A Scottish castle, birdwatching and finding one’s flock are at the center of the charming middle-grade novel Across the Pond by Joy McCullough (Blood Water Paint; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Champ and Major: First Dogs).
When Callie’s parents inherit a Scottish castle, she’s thrilled at the prospect of a fresh start. But Callie’s hopes of reinvention are shattered after uncomfortable run-ins with the kids of South Kingsferry, including the castle gardener’s cantankerous granddaughter, Sid. “She might live in a castle,” but she’s “still just awkward Callie.” She reluctantly joins the local twitching (birdwatching) club when her parents tell her she is allowed to homeschool only if she participates in a social activity. But the club has misogynistic birding rules and Callie determines to beat them in the upcoming birdwatching competition. Callie finds an unexpected birding companion in quiet Sid and, when they discover the World War II journals and birding pamphlets of the castle’s previous owner, a tentative friendship begins to bloom. When a medical crisis affects someone close to Callie, it brings the community together and she learns “it’s not the place so much as the others flying with me that tell me I’m home.”
In Across the Pond, her second middle-grade novel, McCullough has created a realistic and compelling story about belonging. Even readers unfamiliar with birdwatching will enjoy learning about the history of the sport and the subtle differences that separate species. McCullough’s artful comparisons between the characteristics of birds and humans provide a growing sense of self-awareness for Callie and Sid–they come to find that caring for and keeping track of family and friends is much like being among a flock of birds.
—Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor, former bookseller for University Book Store, Seattle, WA
Discover: A 12-year-old girl discovers a passion for birdwatching in this sweet middle-grade novel of self-acceptance and finding one’s flock.
From Shelf Awareness for Readers April 2, 2021