Children's Literature Reviews for Teaching History

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Monday, January 10, 2011

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly
Category: Historical Fiction 

Topic: Scientific Discovery, Everyday Life
Grade Level: 5-8
Students: A balanced mix of strong readers and struggling or reluctant readers
Rating by: Ann B.

Historically Accurate?
(4) Yes and also includes historical notes, primary sources, etc.
(3) Yes
(2) A few inaccurate or misleading portrayals
(1) Not a bit

An Engaging Story?
(4) Almost all students will beg to keep reading
(3) Most students will get caught up in the story
(2) Some students will read ahead by mistake
(1) Students will groan when the book is mentioned

Prompts Discussion?
(4) Students will still be talking about it in the hallway
(3) Will prompt discussion about major issues in the past as well as today
(2) Will prompt discussion about the characters and the events in the book
(1) Will not prompt discussion

(4) Everyone - even the most reluctant readers – can get on board
(3) Can be used for a whole class read
(2) Can only be used with a small high-powered reading group
(1) Recommend only to students that love reading

Age Appropriate Content?
____Too mature
_X__Just right
____Too simplistic

A Comment from Ann B.: 
I personally loved this book.  The main character Callie V felt very real, and it was interesting to think about the discovery of evolution in its historical context.  It would be a great way to link to science classes or provide a new angle on the Industrial Revolution, focusing on the scientific discoveries at the time rather than just the problems.  I personally couldn't use it as a whole class read because I have too many struggling readers who need a more action-packed book to keep their attention, but it would well for a small group.

Amazon's Product Description: 
"Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. 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 comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century. 

Debut author Jacqueline Kelly deftly brings Callie and her family to life, capturing a year of growing up with unique sensitivity and a wry wit."

Link to Reviews on Amazon
Link to the website of the author: Jacqueline Kelly
Buy this book from your local bookstore via Indie Bound

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