Mock Newbery Nominee: The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Welcome to the penultimate Mock Newbery summary and review! Today we'll consider The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla. This story is all about understanding life and what it means to be a family. Will this heartfelt and humorous story connect with you?

Summary: "Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay." -From publisher.

Charlie is a wonderfully neurodiverse character. His viewpoint will be familiar to some, and interestingly unfamiliar to others. While he is sometimes frustrated by his impulses and and inabilities, he is learning to not let them limit his life. As he comes to understand bird behavior, he begins to apply these lessons to the human behaviors he observes but doesn't always understand. Charlie's poor understanding of people means that his family as characters are not as well-fleshed out as they could be, but his interest in Ludmila's history helps give her the dimension his brothers lack.

Pla also uses Charlie's keen observational skills to create detailed and lively settings. Smells and sounds take particular prominence, but the physical descriptions are also solid.

 "There are flashes and flitters and winging around. There's hopping and chirping on branches...I sit carefully down on a soft bed of pine needles, smelling the pine smell, taking in deep lung-filling breaths of it, and looking up at the birds. If you look, really look, you can see that the trees are filled with nests and knotholes, with bird action."

The presentation of the book in sections headed by birds is a great tie in to the "Someday Birds" list within the book. It also helps delineate the sections of the road trip in a way that feels like time is really passing. I do wish the illustrations at the front of each section were not so cleanly computerized, if they had been sketchier, they would have seemed like pages from Charlie's Bird Book.

Did this tale of birds, life, and family satisfy your awards criteria? Visit our Kid's Page before January 31st if you've made your choice or come back next week for our last summary and review.

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