Friday, May 3, 2013

Just call me Calpurnia!

So I FINALLY got around to reading my graduation gift!  It's been less than a year since I received it, so compared to some of the books in my Mt. Everest of a to-read pile, it had a lot less dust on the cover!

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly was just a hoot to read.  It was given to me by my friend and colleague Mary, who is a history buff and reader extraordinaire.  It's a used edition in perfect condition, signed to a Mister John Sexton by the author herself.  Jacqueline Kelly is a local lady, residing both in Austin and in Fentress, Texas, the location of the leading young lady of her book.  Ms. Kelly is also a transplant, hailing from New Zealand, with several degrees to her name.  You don't become a lawyer AND a physician without some love of knowledge and learning, and she communicates those through the main character, Calpurnia Tate.
Calpurnia is an 11 year old girl living in rural Texas, fifty miles from the Austin capital, in 1899.  The middle child of seven, and the only girl, she is a nature-loving budding scientist before her time.  Luckily, she has a grandfather who is a member of the fairly new National Geographic Society, and he supports her efforts in forging a new path for herself.  There isn't a "pat" ending to the book, but you just know that Calpurnia is destined to be a scientist and explorer in her own right.

I connected with Calpurnia in two ways.  First, I am a lover of learning.  In school, I loved reading, biology, algebra, and art.  I couldn't decide what field I liked best, which is one of the reasons I became a teacher!  The other connection I made was with the snow scene in the final chapter.  I had a hard time coming to terms with adult responsibilities when I turned eighteen, until a freak snowfall in March 1984 in El Paso changed my mind.  I don't want to give too much away!

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a lovely read, especially for teachers of girls and of science.  If I was in a general ed fifth to ninth grade classroom, it would certainly be on my read-aloud list.  If I were a science teacher, there are passages I would certainly share with my class to spur their curiosity and observation skills.  As a history teacher, it would be a good start to a discussion of gender role expectations of that period as compared to the present.

A big thumbs-up for this book, and an even bigger thank you to Mary for giving it to me; it's a keeper!

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