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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

June 17th, 2010 - Posted in New Book Reviews -

calpurniaby Jacqueline Kelly   p. 340  Grades 5-8

All twelve-year old Calpurnia Tate wants is to become a scientist.  She’s spent the long hot summer of 1899 in the small town of Fentress, Texas,  as an amateur naturalist recording her observations of and questions about nature in a notebook–questions such as, ” Why don’t caterpillars have eyelids?”  She finally thinks her parents understand her and acknowledge her dream when she begins to unwrap her birthday present from them.  It’s a book, and the first word of the title is Science. Unfortunately, the whole title is The Science of Housewifery!

Calpurnia is the only daughter in a family of seven children.  She has no interest in the traditional home arts a young girl at the turn of the century should be learning to make a good wife.  Instead, she develops a close relationship with her reclusive grandfather, who encourages her to use the scientific method in her quest for answers about the natural world and his own quest for a new species.

This is a very entertaining read with an intelligent, spunky protagonist, family humor, sibling rivalry, and good science.  Let’s hope for a sequel.

Connections:  Each chapter of this novel begins with a quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species, so you may also want to read Charles Darwin : Naturalist by Margaret J. Anderson or Darwin’s Ghost: the Origin of Species updated by Steve Jones.  Other good novels dealing with the theory of evolution are The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer and Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd.

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