Subscribe to The Horn Book

Review of The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

kelly_curious world of calpurnia tateThe Curious World of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
Intermediate, Middle School     Holt     309 pp.
7/15     978-0-8050-9744-3     $16.99     g

Kelly returns to turn-of-the-last-century small-town central Texas to continue the story of nascent scientist Callie Vee. Kelly quickly fills readers in on essential background (only girl in the family, with six brothers; Callie’s avid pursuit of nature studies with formidable Granddaddy — check) before diving in to chronicle Callie’s thirteenth year. Like The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (rev. 9/09), this sequel is episodic, punctuated by birthdays and holidays and major events such as the September 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston. The glue that holds it together is one-year-younger brother Travis’s heartwarming search for a pet (and since he’s looking for stray-animal love in all the wrong places — an armadillo? a raccoon? baby blue jays? — it also provides some comic relief ). But the fuel is Callie’s growing understanding of herself as a young woman of intellect and ability in a world that isn’t ready for her. When the hurricane brings refugees to town, including a veterinarian, Callie discovers her vocation; but, says Dr. Pritzker, the work is “too much for a lady,” and Callie’s conventional parents can’t imagine sending a mere girl to veterinary college. Kelly seeds the story with enough small, stinging incidents of
gender discrimination that when eventually Callie stops weeping over “the hard fact of being a half citizen in my own home” and determines to find a way to fulfill her ambition, it’s both believable and cheer-worthy. A thought-provoking and engaging read, if not for those with delicate constitutions; here’s Dr. Pritzker treating a horse’s abscessed foot: “A great gout of foul-smelling black fluid erupted from the hoof; it fountained all the way across the stall and splattered on the far wall, missing us by inches.”

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*