Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: *****
Pages: 338
Calpurnia Virginia Tate, Callie Vee to everyone but her mother and Granddaddy, is the only girl in a family of six brothers. In 1899, that means endless hours of knitting socks at home and lessons on Use of Hankie and Thimble at school. She can't even check out a copy of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species from the library without her mother's permission.
Unfortunately, Calpurnia is beyond her time. She's clever enough to lure earthworms to the surface by dumping a bucket of water on the same patch of dry ground four days in a row-and then sell them to her brother by the dozen. She writes a letter to the newspaper telling them to measure the temperature in the shade instead of the middle of the street. After all, who stands out in the sun unless they're scampering to another patch of shade?
As her interest in the natural world develops, Calpurnia wants to focus her attention on the finch population and her Confederate veteran turned businessman turned naturalist Granddaddy's stories. Unfortunately, her mother is determined to turn her into a proper lady. On top of it all, her oldest brother has started dating-and three of her other brothers are in love with Lula, her best friend.
The independent woman vs. docile lady conflict is nothing new. I'm actually starting to get sick of it. But Calpurnia's spunk and dramatic (if a tad melodramatic) emotions invest this novel with a power rarely seen in debut novels.

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