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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that since this Newbery Honor book is set in 1899, readers will learn a great deal about the period, including the limitations placed upon an intelligent girl. They'll find it easy to root for -- and relate to -- Callie, who attempts to do the thing she loves despite what society -- and her mother -- think is proper. This is a wonderful book about coming of age in a fascinating time, and that's what will leave an impression on tween and teen readers.
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What's the story?
In the summer 1899, Calpurnia Tate is almost 12 years old. "Callie" lives with six brothers, her parents, her grandfather (a founding member of the National Geographic Society), and numerous household staff on a Texas cotton plantation. During this long hot summer, Callie begins a new friendship with her grandfather when he discovers her interest in the natural world. Over the next few months, Callie has to deal with three of her brothers falling in "love" with her best friend, cooking and sewing lessons, installation of the first telephone in town history, and Darwin's theory of evolution. Callie may have the benefits of an upper-crust family and being the only girl among so many brothers, but she also faces the universal truth of growing up: Everything is changing.
Is it any good?
It's easy to see why this coming-of-age story earned a Newbery Honor: Readers will find plenty to like. This is a fun historical novel jam-packed with rich details and events. Readers will get a vivid sense of rural Southern life as the children catch fireflies, eat their pet turkeys for Thanksgiving, and enter the county fair. And in Callie they'll find a smart role model who tries to follow her heart, despite gender expectations. Each chapter begins with a quote from Darwin's The Origin of the Species, which mirrors Callie's own longing for the evolution of the roles of women.
Tweens and teens (and their parents) might find it fun to explore how their childhoods differ from Callie's -- both in terms of the technologies being developed and what expectations society has for boys and girls.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender roles. How were Callie's mother's expectations different for her than for her brothers? Would things be better for Callie today?
Parents may also want to ask their kids what they think would happen next to Callie. If you were to write a sequel, what do you think would be in it?
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love history and smart girl characters
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