The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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Modern Age

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Kelly, Jacqueline
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1899-1900
Geographic Area: North America
Country: United States
Topics: Evolution, Botany Women in Science
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Upper Middle Grade, Young Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2011

American History > Modern Age > Women in Science

In this witty historical fiction middle grade novel set at the turn of the century, an 11-year-old girl explores the natural world, learns about science and animals, and grows up. A Newbery Honor Book.

“The most delightful historical novel for tweens in many, many years. . . . Callie's struggles to find a place in the world where she'll be encouraged in the gawky joys of intellectual curiosity are fresh, funny, and poignant today.” ―The New Yorker

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.

Author Jacqueline Kelly deftly brings Callie and her family to life, capturing a year of growing up with unique sensitivity and a wry wit.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly was a 2010 Newbery Honor Book and the winner of the 2010 Bank Street - Josette Frank Award. This title has Common Core connections. This is perfect for young readers who like historical fiction, STEM topics, animal stories, and feminist middle grade novels.

Emily's Review

This is one of my all-time favorite books to read aloud, and not just because I get to do a Southern accent.

At its core, this is a story about a girl realizing her place in the world, and also realizing that she is going to have to fight hard to take that place.

I love the character of Calpurnia. She is strong and feisty and dedicated to learning, even when everyone around her is telling her that studying nature and science is NOT what girls are meant to do. I love that her Grandfather challenges that idea and encourages her to learn. Calpurnia and her Grandfather are up there for me with characters like Anne Shirley and Matthew Cuthbert - kindred spirits, all of them.

I love the setting and all her brothers and the whole cast of characters that make this book oh-so-charming. This is a modern classic and it is not to be missed!

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