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.Read more...
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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.
- ISBN-13: 9780805088410
- ISBN-10: 0805088415
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
- Publish Date: May 2009
- Page Count: 340
- Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 51.
- Review Date: 2009-05-04
- Reviewer: Staff
Life at the turn of the century is not easy for a girl who loves books and science. Kelly's first novel presents spirited heroine Calpurnia (Callie) Virginia Tate, a middle child with six brothers, growing up in the isolation of Fentress, Tex., in 1899. To her family's dismay, Callie is stubborn, independent and not interested in darning socks or perfecting her baking skills like a lady. “I would live my life in a tower of books,” she thinks to herself. She spends most of her time with Harry, “the one brother who could deny me nothing,” slowly befriending her Granddaddy, a mysterious naturalist who studies everything from pecan distillation to microscopic river bugs. Together they dream up experiments and seek answers to backyard phenomena, discovering something new about the invisible world each day. Callie follows her passion for knowledge, coming to realize her family “had their own lives. And now I have mine.” Callie's transformation into an adult and her unexpected bravery make for an exciting and enjoyable read. Kelly's rich images and setting, believable relationships and a touch of magic take this story far. Ages 10–up. (May)
New discoveries for a budding scientist
It's the summer of 1899, 50 miles outside of Austin, Texas, and Calpurnia Tate's entire family, with the exception of her eccentric grandfather, is suffering from the heat. Nicknamed Callie Vee, the 11-year-old is the only girl, smack in the middle of six brothers. She has some secret weapons to deal with the heata spot all her own where she can strip down to her chemise and float in the cool San Marcos River, and a plan to surreptitiously cut an inch off her hair every week so her mother won't notice.
Callie Vee loves making scientific observations, and when her favorite brother Harry gives her a notebook, she sets out to become a bona fide naturalist. In the process she finds that Grandaddy, who mostly keeps to himself in a shed called the laboratory out back, is a true kindred spirit. He not only has a copy of Mr. Darwin's Origin of Species, but has corresponded with the great scientist himself. As Grandaddy's partner, Callie Vee learns to become a keen observer of all around her, from plant and insect life to Harry's courting behavior.
At the same time that Callie Vee feels possibilities opening, the net of social expectations draws closer around her. Her attempts at the domestic arts aren't going so well, even though she tries to meet her mother's expectations.
Calpurnia Tate is not just another "spunky heroine." She is sincere in her struggles to master tatting and knitting, and begins to realize how hard she may have to fight to become a scientist. Kelly is able to show the full weight of the pressures upon women in the 19th centuryas well as the excitement of discovery.
Her mother may find it "dangerous" when Callie Vee wanders, but by the time the year ends and 1900 begins, Calpurnia has a sign that perhaps the new century might bring her closer to the future she imagines for herself.
Peppered with quotes from Darwin and timed perfectly for his bicentennial, this warm, fully realized portrait of a family has the hallmark of a classic. o
Deborah Hopkinson wrote about Mr. Darwin in Who Was Charles Darwin? Her new book is Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole.