Across the Pond
by McCullough, Joy

Hoping to reinvent herself in the wake of a friendship breakup and a relocation to Scotland, Callie struggles to feel at home in a drafty, run-down historic castle before the discovery of a hidden journal inspires her to join a birding club. 40,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook.

Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is the author of the middle grade novels Across the Pond and A Field Guide to Getting Lost and the picture books Harriet's Ruffled Feathers and Champ and Major: First Dogs. Her debut novel Blood Water Paint was long-listed for the National Book Award and was a William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist. Visit her at

Painfully ostracized by her former friends in San Diego, Callie is ready for a fresh start. But when her family moves to a small Scottish community and starts renovating the dilapidated castle that her parents have inherited, she just can't face the prospect of a new school. Her parents agree to homeschooling if she will participate in an activity with other kids, so she reluctantly joins a birdwatching club. Sid, a neighbor close to Callie's age, is initially hostile and later seems indifferent, but Callie perseveres and befriends her as well as Raj, an amiable local boy who enjoys birding. Meanwhile, Callie discovers the journal of a girl who recorded the birds she spotted in Scotland after her evacuation from London in 1939. McCullough's novel aptly portrays Callie as a girl rebounding from a painful experience and trying to reinvent herself in a new place, inspired and heartened by the words of a displaced girl during WWII. With appealing jacket art, a distinctive setting, and an involving narrative, this inviting book delivers a good story. Grades 4-7. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

A new life in a new country does not, at first, bring the fresh start Callie hoped for. Seventh grader Callie; her 7-year-old brother, Jax; and their parents leave San Diego after inheriting a castle in the Scottish countryside. Callie's parents, who as grad students rented a cottage on the grounds and became close to the late owner, Lady Whittington-Spence, begin much-needed renovations. Callie, who departed California ostracized by her friends, imagines the cachet of being the exotic American in her new school. However, while the ebullient Jax quickly settles in, Callie embarrasses herself on her first visit to the local school. Burning with shame, she persuades her parents to let her try home schooling and (eventually) makes friends with Sid, the prickly granddaughter of her parents' gardener. Most excitingly, she uncovers a journal kept by one Pippa Spence when she was evacuated to the Highlands during World War II. Pippa was a keen bird-watcher, and, as Callie reads her journal, excerpts of which are interspersed, and explores the grounds and its bird life with Sid, she starts to put down roots and gain a new perspective on painful events back home. This character-driven story of introspection and growth will appeal to thoughtful readers. The intensely awkward self-consciousness of the middle school years is presented with realistic sensitivity and insight. Main characters are White, and there is natural, realistic diversity in the supporting cast. An emotionally perceptive story of awakening compassion for self and others. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Callie pressed her forehead to the thick windowpane and looked out across the rolling hills. She wanted to drink in everything at once&;the infinite shades of green, the mossy stone walls along winding paths, the sheep grazing in far-off fields. A draft danced across the back of her neck, but the chill was quickly replaced by a flicker of something Callie hadn&;t felt in ages. Maybe ever.


At home, her life was small. Small apartment, small people. Making herself smaller and smaller until she almost disappeared.

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.

Callie wasn&;t the kind of girl who traveled to Europe, like Kate, who &;wintered&; in Switzerland, or Imogen, who spent her birthday in Paris. The only place Callie had ever traveled was Phoenix. It was sadly lacking in magical firebirds.

But now here she was. In Scotland. In an actual castle.

Even the exhaustion of the endless travel from San Diego to New York to London to Edinburgh to the village of South Kingsferry couldn&;t extinguish the new thing bubbling up inside her.

&;Hey kiddo,&; her dad said, peeking his head into the billiards room. &;Are you joining us for the rest of the tour?&;

Of course she was. Callie wanted to turn over every stone in this fortress of a place, from the servants&; quarters to the castle keep, an enormous tower at the castle&;s center. For hundreds of years, the keep had been a lookout to watch for enemies and take refuge if the worst should happen.

&;Where&;s the moat?&; Callie&;s little brother, Jax, had asked when they first arrived. Their parents had laughed.

It wasn&;t such a silly question, though. Some of Callie&;s daydreams in the months leading up to the trip definitely included moats. But her parents had been here before. To them it was less of a fantasy.

&;No moat,&; Dad said. &;Or drawbridge. It wasn&;t the sort of castle with its own military. Just a family and their servants. And visiting nobles.&;

Generations upon generations of an old Scottish family named Spence had lived and died in this place, and in between they&;d had dreams and fears and great loves and crushing disappointments. Even when the Spence line had dwindled down to only Lady Philippa Whittington-Spence, she&;d made sure to keep it a place where a family could build something together, safe from intruders.

&;Where&;d you run off to?&; Mom asked, when Dad appeared with Callie in tow.

&;I found her in the billiards room,&; Dad said.

&;Billiards?!&; Jax screeched, appearing from behind a massive gold chair. &;I wanna see!&;

He took off running and Dad sprinted after him.

&;What do you think?&; Mom asked, staring at the massive portrait of a stern man in a military uniform, hanging over the biggest fireplace Callie had ever seen. &;I always felt like this guy was judging me.&;

&;Is it all the same?&; Callie asked. &;From when you lived here before?

&;Pretty much. All your first impressions&; I bet they&;re the same as mine the first time I arrived. Almost twenty years ago now!&;

&;You&;re old,&; Callie said, and Mom laughed.

&;What do you think? You okay?&;

Callie nodded. She was more than okay. &;I guess I can&;t quite believe this is really happening. I mean&; we live here now.&;

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