Summary: Across the Pond
Calliope (Callie), her brother Jax, and her parents have moved across the pond to Scotland after they inherited a castle from an older woman whose small cottage they lived in as university students. Callie is hoping for a fresh start after a falling out with her friends back in the States. However, she quickly realizes that fresh starts aren’t automatic, even when you move countries.
A trip to the secondary school convinces her that she’s better off being homeschooled. However, her parents insist that she must do one social activity with other kids. So when Callie hears from the town librarian, Esme, that a twitching (the term for bird watching) club meets at the library, Callie decides to join them. There, she befriends a boy from the school, Rajesh. At the castle, she gets off on the wrong foot with the landscaper’s granddaughter Cressida (Sid), but the two eventually become friends.
Callie stumbles upon a diary belonging to the owner of the castle, Lady Whittington-Spence, from when she was a war evacuee in 1939. The diary also includes birding notes. The story is interspered with diary entries as Callie navigates the sexism in the twitching club, her parents renovating the castle, finding her place in the community, and her friendship with Sid.
This is a unique book, much like McCullough’s middle-grade debut, A Field Guide to Getting Lost. She does the family dynamics excellently. I love books that let me feel like I’m literally having meals with the families. The Scotland landscape is vivid and the small town setting evokes a strong sense of community. Callie riding her bike places makes readers soon feel like they’re also newbies adapting to a community.
A lot happens in this book, but twitching takes central scene (and I’m not a big birdwatching enthusiast). The kids identify a bunch of birds and Lady Spence’s entries bring insightful tidbits about life as an evacuee, similar to those in Albus’s A Place to Hang the Moon. I liked the friendships between Raj and Callie, but especially Callie and Sid. I loved the lessons about dealing with peer pressure, and the idea that people make mistakes, but can redeem themselves.
The representation in this book for Indian culture, a kid living with their grandfather, and epilepsy was well done. I loved little Jax, his people-friendliness, and his relationship with his sister, Callie. Ultimately, I enjoyed this one and was rooting for Callie and all her people.
Overall: Across the Pond
Across the Pond is a charming, sensitive middle grade book about moving to a new country and finding your tribe. Set in breathtaking Scotland and featuring a birdwatching protagonist and diary entries from a 1939 war evacuee, this book provides an engaging mix of historical and contemporary fiction. If you like books about families, birds, disentangling from toxic friendships, and finding friends that feel like family, this is your pick.
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I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
More Books About Unlikely Friendships
- Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
- Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor
- A Place at the Table by Laura Shovan
This book has soo many related themes, but the library link is my favorite! What are other middle grade books about libraries? I made a whole list here.