The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

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.


7 Responses

  1. Gosh I’ve been wanting to read this book for so long!

    I really need to get it!! Great review 🙂

  2. I’ve been hearing about this one. Great review! It’s now on a sticky note on my wall. I’m looking for good read alouds for my 7th grade- 9 girls, no boys- and this sounds like a strong candidate! It has the added benefit of the science and nature piece and our school is studying biomes in science this year. (We have a four year, rotating curriculum)

  3. This book sounds great — thanks for tweeting it (and Maud L’ing it 😉 Also makes me want to reread Those Miller Girls!

  4. I loved this too. I definitely plan on reading it aloud with my 5th and 6th graders this year.

  5. So glad you enjoyed this book – I so wished as I read it I had been able to share it with my sixth graders years ago…Calpurnia is one of my new young friends! I believe my students would have been interested in the author’s bio as well…born in Canada, grew up in El Paso, has been a doctor, lawyer and now has turned to writing for children and youth!

  6. Thanks for the review–sounds like a great read!

  7. […] immersed in the sweeping changes that were happening at the dawn of the 20th century.” The Reading Zone: “It’s historical fiction that kids will actually enjoy! There are great little tidbits […]

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