Welcome to KidLit Gems, a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Planting Seeds

Text © 2009, Jacqueline Kelly


Historical Fiction

Age Range:
9-12 years

Grade Level:

Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Macmillan Publishers


2010 Newbery Honor Award

2010 Bank Street – Josette Frank Award

The IRA Children’s Book Award
North Carolina Young Adult Book Award
Virginia M. Law Award
Judy Lopez Book Award

We arose in the dark, hours before sunrise, when there was barely a smudge of indigo along the eastern sky and the rest of the horizon was still pure pitch. ~ The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

In The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate the beloved Callie Vee’s independent and curious nature takes the reader on an adventure into the lives of a spirited, small town Texas family. Kelly’s rich settings and attention to detail aptly fits the scientific investigations that 11-year old Callie and her cantankerous Granddaddy explore.  And like Darwinism, the strong survive! The question is, will Callie endure, or will she be like the green grasshoppers that get eaten before they fully mature? I found myself rooting for Callie to evolve beyond the southern ladylike conventions of “housewifery” so she could follow her intellectual inquisitiveness..
~ Kristi

Great. I could see the newspaper: Girl Scientist Thwarted for all Time by Stupid Sewing Projects. Loss to Society Immeasurable. Entire Scientific Community in Mourning.  ~The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The book cover reveals that its author, Jacqueline Kelly, is not only a Newbery-winning novelist; she’s also a practicing physician and lawyer. For Dr. Kelly, Esquire, I apologize, but this cosmically lopsided distribution of brilliance made me swear in my Yosemite Sam voice, “Oooooo. I hate that woman.”

Luckily, southern charm and dry humor won me over. Calpurnia made me laugh out loud when she compared unpleasant thoughts to “a bothersome, bad smelling dog demanding attention” and wondered why dogs have eyebrows. I’m convinced that Calpurnia earned her doctorate in the sciences–and maybe a law degree and a Newbery, too. By page 340, I vicariously celebrated the victories of Calpurnia and Jacqueline. You might say I evolved.
~ Anna


Watch for The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. Expected publication date: July 7, 2015.

KEM Sapphire

Watch for Lou’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What children’s books plant seeds of wisdom or wonder in you?


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