Friday, June 19, 2009

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

After devouring The Cabinet of Wonders (review forthcoming), I decided to read the other silhouette-cover book on my library shelf, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. While my main emotion on reading this story was heartfelt gratitude that I no longer live in Austin and have to endure Texas weather, I also enjoyed the characters.

 There's been quite a bit of buzz about this, so I don't think much explanation of the plot is needed. Basically, Calpurnia Tate, only girl in a family of seven boys, explores the natural world with the help and friendship of her grandfather and tries to discover where she fits in turn-of-the-century rural Texas.

What most fascinated me about Calpurnia and kept me reading was that she is such a completely rounded character. She's intelligent, but not a genius, curious, but not precocious. She makes mistakes in her scientific investigations, takes shortcuts, and doesn't always feel like studying. In other words, she's a twelve-year-old interested in science, not a miniature adult in child's clothing. Although she can be selfish at times, she sees her family's viewpoint. She's also, and this is especially well-done, historically accurate. While she wants a different life than the traditional one planned out for her, she's not a modern character in old-fashioned clothing. She doesn't see clearly how her life could be different and she suffers many disappointments and setbacks.

There are also funny bits, essential to any story.

Verdict: This won't be for everyone; many kids won't be interested in the historical setting and slower pace of the story as well as the natural observations, but I'm glad I bought it for our library based on the reviews and I plan to promote it strongly to several kids who I think will enjoy it.

ISBN: 978-0805088410; Published May 2009 by Henry Holt; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

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