Question for the notebook: "Will my eight-year-old daughter love this sweet and poignant tale about a young girl growing up and finding her way at the turn of the 20th century as much as I did?
The time is 1899 and the girl is 11-year-old Calpurnia Tate, a budding naturalist who is just beginning to realize that she is quite different from other girls her age. The only girl in a family of seven children, Calpurnia's interests lie not in the intricate lacework or expert cooking that her mother insists she learn, but rather in the exploration of the muddy pond and grassy fields around her home.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is gorgeously written and expertly developed. It is enthralling to watch Calpurnia, or Callie Vee, grow, struggle with frustration and achieve impossible goals. But the by far the sweetest thread of the story is witnessing Callie's blossoming relationship with her grandfather, a dedicated naturalist who encourages her pursuits and cushions her disappointments.
I recently read this story chapter-by-chapter with my daughter. Initially, I was concerned that the plot and vocabulary would be over her head. (I love the fact that it is hard for her to imagine a world in which a girl could not do anything at all she set out to do.) But even though the book is written for middle schoolers, the strong characters and storyline were easily translated to my 8 year-old. She was as captivated by Calpurnia Tate as I was, and I think it gave her a good grounding for her own scientific interests and pursuits.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is an engaging, thought-provoking, and overall satisfying story for adults and kids alike. If you have a daughter, particularly a daughter who is interested in nature, make sure this title is on her reading list.