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Across the Pond

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From the author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost comes a heartwarming story about new beginnings, burgeoning friendships, and finding your flock.

Callie can’t wait for her new life to start. After a major friendship breakup in San Diego, moving overseas to Scotland gives her the perfect chance to reinvent herself. On top of that, she’s going to live in a real-life castle!

But as romantic as life in a castle sounds, the reality is a little less comfortable: it’s run-down, freezing, and crawling with critters. Plus, starting off on the wrong foot with the gardener’s granddaughter doesn’t help her nerves about making new friends. So she comes up with the perfect solution: she’ll be homeschooled. Her parents agree, on one condition: she has to participate in a social activity.

Inspired by a journal that she finds hidden in her bedroom, Callie decides to join a birding club. Sure, it sounds unusual, but at least it’s not sports or performing. But when she clashes with the club leader, she risks losing a set of friends all over again. Will she ever be able to find her flock and make this strange new place feel like home?

288 pages, Hardcover

First published March 16, 2021

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Joy McCullough

14 books295 followers

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5 stars
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57 (17%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 74 reviews
Profile Image for Afoma (Reading Middle Grade).
580 reviews302 followers
March 17, 2021
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.

Read my full review on my blog.

Many thanks to the publisher for an eARC of this book.
Profile Image for Ginger.
Author 2 books31 followers
February 21, 2021
I adored this book, and not just because I’ve spent most of the pandemic dreaming about living in a castle somewhere. This is a lovely book with strong characters, a gorgeous setting, an unusual pastime, and a sweet friendship.
Profile Image for Melissa.
592 reviews8 followers
January 19, 2021
This is exactly the type of book I would have loved as a child (and let's be honest -- I loved it now as an adult). Callie is a introverted bookworm dealing with losing her closest friends right before a move. Understandably, she has trust issues, and she convinces her parents to homeschool her for the rest of the semester.

There aren't very many middle-grade novels with homeschooled kids, so I KNOW my girls will enjoy reading about Callie's journey, as she builds community in her new town and starts a new hobby.

(I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Profile Image for Stormi (StormReads).
1,790 reviews158 followers
March 29, 2021
A sweet middle grade contemporary about a young girl Callie who has had a rough time with friends and peer pressure. When her parent’s tell her and her brother that they inherited a castle in Scotland she thinks this is just what she needed and a way to reinvent herself and be someone different and make new friends.

Things don’t go as she hoped because when her mom takes her to the school to see about registering she is introduced to a class and stumbles over her words, kids snicker and now she doesn’t want to go to the school and is afraid that things are not going to be any different. She talks her parents into letting her homeschool and they agree but she has to join a social extracurricular activity.

She isn’t good at sports and she is sure that hanging with the librarian isn’t going to cute it she finds out about a birdwatching group. The only thing is is that it’s run by a very snotty old man and is all boys. She finds out that birdwatching or twitching as they call it, is very male oriented. They can only count the male birds when looking for them, females don’t count. She voices her opinion and about things and it doesn’t go so well for her.

Also, her parents are turning the castle into a tourist attraction and has hired an older man to do the landscaping and he has a young girl Callie’s age and at first they don’t get off to a good start but she learns that she likes twitching too and they slowly get to where they become friends.

Callie learns a lot about birds and she also finds a journal from the previous owner of the castle and in it she learns about a part of her childhood that was pretty tough and also a lot about birding from her. Callie also learns a lot about herself and how she shouldn’t have to be a certain way to fit in, sometimes she just needs to find the right flock. I really liked Callie and how she took a stand with the birding club and created her own club that allowed counting females.

I really enjoyed this one and would highly recommend it to young readers.
Profile Image for Laura Bang.
633 reviews18 followers
June 7, 2021
I really loved this story of tween Callie who is relieved to move with her family to Scotland after a serious friendship breakup at her previous home in California. Her family have inherited a decrepit castle because her parents were nice to the last titled owner while they were grad students renting a cottage from her so she left them her castle in her will. (They are also lucky enough to get a grant to restore said castle into a tourist destination.) Callie is still getting over what happened with her former friends, so she finds it difficult to trust people and make new connections. She finds a WWII diary in her new bedroom, which inspires her to take up birdwatching (or, "twitching"). While exploring her new home and clashing with the horrible sexist leader of the twitching club, Callie begins to heal and find her way forward. IDK, this is one of those more introspective stories that's kind of hard to describe well, but like I said, I really loved it.
Profile Image for Sandy Brehl.
Author 8 books131 followers
October 17, 2021
This has a less familiar premise, one involving adjusting to a new home in a Scottish castle. Hmm, not likely to have direct connections in kids, but that's only th scaffold on which a very recognizable set of issues stands up well. An enthusiasm for adventure and fresh starts quickly leads to worries, realization that new locations don't erase internal anxieties, and confusion in interpreting the actions of peers when trying to anchor new friendships.
This includes some valuable subplots, including the making of "family" where we choose to live, a girl with epilepsy and its impact on her behavior, and the way that potential tragedy can bring out the best in us.
Profile Image for clara [inactive account].
118 reviews44 followers
September 22, 2020
so. i feenished acrooss the poonde und...

nah. we're not writing a whole review like that.

i really enjoyed this comfort read. full of **british tings** so we love that.
but it did feel arc-ish in that (shocking. of course it felt "arc-ish." it's an arc. anyways.) there were a few things that they hinted at and then we never heard anything else about. which is very annoying, because as you know i grow very attached to characters, and can't have them hinting at backstories and then never following up. it's rude and inconsiderate, guys. stop it.

of course i expect characters to value my feelings. i value theirs

Profile Image for Emily Bush.
126 reviews1 follower
February 13, 2021
Having been to Scotland a few years ago, I loved reading this book. Callie and her family move “across the pond” because her parents inherited a castle. Because she’s been having some friend issues, Callie is excited for a new start. Once there, Callie convinces her parents to homeschool her, she joins a twitching (birding) club, and makes some new friends. When those new friendships hit a snag, Callie has to decide what being a friend really means. I think a lot of middle graders will be able to relate to this book. thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
417 reviews
March 12, 2021
Source: ARC from author

Across the Pond is a delightful travel novel sure to please readers who enjoy vicariously exploring other countries. Callie and her family move to Scotland when her parents decide to renovate an old castle left to them by a deceased friend. Callie is initially excited to be leaving her old life behind–her friends were mean and she now has some anxiety about attending school and fitting in. But Scotland does not turn out to be quite the new start Callie hoped, and she soon realizes that she will have new problems to confront. Across the Pond is a fairly conventional middle-grade novel about growing up, making friends, and finding one’s place in the community. But the Scottish setting and Callie’s somewhat unusual new hobby–birding–will initially hook readers and then keep them engaged.

The setting will likely be one of the first things to attract readers to Across the Pond, and Joy McCullough makes sure to give Scotland a starring role. Callie wonderfully gets to live in a castle, complete with locked trunks to spark the imagination and old diaries to give her (and readers) a glimpse of growing up in the 1940s. McCullough also spends time describing the small town life (slowing giving way to modernity as the family-owned stores of the past go out of business and chain stores move in) and playing up the comedic differences between American English and the words Callie learns from her new friends. All this gives readers a sense of being able to explore a new place and a new culture with Callie.

Also notable is Callie’s new hobby, twitching (or birding, as most readers would probably call it). The book goes to great lengths to connect birding to Callie’s difficulties with making friends, but, ultimately, comparing people to specific types of birds does not add much to the story. More relevant is that birding gives the homeschooled Callie (homeschooled because she’s afraid to meet the kids at the local school) an opportunity to connect with her peers while learning a new skill she really enjoys. Sexism in birding also receives a lot of attention, with Callie having to deal with a prejudiced birding leader–something she does in part by learning more about the activity and the women and girls who have worked hard to make it more welcoming and equitable. Readers will enjoy getting to learn more about birding, and may even be inspired to try it out for themselves.

Across the Pond is not exactly a standout novel, but it is a solid book, one that will appeal to readers who enjoy books set in different countries or books about unusual hobbies. The sympathetic characters also add a certain charm to the story. Joy McCullough is definitely an author I want to read more of.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.1k reviews271 followers
April 13, 2021
This one was a 3.5 for me, and I really enjoyed watching the protagonist, seventh-grader Callie Feldmuth, come into her own after her family moves from San Diego to live in Scotland. They have inherited a castle and lands from an elderly woman who was the Feldmuths' landlord when they attended the university there years ago. Callie is thrilled to live in a castle even though it needs many repairs before its facilities can be rented out, but mostly, she is happy to have left all the drama associated with her friends. Over the course of the main narrative and through a series of flashbacks readers learn about what went wrong. Callie is tired of not fitting in or having to be false to herself in order to do so, making her grateful for this chance to reinvent herself. When her parents agree to allow her to be homeschooled, it's with the condition that she engage in some sort of extracurricular activity that requires her to socialize with others her age. She ends up joining a birding club, but she is kicked out of it when the adult leader sees her as a troublemaker. But birding seems to be her thing, and along with Sid (short for Cressida), the granddaughter of a handyman working for her family, she ends up finding several different birds on the property. Callie is also inspired by the notes and journal entries from the family's benefactor, writings from a difficult time in the life of the family's benefactor, Philippa. This book tackles several important issues related to self-esteem and friendship, and while the transitions from present time to the journal or to Callie's fractured relationships back home are a bit abrupt at times, it's certainly worth reading. There is plenty of humor, and it's perfectly clear that home isn't really a place but more the individuals with whom someone feels most comfortable or at home with.
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 6 books205 followers
October 24, 2020
This book combines so many elements I love: wildlife facts, armchair travel, challenging the patriarchy, a bit of history...and some really lovely characters finding friendship in one another just when they need it most. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Danielle Hammelef.
1,016 reviews124 followers
May 16, 2021
I enjoyed my trip to Scotland and the chance to get to know Callie and her loving and close family. The friendships and ties to history of the castle's previous owner delighted me. After finishing this book, I'm inspired to learn even more about the birds local to me.
Profile Image for Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens.
2,599 reviews55 followers
July 19, 2021
Callie can’t wait to trade her “small” San Diego existence for life in the sprawling Scottish castle her parents have inherited from Lady Whittington-Spence. But her new life is far from perfect. Things begin to look up when she discovers twitching (or birdwatching), an interest the Lady shared (which started during a WWII evacuation to the countryside when "Pippa" was Callie's age).
Profile Image for Polly-Alida.
Author 8 books36 followers
May 16, 2021
A great middle school read. Also suitable for slightly younger readers, grades 4 & up. Don’t let the bird-watching/twitching theme put you off, it’s more about friendship, confidence feel-esteem. And a bit of Scotland for a great setting.
Profile Image for Christiana Doucette.
90 reviews5 followers
October 4, 2021
Beautifully satisfying character arc! I loved the bird imagery and metaphor throughout. The nods to The Secret Garden made me smile and who doesn't love reading about living in a real castle!
Profile Image for Kirsten.
979 reviews
May 4, 2021
This book surpised me. I really loved it. Callie looks forward to new friends, a new school and a whole new life for herself and her family as they move overseas from San Diego to Scotland. Her parents plan to renovate a brooding castle into a bed & breakfast. Things don't go quite as planned for Callie. But she still learns a lot of making friends, girl power in the face of sexist bird-watching club leaders, and the power of community. I particularly loved how the "twitching club" evolved--you'll have to read it to find out exactly what that is--not dancing, by the way. And, hooray for friendly, intuitive librarians! McCullough captures the awkward angst of middle school friendship so well. A very fine middle grade novel.
Profile Image for Morgan.
161 reviews9 followers
December 20, 2020
I loved this book for so many reasons: 1. Scotland!! The setting of a Scottish castle and adorable quaint town made me want to go back for another visit ASAP. 2. The characters - especially the awesome librarian Esme. Also liked the inclusion of Raj a boy of South Asian heritage. Finally, I really identified with the main character Callie. When I was a middle schooler, I too felt caught between doing what I felt was right and peer pressure. So many of my peers seemed to be in a hurry to grow up and I was not. Callie learns to be brave and stand up for herself throughout this story and that lesson is one a lot of kids need to hear. 3. The birding theme was one I didn’t expect to enjoy, but now has me interested to learn more about the sport of Twitching. 4. The inclusion of Pippa’s journal added a lot of perspective to Callie’s story without stealing the focus of the book. I thought it was well done. 5. The ending leaves an opportunity for sequels which I hope there will be some! I didn’t want this story to end.

Thank you to the publisher for providing this book in exchange for my honest review.
Author 1 book1 follower
March 23, 2022
Across the Pond is a low-key middle grades charmer. Surely I am not the only person who has imagined what it would be like to randomly inherit a castle in Scotland? That’s exactly what happens to Callie’s family: Her mom and dad rented a cottage on the palace grounds while they were in college in Edinburgh, and the owner forged such a bond with her then-newlywed tenants that she left the castle to their family in her will. Adjusting to life in Scotland after growing up in San Diego might seem challenging, but Callie can’t wait — middle school has ripped her friend group to shreds, and she’s ready to reinvent herself in a new place. Only, as it turns out, the scenery has changed, but Callie hasn’t, and within a couple of weeks, she’s made enemies with their new handyman’s daughter and gotten kicked out of the local birding club for arguing that female birds should count in the sighting scores. The only thing keeping her going is the journal the former of the lady of the house kept when she was Callie’s age and shipped off to the countryside during the Blitz. Callie can definitely identify with Pippa’s lonely feeling of being always on the outside.

Of course this is all working toward a happier ending: Callie may have gotten kicked out of the birding club, but it helped introduce her to Rajesh, whose unflappable nice-ness is hard to resist. It also inspired her interest in birds, and as she’s trying to identify the swirling flock of tiny birds that settle in a tree across the lake every night (they’re starlings), she ends up befriending the handyman’s daughter, after all, realizing that everything isn’t always about her. Callie becomes an avid birder, making connections between her life and the birds she observes — just as Pippa did, all those years ago. There’s a core of real sweetness in this book that I loved: We all sometimes feel like we don’t belong, and we’re all delighted when we discover that we’ve found a community. For birding enthusiasts, for middle grades readers who enjoy realistic fiction, for anyone who’s ever wished for that castle in Scotland — you’ll want to pick this one up.
Profile Image for Carol.
170 reviews
April 25, 2021
Callie’s family is moving a long way from California and everything she’s ever known. They’ve lived a tight existence economically (California, two working parents barely making it). She has always shared a room with her younger brother, Jax. He wasn’t keen on the move—he was born gregarious unlike Callie who just doesn’t speak that language. She second guesses her every word and move, her friends have abandoned her after a huge, dramatic fight. She is FINE with moving anywhere!

The move will be a brand new place, brand new start brand new self. When Calliope (brand new Callie) attempts to enroll at school, she panics when she learns there is NO middle school (she will go directly into high school!!!), the kids wear uniforms and look like high schoolers already, the other kids laugh her right out the door when she can’t answer where she lives quickly/correctly.

She makes a deal with her parents that she will homeschool according to a strict plan of work with check-ins on her work completion. However, her parents add that she must also join a social/team activity of her choice and present her plan to them within the first week. If the plan does not meet approval, she will be enrolled in the public school.
Profile Image for Nicki.
522 reviews
January 30, 2021
This story follows Callie, a 7th grade girl from California, as she and her family move to Scotland to live in a castle they inherited. She struggles with making friends in her new foreign home. She is holding onto the baggage of a betrayal by her 3 closest friends. She now has trouble trusting people's motives. She convinces her parents to let her homeschool instead of attending the local high school, but she needs a social outlet or they will make her enroll. She is not sporty or musical and hates performing, so her only option is the twitching (bird watching) club.

Along the way she finds potential friends in the town librarian, a boy from the club and the gardener's granddaughter. She also discovers a journal written by the former owner of the castle when she was a girl nearly 70 years ago. She realizes that she is not the only one who has trouble fitting.

This is a great, uplifting story for tweens and young teens. Many positive messages are related. I highly recommend it.

*The Scottish jargon was a bonus and made me laugh.
46 reviews
May 7, 2022
Sometimes when you try to leave your problems behind, you find that you bring them with you instead. This is what happens for Callie when she leaves the beaches of San Diego for bona fide European castle. The change she needed was really inside of herself.

The characters were compelling. The parents showed just the right amount of warmth and structure (which, let's face it, doesn't always happen in middle grade fiction). The castle itself was a wonderful setting. And, the addition of a story line involving birdwatching that lightly linked the past and the present, was a fun twist.

My only criticism would be that in some places, it felt like the story was trying to be too many things. With story lines that touched on bullying, culture, childhood medical issues, transient work, and 2 different types of health emergencies, it ws sometimes hard to decide how to root for and how to root for them. That said, each of the characters was interesting in their own right, and I would read any of their individual stories.
21 reviews
November 19, 2022
First, this book was challenging for me to pick up and just READ even more to finish. Sometimes books are like that. I really loved the setting and descriptions the author used, but most of the action and story was at the end of the book. Callie didn’t like Sid too much in the beginning because she thought Sid was never paying attention. When really Sid was having absent seizures. This book seems to be loosely based off true events when the author moved to a Scottish castle when she was at a young age. The author only lives there for two years but got most memories from her parents. The book is center about twitching (bird watching) and the events that follow. Callie chose not to go to school and instead chose an all boys twitching group. She got kicked out for saying that the female birds should count INSTEAD of the male birds. (Female birds are harder to spot).

Final line: this review was long.
Final Final line: I would recommend to anyone who wants a good plot twist.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Leslie.
419 reviews3 followers
May 14, 2021
I so enjoyed this book.

This is a middle grade book, beautifully written about a girl and her family as they move from California to Scotland to live in a castle they inherited. The story is told from Callie's point of view as she leaves behind friendships that turned sour and is hoping for a fresh start in a new country. Things did not go as planned, but Callie learned valuable lessons along the way and found her people.

The author told a beautiful story that was natural, without being preachy, on what it means to feel pressured by your friends and coming out the other side.

Other strengths of this book: the discovered journal of the previous castle owner that was woven into the story; Callie's love of books and her instantaneous connection with the young librarian; and birding, which was an interesting and fun aspect of the storyline.
Profile Image for Miriam.
1,733 reviews29 followers
March 15, 2021
I've fallen in love with YA books. They are just charming, full of lovely characters and real-life situations. This one features "twitching", Scottish slang for bird watching, friendship, a helpful (of course) librarian, and a castle in Scotland. What more can you ask for?

The story includes diary entries from 1939 when the castle's prior owner, Pippa, was evacuated to a rural family as a pre-teen, describing her sense of displacement. She is also a serious bird watcher.

So travel "across the pond" from San Diego to South Kingsferry, Scotland, learn new slang, and discovery the joys of castle life.

Thanks to the BookLoft of German Village (Columbus, OH) http://www.bookloft.com for an ARC to read and review.
Profile Image for Leo.
442 reviews10 followers
November 10, 2022
TW: HP references and mention of JKR, bullying, ableism (and internalised ableism), anxiety, sexism and misogy

This story had great bits i loved, and at times crawled or felt to flesh out unnecessary moments instead of more important characters. Overall it was enjoyable, but the two areas that bothered me most were

A: Sid's disability being brought up only near the end, and at times improperly framed (note: though I am disabled myself I do not have seizures so own voice reviewers should have president over my thoughts)

B: as an avid bird lover I really enjoyed the books framing but felt the personality and charm of birds was lacking, it all felt very serface level. This is very personal, it just felt like the charm was lacking.
Profile Image for Julie.
714 reviews15 followers
March 5, 2021
With thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for an early copy in return for an honest review.

I love when books have a strong sense of setting and Across the Pond definitely does! I think kids will enjoy getting to travel through the pages to Scotland and imagine what it would be like to live in your very own castle.

I think the themes related to friendship and family will be relatable to middle grade kids as they wrestle with figuring out who their "flock" is as they are getting older. I think the bird aspect of the book was quite interesting and I hope it encourages kids to learn a bit more about birds. I also liked the glimpses back at World War 2.
489 reviews
May 30, 2021
When Callie's family unexpectedly inherits a castle in Scotland and moves there, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself after a peer pressure situation in her California hometown turned ugly. But, building new friendships is a lot harder than re-building an ancient castle. Luckily, she discovers Esme (the local Scottish librarian), Raj (a friendly local student), and Sid (the landscaper's granddaughter). And, an old birding journal of the castle's past owner. Birding is called "twitching" in Scotland and seems to a be competitive club sports for middle/high schoolers. Who knew? A reminder that peer pressure knows no geographical boundaries, but that true friendships are possible.
Profile Image for Lauren Hicks.
296 reviews4 followers
March 18, 2021
I received this as an ARC from Net Galley, and the opinions below are mine:

I absolutely fell in love with this book! The author transported me to Scotland, and now all I want to do is visit this idyllic setting in real life! It was a touching story of friendship and becoming comfortable with who you are. It was perfectly paced and had just enough to keep me wanting more! I also appreciated the writing style and found myself rereading some of the beautiful lines. I will be recommending this, and I can’t wait to add it to my middle grade library! Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Jen.
Author 5 books21 followers
July 19, 2021
I loved this gentle, literary MG novel about a working class American family that inherits a Scottish castle and moves to the UK. It's interspersed with journal entries from 1939, when the writer was 12 and sent away from her family during WWII. I was instantly hooked:

"But here, in an actual castle where everything was larger than any life she'd ever known, where the grassy fields beyond the window stretched out like an ocean of green, she already felt her world expanding.
She felt her self expanding."

Profile Image for Maura.
631 reviews9 followers
September 4, 2021
This one felt really slow at first, but I can see the book's great appeal as a middle grade escapist fantasy scenario: live in the shoes of a character who gets to escape to another country and live in a castle after something turns you into a social pariah at home. The book was fresh, unique and out of the MG mold in several ways, not least of which was the unusual birdwatching storyline. This won't appeal to all readers, but it will definitely find a home with quiet kids for whom being homeschooled in a ramshackle Scottish castle sounds like paradise.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 74 reviews

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