Monday, May 22, 2017

The evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

"It turned out to be not a book at all but a wooden box trickily carved and painted to look like a calf-bound volume. Strange, I fiddled with it and found the catch and the box opened. Inside was a waxed paper parcel containing a thick roast beef sandwich. ... Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life really."

This is a description of a gift to Callie (Calpurnia Virginia Tate) by her Grandaddy.  None of her six brothers have even dared to talk to him but over the summer of 1899-1900 Callie ventures into his world - his workshop, his scientific endeavours and discovers her own passions and curiosity.  She reads the work of Darwin and her grand father shows her how to record her observations in her notebook - how to observe the world.

In 1899, though, a young lady is expected to learn sewing, knitting, cooking and housekeeping. Callie is eleven, almost twelve, and she has no interest in these things.

"My biscuits were like stone, my samplers askew, my seams like rickrack. ... My mother's life was a never-ending round of maintenance. Not one single thing she did ever achieve but that it had to be done all over again, one day, one week or one season later. Oh the monotony."

Callie does her best to rage against her mother's expectations so she can follow her desire to study plants and animals.  She has a warm relationship with her brothers but they do not share her interest. The title is simply perfect as we watch Callie evolve into a different girl aided by the gentle and wise encouragement of her precious grandfather.  Each chapter also begins with a quote from Darwin's famous book The Origin of the Species.

You can see this book is a Newbery honor book. I read all 338 pages in one day - yes it is that good!

Here is an excellent and very detailed review in the School Library Journal.  Read about Jacqueline Kelly and the sequel to The evolution of Calpurnia Tate.  Take a look at the Kirkus star review.  here is an interview with Jacqueline Kelly well worth reading.  Listen to this audio sample taken from page 14.

As an added bonus there are some wonderful words in this book :


I would follow this book with Chains and of course the sequel - The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate.

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