From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-After a disturbing letter arrives from their ornithologist father, 12-year-old Madeline (Mad) Wade and her younger sister, Ruby (Roo), head to Central America with their mother to find him. They are accompanied by Ken/Neth, a representative of the luxurious La Lava Resort and Spa, which hired Dr. Wade months earlier to document birds in the area. In reality, the spa, winner of numerous environmental awards, has made him a virtual prisoner so he can track down the nearly extinct Lava-Throated Volcano trogon (LTVT). The birds' bones can be transformed into a youth serum to make huge profits for the company. Mad, Roo, and their mother stay at a nearby resort run by a mysterious old woman who knows many legends, including one that predicts that the nearby volcano will erupt when the last LTVT dies. With the help of her grandson, Kyle, the sisters figure out their father's predicament, enlist the aid of an environmental-activist actress, and foil La Lava's plans. Although narrator Mad consistently and annoyingly disparages her own abilities while extolling Roo's talents, she is the one who ultimately saves the day. Roo's ability to understand Spanish without lessons and to bond immediately with the LTVT that the trio discovers require suspension of disbelief. Phillips doesn't clarify whether Ken/Neth is a villainous mastermind or a corporate dupe or explain how Mrs. Wade remains oblivious to her children's forays into the rainforest. The nascent romance between Mad and Kyle adds yet another element to the overburdened story. Offering plenty of action, the plot crashes to a rather abrupt resolution with hints of a possible return visit. An additional purchase for large fiction collections.-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankatoα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In this ecological mystery set in the shadow of a Central American volcano, two sisters contend with odd portents, like fungal toe flowers that pop up on one of the girls’ feet, as well as ancient legends of eternal youth. Twelve-year-old Mad, more interested in poetry than suspense, narrates the story of how she and the more rambunctious Roo determine to get to the bottom of their ornithologist father’s increasingly odd behavior. He is seeking a Lazarus species of bird that may still haunt the jungle surrounding the superswanky eco spa that hired him. The spa’s minions, meanwhile, seem to be brainwashing Dad while also keeping an all-too-close eye on his family. Enter a local bird-loving boy who helps the girls out, while adding a touch of PG romance to Mad’s life. The narrative drags a bit here and there, but Phillips does build a lush atmosphere of cloying, tropical beauty, punctuated by the volcano’s rumblings. Mystery fans looking for exotic settings and spunky heroines will find this a book to luxuriate in. Grades 4-7. --Karen Cruze