It’s not every chapter book that features a girl elbow-deep in a sheep’s birthing canal, but Callie Vee’s no ordinary gal.
Although she’s continuing her award-winning middle-grade series (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, 2009, etc.) with an early chapter-book one, Kelly presents Calpurnia Tate as the same girl with the same problems. Her mother wants her to be a lady when all she wants is to become a naturalist. The year is 1901 (the year after the action of The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, 2015), and there are other problems besides gender expectations. While studying a Vanessa cardui, or painted lady, Callie discovers a torn wing and must determine if she’s the kind of girl who tries to fix broken butterflies. (Bafflingly, despite the prominence of painted ladies in the story, the butterflies depicted on the cover are monarchs.) Later Callie’s mother’s prized sheep is due to give birth. When complications arise, it’s up to our heroine to save the day using ingenuity and know-how. Callie’s adventures in animal care adapt easily to this format, losing none of the protagonist’s wit and 13-year-old wisdom, though whether older readers will follow her adventures in a younger reading format is open to question. Certainly children without prior knowledge of the older novels will find much to love in Callie’s fight against early-20th-century mores and attitudes, but 13 is an odd age for a chapter-book protagonist.
Animal husbandry done right for the young reader set. (Historical fiction. 7-10)