MMGM: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I’ve been in a quandary over what to say about this week’s Operation Story Share, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

Here’s the inside cover copy:

The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia’s sleepy Texas town, and there aren’t a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine from town, but Callie might just have to resort to stealthily cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She also spends a lot of time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. It turns out that every drop of river water is teeming with life—all you have to do is look through a microscope!

As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and learns just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

Don’t get me wrong,  this is an excellent book—one of the best I’ve read in a while and I enjoyed it very much.

But . . . watch out, because what I’m about to say might rub your fur the wrong way: Just because adult editors/teachers/librarians/feline book reviewers love a book, doesn’t necessarily mean that kids will. Now, I’m not saying that all kids books should be filled with action, adventure, quirky silliness and farts—not at all! However, my tail gets in a knot when I meet kids who don’t like to read because the ONLY books they’ve ever been exposed to are something that an adult has deemed “worthy.”

Yes, we should expose kids to books that will stretch their minds and help them grow. After all, that’s the beauty of reading—experiencing the world in ways we might not be able to in real life. So, if a kid is ready to embrace a beautiful, quiet story about eleven-year-old Calpurnia in 1899 rural Texas, that’s great—this story could teach them to go for their dreams regardless of what others think.

But if they’re not ready, can we NOT force these types of books down their throats, just because they win awards from adult judges and we think they’re awesome? Can we let those kids read all the silly fart books their little hearts desire, in order to foster their love of reading? If we don’t turn them off, but create lifelong readers out of them, won’t they naturally come to these more challenging books eventually?

But that’s just my opinion. I’d love to hear what you think.

And now that I’m off my soapbox, I strongly recommend The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly for all you grownups and high-level middle-grade readers out there.

About flashthecatblog

I am the Professional Mews for Cindy Strandvold, as well as a huge fan of middle-grade books. Which, coincidentally, is the age Cindy writes for.
This entry was posted in Book Recommendation 2013, MMGM, Operation Story Share and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to MMGM: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

  1. I often worry that I write the kind of books adults praise and kids find boring. But I also do think there are kids that like the full range of books just like there are adults who do. Sometimes, I think kids might like a book like CALPERNIA TATE for reasons other than the ones that make adults see it as worthy. I’ve worried that the old fashioned farming elements in my book might seem dull to kids who have all kinds of flashy toys, but from the comments I get, I think it is the opposite. So many of them live with flashy electronics, that the kids who play low tech games outside all day are novel and interesting to them. I think I would have liked CT as a child but then again, I wasn’t necessarily your “normal child” so that might not be a good yard stick.

    • Good point. You’re right, kids might like books for reasons that adults would never guess. But I don’t think you have to worry about KATERINA’S WISH being boring with all the nail-biting conflict between her and that mean old shopkeeper!

  2. msyingling says:

    YES!!! This was a fine book, and I enjoyed it, but when it was on the Battle of the Books list, the students did not like it. These were very avid readers, too! Books don’t have to be silly, but they do have to have a fair amount of action- something has to happen. I’m glad I’m not alone in my opinion that there are a lot of books adults like the children just DON’T!

  3. Akoss says:

    You make a very good point here. As a kid I shied away from literary books or quiet books even though they were for my age range only because those books were a requirement from my teachers. Years later I finally saw their beauty but not when I had to read it because the adults around said to do so.
    I hope not to make too much of that mistake with my own kid later on.
    Now talking about the book featured, I would love to read it and I also think it could be a perfect choice to open a discussion with kids of that age.

    • Cindy was the same way. She was a huge reader, but there were many books she didn’t appreciate at all until she read them later for herself, without teachers harping about their themes and such. 🙂 But if the adults are enthusiastic enough and take the trouble to go through a book WITH the kids, like Dot suggested, I think that’s the best way to expose them to books they otherwise wouldn’t engage with.

  4. Dot says:

    Maybe if adults would read the books they love to the kids, it would increase the kinds of books kids like to read. I read all kinds to the kids at BES, but the best example is a first grade teacher that got most of her class wanting to check out “The Secret Garden” which had sat on the shelf for years. She loved it so much it rubbed off on them.

  5. Cindy, I was thinking, “Hear, hear!” as I read your post. The entire time I was reading Calpurnia, I was thinking how lovely the prose was, yet wondered how many kids would actually hug this book to their chests after reading it and say, “I adore this book!” Are there kids like that out there? Of course. As a librarian, I’m ready and willing to suggest this book to those kids who aren’t put off by long descriptive passages and a slow-moving plot. But you’re right in that it’s not for every, or even most, children.

    And Jeanne, I didn’t see Katerina’s Wish this way at all. There was a bit of romance, a high-stakes goal…I could go on. Tons of readers in my library have loved Katerina!

  6. I think you made many valid points in your review. I read this one and thought it was well-written and interesting. I think it is geared towards a more thoughtful and eager MG reader. 🙂 Great review!

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