The Someday Birds

Charlie wishes his life could be as predictable and simple as chicken nuggets.

And it usually is. He has his clean room, his carefully organized bird books and art supplies, his favorite foods, and comfortable routines.

But life has been unraveling since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. And when Dad gets sent far away for medical treatment, Charlie must travel cross-country to meet him. With his boy-crazy sister Davis, his unruly twin brothers, and the mysterious Ludmila at the wheel, this journey looks to be anything but predictable.

Charlie decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father had been hoping to see in the wild, someday, and show that list to Dad, then maybe, just maybe, things will turn out okay.

Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a young person’s novel that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for a highly unusual boy, and uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.


“…Captures both the literal and figurative meanings of journey.” — Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Pla gives us a memorable hero in this lyrical and funny book.” — Starred Review, Shelf Awareness

“Like a harbinger of spring flitting through a gray sky, The Someday Birds is a welcome arrival.” — FIVE STARS from CommonSense Media

“Hopeful, authentic, and oddly endearing.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A delight from beginning to end.” — Booklist

“…Zings with humor, spot-on characters, and a poignant exploration of the effects of war.”
Edith Hope Fine, author of UNDER THE LEMON MOON

“Readers will genuinely be captivated and touched… A strong addition to most middle grade collections.” — School Library Journal

“…Has all of the possible/impossible elements of successful middle-grade fiction. ” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“A raw, funny road trip story that reminds us that even the most literal-minded people can occasionally be sucker-punched by a miracle.” —

“A triumphant debut with the resonance and depth of an instant classic. ” — Nerdy Book Club

“This novel is a treasure!” — Children’s Books Heal

“You’ll want to come along for the heartwarming and humorous ride.” — Booklist Reader

“Readers young and old will love Charlie and his tale of the Someday Birds.” — Middle Grade Mafia

“A truly wonderful, unique story… Will remind you to always be on the lookout for wonder.”
Wendy Mass, New York Times best-selling author of THE CANDYMAKERS

“Sally J. Pla does a wonderful job of weaving humor and humanity into this tale of one boy’s triumph.”
Cammie McGovern, author of JUST MY LUCK and SAY WHAT YOU WILL

— A Junior Library Guild Selection for 2017 —


Dear Friends,

When my three boys were younger, we took lots of summer road trips in our old minivan. They weren’t always easy for my autistic middle son, who didn’t like the change, strange foods, and constant motion.

So we’d try to make things as smooth as possible. For instance, we’d always eat at places that served his preferred food — because, as he once put it: “I figure you can survive pretty much anything, as long as you can order the chicken nuggets.”

With that, a story idea hatched in my brain.

The Someday Birds is my own neurodiverse heart-gift to kids who are different, kids put in tough situations, kids dragged into journeys they don’t want. It’s about self-acceptance, about learning how to feel more at ease in the world. There’s humor, and heartache, and birds, lots of birds. (Charlie adores birds, and fervently believes that learning bird-behavior is the ultimate key to understanding human behavior.)

I’m so proud to share this book about a lively, flighty family. It’s available at Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target,, Powells, among other places.

~ Sally



1. Describe Charlie. What kind of a person is he? How does he like to spend his time?
2. How is Charlie treated by Davis, the twins, and Gram?
3. Charlie has some autistic and OCD disabilities, but this is never mentioned outright in the story. Why do you think the author chose not to label Charlie?
4. In the beginning, Charlie doesn’t want to sneak off in the middle of the night on their cross-country trip. What finally convinces him to go along with Davis’s crazy plan?
5. How would this story differ if Davis were narrating it, not Charlie? What would the tone of her voice sound like? Write a few lines describing some part of the trip from Davis’s point of view.
6. Charlie is stuck in the middle of the family birth order. What about you? Are you oldest, middle, youngest, or only? What’s kind of annoying about your place in the family? What’s a really good thing about your place in the family?
7. Of all the locations across the country that Charlie visits in the story, which one appeals to you the most? Why?
8. What bird, in the story, was most interesting to you? Have you ever gone bird watching, or visited a nature center? Would you like to?
9. In The Someday Birds, Charlie is a careful observer of not just birds, but people. Find a scene where Charlie is observing/describing. Are his observations accurate?
10. What does Charlie like – and dislike – about Ludmila at first? How does he feel about her at the end of the story?
11. Ludmila comes from Sarajevo, a city in a war-torn country in eastern Europe called Bosnia. If you look up the city of Sarajevo, what do you find out?
12. Charlie’s entranced by the mysterious bird guru, Dr. Tiberius Shaw, PhD, and makes it his goal to find him in the sanctuary marsh. Why does Charlie want to meet Dr. Shaw so much? What does he want to ask him? What is it about Shaw that attracts Charlie so?
13. The story mentions genetic research, and how some scientists are discussing the revival of extinct species of birds and mammals. This is a real scientific issue you can investigate and learn about. Do you think reviving extinct species is a good idea? Do you think it actually happened, in the story? Or was it in Charlie’s head?
14. Both Tiberius Shaw, PhD., and Charlie keep bird journals. As a project, keep a bird journal of your own for a week. Go outside, try to sketch a bird you see. Write anything you wish.
15. At the end of the book, Charlie says he is going to take a bite of the mystery snack on the airplane. Would he have said that at the beginning of the book? How has Charlie changed, because of his journey? How has he also stayed the same?
16. If you made your own “Someday” list of things to do/see together with a special friend or loved one, what would be on that list?

Praise for The Someday Birds

(See above)

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