The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
"Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century."
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a Newberry Honor winner, which means it was a runner-up for the Newberry Medal. The Newberry Award is an award given out by the American Library Association to the most "distinguished" children's books from the previous year. The Newberry Medal was the first award for children's books in the world.
I bought this book at my daughter's last book fair because I thought the cover was beautiful. It really caught my eye and I had to have it. Once I read the back, I knew it was my kind of story. I love stories from the past, coming of age stories, and stories about girls bucking the system and becoming what they want to be instead of what is expected of them. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is all three.
Calpurnia is an 11 year old girl sandwiched in between two sets of brothers...3 older and 3 younger. That in itself makes her an interesting girl. When a curiosity about grasshoppers inspires her to ask a question of her reclusive grandfather, she is introduced to the world of a naturalist, and finds a new best friend in the grandfather she had never taken the time to notice before. Unfortunately for Calpurnia, her mother decides that this is also the time for Calpurnia to begin her training in cooking and running a house. So Calpurnia struggles to balance the life she wants to lead... discovering nature with her grandfather and the life she is expected to prepare for...the life of a wife and mother. All Calpurnia want to be is a scientist.
I really enjoyed this book, and I'm excited for my daughter to read it. I do expect lots of questions though. There are lots of plant terms and "big words", but I will take the route of Calpurnia's mother when Calpurnia didn't know a word..."get the dictionary and look it up".
Thank you, Amy, for this great review. I love the cover as well. I am enjoying reading the Young Adult books this month.