Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

A few years ago I read the Jacqueline Kelly book "The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate." There I met an 11 year old, nature-loving girl, ahead of her time in 1899, living in Central Texas in a household with her folks, 6 brothers, and her grandfather. It was her grandfather, Captain Walter Tate (a fellow naturalist), that Calpurnia got the lessons she adored--those of the outside world and science (rather than piano lessons and the social norms of the time that her mother valued regarding the "domestic arts.")

All good books need a sequel or a series, and in "The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate" we have book 2.  Now a year older and facing 1900 and on the cusp of her 13th birthday, Calpurnia is back with her scientific notebook and pencil in hand, and a genuine interest in Charles Darwin’s book, “Origin of Species.” She used clues from her natural surroundings & discussions with her grandfather to predict the coming of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane--in a day and age before satellites, radar, and televised weather reports. She wanted to be a scientist or veterinarian, and was learning a little bit in the ways of the lacking women's rights in the year 1900. Especially when she saw that her weekly allowance and future in college differed from that of her brothers.

Yes, Calpurnia is a girl ahead of her time, which is why this book was a natural addition on a booklist of the Women of STEM/STEAM. The overall theme of a feminist pre-teen in the Victorian era was striking, making me very glad my daughter and I are in today's times, not any other early time period! 

Additionally, as I was reading the book this summer, these quotes spoke to me--on behalf of innovation, education, feminism (then and now), and current day nightly news.

From Grandfather:”Remember, Calpurnia, you learn more from one failure than 10 successes. And the more spectacular the failure, the greater the lesson learned.” (page 66-67)

“Why wouldn’t they listen?” Calpurnia hiccupped.
From Grandfather: " 'People often don’t. You can lay evidence before them, but you cannot make them believe what they choose not to.' "  (Also page 66)

"What about learning something new? Granddaddy always said that life was full of opportunities to learn something new about the world, and one should glean all one could from an expert in his field, no matter what that field might be.”  (page 153)

For anyone who likes historical fiction, plucky female characters, and a time before all our modern conveniences infiltrated our homes, both of these books make for a refreshing read.  Additionally, Jacqueline Kelly and Teagan White have a new series of chapter books to introduce Calpurnia to younger readers: "Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet." With the same strength of character and love of nature, there are more turn-of-the-century stories to tell!  Some of the titles include:

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