Follow by Email

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Curious World


When a sequel seamlessly takes the reader to the character's wiser and more thoughtful world, it is a pleasure to read. All the while bringing bits of past events and people to the story (sometimes with help from carefully placed reminders), Jacqueline Kelly did this so well with The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. Calpurnia remains a plucky, inquisitive young girl, perhaps, as the book's title suggests, even more curious than she was in the Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Her connection to her often cantankerous ("Enter if you must") grandfather continues to bring her opportunities for scientific discovery. His gift to her of Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle provides fodder for her observations of the natural world, and his willingness to guide her in making objects to measure (a barometer) and notice (a navigator's astrolabe) solidifies his role as the most trusted adult in her life. Each chapter begins with a relevant quote from Darwin's book.

What I admire most about Calpurnia is her determination. As her younger brother Travis acquires unlikely and inappropriate pets, she seeks information about the creatures in an effort to dissuade him or make it easier to keep the animals. When her cousin Aggie comes to live in her room after the Galveston flood of 1900, she makes the best of it and even acquires a new skill that allows her to make some money. Most important, she realizes the injustices of her world, specifically the discrimination against females, and finds ways to learn, to save, to seek the future she wants. 

As I choose books for the readers at our school, I must ask myself who might read certain titles. Some are easy to place in the right reader's hands. Others, like this book, will appeal to certain readers who would love Calpurnia's curiosity and resolve. I know the names and preferences of those readers. They, in turn, will recommend it to friends, getting the book to a wider audience. I am willing to bet some of those readers will want to make their own barometers or astrolabes, inspired by Calpurnia.