Anne Shirley, Meet Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly 

I love this book. The heroine and narrator, Calpurnia, is the latest in a long line of delightful young girls awakening to the world around them. While Calpurnia certainly belongs in the company of Anne Shirley, Pollyanna, and Rebecca Rowena Randall, she is someone entirely different. Her empirical mind and spit-and-vinegar spunk are refreshing and entertaining to readers of all ages. The story of the novel takes place over the course of about nine months, during which time Calpurnia develops a relationship with her Grandfather and with the natural world around her. As the demands of feminine adulthood in 1900 threaten to fence her in, Calpurnia develops an interest in science, learning, and a world beyond the kitchen and parlor. This book had me alternately laughing out loud and sighing sadly. I was left with a sense of unresolved tension between Calpurnia’s desires for her future and her family’s expectations for who she would become (her grandfather excepted), but other than that, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book.

The book speaks for itself better than I can. A few choice quotes:

Perhaps you’ve wondered, Can earthworms be trained? I’m here to tell you that they can.

Why do dogs have eyebrows? Why do dogs need eyebrows?

One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day long and eat peaches. And if any young knights in armor dared to come calling on their white chargers and plead with me to let down my hair, I would pelt them with peach pits until they went home.

“It’s amazing what you can see when you just sit quietly and look.” – Grandaddy

I plucked [a moth] from my hair, pulled back the burlap curtain, and chucked it out into the night. It promptly and enthusiastically flew back in my face, as if gusting on a high wind. I sighed. One thing I had learned for sure: You could not win when it came to class Insecta, order Lepidoptera.

Question for the Notebook: Why don’t people have pouches? Such a convenient way to keep a baby at hand. I tried to picture Mother with J.B. in a pouch. Answer: He’d never fit under her corset.

The novel is full of gems like this. You really should check it out.


2 thoughts on “Anne Shirley, Meet Calpurnia Tate

  1. Would a boy like reading it, do you think? We currently are doing a kid book club with Bryant and a friend or two. This sounds fun, but would like your opinion of age/gender appropriateness.

    Also, any recommendations you might have for said book club would be fabulous. B is 8 now, he’s reading and loving the Harry Potter books, Roald Dahl books, Mysterious Benedict Society… we’ve read The Witches, City of Ember and 39 Clues so far. We’re thinking of Wrinkle in Time next. Feel free to email me your suggestions if you get a chance! 🙂

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