Daily Archives: January 21, 2013

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

by Jacqueline Kelly
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Category: Historical Fiction

Personal Evaluation: I love feisty girl books and Callie Vee, our heroine, is definitely a feisty girl.  As the middle of 7 children, and the only girl, she immediately stands apart from her brothers.  Being 1899, she is treated differently by her parents, especially her mother who is determined that being eleven years old means the time has come for Callie to be trained in the ways of providing for a future husband, activities she detests.  She finds an unlikely alliance in her reclusive, science-obsessed grandfather, who pays as little attention as possible to Callie’s siblings.  So many scenes in this book had me laughing out loud (like when Grandfather gives her some whiskey and she hiccups all through dinner, to the delight of her brothers, or when a younger brother offers her one of his beloved kittens for comfort because a favorite kitten was “ indisposed”) and cheering Callie on in her quest to become a famous scientist – or at the very least go to college.  I liked that the book ended on a hopeful note and would love to see a sequel where she takes on the realm of courtship, seeing how she dealt with her oldest, and favorite, brother’s courtship.

What might interest children: This book made me think of a fifth-grader I had once who, in a discussion of serfdom, was really struggling with the unfairness of it. Callie has a similar struggle, and a kid, especially a girl, who is realizing the unfairness of the world will identify with and root for her. It’s also just a downright funny book, and there is plenty of science and nature in it for kids who are interested in that.