More fantasy than magical realism, this eco-adventure maintains its mystery and suspense right up to the end.

HERE WHERE THE SUNBEAMS ARE GREEN

When Madeleine and Ruby visit the supergreen rain-forest resort where their ornithologist father has been employed to find endangered species, they find him distressingly changed—and maybe contributing to a bird’s extinction.

The mystery of the Weirdness that began after their father wrote them with his REALLY GOOD NEWS deepens when the family arrives from Colorado. The luxury La Lava spa doesn’t allow children, so the girls, 12 and 9, and their mother will be staying nearby at Selva Lodge. When they finally see their father, after six months apart, he doesn’t seem to care about them at all. Their mother, after daily yoga sessions at the spa, is unbelievably calm and incurious. It is their 14-year-old baby sitter and Spanish tutor, golden-eyed Kyle, who teams up with them to explore their jungle surroundings and find and save the last of the Lava-Throated Volcano trogons, already formally declared extinct. In her first novel for young readers, Phillips demonstrates a keen understanding of sibling dynamics as well as love for the lush tropical setting. The girls are believably awed and attracted by the spa’s lavish accommodations for the superrich, frightened by the hint of evil underneath and made uneasy but enchanted by the magic that surrounds them.

More fantasy than magical realism, this eco-adventure maintains its mystery and suspense right up to the end. (Adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-742368

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals.

HOW TO SPEAK DOLPHIN

Is dolphin-assisted therapy so beneficial to patients that it’s worth keeping a wild dolphin captive?

Twelve-year-old Lily has lived with her emotionally distant oncologist stepfather and a succession of nannies since her mother died in a car accident two years ago. Nannies leave because of the difficulty of caring for Adam, Lily’s severely autistic 4-year-old half brother. The newest, Suzanne, seems promising, but Lily is tired of feeling like a planet orbiting the sun Adam. When she meets blind Zoe, who will attend the same private middle school as Lily in the fall, Lily’s happy to have a friend. However, Zoe’s take on the plight of the captive dolphin, Nori, used in Adam’s therapy opens Lily’s eyes. She knows she must use her influence over her stepfather, who is consulting on Nori’s treatment for cancer (caused by an oil spill), to free the animal. Lily’s got several fine lines to walk, as she works to hold onto her new friend, convince her stepfather of the rightness of releasing Nori, and do what’s best for Adam. In her newest exploration of animal-human relationships, Rorby’s lonely, mature heroine faces tough but realistic situations. Siblings of children on the spectrum will identify with Lily. If the tale flirts with sentimentality and some of the characters are strident in their views, the whole never feels maudlin or didactic.

Dolphin lovers will appreciate this look at our complicated relationship with these marine mammals. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-67605-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle. (Science fiction. 9-12)

HOUSE OF ROBOTS

From the House of Robots series , Vol. 1

Sammy is less than thrilled when his genius inventor mother creates a robot brother for him.

Sammy Hayes-Rodriguez's life has always been filled with robots. His mother has invented automatons that clean the floors, mow the lawn, give traffic reports and even plant fantastic gardens. Sammy's school has until now been a robot-free zone, but when Mom invents E (for Egghead, or maybe Einstein Jr.—his parents can’t decide) and insists Sammy take the new robot to school, things get out of hand. Chronicling the ups and downs of an entire school year with a robot brother, the authors put cute sci-fi twists on first-time crushes, school bullies and best-friend troubles. There's nothing here that breaks new ground or illuminates the psyche of young boys in any new or interesting ways, but there are plenty of amusing jokes. Young readers with an interest in science will certainly be engaged. A subplot featuring Sammy's younger sister, a brilliant girl who is homebound by severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, is as by-the-numbers as the rest of the book, but it doesn't tie in to the robot plot until the very end. It's hard to tell if this development is a clumsy climax or an awkward setup for a sequel. Either way, it doesn't work well with everything that came beforehand.

A perfectly acceptable and predictable trifle.  (Science fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-40591-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

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