Mock Newbery 2022 discussion

Book of the Month- 2010 > September Read - The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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message 1: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (sunnie) | 541 comments Mod
Many of us have already read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Do you think it is Newbery worthy?

message 2: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen (kathleena) | 34 comments I enjoyed The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate immensely. I plan to have my Newbery Club read it this fall. It has well drawn characters and the setting has been well developed historically. I'm not sure if it is Newbery worthy, but I will let my students decide.

message 3: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (sunnie) | 541 comments Mod
How old are your students? I'm just curious.

message 4: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen (kathleena) | 34 comments Kristen wrote: "How old are your students? I'm just curious. "

My Newbery Club is an after school activity that is open to boys and girls grades 5-8. I usually have around 10 or so kids sign up. It's an exciting club and we have great discussions. Another book we'll read this fall is When You Reach Me. Can't wait to see how they like that one. It's a great story full of suspense.

Maria [the clockwork creeps on useless lives] (mariachhile) I think it's worthy. It's actually my fave book that's not in a series

message 6: by LauraW (new)

LauraW (lauralynnwalsh) | 107 comments I am of two minds about Calpurnia Tate right now. I think I need to read it again. I was really enjoying it until the end. Then I couldn't figure out if Calpurnia was resigned to her fate as a domestic woman and enjoying the last bit of honor she got from working with her grandfather - or if she was reinforced by her role in the scientific discovery and would now go on to study further. I can't decide if I read it wrong, or if the author meant to leave it ambiguous.

I suppose it would be more realistic to think that she was now going to have to give up her dreams of working on science and instead learn how to cook and sew, but it is a bit disappointing to think of her as having to give in.

My grandmother lived around that time and she did go to college, so it was possible. On the other hand, she became a teacher and not a scientist, a profession that was more acceptable for women then.

message 7: by Library (new)

Library Maven (libmaven) | 17 comments I am about a third of the way through and I am really enjoying it. Kelly has created such an interesting character in Calpurnia! There is such wry humor in her voice ... regarding both her observations of people and the social mores of the time. It certainly has Newbery potential.

message 8: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (sunnie) | 541 comments Mod
Kathleen wrote: "Kristen wrote: "How old are your students? I'm just curious. "

My Newbery Club is an after school activity that is open to boys and girls grades 5-8. I usually have around 10 or so kids sign up...."

Thats great. I have often wished that when I was in school that they would have provided fun reading groups like that.

Do let us know what they pick when they vote. In fact I know there are quite a few in the group doing the same thing. It would be fun to know others results just to compare.

message 9: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 11 comments I liked this book more than the Swallows and Homer P. Figg (I didn't read Marcelo). I liked all the substories within the main one - it seems like it would work well to read aloud. My favorite was the piano recital. :) Though it is a fun read, I wonder if the overall message is powerful enough to qualify this book as a significant contribution to children's literature. What would kids come away having learned? Is it even important to have a strong message in a Newbery winner?

message 10: by LauraW (new)

LauraW (lauralynnwalsh) | 107 comments I see the message as being there: girls, follow your interests and you may just succeed. I don't think Newbery award winners necessarily require a message - a least any more than any book requires SOMETHING significant to happen. My question (see note above) is whether the message gets corrupted to: girls, follow your interests and you will be allowed to succeed, but only up to a point, which depends on how successful you are at resisting pressures from society and parents.

message 11: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 11 comments Laura, you are absolutely right. That was a pretty strong message, and I liked the way Calpurnia was able figure out what she wanted and also begin to anticipate potential roadblocks. I don't think it's a bad thing to resist societal pressures and even sometimes parental pressures for worthy goals. I do wonder though, if the message isn't slightly anti-family/motherhood.

message 12: by LauraW (last edited Sep 07, 2009 01:58PM) (new)

LauraW (lauralynnwalsh) | 107 comments Actually, I was/am worried that it is the opposite: it is ok to like observing nature and romping about with grandpa while you are young, but when it is time for you to grow up and assume the duties of womanhood, you have to put all that behind you. So enjoy your brief moment of science - motherhood is really the adult behavior.

message 13: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 11 comments So maybe the message by Ms. Kelly is a good medium. It is very realistic, if nothing else. Even though Calpurnia lived 100 years ago, girls today are still dealing with the same difficulties. They are told to gain an education and work toward a career, but if they marry and have children it is a real struggle to maintain both priorities. Both are important and both are desirable, but it is difficult to do well in both spheres.

message 14: by Danielle (new)

Danielle | 5 comments I was very excited to read this book because of all the buzz it had been getting. I liked the historical aspects of Calpurnia, and how it showed the challenges of being a girl, and wanting more than what was expected of one's gender. I found the setting to be very vivid, and the relationship between Calpurnia and her grandfather very strong. To some degree I enjoyed the vignette style reminding me very much of L.M. Montgomery.

I have to say though that overall I did struggle with the book. I didn't feel that the writing had a good flow, and reading it sometimes felt like work. I wonder if I picked up on that if younger readers may as well. At times I felt it to be over written, and felt the presence of the writer's pen. I feel it is a book that will appeal to a smaller group rather that satisfy a larger audience. Whether that fact is pertinent to if a book is Newbery worthy or not, I am not sure. Also, on the sensitivity to racial issues, I wasn't always satisfied, and at times even a bit uncomfortable.

message 15: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen (kathleena) | 34 comments I'm curious since the book takes place in 1899, how are racial issues insensitive? Things were different then than today and to cleanse them would not be true to the times. What issues were you thinking about exactly?

message 16: by Danielle (last edited Sep 12, 2009 12:39PM) (new)

Danielle | 5 comments Kathleen wrote: "I'm curious since the book takes place in 1899, how are racial issues insensitive? Things were different then than today and to cleanse them would not be true to the times. What issues were you ..."

(Sorry I didn't respond sooner, I was on the road.) I need to add a bit of a disclaimer, as I tend to sometimes over think some issues, and probably under think others. There were two points that set me back were the issue of race. The first was when Calpurnia was playing at picking cotton, and then Viola's reaction. I wasn't completely satisfied, and a bit confused with the explanation given of why it wasn't o.k. for Calpurnia. This was a minor issue, but one that struck me. The main one, (and here I may be totally over annalyzing), but one that did stand out for me is how through the first three chapters we meet most of the characters, and the chapters are rich, dense, and of length. When we get to chapter 4 it is a shorter chapter, it is the chapter where Viola is introduced in further detail, as is her role in Calpurnia's community. The same chapter also introduces the animals and pets. I felt it put "the help" a little bit on the same level as the pets, as with status and with importance. Whether that was intended, (probably not), and whether younger readers would pick up on that (doubtful), I didn't jive with it. Otherwise I thought the book did give a good sense of time and place. I know that race wasn't one of the main themes of this book, but if Chapter 4 hadn't struck me like it did, I would not even have mentioned it.

message 17: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (loveyourlibrary) | 7 comments Although I didn't think of chapter 4 in terms of race, I agree it felt out of place, it almost turned me off from the book all together. I do understand what you are saying about this issue and the character of Viola. It seems to me that maybe the author was exploring the roles of the sexes in this time and wanted readers to also think about race as well. At the same time the author didn't want to get into that issue.
Danielle wrote: "Kathleen wrote: "I'm curious since the book takes place in 1899, how are racial issues insensitive? Things were different then than today and to cleanse them would not be true to the times. What..."

message 18: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen (kathleena) | 34 comments Danielle wrote: "Kathleen wrote: "I'm curious since the book takes place in 1899, how are racial issues insensitive? Things were different then than today and to cleanse them would not be true to the times. What..."
I'll need to go back and reread Ch. 4. On a first read, I just thought of Viola as a hardworking, caring person who looked out for the needs of the children among her many duties. I will go back and look at it with other eyes.

message 19: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (sunnie) | 541 comments Mod
Did anyone read Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me? What did you think of it? Personally this one did not grab me as much as some others published this year. For me the best part of this book was the title. Who could resist a title like that?

I also read Slob and was surprised how much I liked it. We have already talked about it some but I just wanted to add that it was the most unpredictable book I have read in a long time. I truly did not know where the story was going.

message 20: by Katie (new)

Katie | 11 comments Just finished! And I enjoyed Calpurnia Tate more that I anticipated. The book jacket summary had me dreading this one as another historical fiction bummer, but Calpurnia's sense of humor won me over. I would have liked a bit more differentiation between the middle brothers--I kept on getting Travis, Sam Houston, and Sul Ross mixed up--but otherwise I quite enjoyed seeing the interactions between Calpurnia and her family. I have to agree with Laura that I found the ending to be ambiguous, which I personally think is kind of frustrating, but it seems like this will only increase the potential discussion of the book because everyone can imagine a different future for Calpurnia. I will be pulling for this one to make our Mock Newbery list because I thought the author vividly captured a specific time and place (the piano recital, her brothers' attempts at wooing Lula, the fair, Calpurnia's first snow), and did a good job balancing Calpurnia's scientific discoveries and growing love of studying the natural world with her life at home and school. I would totally read a sequel!

message 21: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (sunnie) | 541 comments Mod
Kelly said that she had an epilogue at the end of the book that went on to explain what happened to everyone and it included that Calpurnia went on to a university. In the end the epilogue was taken out. I think it's better without because like others have also said it lets you (in a way) decide the end of the story.

message 22: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen (kathleena) | 34 comments I wouldn't have wanted an epilogue. I like a more ambiguous ending. It's not always good to have everything neat and tidy at the end.

message 23: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (hilarylombardo) | 26 comments I just finished Calpurnia Tate and I loved some parts of it, but wasn't so fond of others. I thought Calpurnia was a great character. She's a little sassy, she's stubborn, she's curious, and she can even be a little bit of a pain in the ass while always still being likeable. She actually reminded me quite a bit of my best friend from Elementary school (but I digress). I also loved the setting. Texas in 1899 seemed pretty spot on to me (at least from what I know) with landscape, the way people lived, and the attitudes that characters have.
What I didn't love, though, was the pacing of the first half of the book. I kept thinking, well, I'm enjoying these little vignettes, but where on earth is this book going? It seemed to be lacking conflict until at least halfway through when Calpurnia realizes that a life of science isn't what her mother and society have intended for her. Although character and setting were steadily maintained throughout the book, I felt like the second half, as far as plot and pacing, was a different book from the first half. I wish the conflict would have been introduced earlier.

message 24: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 10 comments So far this is my favorite of all the Mock Newbery's we've read. I loved the characters, the science, the historical aspect, the relationships, the language, and just about everything in it. And as I told my adult book club that reads children's books, one of the things I loved about this book is that there is no suggestion of a sequel to come. It was such a pleasure to read a book that was whole unto itself. Definitely up there for this year's contender IMHO.

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