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.