Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate - Review

Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Goodreads Summary:

The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia Virginia Tate's sleepy Texas town, and there aren't a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine from town, but Callie might just have to resort to stealthily cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She also spends a lot time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. It turns out that every drop of river water is teeming with life - all you have to do is look through a microscope!

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.

My thoughts:

I read this book as part of a self-assigned summer reading homework list- it is a Newbery Award Winner, and I will be promoting those in the fall at work., and I wanted to be familiar with this one.

I am glad that I read it - I very much enjoyed it. I loved how Calpurnia didn't want to just give in and be what everyone wanted her to be, the perfect girl child who does what she is told, only interested in homemaking skills and becoming a good wife. This would be fine, if that is what she had been interested in. She is not though - she is interested in the world around her, full of curiosity about why things are the way they are. She finds an ally in her grandfather, whom everyone else in the family seems to dismiss as crazy or intimidating, when he really is a very intelligent gentleman. He encourages Calpurnia in her naturalist studies, taking her with him on explorations and involving her in a larger project. You do have to feel sorry for Calpurnia though- for all her natural aptitude and love of science, she is at a disadvantage of being a female in 1899, before equal rights and feminism. Calpurnia is ahead of her time, which is a little disappointing and heartbreaking at times, as she realizes she will have to fight for a different type of life than the one mapped out for her.

I am looking forward to the students reactions at my school to this book and Calpurnia's life and trials as a budding scientist. I hope it makes them think about what educational and life opportunities they have now, compared to what was available in 1899.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED Calpurnia! Such a feisty little thing. I am firmly rooting for her, fictional though she may be.


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