Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green
by Helen Phillips

Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012. ISBN 978-0-385-74236-8.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 11/01/2012

Younger Readers

One of the greatest pleasures for a child is to read a book written for them by an adult who understands imagination and creativity. Helen Phillips is such an author. Her world, as depicted in Here Where the Sunbeams are Green, is peopled by clever, funny children, parents who are a little wacky and strange, and takes place in a spectacular and peculiar setting. She has a great grasp on the way children think, and a good idea of how to present her characters so as to draw children 10 and up into her tale.

Madeline and her sister Ruby (Mad and Roo) are the daughters of an intrepid Bird Watcher/Scientist. He is known for his enthusiasm for his work, and his dedication to studying rare species of avian life. He has headed into the Central American jungle, searching for a bird long thought to be extinct. (Great ecological and environmental issues are present as well; something that will appeal to parents too!)

Unfortunately, his study/work time keeps getting extended, and extended again, and Mad, Roo and their Mom are worried. When a bizarre letter arrives, purportedly from their Dad, this worry becomes a full-blown panic. The annoyingly personable boss, Neth, (nicknamed by Mad) finally agrees to accompany the family to where their Dad is: Lava Bird Volcano.

Once the family is at La Lava Resort and Spa, a "green" getaway in the heart of Central America, confusion and mystery begins to mount. Is the Lava-Throated Volcano Trogon really extinct? Did it (does it?) really have the mysterious ability to restore lost youth? Do the owners of the Resort and Spa have an evil, devilish plan to use this rare bird to promote their spa, and products? Why is Mad and Roo's ornithologist father, Dr. James Wade, unable to come home with them? Why does their mother, Sylvia, seem so confused about, and perhaps even enamored of, Neth?

The book weaves a powerful yet enchanting story, one that encompasses environmental issues without overwhelming young readers and while presenting a mystery that they will want to solve. The book may be a bit too long for readers at the lower end of the scale (10 and 11 year olds) but parents can read it out loud, and create a special time of entertainment and education. There are clever comedic touches, and wonderfully realistic sibling arguments, which will draw the young reader into the imaginary world of green sunbeams...and rare avian species.

If there are children in your life that love mysteries, and humor, this book will definitely have appeal. Author Phillips, in her first foray into writing for children, has hit a homerun!

See the trailer from this book.

In some ways, Helen Phillips,writing for this book, draws on her family experiences traveling in Mexico. She now lives in New York, and continues to write award winning books for adults and children alike. Visit her website for further information.

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