THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE

Jacqueline Kelly

Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones. With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

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Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones. With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

Debut author Jacqueline Kelly deftly brings Callie and her family to life, capturing a year of growing up with unique sensitivity and a wry wit.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a 2010 Newbery Honor Book, a New York Times bestseller, and the winner of the 2010 Bank Street-Josette Frank Award.

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  • Square Fish
  • Paperback
  • January 2011
  • 368 Pages
  • 9780312659301

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About Jacqueline Kelly

Jacqueline Kelly won the Newbery Honor for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, her first book. She was born in New Zealand and raised in Canada, in the dense rainforests of Vancouver Island. Her family then moved to El Paso, Texas, and Kelly attended college in El Paso, then went on to medical school in Galveston. After practicing medicine for many years, she went to law school at the University of Texas, and after several years of law practice, realized she wanted to write fiction. Her first story was published in the Mississippi Review in 2001. She now makes her home with her husband and various cats and dogs in Austin and Fentress, Texas.

Author Website

Praise

Callie’s transformation into an adult and her unexpected bravery make for an exciting and enjoyable read. Kelly’s rich images and setting, believable relationships and a touch of magic take this story far.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

Interwoven with the scientific theme are threads of daily life in a large family—the bonds with siblings, the conversations overheard, the unspoken understandings and misunderstandings—all told with wry humor and a sharp eye for details that bring the characters and the setting to life.Booklist, starred review

Readers will finish this witty, deftly crafted debut novel rooting for “Callie Vee” and wishing they knew what kind of adult she would become.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review

A charming and inventive story of a child struggling to find her identity at the turn of the 20th century… there’s no uncertainty over the achievement of Kelly’s debut novel.”School Library Journal, starred review

Discussion Questions

1. What are some of the advantages Calpurnia enjoys as the only girl in her family of seven children?

2. Why is Calpurnia so annoyed by her brothers’ interest in Lula? How does Calpurnia decide to handle the situation?

3. How do Calpurnia and her grandfather make their initial connection? What is Grandfather’s reaction to Calpurnia’s interest in the natural world?

4. Why don’t Calpurnia and Lula ever have to perform in another recital after their first one? What is their reaction to the news?

5. Why is Calpurnia upset with Harry when she discovers he is courting Miss Minerva Goodacre? What does Calpurnia do about it that causes Harry to be angry with her?

6. Why is Calpurnia the only grandchild Grandfather spends any time with? How does Calpurnia feel about her grandfather?