Nic's Reviews > The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
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Apr 18, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: sils-book-club-selection
Read in April, 2011, read count: 1

Even better than some of my other 4-star books. This is pretty much as much as I can like a book that is set in Texas and doesn't have any swordfights.

Wonderfully-drawn characters - I especially like Travis and his kittens - and a nice, upbeat book that does pretty well at not overdoing the cute. I'm especially pleased that (I almost feel this might be a spoiler, though an odd one) Grandaddy doesn't die. That would have bummed me out, both because he's such a great character and because people of his generation have an alarming, and sometimes obligatory-seeming, mortality rate in books, especially in books for young people. I'm aware that the elderly do sometimes die, but a lot of books seem to suggest that they do nothing else, least of all live. They pass on some kind of wisdom to the younger characters, the last bit of which is the ability to cope with death, which they most generously teach by kicking the bucket in some unglorious, non-sword-fighty way.

Funnily enough, I was also nervous about bad stuff happening in this book because it's historical fiction. And not historical fiction set in one of the fun* times, like Regency England. I spent some of my reading time being tense about this. "It's 1899. What awful things happened about then in the American South? IF ONLY I could remember anything from my American History classes besides that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin**!"

So, yes! A nice, positive book that looks at social issues of its time in the context of a big, wacky family and a rich historical setting. (Even if it is one that's located in Texas. Without swords.)





*Fun for the fictional characters who inhabit it more so than its actual inhabitants sometimes, I'm sure.

**Not true, as I learned last year. He invented a snazzy new version of the cotton gin, but people had been ginning cotton for, like, thousands of years. Especially in India. I suspect that if they hadn't, no one would have thought to plant the stuff in the American South. "Cotton? Sure, it's neat, but what can you DO with it?"
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Grace I didn't know that about Eli Whitney--and I did a presentation about him in sixth grade science class! Crazy. And I'm totally with you about the grandpa.


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