I absolutely adored The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. I put off reading this for way too long and wish I had read it back in May, so I could have recommended it to my students!
Calpurnia Virginia Tate, or Callie Vee for short, is the lone girl amongst six brothers. The year is 1899, and girls aren’t expected to have careers when they grow up. But Callie loves exploring, learning about nature, and spending time with her grandfather. What she doesn’t love is knitting, cooking, and all other “household” activities. She wants to be a scientist when she grows up, and Grandfather encourages her. Together, they explore the countryside as Callie learns about the scientific method and growing up.
There is so much to love about this book. It’s historical fiction that kids will actually enjoy! There are great little tidbits about the turn of the century- kids will love the idea that Coke was invented and wasn’t always around. It’s also the time when automobiles were invented, science was on the brink of so many discoveries, and it was the turn of the century. The setting is ridiculously real- you can almost feel the suffocating heat in a time before air-conditioning. But it’s the character’s that really drive the story.
Callie reminded me a bit of Anne Shirley, of Anne of Green Gables . She’s spunky in a believable sort of way, intelligent, and self-deprecating. Her family is also well-developed, with six brothers, a mother, father, and Grandfather. One of my favorite chapters involves Callie’s utter horror when she learns that three of her brothers have developed crushes on her best friend. As the oldest of six kids, I felt Callie’s pain. Especially when she finally can’t take it anymore and divides up the days of the week, allowing each boy one day to walk her and Lula home. When they ask about the other two days of the week she tells them she needs her space! I was laughing out loud.
Pick this one up for your classroom library, but be sure to read it first. You’ll love it! This is a great pick for strong intermediate readers or middle schoolers. But I loved it even more than my students, I think! I especially can’t wait to share it with my new classes when we begin our monarch butterfly unit. I think Callie’s love of nature and science will really spark something in them, too!
This one is getting a lot of Newbery buzz, so read it now!
Purchased by me.