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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

I finished The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate this afternoon as I relaxed outside on my new hammock and enjoyed the end of my spring break. My husband gave me an occasional odd look (accompanied by a raised eyebrow) as I chuckled to myself at the antics of Calpurnia and her large family. I had heard a lot about this book, and it truly did live up to all the good things I heard.

Summary: Calpurnia Tate is not your typical turn-of-the-century girl. In Texas in 1899, most young ladies her age are looking forward to a life that includes being wooed, married, and raising a houseful of children. Calpurnia detests domestic chores, is terrible at knitting and tatting, and would much rather help her six brothers take care of the family’s animals. But her mother dreams of a proper “coming out” for her only daughter, and is determined to train Callie to be a proper lady.

That long, hot summer of 1899, Callie really gets to know her grandfather; a quiet old man who she & her siblings all live in awe (and a little fear) of. She starts joining him on his forays to the river, where he collects specimens for scientific study. She assists him in his laboratory, where he is trying to create palatable liquor out of pecans. (This leads to some of the funniest moments in the book.) He introduces her to Darwin’s theories (which he leaves her to decipher on her own). And together, they make a discovery that just might make them immortal.

All the while, Callie also handles other pitfalls; dealing with the fact that three of her brothers all have a crush on her best friend, chasing away her older brother’s unworthy love interest, and showing enough progress in her domestic pursuits to pacify her mother. Will a new century bring the change Callie hopes for, or will she be doomed to a life she doesn’t want?

Family expectations vs. personal dreams
Scientific discovery

Age Appropriateness:
Grades 6 & up

Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: some mild
Nudity/Adult Content: none
Violence: No.

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