Seidler (Mean Margaret, 1997, etc.) returns to the urbane, slightly distant tone of his older books for this uneven tale of a shy young birder stepping forward to defend a rare species from extermination. Painfully self conscious about her stutter, Katerina Farnsworth spends most of her time after school either alone, or out on the water with her father Robert watching birds--particularly the small, spectacular divers they've dubbed ""spillbills,"" which are not in any reference book and have inspired Farnsworth Aeronautics's latest prototype jet, the Spillbill Z. The suspense that readers anticipate never develops, despite a plot that includes Robert's trip to a space station that suddenly falls silent, a budding but rocky friendship between Katerina and a very eligible schoolmate, and her cantankerous CEO grandfather's decision to poison the spillbills after they twice cause the prototype to crash. Seidler plays many scenes for comedy rather than drama, and typecasts or caricatures his characters, notably, Katerina's grandfather and her cigarette-puffing, German-psychiatrist mother. Katerina's versions of terror, grief, and indignation often come across only as mild anxiety. Furthermore, the author frequently bestows point-of-view on one adult or another, and in the end, it's not Katerina but her mother who argues most persuasively against killing the birds. Seidler is a polished writer, but readers will find stories with similar themes, such as David Klass's California Blue (1994), more compelling.