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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. The year is 1899 and Calpurnia (Callie) Virginia Tate is eleven years old. The only girl of seven children, she’s expected to participate in lady-like activities and hone the skills that will one day make her a suitable wife, but Callie’s more interested in nature and science. With a little help from her grandfather – a war veteran and naturalist – Callie is able to explore the natural world and imagine Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. The year is 1899 and Calpurnia (Callie) Virginia Tate is eleven years old. The only girl of seven children, she’s expected to participate in lady-like activities and hone the skills that will one day make her a suitable wife, but Callie’s more interested in nature and science. With a little help from her grandfather – a war veteran and naturalist – Callie is able to explore the natural world and imagine a future for herself that’s much grander than a life spent in a kitchen making meals for her husband. Callie makes for a striking protagonist. Her unconventional view of the world, particularly for a girl living at the turn of the century, is the hallmark of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day long and eat peaches. And if any young knights in armor dared to come calling on their white chargers and plead with me to let down my hair, I would pelt them with peach pits until they went home. At every turn, Callie is torn between who she wishes to be and who others expect her to be. When she attempts to do a little hard work in the field to pass the time, Calpurnia is reprimanded for “playing like [she’s] a Negro.” When it’s evident her mother is disappointed that she doesn’t wish to spend hours sewing and knitting, Calpurnia wonders, “So I didn’t like to talk patterns and recipes and pour tea in the parlor. Did that make me selfish? Did that make me odd?” And when she anticipates earning money for watching two dozen babies, her brother Lamar scoffs and tells her, “Girls don’t get paid. Girls can’t even vote. They don’t get paid. Girls stay home.” Despite the many hurdles she faces, Callie remains resilient. This is due, in part, to the presence of her granddaddy who is endlessly supportive of her interests. [Granddaddy told me about ways in which you could get to the truth of any matter, not merely sitting around thinking about it like Aristotle (a smart but confused Grecian gentleman), but going and looking for your own eyes; about making your Hypothesis and devising your Experiment, and testing by Observation, and coming to a Conclusion. And testing the strength of your Conclusion, over and over again. Callie’s story is one of determination and would stand well on its own, but the addition of her blossoming relationship with her granddaddy – as they explore nature together, learn about one another, and strive to discover a new species of plant – elevates every aspect of the narrative. Because of the age group of its intended audience (ages 9 to 12) some aspects of the book bear mentioning. First, two incidences of significant violence are mentioned. Battlefield wounds are described, including blood, shattered and amputated limbs, and a more detailed account of a man having his leg cut off. (view spoiler)[ “Then I pulled on his leg as hard as I could while the surgeon sawed and made his flap. Suddenly the leg came off in my arms, and I stood there cradling it as if it were a child. It’s a surprising thing, you know – how heavy a man’s leg is. I stood there and held it. I didn’t want to throw it in the pile with all the others. (hide spoiler)] Also, a woman is described as being “pitch-forked” to death by her angry husband for being “one fourth Negro.” Second, the book has advanced diction and vocabulary, words such as minutiae, dyspeptically, pedagogic, and dissonant. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate gives a sentimental account of a transformative year in the life of a girl whose inquisitiveness about the natural world leads her to imagine a future in which she, as a woman, is given the same opportunities as any man.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    3.75 stars. This book is basically a series of vignettes from a six month period in the life of a spunky, independent 11 year old girl living in Texas in 1899. Calpurnia Virginia (Callie Vee) Tate yearns for more than the life of a debutante and housewife that she already sees her mother herding her toward. She unexpectedly finds a kindred spirit in her scientifically-minded grandfather, who encourages her inquisitive character and teaches her, not just about scientific observation, but about gr 3.75 stars. This book is basically a series of vignettes from a six month period in the life of a spunky, independent 11 year old girl living in Texas in 1899. Calpurnia Virginia (Callie Vee) Tate yearns for more than the life of a debutante and housewife that she already sees her mother herding her toward. She unexpectedly finds a kindred spirit in her scientifically-minded grandfather, who encourages her inquisitive character and teaches her, not just about scientific observation, but about great women scientists. The quotes from Charles Darwin at the beginning of each chapter have an interesting and often amusing connection to the events occurring in that chapter. When Callie first looks into her grandfather's microscope at a drop of river water, you can see the world opening up for her:A teeming, swirling world of enormous, wriggling creatures burst into my vision, scaring the daylights out of me. ... Something with many tiny hairs rowed past at high speed; something else with a lashing tail whipped by; a tumbling barbed sphere like a medieval mace rolled past; delicate, filmy ghostlike shadows flitted in and out of the field. It was chaotic, it was wild, it was . . . the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. "This is what I swim in?" I said, wishing I didn't know.This middle grade book reminds me of the Little House books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but with more of a feminist slant. There's not much of a plot here, and what there is of it is kind of meandering and unresolved, but Callie is a sympathetic and engaging character, her brothers were a hoot (even if they seemed pretty much interchangeable to Callie's grandfather and to me), and her life and experiences in a small town in turn-of-the-century Texas felt very real. Some fine research went into the writing of this book. I particularly liked the scenes of celebrating the turn of the century, Callie and brother drinking the new drink Coca-Cola (back when the "Coca" part of the name really meant something!), and winning ribbons at the county fair. Callie and her friend Lula have a hilarious talk about getting married, from an eleven year old's perspective:"You have to let your husband kiss you once you're married. And you have to kiss him back." "No," she said. "Yes." I nodded, as if I knew everything there was to know about husbands and wives kissing. "That's what they do together." "Do you have to?" "Oh, absolutely. It's the law." "I never heard of that law," she said dubiously. "It's true, it's Texas law."I wish Callie and the novel hadn't been quite so dismissive of homemaking--Callie's mother has seven children and regularly resorts to imbibing a tonic with a high alcoholic content to get her through the day, and Callie can't imagine anything worse than being a debutante and then a housewife, even though her family is wealthy enough to have several servants--but on the other hand I'm a firm believer in opportunities and choices for women, and deeply appreciate the sacrifices made by women in prior generations that have enabled us to have so many more rights and options for our lives today. This book is a good reminder for young readers, and for all of us, of the importance of having opportunities to pursue our dreams.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    “I wondered if. . .” I wondered if this was good news or bad, that was all. But I had no intention of meddling. “Please don't wonder, Calpurnia. I find it's dangerous when you wonder.” It is dangerous when you wonder, especially if you're an 11-year-old girl in 1899 and expected only to make your debut as a genteel bride on your wedding day. But Calpurnia Tate does wonder, and her science-obsessed grandfather encourages such thinking. Her mother would prefer her to read The Science of Housewifery, “I wondered if. . .” I wondered if this was good news or bad, that was all. But I had no intention of meddling. “Please don't wonder, Calpurnia. I find it's dangerous when you wonder.” It is dangerous when you wonder, especially if you're an 11-year-old girl in 1899 and expected only to make your debut as a genteel bride on your wedding day. But Calpurnia Tate does wonder, and her science-obsessed grandfather encourages such thinking. Her mother would prefer her to read The Science of Housewifery, while Calpurnia prefers a different type of science: Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species. My girls and I read this together, and we decided it was unlike any other middle grades novels we'd ever encountered. It's historical fiction, and published in 2009, so the author had the advantage of transferring modern ideas to an older turn of a century, but there are some great big thoughts for girls here. Great ones, indeed. We all agreed that the book was too long, and we wondered at some of the more mature moments (one brother is hell-bent on calling his younger brother a “titty-baby.” Surprising!). There were also some break-out conversations about lusty farm animals, too. Again: Surprising! All in all, it was an intriguing read and we agreed easily on four stars. As an interesting aside, I timed this one so we were actually reading this book set in Texas while driving through the actual state of Texas last week. We were in the northern part of the state, with only the town of Amarillo to represent civilization. The girls listened to the story as they declared the views from the windows “boring,” but I looked out at those tall, lonely windmills and dreamed of Don Quixote; I looked out at the tall, lonely cattle and dreamed of Gus McCrae. One story just opens us up to another story. They make us wonder. A dangerous thing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    The spunky girl heroine. She’s an enduring character in our middle grade fiction. From 1928’s The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry to Caddie Woodlawn and Roller Skates, historical fiction and so-called tomboys go together like cereal and milk. It would be tempting then to view The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate as just one more in a long line of spunkified womenfolk. True and not true. Certainly Calpurnia chaffs against the restrictions of her time, but debut novelist Jacqueline Kelly has give The spunky girl heroine. She’s an enduring character in our middle grade fiction. From 1928’s The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry to Caddie Woodlawn and Roller Skates, historical fiction and so-called tomboys go together like cereal and milk. It would be tempting then to view The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate as just one more in a long line of spunkified womenfolk. True and not true. Certainly Calpurnia chaffs against the restrictions of her time, but debut novelist Jacqueline Kelly has given us an intriguing, even mesmerizing glimpse into the mind of a girl who has the one thing her era won’t allow: ambition. It’s 1899 and eleven-year-old Calpurnia Tate is the sole and single girl child in a family full of six brothers. She is generally ignored until one day she asks her grandfather a question: Where did the huge yellow grasshoppers that appeared during the unusually hot summer come from? Grandfather, an imposing figure the children usually avoid, merely says that he’s sure she’ll figure it out on her own. Only when she does exactly that does he begin to take an interest in her. Before long Calpurnia finds herself a naturalist in the making. Grandfather teaches her about evolution and the natural world, which is wonderful, but it’s really not the kind of thing a girl of her age and era would learn. Between adventures involving her brothers, her friends, and a whole new species of plant, Calpurnia must come to terms with what she is and what the world expects her to be. Ms. Kelly prefaces each chapter with a quote from Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Now female spunk does not appear out of nowhere. One of the reasons I was so disappointed in the book Red Moon at Sharpsburg was because you essentially had a spunky ahead-of-her-times female existing in a vacuum. You can’t have your character say that corsets restrict the mind if they haven’t been talking or reading something along those lines before. What’s so great about Callie is that she is different because she has been cared for and nurtured by a grandfather that treats her not just as a girl with intelligence, but as an equal. Sometimes this is a comically bad idea, like when he offers her the first taste of a distilled pecan liquor, but often it is exactly what Calpurnia’s brain needs. And this book almost becomes a kind of detective novel as you watch Callie take a scientific question (like what the floating creature is in her grandfather’s study) and work her way through the problem. With her grandfather’s encouragement she soaks up his attention and intelligent conversation and blossoms (after all, she isn’t any good at normal feminine pursuits of the time period anyway). And it’s what she’s blossoming into that disturbs her mother so much. It’s too easy to turn a parent into a villain when they work against a protagonist’s hopes and dreams. Particularly when those hopes and dreams are at odds with the norms of the day. In this case the primary antagonist in this book is Callie's sweet but determined-to-make-her-daughter-a-lady mother. Fortunately for us, Kelly’s handling of Calpurnia’s mom is delicate. This is a woman who drinks a restorative tonic (read: alcohol) on the side to make her days go by faster. She has birthed seven children and most of them are male. The result is that she probably wants to feel some kind of kinship with her one and only daughter, but what happens instead? Callie is interested in what would typically be considered male pursuits. Is it any wonder she feels somewhat abandoned by her girl, even if it’s on a subconscious level? I want to fight against making assumptions about an author before I read their book. So whenever I get a new title from someone I don’t know, I tend to avoid reading a plot blurb or biography of the writer. Now if you had asked me, just as I finished the last page of Calpurnia Tate who Jacqueline Kelly was, I probably would have said she was a born and bred Texan. I would have guessed that her family had lived there for years and that she had creosote and red Texan dirt swimming in her corpuscles. Fact of the matter is, Ms. Kelly’s a transplanted New Zealander/Canadian. Yup. She also happens to be a practicing physician, a fact that makes me feel even better about Calpurnia’s scientific leanings. I wasn’t crazy for thinking she was Texan, though. Listen to the first two sentences in her book: “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.” Ms. Kelly is also quite good at turning the commonplace into the epic. The war between a cat and a possum never leads to bloodshed, only a ridiculous pattern that Calpurnia notes in her books. “Neither I nor the adversaries ever fatigued of it. How satisfying to have a bloodless war in which each side was equally convinced of its own triumph.” The writing in this book manages to do the difficult double duty of being both interesting and poetic. It’s the golden combination many authors dream of achieving. I was left with only one question by the end of the tale. At one point Callie's beloved older brother is smitten by a truly horrid Miss Minerva Goodacre. I will not give away the method by which she is dispatched only to say that it is thanks to grandfather. But what it is that grandfather does is a bit of a mystery, and one that is never explained. It is the only mystery of its kind in the book too. Often Ms. Kelly will drop key bits of information into the tale so that the older readers will understand what’s going on and the younger readers will miss it entirely. I am thinking of a moment when Calpurnia’s younger brother Travis grows too fond of the family’s turkeys and it’s up to grandfather and Calpurnia to find a solution. I’ve heard some people compare this book to Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm. Both books feature spunky (there’s that word again) female protagonists growing up in families that consist primarily of brothers. This may be similar on the surface, but underneath Ms. Kelly has conjured up an entirely new and wonderful tale. And with its spirited ending, I’ve little doubt that there may someday be a sequel. Jacqueline Kelly takes a wealthy turn of the 20th century girl and turns her into someone we can all admire. Consider pairing this book with The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages or Linda Sue Park's Project Mulberry if you’re interested in reading more than one middle grade novel out there involving girls who love science. Absolutely delightful. Ages 10 and up.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    First, let me try to be fair and share things I liked. I liked Calpurnia--her spunk,loyalty and ambition to do "great things". I liked her curiosity about the world and her courage to forge a relationship with her grandfather. In and of itself, I loved that relationship; to be "in" with a grandparent the way she "became" would be a boon and blessing to any child. However, though I thought her grandfather was likable and validated Calpurnia in important ways, his character seems to have devolved First, let me try to be fair and share things I liked. I liked Calpurnia--her spunk,loyalty and ambition to do "great things". I liked her curiosity about the world and her courage to forge a relationship with her grandfather. In and of itself, I loved that relationship; to be "in" with a grandparent the way she "became" would be a boon and blessing to any child. However, though I thought her grandfather was likable and validated Calpurnia in important ways, his character seems to have devolved into a selfish, self absorbed presence that concerns himself only with matters that directly affect him. I say devolved because we catch glimpses of a full and rich earlier life, but by the time we meet him, he seems to have distanced everyone around him, taking --never giving, and the only reason he builds such an endearing relationship with Calpurnia is because she ventures into his world and on his terms; he shuts out everyone else who is unwilling to make that journey. In the end I wanted him to help her transition, to help her see that all of the bright lights of learning and discovery and important things can be had in every avenue of life if we choose to see it. Through his encouragement and because of their relationship, she could have had that vision, but he was never willing to venture outside of his world long enough to teach her anything that broad. I got the sense that her relationship with her grandfather would be fleeting and as her experiences diverged from his, Calpurnia would be shut out again as well. My second irritation was minor and a bit unfair, because the title of the book states clearly it's subject matter and I chose to pick it up, but I found the chapter headings to be a little irritating and manipulated, like the author was trying to push her Darwinian views a little too forcefully down one's throat. Lastly, and this would stop me from recommending the book to any of the young girls of my acquaintance, for who it is supposedly intended. The role of wife, mother and homemaker is disturbingly undermined and devalued. The following quotes summarize the tone of the book. “My mother’s life was a never-ending round of maintenance. Not one single thing did she ever achieve but that it had to be done all over again, one day or one week or one season later. Oh, the monotony." “...I was exactly like other girls. I was expected to hand over my life to a house, a husband, children. ...My life was forfeit. Why hadn’t I seen it? I was trapped. A coyote with her paw in the trap.” ”..I leaned against the wall and stood there, empty, for a long time. Empty of everything. I was only a practical vessel of helpful service, waiting to be filled up with recipes and knitting patterns.” I finished the book, waiting for the moment when someone would help Calpurnia dispel the nightmarish destiny she was conjuring in her mind and help her to know that though every homemaker will feel the "never-ending round of maintenance", and on a bad day feel like "only a practical vessel of helpful service" that there are so many other beautiful days in between. That being a wife and mother brings the great joys of life. That discovery and learning and ambition are still there for the taking. But, those ideas never emerged and she... and we, were left looking ahead to a life filled with headaches and tonic, and frippery. A well written story, just not my kind of themes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Catie

    4 1/2 stars I think that every little girl probably has that moment of confusion, that moment when she realizes that the expectations for her will be different than those for her brothers or male friends. I actually got to witness my little girl’s a few months ago. We were driving down a busy road on a hot day, and after seeing the second or third shirtless male jogger, she asked, “why do they get to be naked?” When I told her that it was just a custom in our society that women wear shirts outdoo 4 1/2 stars I think that every little girl probably has that moment of confusion, that moment when she realizes that the expectations for her will be different than those for her brothers or male friends. I actually got to witness my little girl’s a few months ago. We were driving down a busy road on a hot day, and after seeing the second or third shirtless male jogger, she asked, “why do they get to be naked?” When I told her that it was just a custom in our society that women wear shirts outdoors but men don’t necessarily have to, her first response was, “Is that because girls’ tummies are ugly, but boys’ tummies aren’t?” much to my dismay. But, when I explained that it was just a silly arbitrary rule and had nothing to do with that, she had a very different reaction. She was outraged. “What if it was a really hot day and all we had were long sleeve shirts? Then they would get to play outside all day and we’d just have to stay inside and be bored! That’s NOT FAIR!!!!!” Yep, there you go, sweetie. Just let that simmer. And I am not naïve enough to believe that it’s just girls who experience this. We all have pre-established roles foisted upon us, based on the random accidents of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and wealth. We all have to try and balance what’s inside with what society expects, based solely on what’s outside. I think that’s my favorite part of this book: Jacqueline Kelley doesn’t just show the struggle of one little girl with the expectations of rural 19th century Texas. She shows us so much more: Viola, the quadroon housekeeper who’s “lucky” to be house and not field; Travis, the soft-hearted brother who can’t stand to take a life, but is expected to deal with the practicalities of a working farm; Henry, the oldest, who’s expected to go to university and be a gentleman, but just wants to get married; J.B., the youngest who wants to learn how to cook but isn’t allowed to; even Calpurnia’s mother who lays her own lost dreams upon the shoulders of her only daughter, and lubricates her day with generous dosings of Lydia Pinkham’s 40 proof “tonic.” And yet, none of these characters feel like cardboard representations; they all feel like real people. One can so easily see the motivations of Callie’s mom, for example, who simply wants to provide her daughter with the greatest chance of success in her world, which means teaching her knitting, sewing, cooking, and deportment. And Callie’s grandfather comes through so vividly to me. He’s a man who has lived a lifetime of fulfilling his role, fighting a war and struggling to provide for his family and build a business. But now he sees everything differently: life is fleeting and short and precious, and every minute spent on appearances is wasted. Better to be who you are on the inside, and let everyone think you’re a crazy old coot. Callie and her grandfather discover that they have a special bond: they’re kindred spirits. Somehow his love of science, logic, and research got handed down and wound up in a place that he didn’t quite expect: his only granddaughter. But he takes it in stride, teaching her the scientific method and encouraging her curiosity. As Callie’s mind expands, she begins to chafe at the role that she’s been given and she dares to want more. As a science lover myself, I absolutely adored the explorations of Callie and her grandfather. Jacqueline Kelly so wonderfully portrays that feeling of amazement that fuels all scientists. I can so easily remember my own first moments of astonishment; how my own passion for science first blossomed. If you’re looking for miracles, then you really don’t have to look any further than the world around you, or inside you. I think that’s what’s at the heart of science. The ending isn’t tied up neatly but it feels realistic. When Callie dares to inquire about a different future for herself, people always respond, “But don’t you want a family of your own?” In that day and age, women weren’t struggling and burning themselves magnificently at both ends to have it all. Callie is but one evolutionary step toward that future. After knowing her through these pages, I feel confident that she grew into a formidable woman. Perfect Musical Pairing Ani Difranco – Not a Pretty Girl Well, I had to pull out all the stops for you, Callie. Maybe you’re not quite ready for this yet, but I know you have it inside you.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Audiobook narrated by Natalie Ross 9h 1 m It didn't take me too long to fall under the spell of the spunky title character. Calpurnia Tate is a dreamer and when she becomes interested in the natural world around her, a whole new education begins. Much to the utter dismay of her parents who wish their only daughter would bend her mind to more domestic pursuits, such as cooking and sewing. Only Calpurnia's grandfather sees the rising potential in his granddaughter and seeks to encourage her to th Audiobook narrated by Natalie Ross 9h 1 m It didn't take me too long to fall under the spell of the spunky title character. Calpurnia Tate is a dreamer and when she becomes interested in the natural world around her, a whole new education begins. Much to the utter dismay of her parents who wish their only daughter would bend her mind to more domestic pursuits, such as cooking and sewing. Only Calpurnia's grandfather sees the rising potential in his granddaughter and seeks to encourage her to the best of his ability. This was a beautiful middle grade novel and I am convinced many readers of any age would find something in Calpurnia they could connect with. An instant children's classic!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Calista

    I wasn't sure what this story was going to be and it drew me in. I'm not sure I'm giving away spoilers or not, so to be safe: Spoiler Warning: Calpurnia is a girl coming of age in 1899 South Texas and she loves her grandfather and the nature around her. She wants to be a naturalist, which was a branch of science in biology. Girls at that time weren't thought of as having a future being a scientist. Callie doesn't want to be like the other girls, she doesn't care about dresses, dances, dating, or l I wasn't sure what this story was going to be and it drew me in. I'm not sure I'm giving away spoilers or not, so to be safe: Spoiler Warning: Calpurnia is a girl coming of age in 1899 South Texas and she loves her grandfather and the nature around her. She wants to be a naturalist, which was a branch of science in biology. Girls at that time weren't thought of as having a future being a scientist. Callie doesn't want to be like the other girls, she doesn't care about dresses, dances, dating, or learning to cook and sew. She wants to look for plants with her grandfather. She does learn that there were a few woman like Marie Curie that were scientist and she finally figures out that is what she wants to do. She is given the book by Charles Darwin, 'Origin of the species' and she reads that. She loves it. She clashes with her mother who wants her to come out to society and to find a husband and a family as she is the only daughter of 7 children. There is a lot that happens, but the book does not answer the question what Callie will do. Will she tell her family or not? We don't know. There is a second story. That really irks me. I can't believe she left this hanging until the next book. What is she going to do? Will her mother let her be a scientist or not? I want to know. I guess I have to read the next book. I loved everything to do with nature and how it was dealt with. Calpurnia was a wonderful character and since I'm talking about spoilers, I loved the ending when it snowed This is an excellent coming of age story set in the past dealing with a love of the world. It was warm and I enjoyed spending time with Callie. There are some interesting facts about species in here. I love those kinds of tidbits in a story.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    The year is 1899 and Calpurnia Virginia Tate struggles with being the little lady her mother expects her to be. Embroidering? Sewing? Cooking? Whatever the hell for? Instead, she likes to go explore her surroundings, writing down all the animals and plants she can find and learn about them from books. She is encouraged by her grandfather, who even has a copy of Mr. Charles Darwin's book - imagine that! ;) Calpurnia lives in Texas and we follow her from one hot summer until New Year's Eve of the s The year is 1899 and Calpurnia Virginia Tate struggles with being the little lady her mother expects her to be. Embroidering? Sewing? Cooking? Whatever the hell for? Instead, she likes to go explore her surroundings, writing down all the animals and plants she can find and learn about them from books. She is encouraged by her grandfather, who even has a copy of Mr. Charles Darwin's book - imagine that! ;) Calpurnia lives in Texas and we follow her from one hot summer until New Year's Eve of the same year. We thus follow her when she meets quite an awful librarian (I had one just like that in my town's library once upon a time), when she has to play the piano, when she has to compete with her sewing against other girls, when she escapes family expectations and instead catches butterflies and dragonflies in her net or swims in the river. "One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day and eat peaches." Who could not love a little bookworm like her?! The girl is curious and tomboyish and it was a delight. Just like her grandfather who is trying to make a good whiskey out of pecan nuts. Their relationship just felt so comfy and reassuring. Not that the rest of her family is actually awful. Oh sure, there is some minor drama about some of her 6 brothers (3 younger, 3 older) suddenly being interested in the opposite sex or about Calpurnia being expected to come out (planned / hoped for by her mother) and we do learn about the Civil War through the grandfather's memories (and what memories those were!). However, there is no nastiness and that was refreshing. Instead, the book focuses on science and the dawn of a new age (important to scientific discoveries, technological progress and social movements). It was therefore also a nice tough that every chapter started with a quote by Charles Darwin from his most famous book and that the story, apart from the occasional look at the unfairness of girls not being allowed the same things as boys, is a mild adventure of a young explorer who just loves the natural world. I hope she'll be allowed to go to university (maybe we'll find out in the next book).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Jacqueline Kelly can write, there's no doubt about it. The prose is lovely, intricate, and challenging, even for the adult reader. This is a book that will require the intended audience to digest the language and the work of art that has been developed. That said, this story really, really did not do it for me. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate was a very slow moving story with no real problem or resolution; instead, it's a portrait of a girl growing up in small town Texas at the turn of the twenti Jacqueline Kelly can write, there's no doubt about it. The prose is lovely, intricate, and challenging, even for the adult reader. This is a book that will require the intended audience to digest the language and the work of art that has been developed. That said, this story really, really did not do it for me. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate was a very slow moving story with no real problem or resolution; instead, it's a portrait of a girl growing up in small town Texas at the turn of the twentieth century and the challenges she faces with her interest in science and her family and society's pressures for her to be a housewife-in-training. Each chapter is a bit of a different time of year, from spring time and the summer fair to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and finally the new year. What bothered me the entire time was that this book has been done before, and because there's no compelling story line and no real climax nor action, I don't think this is a memorable read other than for the language aspect. To put it bluntly, I was really bored reading this, and it took me far longer to read than it should have simply because I never felt compelled enough by it to want to read it more. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate certainly screams traditional Newberry for me -- this is the sort of book that adults think that kids should read, even if it really doesn't seem to have a lot of kid appeal. I have a hard time envisioning 10-13 year old girls picking this one up by choice and loving it. I suspect an older audience of teens may find more success with it, but because the main character is 11, they may be turned off. Although the historical accuracy with age and maturity is solid, this will read as dated or strange for current intended audiences, I think. Moreover, this book reminds me a lot of A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, which is a similar story set in a historical era where females had desires to be something other than what society has determined for them. Although the concept and theme are great, it is a book than languishes on the shelf. I found the characters to be flat, particularly the ancillary characters. Callie never gave me a reason to like her nor care about her story; in fact, I wished that the story had been told from the perspective of her grandfather, who seemed a heck of a lot more interesting to me. And while the use of Texas war heroes as the names of her brothers was creative, they were all the same character to me. This wasn't written with the voice of a child. I think that's precisely why I had a hard time figuring this one out. Had this book been written for adults, I think it would find so much more power and popularity. A story from the voice of Callie as an adult reflecting on her childhood could have developed her a lot more and made me care about her whys and hows. But as it is now, I just couldn't. I don't think that an 11-year-old reading this can possibly "get" it in any sense -- they won't have the appreciation for the language nor will they understand the importance of the historical setting nor will they get the importance of the message here. I also have a hard time thinking a lot of 11-year-olds would quite have the knowledge of Darwin and the implications of his findings that DO make this book rich. Fortunately, for a language lover, there were long periods of just falling in love with Kelly's word weaving. I look forward to seeing what she does in the future, even though Calpurnia Tate is one book I don't think will make any of my personal favorite lists.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I loved this book, but I didn't give it 5 stars because I don't think it is a life-changing book for me at this stage in my life. Perhaps it would have been when I was younger, but not now. What it did for me, however, was reaffirm that time in my life when I started to "wake up," and really realize that I--a girl--could have aspirations of my own. I had a childhood much like our heroine Calpurnia--lots of time spent outdoors with animals. I too had a mother who exposed me to the "domestic arts, I loved this book, but I didn't give it 5 stars because I don't think it is a life-changing book for me at this stage in my life. Perhaps it would have been when I was younger, but not now. What it did for me, however, was reaffirm that time in my life when I started to "wake up," and really realize that I--a girl--could have aspirations of my own. I had a childhood much like our heroine Calpurnia--lots of time spent outdoors with animals. I too had a mother who exposed me to the "domestic arts," although she didn't ever tell me it was my "role" to perform such tasks simply because I was female. She also taught and exposed me to many other creative activities. And even though now I have become that stereotypical female (wife, mother, cook, domestic manager, etc.) I still was given the opportunity to choose that for myself, not have it thrust upon me. I truly agonized for Calpurnia when she starts to realize that because of the time and place she was born into: she "was only a practical vessel of helpful service, waiting to be filled up with recipes and knitting patterns." What woman hasn't felt trapped by her sex at one point in her life? But, I appreciated that Jacqueline Kelly didn't characterize Mrs. Tate as a villain for trying to teach Calpurnia what was proper at that time. Rather, I think she was portrayed as a woman who wanted a connection with her only daughter. Spunky Calpurnia, on the other hand, has different plans. Thankfully she strikes up a friendship with her naturalist Granddaddy, which opens up a whole new, wonderful world for Calpurnia. Calpurnia is very much akin to the spunky heroine Ann of Green Gables that I loved so much as a girl. This book is not a high-adventure story. It is historical fiction, and focuses primarily on Calpurnia and her relationships with her family. There are many amusing, anecdotal situations sprinkled throughout, but the most memorable situations are the teaching moments between Calpurnia and her grandfather. It is a very touching, tender, coming-of-age story that embodies the genteelness of a by-gone era.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    In1899, girls are expected to grow up to be either wives or teachers. So what is a girl like Calpurnia to do? She is much more interested in different species of grasshoppers than in tatting or cooking. She would rather spend hours with her grandfather in his shed doing experiments than learning to knit all of her six brothers socks. As the only daughter in the family, Calpurnia is expected to be ladylike, play the piano, and eventually be launched into society. Calpurnia is much more likely to In1899, girls are expected to grow up to be either wives or teachers. So what is a girl like Calpurnia to do? She is much more interested in different species of grasshoppers than in tatting or cooking. She would rather spend hours with her grandfather in his shed doing experiments than learning to knit all of her six brothers socks. As the only daughter in the family, Calpurnia is expected to be ladylike, play the piano, and eventually be launched into society. Calpurnia is much more likely to be muddy, wet, and dashing about just as fast as her brothers. Where is the place for Calpurnia? Readers will love to try to figure it out as they see the wonderful day-to-day of her family and all of the animals on their farm through Callie's eyes. Callie's voice is so clear and true to character that it brings the entire book to life, not just her character. Her dismay at her mother's and society's expectations, the pull of her own personal interests, and the glory of her grandfather's scientific endeavors are vividly displayed in this gem of a novel. Kelly's writing is crisp and clear, revealing a previous century and what a girl's role is. But the book is more about Callie as an individual than Callie as a symbol for any type of feminist movement. The characters of the book are so well-written. Each of the six brothers is unique, quite an achievement in itself. Callie's parents and grandfather are just as complex as she is, as are the servants in the house. The small touches in the text, single phrases at times, reveal just as much as a paragraph would have. This book reminded me of Caddie Woodlawn, a favorite childhood book of mine. It has the same feisty heroine girl, the same muddy pinafores, and the same clever, even sly, writing. Highly recommended, this book is appropriate for ages 8-12 and would make a great read aloud.

  13. 5 out of 5

    JG (Introverted Reader)

    "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?" "That summer" is the summer of 1899 and it is a scorcher. Amid the heat and the drought though, Callie is finding out who she is. She is a born scientist. She is a little lost in the shuffle of all those brothers, but one day, desperate for an answer to a scientific question, she bravely goes out to con "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?" "That summer" is the summer of 1899 and it is a scorcher. Amid the heat and the drought though, Callie is finding out who she is. She is a born scientist. She is a little lost in the shuffle of all those brothers, but one day, desperate for an answer to a scientific question, she bravely goes out to confront her eccentric grandfather in his "laboratory." The rest is history. The two recognize a "kindred spirit" in each other and set out on scientific pursuits together. Granddaddy encourages Callie in all her experiments and dreams, seeing past her gender to her brilliant mind, but slowly Callie realizes that she is destined for a life of embroidery and children and cooking. She is not happy. I love Calpurnia Tate. She is a childhood heroine for the ages, joining the likes of Anne Shirley in my heart. I do not say that lightly. I have loved Anne for about 20 years, but now she has good company with Callie. Calpurnia is a thinker and a quiet fighter. When her mother tells her she can't cut her hair, she does it an inch at a time. I have utmost faith that her fighting spirit will help her get what she wants and prepare the way for women who follow. She is funny and honest and she tries so hard to make her family happy with her. She is far from perfect and gets into some hilarious scrapes. She has a gigantic heart and tries to help those she loves any way she can. I wish I could know her in real life. I love Granddaddy too. There's a line that I can't find now that says something about how Calpurnia and Granddaddy almost missed each other even though they live under the same roof. Callie wouldn't be the girl she is without Granddaddy encouraging her. One person who believes in you can make all the difference in the world, and Granddaddy was that person for Callie. He is pretty funny too. He doesn't have much patience for Callie's long-suffering mom and will occasionally put her in her place with a perfect one-liner. This book is pretty much perfect. I was lost in Callie's world as I read along, flipping pages quickly to find out what she would get up to next, but not wanting to finish either. I wasn't ready to be done with Callie's story. The ending was absolutely perfect. It's a quiet moment, but it foretells big things in Calpurnia's future. I was beaming as I finished. I can't recommend this highly enough. Everyone should read it, but little girls with big dreams will find a kindred spirit in Miss Calpurnia Virginia Tate.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    "One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day and eat peaches." "One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day and eat peaches."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katie Hanna

    "The world hadn't ended. It had only just begun." #help #i am having an Emotion The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is everything I ask for in good, solid historical fiction: intricate, fleshed-out setting, smart social commentary, and a strong heroine who knows her own mind. Calpurnia Virginia Tate, or Callie Vee if you want to shorten it, is an eleven-year-old girl in rural Texas in 1899. One small problem? She dreams of becoming a scientist instead of a housewife. You can imagine how well *ahem* "The world hadn't ended. It had only just begun." #help #i am having an Emotion The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is everything I ask for in good, solid historical fiction: intricate, fleshed-out setting, smart social commentary, and a strong heroine who knows her own mind. Calpurnia Virginia Tate, or Callie Vee if you want to shorten it, is an eleven-year-old girl in rural Texas in 1899. One small problem? She dreams of becoming a scientist instead of a housewife. You can imagine how well *ahem* this plan goes over in her conservative Christian community, where science isn't taught in schools and the public library refuses to even stock Charles Darwin. But Calpurnia's ambitions find a staunch ally in her grandfather, Walter, a Civil War veteran and amateur naturalist. Together, Calpurnia and her Granddaddy roam the rivers and fields around their farm, cataloging specimens, forming hypotheses, and observing Nature's marvelous cycle of life. So many things to love about this story. *happy sigh* I love the earthy, "muddy," yet somehow ethereal descriptions. I love Callie's wry narrative voice, her high-falutin' 19th century vocabulary that never manages to hide her irrepressible girlish wit. I love that the emotional center of the story is her relationship with Granddaddy (unique family dynamics ftw!!) instead of, say, sibling rivalry, or a crush on a boy. (the child is ELEVEN THANK YOU VERY MUCH.) And can I just say: I LOVED that Calpurnia has very valid, well-articulated reasons for not wanting to be a housewife and that the narrative never once attempts to show her The Error Of Her Ways??? Which I've run into in the past, in books: this insidious idea that there are activities women should and must enjoy because of our #inherent nature or whatever, and it's the author's job to "correct" a heroine who doesn't. "See how much fun cooking for your family is?? See how silly you were to resist it???" Callie does, in fact, try out cooking over the course of the story, and it DOESN'T make her suddenly yearn to pursue a future in domestic labor. Instead, she's like, "I can't believe I wasted three hours baking this pie and it was demolished in five minutes flat. No, thank you. I wanna go back to my books and my specimens and build a lasting legacy in the Halls of Science." That is V A L I D, y'all. Maybe you don't feel the same way about housework--and that's totally okay!--but Callie's reaction is still valid. And I'm so, so, so pleased that the author never tries to sway her from her dreams of having a professional career, or fill her with sudden longings for marriage and children. That's not who she is, and the story respects that. #bless I have to say, too, Calpurnia belongs to a species of female characters I'm quite partial to, the "unconventional" girl who is unconventional not so much for being a tomboy, as just plain being a nerd. She's not noticeably loud or boisterous, but boy, is she ever full of Inconvenient Questions for the Grown Folk. She's so adorably earnest, with her notebook crammed with observations and her glass jars crammed with creepy-crawlies and her big words and her big plans. Love it, love it, love it. Four and a half stars. Highly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Wavering between three and four stars. I liked this a lot; it was very funny in spots, and I enjoyed the setting and everyone in the family. (Monica mentioned that she couldn't keep the brothers straight until well into the book; one of the funniest moments is when the grandfather says "Which one is he?" about one of his grandsons--obviously he had the same problem.) It was maybe a bit longer than it should have been, but that didn't really bother me. I did feel like it was occasionally insensiti Wavering between three and four stars. I liked this a lot; it was very funny in spots, and I enjoyed the setting and everyone in the family. (Monica mentioned that she couldn't keep the brothers straight until well into the book; one of the funniest moments is when the grandfather says "Which one is he?" about one of his grandsons--obviously he had the same problem.) It was maybe a bit longer than it should have been, but that didn't really bother me. I did feel like it was occasionally insensitive. I question, for instance, Kelly's use of the word "quadroon" to describe the cook--while I'm sure this is the word that would have been used, I don't know that it was necessary to use it or that it added anything. A couple of slightly cruel references are made to a mentally challenged kid, who has hydrocephalus--Calpurnia wonders if the kid is that way because his mother drank too much when she was pregnant. I was horrified by that at first, until I read the sentence a couple of times and realized that it would be a natural thing for budding scientist Calpurnia to think--was the kid born with water-on-the-brain because his mother drank too much WATER when she was pregnant. That is, of course, not the inference I made. I was also hoping for something a little more nuanced with the character/plot development. I thought or hoped that eventually Calpurnia would get at least a little interested in the science of cooking or the math of knitting. I understood her disappointment at her Christmas present, but then I thought "this is the moment!"--but it wasn't. Ultimately, I thought it was kind of sad; a book about how hard it is to be different, without any happy ending.

  17. 4 out of 5

    jesse

    it's the summer of 1899. the sun is burning hot like a ball spouting fire, even the insects are desperately trying to get to a droplet of water by marching through the smallest cracks in the tate house. amidst all the chaos is 11-year old callie vee tate. the only girl out of seven children. the title says it all. this is her story. callie is as witty, entertaining, caring, understandably self-conscious, vulnerable as she can be determined and blunt to the point of being insolent. when being expl it's the summer of 1899. the sun is burning hot like a ball spouting fire, even the insects are desperately trying to get to a droplet of water by marching through the smallest cracks in the tate house. amidst all the chaos is 11-year old callie vee tate. the only girl out of seven children. the title says it all. this is her story. callie is as witty, entertaining, caring, understandably self-conscious, vulnerable as she can be determined and blunt to the point of being insolent. when being explained something, she doesn't just leave it at that and accepts the answer as the absolute truth. callie belongs to the group of people who regards the answer like an object to be viewed from all angles and corners and prods it with a stick, like the scientist she is. i asked mother if i could cut 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 shorn savage. i found this manifestly unfair (..). 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 scrutiny. - (p4, paperback, january 2011) see? have a smile on your lips? i am not the least surprised. callie tries to juggle her interests with the jobs that have to get done, like how her mother forces her to master the art of housewifery. how were you supposed to make the stitches the same size? (..) who cared about this stuff? well, i could answer the last one. my mother cared, and the rest of the world apparently did too, for no good reason that i could figure out. and i, who did not care, was going to be forced into caring. it was ridiculous. - (p217) "boys, i have an announcement to make. your sister made the apple pies tonight. i'm sure we will all enjoy them very much." "can i learn how, ma'am?", said jim bowie. "no, j.b. boys don't bake pies," mother said. "why not?" he said. "they have wives who make pies for them." "but i don't have a wife." (..) was there any way i could have a wife, too? i wondered .. -(p228) the evolution of calpurnia tate reads like part memoir, part scientific logbook recorded by the protagonist (who happens to be a devoted naturalist), as much as it is based on historical facts (obviously darwin is being mentioned, but also coca-cola, the invention of the telephone and the automobile, famous authors like charles dickens and robert louis stevenson). as the story nears its end, it turns more and more serious, because callie struggles with the answer about who she wants to be and who she is supposed to be.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Minli

    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is such a little gem of perfection. Calpurnia--or rather, Callie Vee--lives in Texas at the turn of the 20th century, as the only girl among six brothers. While other girls are learning how to sew, cook, mend, and excel in other domestic arts, Callie would rather read Dickens and spend time with her hobby scientist grandfather. I love this book to death. I love everything about it--the cover (classy indeed), the title (how perfect!), the writing (I wouldn't know i The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is such a little gem of perfection. Calpurnia--or rather, Callie Vee--lives in Texas at the turn of the 20th century, as the only girl among six brothers. While other girls are learning how to sew, cook, mend, and excel in other domestic arts, Callie would rather read Dickens and spend time with her hobby scientist grandfather. I love this book to death. I love everything about it--the cover (classy indeed), the title (how perfect!), the writing (I wouldn't know it was Jacqueline Kelly's debut, as the language is funny and clever and easy) and everything else. The chapter headings all contain a small quote from Darwin's The Origin of Species, which are perfectly fitting to the events of the novel: Callie and her grandfather observing plants, her younger brothers all courting her best friend, her older brother Harry wooing a lady, Callie's tension with her parents, and so on. It's a very thorough and satisfying peek into six months of Callie's life during a crucial time--the brink of her childhood and adolescence/adulthood (the line of which is more blurry in 1900). Finally, the ending is quite possibly one of the best endings I've read all year. If you don't mind a slight spoiler, I'll just say that I love the open-endedness of it. While I don't know what Callie goes on to do (nor do I think is it necessary to find out), I'll definitely say this book is a win for feminists and lady scientists everywhere. Part of me secretly wishes that Callie will end up like Ellen Swallow Richards, who was the first woman to go to MIT and became an industrial chemist in her own right. Because (pardon the soapbox) I don't think science and domestic duties are mutually exclusive, and I can't stand women who look down on other women for either doing domestic work or taking up the domestic life. Because if that woman doesn't do it... guess who does? O right, another woman. Ellen Swallow Richards is so awesome because she found value--scientific value--in domestic work, even if she has been forgotten in most textbooks. But yeah, basically this book is awesome and you should read it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    A.

    I was disappointed with this book. I felt like the author kept introducing characters and plot lines and then only developing them halfway. That was frustrating. Also, I found myself irritated slightly with the the way the author portrayed the whole notion of growing up, and becoming a woman, and what it meant in those days. Calpurnia yearns to be a scientist, go to the university and do things that matter in a time when women just got married and had families. Well, I think that Calpurnia's goal I was disappointed with this book. I felt like the author kept introducing characters and plot lines and then only developing them halfway. That was frustrating. Also, I found myself irritated slightly with the the way the author portrayed the whole notion of growing up, and becoming a woman, and what it meant in those days. Calpurnia yearns to be a scientist, go to the university and do things that matter in a time when women just got married and had families. Well, I think that Calpurnia's goal is great, and I hope she achieves her goal and finds happiness in it. But along the way she completely scorns her mother and her mother's attempts to teach her to knit, cook, and keep a house. She always says, "I'll have someone do that for me." But not everyone can afford a maid and a cook, and I thought it was sad that this girl was so sickened by these tasks, even after her grandfather explained to her that knowing how to knit and cook is what kept him alive during the Civil War. If I ever read this book again (probably won't) or if Hallie ever reads it I hope we can have a talk about these things.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Jorgensen

    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a charming book about a girl from a well to do family in the middle of Texas during the turn of the century. For her first novel Jacqueline Kelly did a fine job of creating lovable and enduring characters. Calpurnia is witty, creative, and extremely bright. She craves knowledge and begins to form a relationship with her naturalist grandfather. Together they look through microscopes, distill pecans, and discuss Darwin along with Newton and other scientific maste The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a charming book about a girl from a well to do family in the middle of Texas during the turn of the century. For her first novel Jacqueline Kelly did a fine job of creating lovable and enduring characters. Calpurnia is witty, creative, and extremely bright. She craves knowledge and begins to form a relationship with her naturalist grandfather. Together they look through microscopes, distill pecans, and discuss Darwin along with Newton and other scientific masters, while searching for the scientific answers to the world around them. Calpurnia's awareness extends outside of the natural realm as she is somewhat in tune with her surroundings and the feelings of her family members. Calpurnia and her six brothers reduce their mother to headaches at times which require the aide of a tonic (40 proof) to get her through the day. Calpurnia and her mother see the world very differently, a fact that is heightened during a series of fruitless knitting and cooking lessons. As her family changes and grows we see how a young girl must evolve and adapt like the world around her. I enjoyed Jacqueline Kelly’s writing style. Clever Darwin quotations begin each chapter as a nice prelude to what is coming next. The relationship that Calpurnia forms with her grandfather is fun and I liked her reactions to some of her grandfathers more humorously guided studies. Both the caterpillar and looking at river water through a microscope were pretty funny. Since I live in Austin I loved that Calpurnia lived in Fentress Texas, only 30 minutes away from Austin. Small mentions of Lockheart, the Capitol, San Marcos, and the University of Texas were fun. Kelly does a fantastic job of taking you into the history of the area with her descriptions of heat, the first telephone, and the community of jobs around her. I had a good laugh when Calpurnia visited the Lockheart library. It was also great for getting a peak of the time in which Calpurnia is living. Little tidbits about things like cod liver oil for ailments, the wind machine, her school lessons, and the coveted operator position were very entertaining. From all the books I have read this year, this one is the best contender for the Newbery so far. Read this if you get the chance.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liz Janet

    I do not know if I have said this before, but I do not like books based in the U.S. before the 20th century, or many other countries for that matter. And yet, this book seemed to surprise me, no matter how much I was expecting to hate it. This historical young-adult novel follows Calpurnia, as she grows up in Texas in the summer of 1899. This was a very restricted time period for ladies, as basic human rights were practically non-existent for them. The interesting part, this self-discovery novel I do not know if I have said this before, but I do not like books based in the U.S. before the 20th century, or many other countries for that matter. And yet, this book seemed to surprise me, no matter how much I was expecting to hate it. This historical young-adult novel follows Calpurnia, as she grows up in Texas in the summer of 1899. This was a very restricted time period for ladies, as basic human rights were practically non-existent for them. The interesting part, this self-discovery novel brings to fruition the character because she reads Charles Darwin's book On The Origin of Species.  With the aid of this book she realizes that her dreams could be shattered by the period's views on gender, but she is not going to let the "if" stop her, she is going to continue her education nonetheless. However there were some obvious discrepancies, particularly with Calpurnia's language skills. This girl has a fantastic vocabulary, but it astounds me that she doesn't know how to spell certain words that are not that hard to spell she was confused how to. It is books like this one that infuriate me, not because of the writing format, or the characters, but rather because they remind me of the constant struggle of women for an equal place in society. It makes me so angry that I have to sit down and count to ten, yet this book did not make me do it as much.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Karen ⊰✿

    In Texas, 1899, Calpurnia Tate is 12 when she discovers she has a passion for the world around her - evolution, insects, animals, and plants. She finds a kindred spirit in her grandfather and they both start experiments and recording different species they find around them. Overlaying this gorgeous tale of a girl and her grandfather is the time period and location where the telephone has just been installed in town (and to be a telephone operator is the height of a glamorous job!), Charles Darwin In Texas, 1899, Calpurnia Tate is 12 when she discovers she has a passion for the world around her - evolution, insects, animals, and plants. She finds a kindred spirit in her grandfather and they both start experiments and recording different species they find around them. Overlaying this gorgeous tale of a girl and her grandfather is the time period and location where the telephone has just been installed in town (and to be a telephone operator is the height of a glamorous job!), Charles Darwin's "The Origin of the Species" is a heretical book that can not be found at the local library, and slavery is a part of life, although not understood through a 12 year old's eyes. There are just so many wonderful things about this book which is technically a "children's" book, but not at all childish. One of those rare books that parents can love just as much as you will read it through a different lens to a child. It is such a shame that I had so much trouble getting my hands on this - usually when that happens I find the book isn't so great, but in this case I can only assume that despite all the Awards, it didn't get much exposure outside of the US. I ended up buying the audio CD (as I can't even get it from Audible!) and the narrator was wonderful. Now, of course, I need to search out book 2 :)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Every now & then I read a work of historical fiction. This is a very enjoyable & interesting book about a young girl coming of age in a time when the telephone & motor car were just coming onto the scene. The author wove in these & other developments in an interesting way. I was astounded to learn that Calpurnia needed a written letter from her mother to check out a book on evolution from the local library! The character development was really well done. I especially appreciated the evolving rel Every now & then I read a work of historical fiction. This is a very enjoyable & interesting book about a young girl coming of age in a time when the telephone & motor car were just coming onto the scene. The author wove in these & other developments in an interesting way. I was astounded to learn that Calpurnia needed a written letter from her mother to check out a book on evolution from the local library! The character development was really well done. I especially appreciated the evolving relationship with her Grandfather who champions her in private and leaves her to deal with her parents' disapproval herself. Calpurnia's father seems to delegate the child rearing decisions to her mother as she is a girl. Her relationship with her mother is more complicated as Calpurnia is her only daughter & she hasn't accepted that she'll never be the daughter of her hopes & dreams. This thwarts their relationship severely. I thought the author captured Calpurnia's thoughts & emotions very accurately according to her age & situation. Overall a very thoughtful quality read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alia

    Wow, I really loved this book. It's just so well written. Truth be told when I read the description it sounded a bit boring. Young naturalist learning about Darwin in Texas at the turn of the century? Eh...maybe. But the characters are so wonderful you can't help fall in love with them and the descriptions of the natural world blew me away. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. There's only one problem, while I can think of a few select girls who would love this book, I'm not sure of it's Wow, I really loved this book. It's just so well written. Truth be told when I read the description it sounded a bit boring. Young naturalist learning about Darwin in Texas at the turn of the century? Eh...maybe. But the characters are so wonderful you can't help fall in love with them and the descriptions of the natural world blew me away. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. There's only one problem, while I can think of a few select girls who would love this book, I'm not sure of it's wider kid appeal. And I don't know if it really belongs in the J or YA section? It's not the easiest reading but the subject matter seems more J than YA.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jandrok

    Ok, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll let it be known that I live in the geographic area where this book takes place. The main action in the book takes place in Fentress, Texas, a small town that I have visited many times, and I live in Lockhart, Texas, which is a secondary point of interest in the text. Author Jacqueline Kelly also knows the area well, splitting her residential time between Fentress and Austin. Originally from New Zealand, Kelly has obviously lived here long enough to exper Ok, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll let it be known that I live in the geographic area where this book takes place. The main action in the book takes place in Fentress, Texas, a small town that I have visited many times, and I live in Lockhart, Texas, which is a secondary point of interest in the text. Author Jacqueline Kelly also knows the area well, splitting her residential time between Fentress and Austin. Originally from New Zealand, Kelly has obviously lived here long enough to experience the oppressive Central Texas heat, and she has an excellent eye for the detail of the region. Her heroine is 11 year-old Calpurnia Virginia Tate, an adventurous and bright young soul who is just beginning to enter puberty, that confusing and terrifying time of life that brings along with it big changes. Set primarily during the summer and fall of 1899, the book follows Calpurnia and her family as she develops a relationship with her enigmatic grandfather and discovers a world outside of the domestic housewifery that she seems destined to inherit from her well-meaning mother. Texas and the rest of the United States was also on the cusp of big changes in 1899. In many ways the nation was still reeling from the effects of the Civil War, and the massive technological upheavals of the 20th century were only just around the corner. I found it interesting to see how Ms. Kelly wove the idea of change throughout the entire book, sometimes with subtle results, sometimes with dramatic resonance. This is a gentle and beautifully told tale, a slice-of-life look at how it must have been to be 11 years old and female in 1899, caught between the hard rules of tradition and propriety and the bold new century itself, bristling with new ideas and new opportunities. All of the characters and situations in this story ring true to the time, and author Kelly spares none of the racial and class distinctions that existed in rural Texas at the turn of the last century. The small town of Dale lies just to the northwest of Lockhart city proper. Dale was where the black servant class lived in those days, literally on the other side of the railroad tracks. That dichotomy of class is represented honestly in this tale, and it is up to the reader to come to their own conclusions on how and why things were the way they were. There is one particular scene in the book that spoke powerfully to me on a personal level. At one point in the story, Calpurnia spends time floating in the clear and cold waters of the San Marcos River, accessible as the river winds its way through Fentress. Those river accesses are still there today, and if one wants to they can find a way to float down to areas which are not encroached upon by development. I spent a lovely summer afternoon many years ago doing just that, and it was easy to get lost in my imagination as I lazed upon the water, gazing up into the canopy of trees and vines. Surely that area was as primitive now as it was then, back in 1899, when Calpurnia Tate cooled herself in the spring-fed river water. Those were moments of serene beauty for me, minutes spent well and etched forever into my memory of this place. I was also amused at the scene in the book which takes place at the Dr. Eugene Clark library in Lockhart, where Calpurnia is unable to acquire a copy of Charles Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species.” It would be no surprise that such a text would be unavailable in Lockhart at the turn of the 20th century. Quite honestly, I would be surprised to learn that the library has a copy available for check out here in 2018. Conservative and religious values run deep in these old Texas towns, and some ideas are still to be frowned upon, even in this enlightened age. Built in 1899 and dedicated in 1900, the library would not have been functional in the timeframe of the book, but a bit of artistic license to drive the narrative forward here is acceptable. The Clark library holds the distinction of being the oldest continually operating library in the state of Texas. You can find out more information here: http://www.clark-library-lockhart.org... There is a good feminist message to be had in the book, though it is not pushy or preachy in a any way and seems to be cognizant of its place given the time context of the book. I personally enjoyed the message that education and learning are things to be prized and cherished. But at its core, “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” is a story about place, a tale of how we fit into this world and how we choose to guide our journey here. We can float on the river and go where it takes us, yes. But we can also choose to once again stand on solid ground and find out where else our desires can lead us to. I liked this gentle story of a girl and her eccentric family, questing for small things which can be big things in a world awash with change. I guess I need to seek out the sequel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    M.K.

    By small and gradual changes are great things achieved. That’s one of the defining principles of evolution, and of Calpurnia Virginia Tate, the heroine in this novel. I finished reading her story aloud to my 11-year-old daughter last week. I suppose she’s too old for read-alouds, but I’m not telling her. Already we don’t do it every evening as we used to, which means I have the time to write reviews while she splits a gut with her father over a Netflix comedy. One of those small, gradual changes By small and gradual changes are great things achieved. That’s one of the defining principles of evolution, and of Calpurnia Virginia Tate, the heroine in this novel. I finished reading her story aloud to my 11-year-old daughter last week. I suppose she’s too old for read-alouds, but I’m not telling her. Already we don’t do it every evening as we used to, which means I have the time to write reviews while she splits a gut with her father over a Netflix comedy. One of those small, gradual changes. Calpurnia’s eleven in 1899, living near Austin, Texas with her well-to-do traditional family, the only girl of seven governed by her harried, proper mother and her responsible father who operates a prosperous pecan and cotton farm. There’s the grandfather who all the children are alarmed by. He and Calpurnia strike up a relationship bound by their fascination with the natural world. In the ramshackle former slave quarters he’s converted into his laboratory, he introduces her to the ever-expanding world of science. Always there are careful questions, little discoveries, small accidents that lead to a rather grand discovery, though I’ll be good and not say what it is. The other force in Calpurnia’s life, as intractable as gravity, is her mother who has high aspirations for her only daughter. She intends to make her daughter marriageable. It is, after all, the task set before all young women, one that tears at Calpurnia as she sees the walls close about her. She loves her family. The way she talks about them, you can’t help love the whole bunch, including the domestic help, with their romantic mishaps and comic doings and dinnertime dramas. And here I am, more than a century later, reading it to my daughter and getting choked up because Calpurnia’s dilemma is still mine and will be my daughter’s. Family or career? And if both, how? And if one and not the other, how to reconcile yourself to the loss? Homeschooling my two, I understand the pull to get myself out there. Wasting my life on laundry and dirty floors, I am. At one point, I had to stop reading and my daughter wrapped her arm around my shoulder and pressed herself against me. And that made me feel worse because I don’t want her to feel resented. I hate to think she thinks I begrudge her. And it’s not only a gender-specific quandary. One of the more touching scenes is with Calpurnia’s youngest brother, four-year-old JB. For supper, the family is presented Calpurnia’s pie, a sorry patched creation that the family chokes down. JB, the boy, asks why he can’t make a pie, and his mother explains that his wife will make him one. He’s not satisfied. And I wonder how many modern men aren’t either? Maybe by small, gradual changes Calpurnia, JB and my daughter and son can make their pie and eat it, too.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stef Rozitis

    I enjoyed this book and I struggle to fault it. I didn't always love all the characters and notably "Granddaddy" was slow to grow on me. It was an intelligent young girl's perspective. It both portrays well how constrictive Calpurnia's situation might have been- a nice tension between agency and societal pressures (which made it obvious why many brilliant minds might have just caved in and not "made it") and a tacit acknowledgement that despite her struggles Calpurnia is also highly privileged ( I enjoyed this book and I struggle to fault it. I didn't always love all the characters and notably "Granddaddy" was slow to grow on me. It was an intelligent young girl's perspective. It both portrays well how constrictive Calpurnia's situation might have been- a nice tension between agency and societal pressures (which made it obvious why many brilliant minds might have just caved in and not "made it") and a tacit acknowledgement that despite her struggles Calpurnia is also highly privileged (eg race and class standing). It gives us just enough of a glimpse of the non-white characters that her family relies on to be critical of the inequality and for me to be certain that there is sensitivity and complexity in any story that could be told about them also. The various masculinities in the book are complex enough to be satisfying (and to avoid binaries) the character of Travis in particular appealed to me. The book also avoids the trap of condemning or mocking more traditional femininities (Calpurnia and her mother struggle to understand each other, there is a difficult prickly warmth between Calpurnia and Viola and she adores Lula though their lack of common ground leaves her frustrated too). There are no "bad guys" as such but there are strong oppositions to what Callie Vee wants and needs in life. The love her oppression comes packaged in is believable for anyone who has struggled with the limitations of traditional female roles. The thinking in the book in places was unpalatable to me but in its historical context it seemed well portrayed. In general it is a feel good book, albeit one with complexity, it comes down on the side of agency over fate (or social determinism) but acknowledges hardship and opposition. I will happily read more from Jacqueline Kelly and I recommend this book highly!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I can't be objective or tell you effectively why I love this so much. Reminds me a bit of Caddie Woodlawn or even Thimble Summer but with even more joy. I decided that I couldn't wait until my Newbery discussion group gets around to it, so I read it now (and will read the sequel very shortly) and will read it again then. Highly recommended to those of you who know what it's like to be a young reader and find a kindred soul in a treasure of a story. I can't be objective or tell you effectively why I love this so much. Reminds me a bit of Caddie Woodlawn or even Thimble Summer but with even more joy. I decided that I couldn't wait until my Newbery discussion group gets around to it, so I read it now (and will read the sequel very shortly) and will read it again then. Highly recommended to those of you who know what it's like to be a young reader and find a kindred soul in a treasure of a story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    This book wasn't anything to special. It is about a girl who is aspiring to be a scientist like her grandfather, but since it is 1899, is supposed to be a housewife. Her bond with grandfather grows stronger throughout the story as well as her passion for science. I didn't enjoy it that much because it wasn't exciting; the whole story seemed to be drab and just there. I wish a larger problem occurred, not just focusing on the stereotype of "women's jobs". Overall a decent book. This book wasn't anything to special. It is about a girl who is aspiring to be a scientist like her grandfather, but since it is 1899, is supposed to be a housewife. Her bond with grandfather grows stronger throughout the story as well as her passion for science. I didn't enjoy it that much because it wasn't exciting; the whole story seemed to be drab and just there. I wish a larger problem occurred, not just focusing on the stereotype of "women's jobs". Overall a decent book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    S.K. Cunningham

    Technically I would rate it 3.9 but there is no option for that. It was a slow pace read. There were several mentions of cursing. Other than that it was a good read.

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