Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Across the Pond

McCullough, Joy. Across the Pond 
March 16th 2021 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Callie is okay with her parents leaving San Diego and moving to a castle they have inherited in Scotland. Lady Whittington-Spence, a woman they befriended when they were young died without heirs, leaving the mouldering edifice to them, but they are lucky enough to get a grant to repair the facilities and turn it into a tourist destination. Callie's brother Jax is seven and makes friends easily, so he's fine with the move, but Callie is apprehensive. She had some difficulties with a best friend back home that makes her doubt her every interaction, and after visiting the local comprehensive she would attend, she begs her parents to let her be homeschooled. She does her research and has a solid plan, so they agree, even though they are deep in renovations on the property. Callie does have to have at least one social group, and the local librarian, Esme, lets her know about a birding group that meets at the library. While she doesn't know anything about "twitching", it's better than a sport, even though the adult leader is a bit of a jerk and all of the members are boys. One boy, Rajesh, The activity has another plus in that Callie has found a journal of  Lady Whittington-Spence's from when she was a war evacuee in 1939, and she was also interested in birding. Callie's parents hire a man to help with the renovations, and his granddaughter, Sid, gets off to a rocky start with Callie, but the two eventually warm to each other. 
Strengths: I absolutely adored the setting of this, and the fact that it was based on the author's parents having lived in Scotland to go to university when she was a small child was fantastic! The backstory with Lady Whittington-Spence's childhood as a war evacuee added an interesting layer. Sid and Rajesh are good friends, and they add a bit of diversity. Sid has epilepsy and has absence seizures (something that has not been covered enough in middle grade literature), and Rajesh's family has an Indian cultural background, and he is made fun of by other boys for his short stature, but has a good attitude about things. There's a nice blend of family activities, friend drama, and birding set against the fabulous backdrop of a Scottish castle. 
Weaknesses: Middle school is rife with friendship problems, and it's worrying that Callie reacts to these by wanting to completely withdraw from the company of other children. The instance that led to the drama was one in which her friends were engaging in dangerous behavior, and the fact that Callie did the right thing by reporting them could have been treated in a more positive manner. I know that books today address anxiety in a way that it hasn't been addressed in the past, but I would like to see more modeling of resiliency. The young Lady Whittington-Spence and Rajesh do show more positive ways of dealing with challenges. 
What I really think: Travel books are always popular, and this is a more up-to-date version of a US child moving to Scotland than Krech's Love Puppies and Corner Kicks (2010). (Which came out about the year that Callie would have been born. Where does the time go?)

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic review! I can't wait to read this book. Right up my alley. I love travel books! That's why I write them too. lol

    Keep up the great work!