A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This story of the South in 1899 includes plenty of historical details. Readers will learn a great deal about the period, including the limitations of an intelligent girl during the period. Each chapter begins with a quote from Darwin's The Origin of the Species, and readers will pick up some science lessons along with Callie.
Readers will be inspired by Callie's attempt to pursue science despite her mother's attempts to limit her to more traditionally female pursuits.
Positive Role Models
Readers will find it easy to relate to Callie, a smart girl who attempts to do the thing she loves despite what society -- and her mother -- think is proper. She recognizes the injustice and points it out.
Violence & Scariness
Brief report of a "quadroon" servant who tried to pass as white and was pitchforked to death; description of a deadly Civil War battle.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Reference to animals on the farm mating; Calpurnia's 17-year-old brother courts a young woman; three of her younger brothers "fall in love" with her best friend, but it's all very innocent.
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Calpurnia's grandfather says "hell" and "damn" once or twice.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
All references are used in service of setting the scenes and are not gratuitous. Calpurnia's grandfather drinks whiskey and port daily, but he's not portrayed as drunken. He also smokes cigars. He offers Calpurnia whiskey on two occasions; she tries it and dislikes it. Brief mention of other adults drinking port and other alcohol at a celebration. Calpurnia's mother often takes a "tonic" for headaches that's later revealed to contain 20 percent alcohol.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.