Monday, October 15, 2012

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

From Goodreads: Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

My Two Cents: There is so much to love about this book. Gorgeous language that challenges young readers without overwhelming them. A smart, endearing main character who grows so much. Humor and family and a great sense of history. And lots of science, carefully woven through the book so that it doesn't hold the story back--it actually drives it forward. When my daughters are old enough, I will absolutely read this with them. Lots to learn, lots to discuss.

Grade level: 5-7 (some challenging vocabulary)

Additional Resources:
Jacqueline Kelly's website
Discussion questions from the publisher
An in-depth Novel Study (for purchase)
Charles Darwin links for teachers and kids

More to Read:
Another smart, strong heroine figuring out her family: Ida B by Katherine Hannigan
Another brave, lonely girl who finds herself in nature: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
More on Charles Darwin (nonfiction): Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Be sure to check back Thursday for a great science activity from biologist Helen Boswell that fits perfectly with this book!

I always love comments! Have you read this book? Any activities, resources, or companion books to recommend? Let me know! One lucky commenter will win a copy of this book! Just click "Join this site" to follow the blog, then leave your comment.


  1. One of my favorite books, ever! (But I already own it so don't pick me ;0))

  2. I'm also a fan of this book--but I also own a copy. I'll spread the word instead. :)

  3. This has been on my to read list for a long time and I know it's about a girl, but is it only girl friendly?

    1. I'd say it's a good one for boys too. There are many brothers, lots of mischief, and Calpurnia herself is a tomboy. :)

  4. I haven't read this one yet - it is now on my list, thanks!

  5. I can't wait to read it. I haven't read this one... tomboys and mischievous brothers are right down my alley, since I have lots of boys. :) Great review Elaine, thanks!

  6. I haven't read this book, but I've heard great things about it. I will have to go track down a copy, it sounds like.

  7. This is one of my favorite sciency fiction titles (and I already own a *signed* copy, so don't enter me). I like to point out that this one shows the importance of careful observation and detailed records.