Publication Date: 2009
Publishers: Henry Holt and Company
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.
Debut author Jacqueline Kelly deftly brings Callie and her family to life, capturing a year of growing up with unique sensitivity and a wry wit.
I really enjoyed this book! It is historical fiction, but is set in a time and place that isn’t as commonly seen (if I see one more story of a young girl on the prairie…. Sorry Laura Ingles Wilder!).
For a debut novel, Jacqueline Kelly really impressed me. I loved the plot and setting, but it was Calpurnia, or Callie Vee as her family calls her, and her grandfather that really won me over. Callie is an intelligent young woman with a wry sense of humor and it was that humor that carried the book for me. She is the middle child, and only girl of seven children and “can you imagine a worse situation?”.
When she is given a note book to write down her observations (the first is “Why do dogs have eyebrows? Why do dogs even need eyebrows?”) she begins to cultivate a love of science. Her love of science and nature is nurtured by her grandfather, a member of the National Geographic Society. Despite her sharp mind, and keen and humorous observations, Callie struggles with the gender stereotypes of the day.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is middle grade fiction (Callie turns twelve half way through the book) and was a Newbery Honor recipient. I highly recommend this one, especially if you love historical fiction.