Author: Pla, Sally J.
Charlie, twelve, who has autism and obsessive compulsive disorder, must endure a cross-country trip with his siblings and a strange babysitter to visit their father, who will undergo brain surgery.
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|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.80
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 187918
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 4.30
Points: 16.0 Quiz: 70917
Kirkus Reviews (11/01/16)
School Library Journal (01/01/17)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (01/17)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 01/01/2017 Charlie has the literal imagination, compulsive tendencies and hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli that characterize those on the autism spectrum, but his family, particularly his older sister, Davis, and his father, have helped him figure out ways to cope with the world. Now, though, all Davis seems interested in is boys, and his father is in a coma, having been hit by an IED while traveling as a journalist in Afghanistan. When his grandmother takes his dad to a hospital in Virginia and leaves them in the care of Ludmila, whom they’ve never met, Davis decides they need to be with their dad. She enlists her boyfriend to drive and packs up Charlie and his younger twin brothers for the cross-country trip, but when they lose their driver, the mysterious Ludmila helps them finish their journey. It turns out that Ludmila’s brother was killed in the accident that harmed Charlie and Davis’ father; her story spools out on the road trip, where Charlie also honors his father by tracking down all the birds he and his dad have put on a must-see wishlist. This has all of the possible/impossible elements of successful middle-grade fiction: an unusual hero faced with the loss of his usual support systems, a targeted quest, some magical thinking, a potentially dangerous solitary voyage into a natural wilderness, and a happy ending facilitated by the kindness of strangers. Ludmila’s past as a war orphan from Bosnia introduces some recent history into the mix and highlights the importance of families we’re born with and those we make. Readers who enjoyed Sloan’s Counting by 7s (BCCB 9/13) will be the ideal audience for this. KC - Copyright 2017 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 12/01/2016 “If something’s a fact, it’s a fact,” thinks 12-year-old Charlie. And the fact is, his journalist father has a brain injury sustained in a bombing in Afghanistan. When his father is sent from San Diego to Virginia for analysis and treatment, Charlie—though he hates to travel—and his siblings, along with their de facto, mysterious babysitter, Ludmila, head to Virginia, too. Along the way, avid birder Charlie (who compulsively washes his hands, can’t read visual cues, can’t look people in the eye, hates being touched, and more) is sure that if he can only manage to see all the birds on a list he and his father have made, his father will recover. Ludmila, for her part, seems eccentric, until she finally shares her heartrending story. Meanwhile, Charlie’s goal is to find the reclusive Dr. Tiberius Shaw, a world-famous avian expert. Will he succeed, and will his father recover? The answers are forthcoming in Pla’s charming, plot-rich story, bolstered by memorable characters. A delight from beginning to end. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 01/01/2017 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.—Patricia Feriano, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD - Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.