The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

What a lovely read.  Sweet and spunky all at the same time.  I recommend it to both young and old.


Granddaddy and Calpurnia are discussing the Civil War and the beginning of his interest in Natural Philosophy:

“Our scout was returning, and I threw my arm in the air in silent signal to him and then, the most astounding thing, something flew – thunk! – into my hand.  In my shock, my hand closed around the thing tight, and I was amazed to feel warm fur against my palm.  It was a young bat, quite small, lying stunned in my grasp.”

“No,” I breathed. “No.”

“Yes,” said Granddaddy.  “I was almost as stunned as the poor animal.”

“What did you do?”

‘The creature and I regarded each other for a few minutes.  It had an intelligent eye and soft, tender fur.  It looked like a miniature fox.  The wing was leathery, yes, but not cool or repulsive; instead it was as supple and fine as a kid glove warmed by a lady’s hand.”

I wondered what I would do if a bat flew into my hand.  Probably shriek and drop it. Maybe even faint.  I considered this.  I’d never fainted in my life, but I thought it sounded like an interesting experience.


The story is small and local, but the ideas are large.  What is it to be a curious girl in Texas in 1900?  Where are the bounds between traditional social rules and the new world of science?  But never fear: there’s never a sense that the large ideas steal the word count or dominate the plot.  They’re only there as it pertains to the characters and the story.  Calpurnia’s mother, surrounded by boisterous sons, has a growing sense of urgency about teaching Calpurnia those all-important Accomplishments.  Calpurnia, surrounded by evidence that the transition between girlhood and womanhood will mean constriction, spends all the time she can manage with her Granddaddy, a stranger living in the same household until that wonderful summer when they discover each other as kindred spirits.

The story has natural selection, knitting, lumpy pie crusts, the ridiculous young romances of her brothers, Christmas oranges, and a great eye for the details that take us into Callie’s days as well as her thoughts.


That lady librarian had ruined my day, and I was determined to ruin someone – or something – else’s day….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.


I’d love that: a day to read and eat peaches.  Ahhhhh.  Wishing you the best of books and summer weather.


4 thoughts on “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

  1. hopewellmomschoolagain says:

    I loved this book, too, but my daughter read one chapter, yawned, and refused to go on–she’s much too cool to enjoy it now that she’s a cheerleader! Someday…….

  2. Maria says:

    Sarah, i have taken this book from the library after reading your post. I’m only beginning, but i like it a lot. Thanks for the recommendation.


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