A few weeks ago I was in one of the coolest conference rooms, a prow-like space in the Flatiron Building, at the invitation of Henry Holt, to hear their Dynamic Darwin Duo, Deborah Heiligman, author of Charles and Emma and Jacqueline Kelly, author of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Afterwards I managed to get a very poor Iphone pic of the two signing (so I could tweet it, natch); please take it from me that Deborah’s face is as gorgeous as her hair and blue dress.
Coincidently, before the event I’d given Jackie’s book to one of my history-loving fourth graders to read. Here’s her review:
This story is about a little girl named Calpurnia Tate of the year 1899. Calpurnia is eleven years old and the only girl out of seven children. It takes place in a little town called Caldwell County, near Austin, Texas.
Calpurnia’s mother wants her to learn what regular little girls of the time do; piano, knitting, cooking, and other house work. Because Calpurnia’s mother wants her to become a proper lady and marry to a nice man.
However, once her grandfather shows her his science abilities, she opens her mind into the world of science and begins dreaming to be a scientist. When she hears the stories about woman-scientists like Marie Curie and all kinds of history about them, she gets fascinated and wants to grow up to be one, too. They start identifying insects and plants. They find a new specimen of a plant Vicia villosa, a member of the lowly pasture. They finally get a certificate for finding a new specimen of the plants.
In the 19th century, boys could only go to college or university. However, the year of 1899 is over and the year of 1990 begins in the end of the story. So it may mean that Calpurnia’s hope of going to college and dream of becoming a scientist may come true in the new century.
The author is trying to give a message that whatever little girls wanted to be in the olden days, some had to quit because it made their mothers uncomfortable. But some worked hard enough to prove that they really wanted to be something that women usually didn’t do. I would recommend this to people who are into history and following their own dream.
This book was a fascinating and amazing. Even though it might take some time for some readers to get into it, I think it is a great book to read.
In addition, the book cover is beautiful and makes you feel like Calpurnia. At first when you look at it, it just looks like branches and trees. But if you look and observe it like Calpurnia, you can find many things; books, microscopes, jars, animals, and other kinds of creatures. It will feel like you are at the river with Calpurnia and her grandfather. You may feel like being Calpurnia in the story.