A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate continues the adventures of the smart, spirited girl introduced in Newbery Honor winner The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Here, Callie's turning 13 in rural Texas in 1900. Even as she's discovering the joys of science in her studies with her cranky, learned grandfather and dreaming of an education, the walls are closing in on her: She's just a girl, and the best she can look forward to is being a proper, wealthy matron like her mother. Meanwhile, she's kept busy looking out for her younger brother, Travis, and the steady stream of animals he "rescues." Callie's an irresistible protagonist as she struggles to make her dreams real against the odds; her kind heart and clever thinking, as well as her sharp wits, serve her and her loved ones well. There's a lot of scientific detail, including lots of gross moments involving animal bodily fluids and dissection. Tenderhearted readers may have trouble with the frequent deaths of animals. Parents might want to discuss period details that are historically accurate but jarring by today's standards, such as references to "colored" people, anti-Semitic characters, and outmoded gender stereotypes.
What's the story?
As Calpurnia Virginia Tate, aka Callie Vee, turns 13 in 1900, she revels in studying science with her cantankerous grandfather, with whom she codiscovered a new plant species in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. But a life of science doesn't seem to be in her future: Although her family is rich and her six brothers can pursue their educations and follow their dreams, Callie can't. Destined from her unfortunate birth as a female for life as a Texas debutante and wealthy matron, she's furious as she feels the doors of the gilded cage closing in on her in a world where the fact that she's smarter and harder-working than her brothers doesn't matter a bit. As she tries to keep her tenderhearted brother Travis -- and his never-ending parade of rescued animals -- out of trouble, a flood 200 miles away brings to town two people who, in different ways, open up new worlds to Callie and give her valuable tools for living her own life.
Is it any good?
Jacqueline Kelly's follow-up to The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate works well as a standalone story, but readers of the first volume will find THE CURIOUS WORLD OF CALPURNIA TATE a happy reunion. Old fans and new will be on the edges of their seats as Callie and her beloved brother land in numerous scrapes and fib, finagle, and charm their way out of quite a few others -- almost always with a kindhearted motive. For those who aren't as entranced with scientific pursuits as Callie, some of the experiments, dissections, and research might get old, but the detail is great for kids who love to investigate nature or think they might like to be veterinarians.
Though the story has an obvious appeal to smart, strong girls -- especially those who think they're not being taken seriously -- Callie's plight and creative thinking will resonate with any kid who feels imprisoned by the expectations of others. What spirited kid's blood would not boil at this exchange, as Callie's father gives her a five-dollar gold piece for Christmas:
"I thought of all the scientific equipment I could buy, maybe even a third-hand microscope of my own.
"'Save it now and spend it wisely in the future,' he said. 'perhaps on your hope chest and your trousseau.'"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about people who grew up in an era when your external qualities -- your skin color and your gender, for example -- determined what your life would be like. How would you fit into a society like that? Do you think we still have these issues today?
Do you like stories about people who lived in other times? Which ones do you like best? Do you think this is a good way to learn about history?
Do you have a dream that's going to be challenging to achieve? Does Callie's story give you any ideas about how you might make it happen?
- Author: Jacqueline Kelly
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and sisters, Cats, dogs, and mice, Great girl role models, History, Horses and farm animals, Misfits and underdogs, Science and nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
- Publication date: July 23, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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