Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly Kirkus Star


by Jacqueline Kelly

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: May 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8841-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

“Mother was awakening to the sorry facts: My biscuits were like stones, my samplers askew, my seams like rickrack.” The year is 1899, the place Texas and the problem is 11-year-old Calpurnia Virginia Tate, who is supposed to want to cook, sew and attract future beaux, not play in the dirt, examine insects and, perhaps most suspect of all, read Darwin’s controversial The Origin of Species, the source of the novel’s chapter introductions. A natural-born scientist, she alone among her six brothers has discovered the rare specimen under her own roof—a funny-smelling, rather antisocial grandfather who preoccupies himself with classifying flora and fauna...when he’s not fermenting pecans for whiskey. Their budding friendship is thoughtfully and engagingly portrayed, as is the unfolding of the natural world’s wonders under Calpurnia’s ever-inquisitive gaze. Calpurnia is not a boilerplate folksy Southern heroine who spouts wise-beyond-her-years maxims that seem destined for needlepoint—her character is authentically childlike and complex, her struggles believable. Readers will finish this witty, deftly crafted debut novel rooting for “Callie Vee” and wishing they knew what kind of adult she would become. (Historical fiction. 10-14)