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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (84 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
326 pagine
5 ore
Pubblicato:
May 12, 2009
ISBN:
9781429993074
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

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.

Debut author Jacqueline Kelly deftly brings Callie and her family to life, capturing a year of growing up with unique sensitivity and a wry wit.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a 2010 Newbery Honor Book and the winner of the 2010 Bank Street - Josette Frank Award. This title has Common Core connections.

Pubblicato:
May 12, 2009
ISBN:
9781429993074
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Jacqueline Kelly won the Newbery Honor for her first book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. She was born in New Zealand and raised in Canada, in the dense rainforests of Vancouver Island. Her family then moved to El Paso, Texas, and Kelly attended college in El Paso, then went on to medical school in Galveston. After practicing medicine for many years, she went to law school at the University of Texas, and after several years of law practice, realized she wanted to write fiction. Her first story was published in the Mississippi Review in 2001. She now makes her home with her husband and various cats and dogs in Austin and Fentress, Texas.

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Anteprima del libro

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate - Jacqueline Kelly

TATE

CHAPTER 1

THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES

When a young naturalist commences the study of a group of organisms quite unknown to him, he is at first much perplexed to determine what differences to consider . . . for he knows nothing of the amount and kind of variation to which the group is subject. . . .

BY 1899, WE HAD LEARNED to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat. We arose in the dark, hours before sunrise, when there was barely a smudge of indigo along the eastern sky and the rest of the horizon was still pure pitch. We lit our kerosene lamps and carried them before us in the dark like our own tiny wavering suns. There was a full day’s work to be done before noon, when the deadly heat drove everyone back into our big shuttered house and we lay down in the dim high-ceilinged rooms like sweating victims. Mother’s usual summer remedy of sprinkling the sheets with refreshing cologne lasted only a minute. At three o’clock in the afternoon, when it was time to get up again, the temperature was still killing.

The heat was a misery for all of us in Fentress, but it was the women who suffered the most in their corsets and petticoats. (I was still a few years too young for this uniquely feminine form of torture.) They loosened their stays and sighed the hours away and cursed the heat and their husbands, too, for dragging them to Caldwell County to plant cotton and acres of pecan trees. Mother temporarily gave up her hairpieces, a crimped false fringe and a rolled horsehair rat, platforms on which she daily constructed an elaborate mountain of her own hair. On those days when we had no company, she even took to sticking her head under the kitchen pump and letting Viola, our quadroon cook, pump away until she was soaked through. We were forbidden by sharp orders to laugh at this astounding entertainment. As Mother gradually surrendered her dignity to the heat, we discovered (as did Father) that it was best to keep out of her way.

My name is Calpurnia Virginia Tate, but back then everybody called me Callie Vee. That summer, I was eleven years old and the only girl out of seven children. Can you imagine a worse situation? I was spliced midway between three older brothers—Harry, Sam Houston, and Lamar—and three younger brothers—Travis, Sul Ross, and the baby, Jim Bowie, whom we called J.B. The little boys actually managed to sleep at midday, sometimes even piled atop one another like damp, steaming puppies. The men who came in from the fields and my father, back from his office at the cotton gin, slept too, first dousing themselves with tin buckets of tepid well water on the sleeping porch before falling down on their rope beds as if poleaxed.

Yes, the heat was a misery, but it also brought me my freedom. While the rest of the family tossed and dozed, I secretly made my way to the San Marcos River bank and enjoyed a daily interlude of no school, no pestiferous brothers, and no Mother. I didn’t have permission to do this, exactly, but no one said I couldn’t. I got away with it because I had my own room at the far end of the hall, whereas my brothers all had to share, and they would have tattled in a red-hot second. As far as I could tell, this was the sole decent thing about being the only girl.

Our house was separated from the river by a crescent-shaped parcel of five acres of wild, uncleared growth. It would have been an ordeal to push my way through it except that the regular river patrons—dogs, deer, brothers—kept a narrow path beaten down through the treacherous sticker burrs that rose as high as my head and snatched at my hair and pinafore as I folded myself narrow to slide by. When I reached the river, I stripped down to my chemise, floating on my back with my shimmy gently billowing around me in the mild currents, luxuriating in the coolness of the water flowing around me. I was a river cloud, turning gently in the eddies. I looked up at the filmy bags of webworms high above me in the lush canopy of oaks bending over the river. The webworms seemed to mirror me, floating in their own balloons of gauze in the pale turquoise sky.

That summer, all the men except for my grandfather Walter Tate cut their hair close and shaved off their thick beards and mustaches. They looked as naked as blind salamanders for the few days it took to get over the shock of their pale, weak chins. Strangely, Grandfather felt no distress from the heat, even with his full white beard tumbling down his chest. He claimed it was because he was a man of regular and moderate habits who never took whiskey before noon. His smelly old swallowtail coat was hopelessly outdated by then, but he wouldn’t hear of parting with it. Despite regular spongings with benzene at the hands of our maid SanJuanna, the coat always kept its musty smell and strange color, which was neither black nor green.

Grandfather lived under the same roof with us but was something of a shadowy figure. He had long since turned over the running of the family business to his only son, my father, Alfred Tate, and spent his days engaged in experiments in his laboratory out back. The laboratory was just an old shed that had once been part of the slave quarters. When he wasn’t in the laboratory, he was either out hunting specimens or holed up with his moldering books in a dim corner of the library, where no one dared disturb him.

I asked Mother if I could cut off my hair, which hung in a dense swelter all the way down my back. She said no, she wouldn’t have me running about like a shorn savage. I found this manifestly unfair, to say nothing of hot. So I devised a plan: Every week I would cut off an inch of hair—just one stealthy inch—so that Mother wouldn’t notice. She wouldn’t notice because I would camouflage myself with good manners. When I took on the disguise of a polite young lady, I could often escape her closer scrutiny. She was usually swamped by the constant demands of the household and the ceaseless uproar of my brothers. You wouldn’t believe the amount of chaos and commotion six brothers could create. Plus, the heat aggravated her crippling sick headaches, and she had to resort to a big spoonful of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, known to be the Best Blood Purifier for Women.

That night I took a pair of embroidery scissors and, with great exhilaration and a pounding heart, cut off the first inch. I looked at the soft haystack of hair cupped in my palm. I was striding forth to greet my future in the shiny New Century, a few short months away. It seemed to me a great moment indeed. I slept poorly that night in fear of the morning.

The next day I held my breath coming down the stairs to breakfast. The pecan flapjacks tasted like cardboard. And do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. No one noticed in the slightest. I was mightily relieved but also thought, Well, isn’t that just like this family. In fact, no one noticed anything until four weeks and four inches went by and our cook, Viola, gave me a hard look one morning. But she didn’t say a word.

It was so hot that for the first time in history Mother left the candles of the chandelier unlit at dinnertime. She even let Harry and me skip our piano lessons for two weeks. Which was just as well. Harry sweated on the keys so that they turned hazy along the pattern of the Minuet in G. Nothing Mother or SanJuanna tried could bring the sheen back to the ivory. Besides, our music teacher, Miss Brown, was ancient, and her decrepit horse had to pull her gig three miles from Prairie Lea. They would both likely collapse on the trip and have to be put down. On consideration, not such a bad idea.

Father, on learning that we would miss our lessons, said, A good thing, too. A boy needs piano like a snake needs a hoopskirt.

Mother didn’t want to hear it. She wanted seventeen-year-old Harry, her oldest, to become a gentleman. She had plans to send him off to the university in Austin fifty miles away when he turned eighteen. According to the newspaper, there were five hundred students at the university, seventeen of them well-chaperoned young ladies in the School of Liberal Arts (with a choice of music, English, or Latin). Father’s plan was different; he wanted Harry to be a businessman and one day take over the cotton gin and the pecan orchards and join the Freemasons, as he had. Father apparently didn’t think piano lessons were a bad idea for me though, if he considered the matter at all.

In late June, the Fentress Indicator reported that the temperature was 106 degrees in the middle of the street outside the newspaper office. The paper did not mention the temperature in the shade. I wondered why not, as no one in his right mind spent more than a second in the sun, except to make smartly for the next patch of shadow, whether it be cast by tree or barn or plow horse. It seemed to me that the temperature in the shade would be a lot more useful to the citizens of our town. I labored over A Letter To The Editor pointing this out, and to my great amazement, the paper published my letter the following week. To my family’s greater amazement, it began to publish the temperature in the shade as well. Reading that it was only 98 in the shade somehow made us all feel a bit cooler.

There was a sudden surge in insect activity both inside the house and out. Grasshoppers rose in flocks beneath the horses’ hooves. The fireflies came out in such great numbers that no one could remember a summer with a more spectacular show. Every evening, my brothers and I gathered on the front porch and held a contest to see who could spot the first flicker. There was considerable excitement and honor in winning, especially after Mother took a scrap of blue silk from her sewing basket and cut out a fine medallion, complete with long streamers. In between headaches she embroidered FENTRESS FIREFLY PRIZE on it in gold floss. It was an elegant and much-coveted prize. The winner kept it until the following night.

Ants invaded the kitchen as never before. They marched in military formation through minute cracks around the baseboards and windows and headed straight for the sink. They were desperate for water and would not be stopped. Viola took up arms against them to no avail. We deemed the fireflies a bounty and the ants a plague, but it occurred to me for the first time to question why there should be such a distinction. They were all just creatures trying to survive the drought, as we were. I thought Viola should give up and leave them alone, but I reconsidered after discovering that the black pepper in the egg salad was not pepper at all.

While certain insects overran us, some of the other normal inhabitants of our property, such as earthworms, disappeared. My brothers complained about the lack of worms for fishing and the difficulty of digging for them in the hard, parched ground. Perhaps you’ve wondered, Can earthworms be trained? I’m here to tell you that they can. The solution seemed obvious to me: The worms always came when it rained, and it was easy enough to make some rain for them. I carried a tin bucket of water to a shaded area in the five acres of scrub and dumped it on the ground in the same place a couple of times a day. After four days, I only had to show up with my bucket, and the worms, drawn by my footsteps and the promise of water, crawled to the surface. I scooped them up and sold them to Lamar for a penny a dozen. Lamar nagged me to tell him where I’d found them, but I wouldn’t. However, I did confess my method to Harry, my favorite, from whom I could keep nothing. (Well, almost nothing.)

Callie Vee, he said, I’ve got something for you. He went to his bureau and took out a pocket-sized red leather notebook with SOUVENIR OF AUSTIN stamped on the front.

Look here, he said. I’ve never used it. You can use it to write down your scientific observations. You’re a regular naturalist in the making.

What, exactly, was a naturalist? I wasn’t sure, but I decided to spend the rest of my summer being one. If all it meant was writing about what you saw around you, I could do that. Besides, now that I had my own place to write things down, I saw things I’d never noticed before.

My first recorded notes were of the dogs. Due to the heat, they lay so still in the dirt as to look dead. Even when my younger brothers chivvied them with sticks out of boredom, they wouldn’t bother to raise their heads. They got up long enough to slurp at the water trough and then flopped down again, raising puffs of dust in their shallow hollows. You couldn’t have rousted Ajax, Father’s prize bird dog, with a shotgun let off a foot in front of his muzzle. He lay with his mouth lolling open and let me count his teeth. In this way, I discovered that the roof of a dog’s mouth is deeply ridged in a backwards direction down his gullet, in order no doubt to encourage the passage of struggling prey in one direction only, namely that of DINNER. I wrote this in my Notebook.

I observed that the expressions of a dog’s face are mainly manifested by the movement of its eyebrows. I wrote, Why do dogs have eyebrows? Why do dogs need eyebrows?

I asked Harry, but he didn’t know. He said, Go ask Grandfather. He knows that sort of thing.

But I wouldn’t. The old man had fierce tufty eyebrows of his own, rather like a dragon’s, and he was altogether too imposing a figure for me to have clambered on as an infant. He had never spoken to me directly that I remembered, and I wasn’t entirely convinced he knew my name.

Next I turned my attention to the birds. For some reason, we had a great number of cardinals about the place that year. Harry tickled me when he said we had a fine crop of them, as if we had something to do with their number, as if we had labored to harvest their bright, cheerful bodies and place them in the trees along our gravel drive like Christmas ornaments. But because there were so many and the drought had cut down on their normal diet of seeds and berries, the males squabbled furiously over possession of each hackberry tree. I found a mutilated dead male in the brush, a startling and sad sight. Then one morning a female came to perch on the back of the wicker chair next to me on the porch. I froze. I could have reached out and touched her with my finger. A lump of gray-brown matter dangled from her pale-apricot beak. It looked like a tiny baby mouse, thimble-sized, dead or dying.

When I related this at dinner, Father said, Calpurnia, cardinals do not eat mice. They live on vegetation. Sam Houston, please pass the potatoes.

Yes, well, I’m just telling you, sir, I said lamely, and then felt furious with myself for not having defended what I’d seen with my own eyes. The thought of the cardinals driven to such unnatural behavior repelled me. The next step would be cannibalism. Before I went to bed that night, I took a can full of oats from the stable and dribbled them along the drive. I wrote in the Notebook, How many cardinals will we have next year, with not enough to eat? Remember to count.

I next wrote in my Notebook that we had two very different kinds of grasshoppers that summer. We had the usual quick little emerald ones decorated all over with black speckles. And then there were huge bright yellow ones, twice as big, and torpid, so waxy and fat that they bowed down the grasses when they landed. I had never seen these before. I polled everyone in the house (except Grandfather) to find out where these odd yellow specimens had come from, but nobody could tell me. None of them was the slightest bit interested.

As a last resort, I rounded up my courage and went out to my grandfather’s laboratory. I pushed back the burlap flap that served as a door and stood quaking on the threshold. He looked up in surprise from the counter where he was pouring a foul-looking brown liquid into various beakers and retorts. He didn’t invite me in. I stumbled through my grasshopper conundrum while he stared at me as if he was having trouble placing me.

Oh, he said mildly, I suspect that a smart young whip like you can figure it out. Come back and tell me when you have. He turned away from me and began to write in his ledger.

So, that was that. My audience with the dragon. I counted it a wash. On the one hand, he hadn’t breathed fire at me, but on the other, he’d been no help at all. Perhaps if I’d made Harry go with me, Grandfather would have accorded me more attention. Maybe he was peeved that I’d interrupted his work, although he had spoken to me in polite tones. I knew what he was working on. For some reason, he had gotten it in his head to figure out a way to distill pecans into whiskey. He apparently reasoned that if you could make fine spirits from common corn and the lowly potato, why not the princely pecan? And, Lord knows, we were drowning in pecans—sixty acres of them.

I went back to my room and contemplated the grasshopper puzzle. I had one of the small green grasshoppers in a jar on my vanity, and I stared at it for inspiration. I had been unable to catch one of the big yellow ones, even though they were much slower.

Why are you different? I asked, but it refused to answer.

The next morning, I awoke as usual to a scuffling in the wall next to my bed. It was a possum, returning to his lair at his normal time. Shortly after this, I heard the slap and slam of sash weights as SanJuanna threw open the parlor windows beneath my room. I sat up in my high brass bed, and suddenly it came to me that the fat yellow grasshoppers had to be an entirely new species, separate and apart from the green ones, and that I—Calpurnia Virginia Tate—had discovered them. And didn’t the discoverer of a brand-new species get to put her name on it? I was going to be famous! My name would be heralded far and wide; the governor would shake my hand; the university would award me a diploma.

But what did I do now? How did I stake my claim on the natural world? I had a vague idea that I had to write to someone to register my find, some official in Washington.

I had heard debates at the dinner table between my grandfather and our minister, Mr. Barker, concerning Mr. Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of Species and the dinosaurs they were unearthing in Colorado and what this meant to the Book of Genesis. They talked about how Nature weeded out the weak and left the hardy to carry on. Our schoolteacher, Miss Harbottle, had glossed over Mr. Darwin, looking discomfited as she did so. Surely such a book addressing the origin of species would tell me what to do. But how on earth could I get my hands on it when controversy still raged about such matters in our corner of the world? There was even an active chapter of the Flat Earth Society in San Antonio.

Then I remembered that Harry was due to take the long-bed wagon into Lockhart for supplies. Lockhart was the seat of Caldwell County. The county library was there. Books were there. All I had to do was beg a ride from Harry, the one brother who could deny me nothing.

IN LOCKHART, after conducting our business, Harry loitered on the corner so he could admire the figures of the ladies strolling by, exhibiting the latest finery from the local milliner. I mumbled excuses and slipped across the courthouse square. The library was cool and dark. I walked up to the counter where the elderly lady librarian was handing some books to a fat man in a white linen suit. Then it was my turn. Just at that moment, a woman with a little boy came up. It was Mrs. Ogletree and her six-year-old, Georgie. Georgie and I shared the same piano teacher, and his mother knew my mother.

Oh, no. The last thing I wanted was a witness.

Good afternoon, Callie, she said. Is your mother here today?

She’s at home, Mrs. Ogletree. Hello, Georgie.

Hi, Callie, he said. What are you doing here?

Um . . . just looking at books. Here, you’ve got yours, you go ahead of me. Please.

I stepped back and grandly waved them forward.

Why, thank you, Callie, she said. Such lovely manners. I shall have to mention it to your mother next time I see her.

After an eternity, they left. I kept glancing around to see if anyone else was about to come up. The librarian frowned at me. I stepped up to the counter and whispered, Please, ma’am, do you have a copy of Mr. Darwin’s book?

She leaned over the counter and said, What was that?

"Mr. Darwin’s book. You know, The Origin of Species."

She frowned and cupped a hand behind her ear. You have to speak up.

I spoke up in a shaking voice. Mr. Darwin’s book. That one. Please.

She pinioned me with a sour look and said, "I most certainly do not. I wouldn’t keep such a thing in my library. They keep a copy at the Austin library, but I would have to order it by post. That’s fifty cents. Do you have fifty cents?"

No, ma’am. I could feel myself turning pink. I’d never had fifty cents in my life.

And, she added, "I would need a letter from your mother permitting you to read that particular book. Do you have such a letter?"

No, ma’am, I said, mortified. My neck was starting to itch, the telltale precursor to an outbreak of hives.

She sniffed. I thought not. Now, I have books to be shelved. You must excuse me.

I wanted to weep with rage and humiliation, but I refused to cry in front of the old bat. I left the library in a purple froth and found Harry lounging in front of the general store. He looked at me with concern.

I scratched the welts that had popped up on my neck and yelled, "What is the point of a library if they won’t give you a

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  • (5/5)
    The old-fashioned cover didn't grab me, but I was hooked from the first paragraph in the book. 11 (almost 12) year old Calpurnia is one of my favorite heroines of all time, and the bond she forms with her grandfather as they explore the world of science in 1899 Texas is a special one, indeed. This is the type of book that you don't want to end. When it does, you close the book and just sit for a minute, savoring the realization that you've just read something very special.
  • (4/5)
    Callie discovers the natural world, a relationship with her grandfather, and how to be a girl in 1899 in a family of 6 brothers!
  • (3/5)
    Spoiler-ish.



    I was so relieved when I got to the ending and was rewarded with ambiguity and doubt rather than the heartbreak I was anticipating. Worrying about the ending did take a little away from the enjoyment of the story for me. I liked the characters, though I did notice that Calpurnia sometimes read as 11 and sometimes read as an adult recounting her adventures from a comfortable remove. Well worth reading, especially for science nerds.

    ETA: What I find I'm coming back to again and again is the soldier and the bat in the tent. That really worked for me in a lot of ways.
  • (4/5)
    A good historical fic for the middle to junior high crowd but...wonder about the appeal. Where's the hook for the audience? But very well-written. And read.
  • (4/5)
    Newbery Honor this year. I enjoyed this one a lot. I was dubious at first, for whatever reason, but ended up enjoying Callie Vee and Granddaddy a lot. I’m always happy when books do siblings well, and this one certainly did. I didn’t totally love it, but I can see why many people did. [Feb. 2010]
  • (5/5)
    In 1899 Central Texas, eleven-year-old Callie Vee Tate grows closer to her distant, eccentric grandfather when she develops a passionate interest in Charles Darwin, evolution, and the natural world. Kelly’s debut novel starts off a bit slow but quickly becomes engrossing. A wonderful coming-of-age, family story with lovely period details and beautifully realized characters.
  • (4/5)
    This could be the definition of "leisurely" with it's episodic nature and lack of narrative drive. Really what we have here is a character study of the Tate family and a picture of a very specific time and place in history - Texas at the turn of the century (19th to 20th). Twelve-year-old Callie Vee (nobody calls her Calpurnia) has recently discovered an interest in both science and her Grandfather, a previously rather scary personage, who it turns out has an interest in science himself.
  • (5/5)
    Newbery Honor 2010, Maine Student Book Award Nominee 2010-2011

    I really liked this book, enough so that I plan on filling out a nomination sheet for next year's MSBA list. (It made it!)

    Calpurnia Tate is 11 years old, and only has brothers: five of them. Girls at her time are supposed to be wives, possibly teachers. She is interested in nature and spends a lot of time with her grandfather, exploring the area around her Texas home. When her mother begins to notice, however, she feels that Calpurnia needs to concentrate more on her "womanly" skills, which Calpurnia hates. Over the course of 1899, Calpurnia struggles with going back and forth between the dreaded chores and what she really loves and eventually comes to a conclusion at the end of the book.
  • (4/5)
    In the latter half of 1899, Calpurnia is an oddity, her interest in science at odds with her mother's interest in making her a debutante and, eventually, wife. At least she builds a strong relationship with her grandfather, the one adult she can really talk to, in spite of his crankiness with nearly everyone else.

    I'm rooting for Calpurnia, and I hope that, after the book's conclusion, she gets what she wants from life, whatever she ultimately decides that might be.
  • (4/5)
    Very charming tale of a young girl in turn of the last century Texas, centered around her relationship with her naturalist Grandfather but with lots of room for piano recitals and noisy brothers, and best friends and getting the harvest in.

    What I appreciate a lot about this novel is that all of the characters are portrayed with respect and affection. The center of the book is definitely Calpurnia's relationship with her grandfater - who gives her a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species and teaches her to observe the flora and fauna around her and keep good notes and test her theories - and so opens up her world to new ideas and ambitions. With that as the center it would be easy to fall into the mistake of portraying the more conventional members of her family as villains or fools; her mother who wants Calpurnia to learn to knit, the family cook who thinks its a disgrace that Calpurnia's biscuits are like rocks, the brother who teases her about spending so much time with books.

    But the author doesn't make that mistake. Calpurnia lives in all the bustle and confusion of a large and loving family, who don't always understand one another but who do always care. None of the characters in this book are simplistic villains or heros they are all fully realized and pretty decent people with concerns and interests of their own. Except of course for the terrible google eyed girlfriend who is trying to steal Calpurnia's favorite brother away! Clearly she is an unmitigated horror. :)

  • (3/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    I loved Calpurnia's voice--sweet and sassy--but the story is slow.

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

  • (5/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a rare find. The concept intrigued me – a young girl living at the end of the 19th century finds herself caught between the worlds of her mother’s expectations for her life (which involves a lot of knitting and cooking) and the passion for scientific discovery she discovers in the pages of Mr. Darwin’s books and her grandfather’s laboratory. The concept got me to pick up the book, and the first line had me hooked – “By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat.” By the end of the first page, I knew I was in for a treat. Author Jacqueline Kelly has captured that palpable descriptive style reminiscent of Harper Lee that transports the reader into another world. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate has that brilliant mix of character development, rich description and vocabulary, and historical allusion that is sure to land it a quick spot on middle school required reading lists, but which also guarantees a truly delightful read.Calpurnia Virginia Tate, Callie Vee, is the only girl of seven children growing up in rural Texas at the turn of the last century. Her brothers (all named after heroes of the Texas fight for Independence) run wild, her mother takes frequent doses of her “tonic” to cope with the chaos, and her grandfather remains aloof sequestered away in his laboratory or library. And while her mother is trying to train her into becoming a proper lady, Callie Vee would rather spend her days observing insects, collecting strange plants, and making scientific observations in her notebook. She follows her grandfather on his outings to collect specimens by the river and helps him with his observations and experiments. She is fascinated by the natural world, incessantly wondering why it works the way it does. What she is far less interested in are tasks like knitting socks, learning to cook, practicing piano, and going to school to learn decorum and handiwork. Her deepest dream that she is too afraid to even voice is to attend the University someday to become a scientist. But since the only working women she has known are schoolteachers and the switchboard operator for her town’s one telephone, she doesn’t even know if women can be scientists. The beauty of her passion for the natural world and the absurdity of the restrictions placed on her because she is a girl set the tension of the novel, which ends on a hopeful yet ambiguous note.I like the character of Callie Vee because she fits right into her time. She isn’t a committed feminist ahead of her time, nor did the author rewrite history in order to fit a strong female personality. No, Callie Vee is simply a young girl discovering her world and her passions and running up against the constraints of gender. There is no sermonizing on the evils of sexism, just the reflection from the perspective of an 11 year old about how certain aspects of society just don’t seem fair. This isn’t an anachronistic story that has her overcoming the injustices of the world, but neither is it a defeating story about her dreams being crushed. Callie Vee, like most spunky girls, pushes her boundaries where she can and lives to the fullest otherwise.It is a rare and wonderful novel that I would highly recommend to anyone. It crosses age and gender boundaries and will be appreciated and loved by so many. It would be a great read-aloud book for families with younger children, is perfect for kids aged 10 and older to read independently and is a novel for adults - offering an opportunity to be in touch with a book that could become a classic in the years to come while having some time to recapture the feelings and emotions of our younger selves.

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  • (5/5)
    Calpurnia Virginia Tate—or Callie-- is a not a typical girl in 1899. While she is expected to be learning the domestic arts of sewing and cooking, Calpurnia is far more interested in nature and science. When Callie notices the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are fare larger then the green grasshoppers, she determines that the yellow grasshoppers blend in better with the dry, yellow grass and are less likely to be seen and then eaten. After making this discovery, Callie’s grandfather, an avid naturalist, presents her with a copy of Darwin’s "The Origin of Species." The two discover what appears to be a species of vetch and work to make it officially recognized. As this effort begins to draw notice, Callie’s mother is trying to rein her back in with cooking and knitting lessons. The story weaves scientific threads throughout the chapters, but presents an authentic image of what life was like for children of both sexes at the turn of the century in this Newbery Honor book.
  • (5/5)
    Summary:Calpurnia is a young girl living at the turn of the 20th century in Texas, who rebels against the expectations of a young girl at that time. She isn't interested in sewing, knitting and other things deemed appropriate for girls. She, like her grandfather, Captain Tate, love science and nature. The story follows the two of them as they create a relationship based on their mutual love of discovery, science and nature. Genre: Historical FictionPersonal Reflection: I love a good story about a rambuncious little girl who loves to do what she's not allowed to. I loved to watch the relationship between Calpurnia and her grandfather blossom, as they each kind of came into their own, but in different ways. I love that this book gives young kids, especially girls the go ahead to be creative, do something unheard of and think of new things. I liked that Calpurnia doesn't fit in with the other little girls, but the way she describes it is so funny-of not being the same species-and I love the quotes from Charles Darwim throughout. How revolutionary his findings must have been at the time. Concept:I think many kids would love this book because it's fun to go against the grain and think outside the box, and that's exactly what Calpurnia does. She inspires young girls to be who they want to be and find something to be passionate about, but I also think that young boys could find something to connect with here, too.
  • (5/5)
    A wonderful story of the life of a girl at the turn of the century. The detailed stories revolving around real historical facts make this book an interesting read for all.
  • (4/5)
    The character of Calpurnia Virginia Tate, or Callie Vee as she is known, is intelligent and lively. A truly great role model for any young reader. The novel takes place at the end of the 19th century and Callie Vee is the only daughter in a family of seven children. She is a budding young naturalist and scientist, though she is burdened with the desires of her mother that she become a young society lady and the expectations of society that she do the same. Under the tutelage of her grandfather, she learns to observe and record the natural world while growing up and figuring out how to find a balance between her hopes and the expectations of the people around her. This is a wonderful look at a time period that may be unfamiliar to many young people (and adults) and provides a personal look at the thoughts of Callie Vee. Kelly has successfully captured a specific time period and filled it with interesting and thought provoking characters. Each chapter begins with a quote from Charles Darwin, the most famous naturalist of our times. The quotes provide an excellent historical and scientific connection to Callie Vee's explorations in the book. I would hope that a a student reading this book would become interested in Darwin, and afterward seek to learn more about him, as his life is a fascinating topic.
  • (4/5)
    I just read Kelly's biography and discovered she lived on Vancouver island before moving to Texas. Hmmm. Curious.But I digress. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a lovely story for the 9 to 12 set, about an eleven year old girl discovering her grandfather, Darwin, her love of science and the crushing fact that the world is expecting different things from her.Written from the perspective of Calpurnia, we meet her in the last six months of 1899, on the eve of the new century. She is the only girl, right, smack in the middle of six brothers. Although her home life is a happy one- there is love and understanding between the members of the family, Callie feels like she is a constant disappointment to her mother. For she would rather go off with her grandfather with a butterfly net and a notebook to observe the world around her. When she and her grandfather discover what they think is a new species of vetch ( a sort of hairy leafed plant) months are spent in agonising anticipation for a letter of confirmation from the National Geographic society.In the meantime, her mother decides Callie must learn the domestic arts, to Callie's utter horror. Callie does not know how to tell her parents that she does not want to be a housefiw. She wants to be a scientist.A lovely, slow read about a girl who is building up the courage to confront and oppose the world's expectations for her future, the evolution of Calpurnia Tate is at once an interesting historical novel for kids, a moving and funny coming of age story and a charming portrait of a large family.I would recommend this book for girls who are avid readers and interested in science. Although I am sure everyone would enjoy it, it might be a hard sell for those kids who need more plot.
  • (5/5)
    Calpurnia Tate is an eleven-year-old girl in love with the natural world and out of sync with the expectations of her traditional Southern mother. Calpurnia discovers that her grandfather, whom she barely knows, shares her love of science, and he begins to mentor her as she explores Mr. Darwin's scandalous book and makes her own increasingly insightful observations of the natural world. At the same time as she wants to spend more time with her grandfather and their experiments, her mother decides it is time for Calpurnia to begin learning to be a lady. As needlework, cooking, and piano recitals prepare Calpurnia for one path in life, she begins to dream of another. How far can a girl's dreams be carried in Texas at the turn of the century?In the vein of The Penderwicks, this book is lively and features a brave, intelligent girl who makes a strong heroine and role model. Although the quotes from The Origin of the Species that begin each chapter may be difficult for a younger reader, the story itself is compelling simple and old-fashioned in its lack of modern tween angst. My only caution is that the passage where her grandfather recounts his time in the Civil War was a bit abruptly violent. Highly recommended for young girls and their families.
  • (4/5)
    Accolades for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate include - IRA Children's Book Award; IRA Teachers' Choices; Newbery Honor Book; CPL: Chicago Public Library Best of the Best; Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Choice Award Master List; North Carolina Young Adult Book Award; Texas Lone Star Reading List; TN YA Volunteer State Book Award ML; Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Master ListEleven year-old Calpurnia Tate struggles with society's expectations of a girl at the end of the 19th century. She is naturally inclined to the study of science and discovers that she has a mentor and champion in her formerly aloof and frightening grandfather; however, her mother wishes to champion the art of home economics - something Calpurnia is dismal at. This novel is a snapshot of square peg trying to be forced into a round hole, but it is characterization not conflict that carries the story along. This book is in no way a fast-paced read but pulls the reader along by creating characters interesting enough to warrant further consideration. Calpurnia and her grandfather are very interested in the theories of Charles Darwin, and as each chapter opens with a quote from The Origin of the Species, it feels as though the novel is a study of those theories applied to humankind. A slight drawback is the almost romantic element of Calpurnia being in a privileged position with extraordinary qualities. The novel is poetically written with moments of graphic realism. The publisher has recommended it for children aged 9 to 12; however, this is not a novel guaranteed to grab most readers or sit well with some children in that age range. But it offers the possibility of expanding the horizons of any child it does appeal to.
  • (5/5)
    Calpurnia Tate, or Callie Vee as her family calls her, is not your usual girl. Calpurnia is inquisitive and thoughtful about the world around her. But those aren't the qualities usually nurtured in a girl who's living in the year 1899. That's where Captain Tate, Calpurnia's grandfather comes in. He's viewed as an imposing figure by the Tate children, until Calpurnia enters into his shed, also known as the "lab". There, the two naturalists embark on a summer of discovery, including identifying a new species of hairy vetch.What a marvelous piece of children's literature! The relationship between Calpurnia and her grandfather is touching. Although not affectionate, Captain Tate does share his passion for scientific discovery with his grandaughter. Together, they grow in appreciation and respect for one another, and Calpurnia begins to understand that she is no ordinary Texan female. We witness Calpurnia recognizing the lot life has given her by virtue of being born a girl. She rebels, ever so respectfully, against the piano lessons, sewing, knitting and cooking, all the while, longing to spend time with her grandfather near the river and in the woods near their home.
  • (4/5)
    I really liked this book...to a point. I give it 4 stars because I really got into it and couldn't put it down-loved the science-y elements, the time period, the quirkiness and disjointedness of it. I was really disappointed with the ending though, it seemed like she just left it really vague on purpose because she didn't know how to end it. For this reason I almost gave it 3 because I didn't feel like there was any resolution to any of the issues raised in the story. It bothered me that Calpurnia's relationship with her parents was never really mended and you have no idea what she does with her life. Hopefully the author is planning a sequel...?
  • (4/5)
    For readers:Calpurnia Tate doesn't have the easiest life. She has six brothers and a cranky grandfather to contend with; plus, it's the summer of 1899 in Texas, and it's HOT. Add to that a proper mother who won't let her cut her hair, and it's no wonder Calpurnia escapes to the nearby creek for a little peace and quiet.The nature she encounters there, however, enchants Calpurnia, and she can't help but share her discoveries with her grandfather. Turns out, he loves science and the natural world, and is very interested in a new school of thought by some guy named Charles Darwin.If science is your favorite subject, or if you love animals, or if you're the youngest kid in a big family, or if you've always rather worn jeans than party dresses, you will really enjoy this book. Calpurnia is a feisty heroine you can't help but love, and her crusty old grandfather is an Obi-Wan Kenobi type of mentor. For Librarians and Educators:This book is great for kids who are looking for historical fiction that simply explains day to day life of some past. Also great for girls who love science, being tomboys, or animals. The reading level is perfect for middle schoolers, and is great for introducing the concepts of Darwin. Not recommended for kids who are more into action stories; this is first and foremost a book about relationships.Reading Level: 5th grade+Appropriateness: Nothing to worry about, unless evolution is taboo where you workWho would like this book: kids who want a spunky heroine, kids who like Anne of Green Gables or the Laura Ingalls Wilder books
  • (3/5)
    A well-written book filled with charming quirky characters, and important social issues for the characters and their community to face at the turn of the last century. But, sadly, there is no real tension, challenge or catharsis to drive the plot forward. The title heroine, 11-year-old Calpurnia, struggles a little with her personal rebellion against the traditional role for women in 19th Century society, but she never gets to the point where she must faces the consequences of that rebellion, and either win or resign to the role others expect of her. The light-hearted quirky characters and lack of dramatic tension reminded me a lot of Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies Detective Agency series.
  • (5/5)
    This was a good book about a girl who decides she doesn't want to grow up to be someone's wife, she wants to be her own person, but most of all she wants to be a scientist. But in her world, that's easier said than done. Set in the time shortly after Darwin's Origin of Species is released, and is still extremely controversial.
  • (4/5)
    Calpurnia Virginia Tate - generally called "Callie Vee" by her six brothers - discovers an interest in science, much to the consternation of her mother, who would like her only daughter to be a proper young lady. But at practically twelve in 1899, Calpurnia is finding, with encouragement from her naturalist grandfather, a whole wonderful world opening up to her.I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did, fearing that Kelly wouldn't be able to help bashing Christians in a book talking about a girl learning about science and Darwin in Texas. She does a good job of treading lightly and treating issues more complexly than that, however. A quote from The Origin of Species opens each chapter, and Callie has an adventure trying to borrow the book from the library. But her grandfather, an admirer of Darwin, is also good friends with the local minister, and there are no lectures on believing one way or the other. Callie is a great character. I loved the realistic interactions between Callie and her brothers, or her mother, especially. Callie jumps into things with both feet, like a true eleven-year-old, wondering about the world around her, whether it be the natural world or her oldest brother's love life. Narrator Natalie Ross did an excellent job of capturing her voice, as well as making each of her brothers and other characters sound distinctive.
  • (4/5)
    This coming of age historical novel includes everything from science to history as well as feminist values and family ties. A great read!
  • (5/5)
    An adolescent girl develops a special relationship with her grandfather based on their mutual love of science. She experiences anguish about having to give up her own dream to become a scientist in order to fulfill her parents' idea of her becoming a traditional housewife.
  • (5/5)
    Sometimes you're lucky enough to come across a book that is written just for you. The only girl in a large, farming family in turn of the century rural Texas discovers a passion for the natural world under the mentoring of her grandfather. Calpurnia's wonder, frustrations and heart break are written so well that they will become your own. A great fit for choice for historical fiction and life science connections.
  • (5/5)
    Turn of the century historical novel introduces reader to Calpurnia Tate with scientific journal in hand is determined to shed predetermined debutante toward her dreams of going to university and becoming a scientist.
  • (5/5)
    Calpurnia Tate discovers a new world when she begins learning about science with her grandfather. However, the year is 1899 and she expected to become a wife when she grows up. How can Calpurnia figure out her destiny when some think it is already decided?