonds, too. Pick this one up if you enjoy, quests, adventures and brave children who are willing to fight for their family and to save a bird from extinction, no matter the cost.
A mystery involving a crazy letter written in code, a volcanic island, a rare and endangered/extinct bird, this story comes prepared to entertain. The setting, an exotic rain forest in Central America, would have been fanatical enough, but then the author one ups herself by tossing in an volcano - score! What's even better is while reading this book, one can learn a few Spanish words and phrases along side the main characters.
This book dared to be different. It tackled the subject of extinction and conservation in a crafty readable manner without being preachy or judgmental. The rain forest setting, Central American environment and culture all proved to be engaging. The characters were lovable, a joy to read about and to follow alongside during their quest to save dad. I sympathized with the girl's situation immediately. It was evident they had a special relationship with him and missed him something terrible. Also, the puppy love in the story between the main character Madeline (Mad) and her crush, Kyle ended up being extremely cute. Hands down, my favorite character, Ruby, (Roo) never gave up, feared almost nothing and kept everyone laughing.
At times the story moved quickly, I rushed through the pages dying to know what was going on, the element of mystery was ever present and alluring. Occasionally, the story did drag a little, focusing a wee bit too much on rain forest details or subplot lines. This is one of those stories which could have probably been told in a few less pages, but nevertheless, this didn't distract from my overall enjoyment of the story. With a very conclusive ending, I felt this story wrapped up decisively. Its a nice stand alone novel about a family fighting to stay together, a bird trying to stave off extinction and the great lengths each will go to, despite problems which appear unsurmountable.
For me this one was a strong 4 out of 5 rings. I deducted one ring because of the pacing occasionally dragging just a little, otherwise I found this one to be fun, adventuresome and delightful.
4 out of 5 rings (Entertaining - Looked Forward to Reading)