RTW_CalpurniaTateCover_2inchIf there is any justice in the world, this book should become an instant classic. The story of a girl growing up in small-town Texas at the turn of the 20th century, knowing somehow that being a “lady” like her mother isn’t enough of a life for her, Calpurnia Tate is a just a delicious, suspenseful, quirky, humane read. Callie discovers science and forges a bond with her formerly offputting, gruff, scary (and hard-drinking) grandfather. Good stuff. The book has a really feminist spirit but isn’t the least bit heavy-handed. And I can’t think of many other books for middle-grade readers that are about the life of the mind without being at all pretentious. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book.

Josie, alas, was put off by the cover. I haven’t been able to get her to read it, but I’ll keep working on her. I may also start it as a bedtime read-aloud — I think she’ll be hooked in a paragraph. Right now, though, she’s so into the Percy Jackson books, nothing new will be happening until plowed through all five. (Status: Almost done with Book 2.)

(I originally published a variant of this review on goodreads.com.)


  1. Laura November 4, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    When I discuss this book with fellow librarians the cover inevitably comes up, accompanied by words like “striking”, “gorgeous”, “eye-catching.” So to hear the “kid perspective” from your daughter is fascinating!

    I loved this as well, particularly the sense of place. Texas is truly its own character in the story.

  2. marjorieingall November 4, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Laura, I too adore the cover. But Josie says she likes FACES. I’m constantly grumping in a crotchety manner about all the jacket redesigns of classic books with newly cartoon-y illustrations, and all the new books with photographed covers — especially photos of white girls with long hair. Gah. But Josie likes everything I hate! (Among the books she’s read lately, she especially loved the cover of 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass. I’m OK with that one — at least it doesn’t show the kids’ faces — and the front/back covers actually fit with the story.) Anyway. Josie thought Calpurnia’s cover looked “too grown up.” FWIW.

  3. Eleanor November 9, 2009 at 7:09 am

    I couldn’t find your mamale articles any more and so I googled you… and here I am in your commentbox. Great to be able to read you once again!

    I’m the Australian Eleanor who used to live in Providence, you know…with the baby girl (who’s now 18!!)…your parents would invite us over for dinner on the hagim. Saved my sanity at the time.

    I’m still a huge fan of your writing, and I’m so excited to see you have a new book out this year!

  4. marjorieingall November 9, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    eleanor!! of course!! hi!! i hope you’re well. “eleanor from the comment box” is awesome — sounds like the digital equiv of “jenny from the block.”

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