The Evolution of Calpernia Tate

Remember being eleven and a half – almost twelve?  Today, girls that age could be dating, wearing make-up, drooling over the Jonas brothers – but in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly’s Newbery Award Honor Book –  you’ll travel back to the turn of the twentieth century when girls received grades on deportment and practiced walking around with books on their heads to improve posture…

“I find that actually reading the book is a much more effective way of absorbing it…”

In 1899, living  on a pecan farm in Texas with 6 brothers, parents, assorted dogs, cats, and a grandfather who was a Civil War veteran and a founding member of the National Geographic Society, Calpurnia discovers she’s “a regular naturalist in the making.” Her grandfather awakens and nurtures her interest in science, cultivating Calpurnia’s curiosity and supplementing her education with scientific experiments and observations that would make the AAUW advocates for young women in science  proud.

hairy vetch

Each chapter opens with a quotation from Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species – a book banned from her local library – but hidden away in her grandfather’s home collection.  The two become happy conspirators and adventurers studying Nature, even discovering a new species of the hairy vetch plant.

The story follows A Little House on the Prairie style, with colorful historical notes, and some Walton family flavor.  Although targeted to a young audience, Kelly’s message is clear – and adults may appreciate the nuances…

“It was too bad, but sometimes a little knowledge could ruin your whole day…”

6 thoughts on “The Evolution of Calpernia Tate

  1. You sold me – this’ll be on my list of books to read! A few years ago, I did a Newbery and Caledecott run, reading as many as possible. I’m a teacher and was a librarian, so I called it professional development so I didn’t feel so guilty about reading children’s books instead of adult’s! I finished my project, though, and now it looks like I have a few to catch up on!

    Thanks for the great reviews. I appreciate the time you put into them. I have now have a few more on my to-read list!

    • Thanks for commenting. No need to feel guilt reading kiddie lit – it’s usually my preferred way to get through long airline flights.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I just added your blog to the blogroll on the Books & Readers page. I’m enjoying your site. It looks like we have similar taste in books. I’m just starting “Room” and can’t put it down. ~ Olivia

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