The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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9780805088410: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a 2010 Newbery Honor Book and the winner of the 2010 Bank Street - Josette Frank Award. This title has Common Core connections.

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About the Author:

Jacqueline Kelly won the Newbery Honor for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, her first book. She was born in New Zealand and raised in Canada, in the dense rainforests of Vancouver Island. Her family then moved to El Paso, Texas, and Kelly attended college in El Paso, then went on to medical school in Galveston. After practicing medicine for many years, she went to law school at the University of Texas, and after several years of law practice, realized she wanted to write fiction. Her first story was published in the Mississippi Review in 2001. She now makes her home with her husband and various cats and dogs in Austin and Fentress, Texas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1 The Origin Of Species

When a young naturalist commences the study of a group of organisms quite unknown to him, he is at first much perplexed to determine what differences to consider... for he knows nothing of the amount and kind of variation to which the group is subject....

BY 1899, WE HAD LEARNED to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat. 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. We lit our kerosene lamps and carried them before us in the dark like our own tiny wavering suns. There was a full day’s work to be done before noon, when the deadly heat drove everyone back into our big shuttered house and we lay down in the dim high-ceilinged rooms like sweating victims. Mother’s usual summer remedy of sprinkling the sheets with refreshing cologne lasted only a minute. At three o’clock in the afternoon, when it was time to get up again, the temperature was still killing.

The heat was a misery for all of us in Fentress, but it was the women who suffered the most in their corsets and petticoats. (I was still a few years too young for this uniquely feminine form of torture.) They loosened their stays and sighed the hours away and cursed the heat and their husbands, too, for dragging them to Caldwell County to plant cotton and acres of pecan trees. Mother temporarily gave up her hairpieces, a crimped false fringe and a rolled horsehair rat, platforms on which she daily constructed an elaborate mountain of her own hair. On those days when we had no company, she even took to sticking her head under the kitchen pump and letting Viola, our quadroon cook, pump away until she was soaked through. We were forbidden by sharp orders to laugh at this astounding entertainment. As Mother gradually surrendered her dignity to the heat, we discovered (as did Father) that it was best to keep out of her way.

My name is Calpurnia Virginia Tate, but back then everybody called me Callie Vee. That summer, I was eleven years old and the only girl out of seven children. Can you imagine a worse situation? I was spliced midway between three older brothers—Harry, Sam Houston, and Lamar—and three younger brothers—Travis, Sul Ross, and the baby, Jim Bowie, whom we called J.B. The little boys actually managed to sleep at midday, sometimes even piled atop one another like damp, steaming puppies. The men who came in from the fields and my father, back from his office at the cotton gin, slept too, first dousing themselves with tin buckets of tepid well water on the sleeping porch before falling down on their rope beds as if poleaxed.

Yes, the heat was a misery, but it also brought me my freedom. While the rest of the family tossed and dozed, I secretly made my way to the San Marcos River bank and enjoyed a daily interlude of no school, no pestiferous brothers, and no Mother. I didn’t have permission to do this, exactly, but no one said I couldn’t. I got away with it because I had my own room at the far end of the hall, whereas my brothers all had to share, and they would have tattled in a red-hot second. As far as I could tell, this was the sole decent thing about being the only girl.

Our house was separated from the river by a crescentshaped parcel of five acres of wild, uncleared growth. It would have been an ordeal to push my way through it except that the regular river patrons—dogs, deer, brothers—kept a narrow path beaten down through the treacherous sticker burrs that rose as high as my head and snatched at my hair and pinafore as I folded myself narrow to slide by. When I reached the river, I stripped down to my chemise, floating on my back with my shimmy gently billowing around me in the mild currents, luxuriating in the coolness of the water flowing around me. I was a river cloud, turning gently in the eddies. I looked up at the filmy bags of webworms high above me in the lush canopy of oaks bending over the river. The webworms seemed to mirror me, floating in their own balloons of gauze in the pale turquoise sky.

That summer, all the men except for my grandfather Walter Tate cut their hair close and shaved off their thick beards and mustaches. They looked as naked as blind salamanders for the few days it took to get over the shock of their pale, weak chins. Strangely, Grandfather felt no distress from the heat, even with his full white beard tumbling down his chest. He claimed it was because he was a man of regular and moderate habits who never took whiskey before noon. His smelly old swallowtail coat was hopelessly outdated by then, but he wouldn’t hear of parting with it. Despite regular spongings with benzene at the hands of our maid SanJuanna, the coat always kept its musty smell and strange color, which was neither black nor green.

Grandfather lived under the same roof with us but was something of a shadowy figure. He had long since turned over the running of the family business to his only son, my father, Alfred Tate, and spent his days engaged in “experiments” in his “laboratory” out back. The laboratory was just an old shed that had once been part of the slave quarters. When he wasn’t in the laboratory, he was either out hunting specimens or holed up with his moldering books in a dim corner of the library, where no one dared disturb him.

I asked Mother if I could cut off my hair, which hung in a dense swelter all the way down my back. She said no, she wouldn’t have me running about like a shorn savage. I found this manifestly unfair, to say nothing of hot. So I devised a plan: Every week I would cut off an inch of hair—just one stealthy inch—so that Mother wouldn’t notice. She wouldn’t notice because I would camouflage myself with good manners. When I took on the disguise of a polite young lady, I could often escape her closer scrutiny. She was usually swamped by the constant demands of the household and the ceaseless uproar of my brothers. You wouldn’t believe the amount of chaos and commotion six brothers could create. Plus, the heat aggravated her crippling sick headaches, and she had to resort to a big spoonful of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, known to be the Best Blood Purifier for Women.

That night I took a pair of embroidery scissors and, with great exhilaration and a pounding heart, cut off the first inch. I looked at the soft haystack of hair cupped in my palm. I was striding forth to greet my future in the shiny New Century, a few short months away. It seemed to me a great moment indeed. I slept poorly that night in fear of the morning.

The next day I held my breath coming down the stairs to breakfast. The pecan flapjacks tasted like cardboard. And do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. No one noticed in the slightest. I was mightily relieved but also thought, Well, isn’t that just like this family. In fact, no one noticed anything until four weeks and four inches went by and our cook, Viola, gave me a hard look one morning. But she didn’t say a word.

It was so hot that for the first time in history Mother left the candles of the chandelier unlit at dinnertime. She even let Harry and me skip our piano lessons for two weeks. Which was just as well. Harry sweated on the keys so that they turned hazy along the pattern of the Minuet in G. Nothing Mother or SanJuanna tried could bring the sheen back to the ivory. Besides, our music teacher, Miss Brown, was ancient, and her decrepit horse had to pull her gig three miles from Prairie Lea. They would both likely collapse on the trip and have to be put down. On consideration, not such a bad idea.

Father, on learning that we would miss our lessons, said, “A good thing, too. A boy needs piano like a snake needs a hoopskirt.”

Mother didn’t want to hear it. She wanted seventeen-year-old Harry, her oldest, to become a gentleman. She had plans to send him off to the university in Austin fifty miles away when he turned eighteen. According to the newspaper, there were five hundred students at the university, seventeen of them wellchaperoned young ladies in the School of Liberal Arts (with a choice of music, English, or Latin). Father’s plan was different; he wanted Harry to be a businessman and one day take over the cotton gin and the pecan orchards and join the Freemasons, as he had. Father apparently didn’t think piano lessons were a bad idea for me though, if he considered the matter at all.

In late June, the Fentress Indicator reported that the temperature was 106 degrees in the middle of the street outside the newspaper office. The paper did not mention the temperature in the shade. I wondered why not, as no one in his right mind spent more than a second in the sun, except to make smartly for the next patch of shadow, whether it be cast by tree or barn or plow horse. It seemed to me that the temperature in the shade would be a lot more useful to the citizens of our town. I labored over A Letter To The Editor pointing this out, and to my great amazement, the paper published my letter the following week. To my family’s greater amazement, it began to publish the temperature in the shade as well. Reading that it was only 98 in the shade somehow made us all feel a bit cooler.

There was a sudden surge in insect activity both inside the house and out. Grasshoppers rose in flocks beneath the horses’ hooves. The fireflies came out in such great numbers that no one could remember a summer with a more spectacular show. Every evening, my brothers and I gathered on the front porch and held a contest to see who could spot the first flicker. There was considerable excitement and honor in winning, especially after Mother took a scrap of blue silk from her sewing basket and cut out a fine medallion, complete with long streamers. In between headaches she embroidered FENTRESS FIREFLY PRIZE on it in gold floss. It was an elegant and much-coveted prize. The winner kept it until the following night.

Ants invaded the kitchen as never bef...

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Descripción Henry Holt Company, United States, 2009. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a 2010 Newbery Honor Book and the winner of the 2010 Bank Street - Josette Frank Award. This title has Common Core connections. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780805088410

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Descripción Henry Holt Company, United States, 2009. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a 2010 Newbery Honor Book and the winner of the 2010 Bank Street - Josette Frank Award. This title has Common Core connections. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780805088410

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Descripción Henry Holt Company, United States, 2009. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. 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. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a 2010 Newbery Honor Book and the winner of the 2010 Bank Street - Josette Frank Award. This title has Common Core connections. Nº de ref. de la librería BZE9780805088410

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