The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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Last night I finished reading Jacqueline Kelly’s Newbery Honor book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. As I closed the book, my first thought was there better be a sequel!  My second thought was wondering how fast I could get it into the hands of a few 6th grade girls I know.

Calpurnia Tate is a twelve-year-old girl living in Texas in 1899.  She is also the middle child of a family with six boys and one girl! The story is about Calpurnia’s struggle to figure out what it means to be a girl at a time when the options were limited – especially for a girl interested in science.  She reminded me of an American version of what the young Beatrix Potter must have been like; interested in bringing home specimens when her family wanted her to enter “society” and to care about making the perfect pie.

What I enjoyed the most about this book is the value it places on curiosity.  Calpurnia is engaged by everything going on outside of her door, even the weeds. And although I’ve never wondered much about why some grasshoppers look different than others, that’s really not the point.  Sometimes an adolescent  tell me they don’t want to read a book because they are not interested in anything. That breaks my heart more than anything they could say.  I want to walk around the library shelves and point out books about animals and planets and fairy tales and Ancient Egypt and the Declaration of Independence.  Now, I may introduce them to Calpurnia Tate.

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