Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

by Jaqueline Kelly

Dedication: "For my mother, Noeline Kelly; For my father, Brian Kelly; For my husband, Robert Duncan"

First paragraph: "By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat. We arose in the dark, hours before sunrise, when there was barely a smudge of indigo along the eastern sky and the rest of the horizon was still pure pitch. We lit our kerosene lamps and carried them before us in the dark like our own tiny wavering suns. There was a full day's work to be done before noon, when the deadly heat drove everyone back into our big shuttered house and we lay down in the dim high-ceilinged rooms like sweating victims. Mother's usual summer remedy of sprinkling the sheets with refreshing cologne lasted only a minute. At three o'clock in the afternoon, when it was time to get up again, the temperature was still killing."

Review: Set in late 1899, this story follows six months of Calpurnia (Callie Vee) Tate's life. I'd go as far as saying that it could be the most important six months of her life - her world begins to take shape and her future lies before her. During this book she begins the process of becoming the person she hopes to be. I think my favorite part of this story was her budding relationship with her grandfather.

It took me a long time to read this book. It wasn't that the book was boring, hard, or bad in anyway. It was just written a bit like any book you'd take and read when you have spare time. Take it to the park, the beach, or pull it out while you're waiting for dinner to finish cooking in the oven.

I was surprised by how interesting Kelly was able to make the summer/winter adventures of a young eleven/twelve year old girl. More improtantly, I was impressed by how interesting she was able to make learning a tiny bit more about evolution from an eleven/twelve year old girls perspective.

Callie Vee is a loveable character and I immediately connected with her. I especially felt for her when her parent's failed to understand what it was that made her tick; her Christmas gift was heartbreaking. And, while she may come off as a bit spoiled, she was definitely a great character to get attached to. I don't know what being the only girl of 8 children would be like but all of her "flaws" and quirks made sense. Why would a girl surrounded by so much male energy want to sit inside knitting?

Finally, did I mention how much I loved the relationship she found with her grandfather? It was definitely my favorite part of the book. I guess it's because I love the relationship I have with my own grandfather and I felt that it mirrored hers to an extent. Sometimes I feel like, although he has plenty of grandchildren, I'm the only one he sees. Calpurnia was able to learn so much from Captain Tate, an unexpected source for mounds of information, and that had me smiling from beginning to end.

Click here for Jaqueline Kelly's official website.

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