Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Plot Summary: 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.

I don’t always agree with the choice of award winners and honors, but I certainly do in this case. CALPURNIA TATE took the Newbery Honor this year, and it’s definitely well-deserved.

The beginning starts out a little slow, but Calpurnia’s voice takes over quickly and launches us into her hilarious and incredibly interesting story. The setting is vivid and incredibly realistic. We really get a sense of how different things were for women then. Only the truly determined, like Calpurnia, would be able to succeed in going against the norm.

I’m not much on science. My dad is a scientist of sorts, and I got enough of it growing up to last me a lifetime, so I certainly don’t seek it out now. But this story about science and Darwin is just fantastic. It really captures the times, and how the outrageously new is almost always received with skepticism. It was extremely well executed.

Calpurnia is spunky and forthright, which is exactly what I expect from an only girl with six brothers. Her flaws are true to her age, and make her even more endearing. I love her various reactions to her brothers, as well as her internal trepidations which she hides behind a tough exterior. She is courageous and funny, and I loved her story so much that I’m going to add it to my bookshelf. Definitely recommended.

9 comments:

Carrie Harris said...

I'm going to have to add this to my to read list! I've heard of it, of course, but never stopped to figure out what it was all about. Awesome!

Tabitha said...

This book is fabulous. I geek out over any writer that can take a subject matter that's so-so to me (like science and biology) and make me interested in it. :)

Marcia said...

I liked the book once I got past the slow beginning. I felt the beginning had a little too much agenda, and was a lot of telling rather than showing. I wanted to SEE those irritating brothers, not just be told she had brothers who were pains in the neck, and that seemed to take a while to get off the ground. I liked the book, and I'll keep watch on the author, but I thought there were newbie mistakes that kept me from totally loving it.

Mary Witzl said...

I'll put this on my pile too! I like science and biology, but I almost never go for books that educate me.

You and Marcia are shrewd reviewers. I learn so much just reading what you write about books.

Jenn Reese said...

Thanks for the review -- I've had this on my list for a while, but I may have to move it up to the top now!

Bethany Mattingly said...

This book sounds really great. Hopefully, I can check it out soon!

Tabitha said...

Marcia - I totally agree about the beginning (gee, imagine that). :) Once the story got moving, I couldn't put it down. But when I first picked it up, I was a little worried...

Mary - it's a fabulous book! Once you get past the beginning, you won't be able to put it down. :)

Jenn - it's such a fun book. I laughed out loud many times, and that doesn't happen to me often. :)

Bethany - definitely find a copy! I got mine from the library, and had to wait a while because so many others want to read it too. :)

Bish Denham said...

I absolutely LOVED this book! It was one of those where I was sorry to see it come to an end.

Lauren said...

I recieved this for reveiw last year, and I keep putting it off. Though, because of your review, I think I'll be moving it up in my TBR pile. :)