Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Book 91 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 23 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 8 of 10 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (New Zealand)

Recommendations: Booklist, Starred; Bulletin-Center Child Books; Chicago Tribune; Horn Book; Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review; New York Times; Publishers Weekly, Starred; School Library Journal, Starred Review; Washington Post Book World

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Calpurnia (Callie Vee) is an 11-year old girl with six brothers who lives in Central Texas in 1899. She despises the traditionally female tasks of cooking and sewing. Instead, she develops a relationship with her amateur scientist grandfather and spends the summer days making observations in her notebook. Her grandfather teaches her about Charles Darwin, and Callie Vee develops a love for the bounties of nature.

I really liked Callie as the protagonist. She's got all the fiestiness I love in a girl pushing the envelope on traditional gender roles in a time when that just wasn't done. Her brothers provided some comic relief, but I felt like sometimes they weren't true to the age they were written. Callie's mother downright drove me crazy. She spent her time trying to force Callie into domestic servitude while drinking her way through the day.

I was really excited to read this book. But early on I realized that the plot just wasn't grabbing me as much as I wanted. I didn't find it to be a real page-turner, and I think at 340 pages middle graders might find it with not enough action to hold their interest. I wasn't really happy with the resolution, or lack thereof. Quite frankly, if the book were to carry on, I imagine it would end very sadly on all accounts.

The naturalist side of me really enjoyed Callie and her grandfather bonding over nature. They developed a unique relationship, but I don't think it was fully explored. Girls Callie's age may enjoy imagining what life was like 100 years ago. But before recommending it, I would caution that alcohol plays a big part in this book between Callie's mother, Callie getting her first shot of whiskey, and her grandfather's determination to make whiskey out of pecans.

Overall, I liked it. The book has a great premise, but I didn't love the execution.

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Source: Library


bermudaonion said...

That does sound like a long book for middle graders!

Charley said...

I like the cover.

Veens said...

hmm..Sad no?! The characters are great but the execution is not that great. I definitely like the cover! It is cute!

busy91 said...

Thanks for this, this book is in my Library queue. And If I like it, I'll have my 10 yo read it.