Upside Down in the Jungle by Helen Phillips, paperback novel, 333 pages, first published under the title Here Where the Sunbeams are Green by Delacorte Press in 2012, this edition published by The Chicken House in 2013.
Mad and Roo have a famous ornithologist for a father, Dr Wade, also known as The Bird Guy. He travels to find rare and important birds regularly, but when he is asked to track and catalogue rare birds in the jungle by an exclusive resort at the base of a volcano, he doesn’t return. His family begin to worry, and then they receive the Very Strange and Incredibly Creepy Letter that appears to be nonsense, but Roo is convinced it’s a coded message. Their mother, Sylvia, thinks that they are being watched, and a colleague of The Bird Guy has started hanging around the family constantly. The whole situation is very odd, and eventually the family flies to the jungle to find Dr Wade, where things only become stranger. With the help of Kyle, the grandson of the owners of the lodge where the family are staying, Mad and Roo are determined to uncover the truth about their father and just what he is doing in the jungle and why he hasn’t come home yet.
Adventure, mystery, first romance and an incredibly rare bird, believed to be extinct in the jungles of South America, are found in this exciting novel for middle to upper primary and lower high school students. Told from the perspective of Mad, a twelve-almost-thirteen year old, who finds herself unwillingly unravelling the mystery of her father’s reluctance to return from the jungle or to communicate with his family, spurred on by her younger sister Roo. They team up with the charming, yet cheeky, Kyle, who is supposed to be teaching them Spanish, but is much more concerned with locating the rare volcano bird that he knows to exist, though it had previously been reported to be extinct. This novel was fast paced and intriguing, with beautiful imagery. I enjoyed reading it, and had difficultly putting it down. I became involved in the fortunes of the characters, and hoped that they would find the bird and solve the mystery. It was very well written, the characters were well developed, and it was easy to conjure their images in my mind. A fantastic book. I look forward to reading more by Helen Phillips in the future.