The Someday Birds

illus. by Julie McLaughlin. 336p. HarperCollins. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062445766.
Gr 4–6—Charlie, 12, is fascinated by birds, a passion he shares with his dad. Charlie also has autism, which means that he prefers order and the safety of his own rituals to the wide open spaces of the world. Together, Charlie and his father make a list of "someday birds" that they want to see. But the stability of Charlie's life is disrupted when his father returns from Afghanistan with a severe brain injury. No one knows if he will recover, and Charlie and his siblings are anxious about it. It's decided that his dad will be moved across the country to Virginia for treatment. Along with a somewhat mysterious family friend/babysitter, Ludmila, the family set out from California to Virginia. Making the trip a sort of vacation, the children visit national parks and roadside wonders. Charlie makes the best of the disorganized adventure by trying to locate as many of the someday birds as possible, thinking this will please his father and speed up his recovery. Charlie is charming and lovable. He is a quiet and thoughtful boy who manages to be (in his own way) adventurous and brave.
VERDICT Readers will genuinely be captivated and touched by Charlie's soft and sensitive demeanor and amused by his ponderous exploits across the country. A strong addition to most middle grade collections.

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