Monday, September 10, 2012

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
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.  (description from
I have to be fully honest... I tried to read this book about a year and a half ago and I couldn't get past the first two chapters.  Something about it just did NOT work.  So when I tried picking it up again, I was a little leery. Having learned that I LOVE audio books, I decided to try it that way and it made a marked difference.  I'm pretty sure that if I wasn't listening to this book, I would have put it down again...
...And, it's not that it's a bad book. Not by any means! It has starred reviews from several publications and it even won a Newbury Honor.  It just is a little hard to start.  This book not only feels like a lazy old western movie, where tumbleweeds should be rolling by (not in a bad way, just setting the tone), but it also has chapters that don't really seem to fit together into a cohesive storyline in the beginning.  It takes almost half the book for things to start to be progressing toward any type of a climactic moment. 
Though I really ended up liking Calpurnia, her grandfather and the other members of her family very much, I would have to find just the right reader to recommend this book. It is not for an impatient reader and certainly not for anyone who wouldn't embrace the quirks of historical fiction.  It is well done, but a very quiet read.
Full disclosure: Audio book borrowed through interlibrary loan

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