Silent Spillbills

Overview

Everyone one has something they try to hide.

For Katerina it's her stutter. Especially when she's around Paul, the good–looking son of her family's caretaker. She can never tell if he is making fun of her or just being friendly. Then she discovers a new species of bird, the silent spillbill. When spillbills are blamed for causing two airplane crashes, Katerina must stand up to her fears...with the help of an unexpected ally.

A finely drawn, ...

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Overview

Everyone one has something they try to hide.

For Katerina it's her stutter. Especially when she's around Paul, the good–looking son of her family's caretaker. She can never tell if he is making fun of her or just being friendly. Then she discovers a new species of bird, the silent spillbill. When spillbills are blamed for causing two airplane crashes, Katerina must stand up to her fears...with the help of an unexpected ally.

A finely drawn, romantic story about a girl's struggle to accept her limitations and come into her own, from one of the most respected children's authors writing today.

Ages 8–12

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A 13-year-old who is extremely self-conscious about her stuttering problem and has trouble fitting into her new school crusades to save a flock of rare diving birds called Spillbills. "A highly imaginative novel that offers suspense and offbeat humor," wrote PW. Ages 8-12. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Katerina is a poor little rich girl. She is painfully insecure, she stutters, and she's the only child of the famous Farnsworth Aeronautics family. She is also a bird-watcher, and she spends many afternoons with her father, canoeing the waterways around the airplane factory, looking through binoculars. It's there that the two of them discover an unrecorded bird that they dub the Silent Spillbill, and it's this bird that inspires the newest Farnsworth design. And it's this new plane that threatens to destroy the small population of spillbills unless Katerina can persuade her evil grandfather to move the factory upstream. Unfortunately, she is a wimp of a girl, and she's surrounded by one-dimensional adults-a preoccupied German psychoanalyst of a mother, a loving but busy father who is stranded on a space station for most of the story, and a cruel grandfather who has nothing but disdain for his stuttering granddaughter. Improbabilities add up as no one spends much time worrying about Katerina's father's loss of communication in outer space, the boy who is the bane of Katerina's existence suddenly seems to admire her, a colleague sends her mother an article about how to cure her daughter's stuttering and it works, and all ends happily as the factory is moved, the birds are saved, and, best of all, Katerina's grandfather dies. Seidler's admirable point of view on the environment and endangered species holds no water when it is forced upon characters who have no depth.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060521066
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/3/2003
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Littleton, New Hampshire, Tor Seidler grew up in Vermont and later, Seattle, Washington, in both of which places his parents were involved in the theater. Encouraged by his family's love of the arts, Mr. Seidler studied English literature at Stanford University, and at the age of twenty-seven his first book, The Dulcimer Boy, was published, launching his celebrated career as a writer.

Over the past twenty years, Mr. Seidler has become one of the most important voices in children's fiction with such classics as, A Rat's Tale, The Wainscott Weasel, an ALA Notable Book, Terpin, and Mean Margaret, which was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He currently lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Her Majesty

"That's it for today, Einsteins," said Mr. Massimino, the math teacher -- and every boy in the class bolted out of the room.

For the most part, the girls didn't bolt, Katerina Farnsworth included. But then Katerina didn't dawdle either, and since she'd taken her usual precaution of packing her book bag before class, she didn't have to stop by her locker. So she was one of the first out the front doors.

Thornton Lake School was a private school, not far from New Haven, Connecticut, that went from seventh to twelfth grades. Not surprisingly, it was located on Thornton Lake, and so rowing, rather than baseball or track, was the most popular spring sport. On this sunny afternoon in May, the head, mistress, Ms. Wainwright, happened to be talking with the crew coach, Mr. LeBlanc, on the far side of the parking lot, above the grassy slope leading down to the dock and the "shell shack." The headmistress was about twice the size of the coach, so they made kind of a comical sight. But it didn't seem comical to Katerina when Ms. Wainwright suddenly turned away from him and spotted her.

"Yoohoo, Katerina!"

Three more steps and she would have been safe in her school bus. Now she had no choice but to veer off toward the bulky headmistress.

"Quite a day for you, isn't it?" Ms. Wainwright said, her bright eyes magnified by big, round, thick-rimmed glasses. "It's hard to believe from the picture in the paper your grandfather's really ninety."

It was taken when he was seventy-six, Katerina thought. But despite dozens ofsessions with speech therapists and long hours of tongue exercises, Katerina stuttered her S's, so she just nodded politely.

"Imagine, ninety and still in harness!" Ms. Wainwright gushed on. "It says there's going to be a big bash for him at the Park Plaza Hotel tonight."

"That's right."

"Would you convey my congratulations? Of course, Franklin Farnsworth wouldn't know poor little me from a fly on the wall -- but still."

"I'll tell him," Katerina. said, wondering if the headmistress really thought of herself as little.

"Do you suppose that's a Farnsworth plane right there?"

One glance at the silver glint on the horizon and Katerina knew it was indeed a product of Farnsworth Aeronautics: a Snub-winged Scoter, to be exact. But she just shrugged, her eyes shifting uneasily to a gaggle of kids crowding onto her bus.

"Well, enjoy the big do, Katerina."

"Thanks, Ms. Wainwright."

"Ah, Herr Fritz! How are you? Wie geht es Ihnen?"

"Sehr gut, danke!" Mr. Fritz replied.

Poor Katerina. Now it was her German teacher. Like the headmistress, he wore glasses, but his were tiny and rimless, barely covering his weak, blinky eyes.

"Have you met Katerina Farnsworth, Herr Fritz?"

"Indeed I have, Ms. Wainwright. Katerina is one of my star pupils."

"Ah, you take German, do you, Katerina? Naturally, your mother. . ."

Katerina's mother was German by birth. But the reason Katerina had picked German was simply that its S was usually pronounced Z or Sh, which gave her no problems.

"Your mother?" Mr. Fritz said, blinking away.

"Dr. Hilda Doppelkoffer-Farnsworth, the renowned psychiatrist," said Ms. Wainwright. "She teaches at Yale."

"This year she's just working at her clinic," Katerina said.

"And your father, president of Farnsworth!" said Mr. Fritz, blinking furiously now. "What a family! "

Katerina smiled politely from the small glasses to the big glasses, but as Ms. Wainwright started telling Mr. Fritz about her grandfather's birthday, she spotted more kids climbing onto her bus, just ahead of Mr. Papadopoulos, the driver.

"Um, pardon me, ma'am," she said, "but I think. . ."

"Ah, yes, the buses are loading up, aren't they?

You must enjoy getting to mix with the students, Herr Fritz."

Mr. Fritz tried to look enthusiastic. Since most kids at Thornton Lake chose French or Spanish for their language requirement, he had only a couple of classes to teach and had to drive one of the buses as well. As he trudged off toward his, Katerina made a break for hers.

"Don't forget to congratulate the great man for me, Katerina!"

"I won't, Ms. Wainwright," she called over her shoulder.

As she hustled busward, Katrina spotted a pied-billed grebe flapping out of some reeds by the lake and wished she could sprout wings and feathers and follow the bird into the sky. She and Morty Kaplan were the last ones off their bus, and by being first on and nabbing a rear seat, she usually avoided having to talk with her schoolmates. Now she would have to run the gauntlet.

Or maybe she would luck out. As she climbed on board, Mr. Papadopoulos was yelling at a boy who was dangling one of Morty's crutches out a window. Morty should never have gone spring skiing. He was smart, but not very well coordinated.

The diversion didn't work on Steve O'Grady, however. He was in a seat halfway up the aisle, and as she approached him, he exposed his braces in a metallic smirk.

"So, how'd Her Majesty like the sloppy joe?" he asked.

Katerina hated being called that. And she had the perfect comeback: Why do you ask, Steve, still got some stuck in that hardware store you call a mouth? But it would have come out Why do you ask, S-steve, s-still got s-some s-stuck in that hardware s-store you call a mouth? So she just scooted by in mortified silence...

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First Chapter

Chapter One

Her Majesty

"That's it for today, Einsteins," said Mr. Massimino, the math teacher -- and every boy in the class bolted out of the room.

For the most part, the girls didn't bolt, Katerina Farnsworth included. But then Katerina didn't dawdle either, and since she'd taken her usual precaution of packing her book bag before class, she didn't have to stop by her locker. So she was one of the first out the front doors.

Thornton Lake School was a private school, not far from New Haven, Connecticut, that went from seventh to twelfth grades. Not surprisingly, it was located on Thornton Lake, and so rowing, rather than baseball or track, was the most popular spring sport. On this sunny afternoon in May, the head, mistress, Ms. Wainwright, happened to be talking with the crew coach, Mr. LeBlanc, on the far side of the parking lot, above the grassy slope leading down to the dock and the "shell shack." The headmistress was about twice the size of the coach, so they made kind of a comical sight. But it didn't seem comical to Katerina when Ms. Wainwright suddenly turned away from him and spotted her.

"Yoohoo, Katerina!"

Three more steps and she would have been safe in her school bus. Now she had no choice but to veer off toward the bulky headmistress.

"Quite a day for you, isn't it?" Ms. Wainwright said, her bright eyes magnified by big, round, thick-rimmed glasses. "It's hard to believe from the picture in the paper your grandfather's really ninety."

It was taken when he was seventy-six, Katerina thought. But despite dozens ofsessions with speech therapists and long hours of tongue exercises, Katerina stuttered her S's, so she just nodded politely.

"Imagine, ninety and still in harness!" Ms. Wainwright gushed on. "It says there's going to be a big bash for him at the Park Plaza Hotel tonight."

"That's right."

"Would you convey my congratulations? Of course, Franklin Farnsworth wouldn't know poor little me from a fly on the wall -- but still."

"I'll tell him," Katerina. said, wondering if the headmistress really thought of herself as little.

"Do you suppose that's a Farnsworth plane right there?"

One glance at the silver glint on the horizon and Katerina knew it was indeed a product of Farnsworth Aeronautics: a Snub-winged Scoter, to be exact. But she just shrugged, her eyes shifting uneasily to a gaggle of kids crowding onto her bus.

"Well, enjoy the big do, Katerina."

"Thanks, Ms. Wainwright."

"Ah, Herr Fritz! How are you? Wie geht es Ihnen?"

"Sehr gut, danke!" Mr. Fritz replied.

Poor Katerina. Now it was her German teacher. Like the headmistress, he wore glasses, but his were tiny and rimless, barely covering his weak, blinky eyes.

"Have you met Katerina Farnsworth, Herr Fritz?"

"Indeed I have, Ms. Wainwright. Katerina is one of my star pupils."

"Ah, you take German, do you, Katerina? Naturally, your mother. . ."

Katerina's mother was German by birth. But the reason Katerina had picked German was simply that its S was usually pronounced Z or Sh, which gave her no problems.

"Your mother?" Mr. Fritz said, blinking away.

"Dr. Hilda Doppelkoffer-Farnsworth, the renowned psychiatrist," said Ms. Wainwright. "She teaches at Yale."

"This year she's just working at her clinic," Katerina said.

"And your father, president of Farnsworth!" said Mr. Fritz, blinking furiously now. "What a family! "

Katerina smiled politely from the small glasses to the big glasses, but as Ms. Wainwright started telling Mr. Fritz about her grandfather's birthday, she spotted more kids climbing onto her bus, just ahead of Mr. Papadopoulos, the driver.

"Um, pardon me, ma'am," she said, "but I think. . ."

"Ah, yes, the buses are loading up, aren't they?

You must enjoy getting to mix with the students, Herr Fritz."

Mr. Fritz tried to look enthusiastic. Since most kids at Thornton Lake chose French or Spanish for their language requirement, he had only a couple of classes to teach and had to drive one of the buses as well. As he trudged off toward his, Katerina made a break for hers.

"Don't forget to congratulate the great man for me, Katerina!"

"I won't, Ms. Wainwright," she called over her shoulder.

As she hustled busward, Katrina spotted a pied-billed grebe flapping out of some reeds by the lake and wished she could sprout wings and feathers and follow the bird into the sky. She and Morty Kaplan were the last ones off their bus, and by being first on and nabbing a rear seat, she usually avoided having to talk with her schoolmates. Now she would have to run the gauntlet.

Or maybe she would luck out. As she climbed on board, Mr. Papadopoulos was yelling at a boy who was dangling one of Morty's crutches out a window. Morty should never have gone spring skiing. He was smart, but not very well coordinated.

The diversion didn't work on Steve O'Grady, however. He was in a seat halfway up the aisle, and as she approached him, he exposed his braces in a metallic smirk.

"So, how'd Her Majesty like the sloppy joe?" he asked.

Katerina hated being called that. And she had the perfect comeback: Why do you ask, Steve, still got some stuck in that hardware store you call a mouth? But it would have come out Why do you ask, S-steve, s-still got s-some s-stuck in that hardware s-store you call a mouth? So she just scooted by in mortified silence...

Silent Spillbills. Copyright © by Tor Seidler. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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