Monday, March 7, 2011

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly

This truly engaging story takes place right at the dawn of the 20th century, with 12-year-old Calpurnia (Callie Vee) and her 6 brothers living on an affluent estate on their family farm in Texas. Callie is a lover of all things outdoors; animals, plants, the lakefront; and writes down all that she observes in her special notebook. The only one in her family who fosters her love of nature is her remote grandfather, who fancies himself an amateur scientist. When her grandfather realizes that Callie alone, of all her siblings, shares his scientific curiosity, a bond forms between them that is beneficial to them both. For Callie, it allows her to escape the drudgery of the girlish duties of cooking, sewing and piano playing. For her grandfather, it allows him to show affection to his granddaughter, something that he has not allowed himself to do with his other grandchildren.

The tension rises, as Callie and grandfather discover a new species of plant on their property, while at the same time Callie's mother realizes that her daughter is not growing up to be the proper young lady that she believes she should be.

Callie's struggle to be true to herself, while at the same time fulfilling the expectations of her family and society are told with both poignancy and humor, making this a delightful period read.

P. Sassoon

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