October Book Club: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

What are your thoughts on The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate? This is one of the many books that has some considerable Newbery buzz growing. How do you think it measures up? Can you see your students being engaged by its setting, its episodic plot, and/or the natural history information? What do you think of Kelly’s portrayal of turn-of-the-century Southern life and the spectre of the Civil War that hangs over the book? Tell us what you think in the discussion below… again, the discussion is NOT limited to NYCSLA members.

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3 Responses to October Book Club: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

  1. Cheryl says:

    I am getting a late start w. this book, but so far (through the first couple chapters) I am utterly smitten with the gorgeous narration of our young female aspiring naturalist. More later…

  2. I wasn’t expecting to like this book (I think I’m suffering pre-emptively from historical fiction burnout, as in “kids in my library NEVER check it out except under extreme duress, so why is there SO MUCH historical fiction always up for awards?”)… but I really liked it. I wish I’d had this when I was moving on from Laura Ingalls Wilder in late elementary school. I think I was so taken with it because I’m not sure when I’ve read such a wonderful portrait of the love between a grandfather and granddaughter. Also, it’s funny and episodic and provides a light touch looking at racial issues and the aftermath of the Civil War.

  3. Cheryl Wolf says:

    I fell in love with this portrait of intellectually strong and curious Calpurnia (Callie) Tate is one. Callie is an aspiring natural scientist living in a world where such dreams are not considered proper for a 10-year old girl in rural Texas at the turn of the 20th century. She wants to spend her time collecting specimens, not learning the domestic skills that are expected of her. “Why,” she asks, in one of her “Questions for Notebook,” “[could the wasp] opt to be male or female while in a larval stage [when] human children weren’t given that option in their grub stage. With everything I had seen about the lives of boys and girls, I would definitely choose to be a boy grub.” Callie finds a kind and loving mentor in her eccentric grandfather, spending hours together in his “laboratory.” She notes that he “didn’t find me dangerous when I wondered about something” (contrary to her parents). I love Kelley’s carefully chosen quotes by Darwin at the head of each chapter, and her exacting use of language. There are rumblings of 2010 Newbery on the horizon for this book by first-time novelist (and physician…AND attorney!) Jacqueline Kelley, and this is just the kind of book that the Newbery Committee usually eats up. But I do wonder: how will our young readers react?

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