Rave Reviews Log: Historical Fiction

September 28, 2009

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

By Jacqueline Kelly
Era: 1899 Texas
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Calpurnia Virginia Tate is 11 years old, a girl in the middle of 6 brothers, living in the small town of Fentress, Texas. When her elder brother Harry gives her a notebook to keep track of her observations in, Callie becomes interested in what seems to be a new type of grasshopper. Since no one else is interested, she braves talking to her intimidating science-bent grandfather about it, and thus, a friendship is born. Through her grandfather's tutelage, Callie has her eyes opened to the natural world, and she eagerly evolves into a budding naturalist, even tackling reading Darwin's Origin of the Species. Punctuating Callie's scientific discoveries are amusing stories from sabotaging her brother Harry's infatuation with a young lady to trying out her grandfather's attempt at making liquor from pecans (with disastrous results) to arranging a turkey swap when her younger brother's pets are threatened at Thanksgiving. As Callie learns what it is she'd like to be in life, she comes up hard against what her mother's expectations are for the only daughter in the family. It is impossible not to love Callie and her family, impossible not to laugh at the events that occur, and impossible not to like this earnest and well-written story which ends, not completely happily, but with hope as the new year brings a new century along with it. Excellent.


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