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.