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Author: Jacqueline Kelly | Website | Release Date: May 12th, 2009
Publisher: Square Fish (Henry Holt & Co) | Genre: Historical Fiction| Pages: 338 |

I’ll admit it straight off. I was a little bit leery about today’s feature simply because it’s a required read for my middle grade literature class. I remember seeing this on my syllabus back this summer and then checking out the summary. It seemed like a book I would enjoy, but it’s a hefty MG read–and historical fiction. Not my favorite.
But wowser—this is one of those books where I shouldn’t have judged a book by it’s genre! I loved it!!

I bought my very own copy to read for class. I was not compensated in any way for my review (cross my heart) nor did I promise a good rating. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% mine. Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted every Monday at author Shannon Messenger’s blog


The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia’s sleepy Texas town, and there aren’t a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine, but instead, Callie’s contemplating cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She’s also spending a lot of time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. But just when Callie and her grandfather are about to make an amazing discovery, the reality of Callie’s situation catches up with her. She’s a girl at the turn of the century, expected to cook and clean and sew. What a waste of time! Will Callie ever find a way to take control of her own destiny?

-via book jacket

5 Reasons Why This Books is Marvelous!

  1. Ok. I love books with strong heroines. Calpurnia Virginia Tate (aka Callie) is wonderfully awesome!! Yes, this book is over 300 hundred pages, and there are some vocab words even I had to look up, but if you have a daughter or know of a girl between 10 and maybe 14 years old who is a voracious reader, please please please put this book in her hands. I love the message that Callie gives to readers without overly giving it. Yes, I think this could be read with a slight feminist undertone–but really, Callie is a girl who doesn’t want to do the typical thing girls do during her time frame. She doesn’t want to just stay at home to cook, and clean, and sew. She wants more than that!! I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with women who do that (heck, at some point I’ll probably be staying at home with kids and doing that) but it’s the thought that there is more. That we as woman are capable of great things. It’s definitely a book of empowerment–but also for standing up for oneself and having the courage to be who we are.
  2. I’m usually not a fan of Historical Fiction, but in the last year I’m learning that my “usually” is changing. I can’t just judge a book by it’s genre–I have to read it and live in it to fully be there. And this is a book I lived in. Kelly’s writing is absolutely beautiful. From the very beginning of the story she drew me in with her vivid descriptions and immersed me in the time period. I felt like I was living in 1899 Texas–and at times I even liked it! It’s a book where you know Kelly did her research and immersed her soul so much into this book that it seeps out through her words. That’s a story that I love.
  3. The concept/plot is so interesting. Callie is so determined to be different (after all, she’s one girl in a family of 7 kids.) Her connection with her grandfather is neat–he inspires her, and challenges her, and helps her realize her dreams. She also has a deep connection with her oldest brother, Henry, and both of these relationships are so special within the story line. Sure, Callie has a best friend– Lula–but the concept of family is big in this novel. I think there are underlying messages here that older readers will be able to take away–about love and value–without necessarily knowing what they are picking up on.
  4. Though this is  a novel that takes place in the past, I think that it speaks to our society a bit. This is a time when TVs, the internet, & video games didn’t exist. Heck–when the first and only ONE telephone comes to Callie’s town it’s a huge event for everyone! Needless to say, Callie and the rest of her siblings are always outside. There are thoughts of nature and idea about the importance of being outside. As a kid, I loved being outside. Sure, I read a lot of books in the shade–but I was sitting outside enjoying the sunlight and air. I hope that sort of idea is something kids can take away from Kelly’s story. It’s important to value nature and to be a part of it.
  5. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate was a Newberry Honor book the year it came out. I’m always a lover of Newberry books mostly because the people deeming them worthy know what they are talking about. I could go on for hours about this story, but I’m going to let this last marvelous tip speak for itself. It’s a book that when finished will leave the reader smiling and thinking–and what more could a book ask for?

must-readBook Talk: Have you ever read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate? What’s your stance on historical novels? Do you judge them by their genre like I do?

Hopeful reading!