Friday, July 31, 2009
I am a proud reviewer for School Library Journal. I started off reviewing nonfiction series for middle/high school (you can request that you be considered for certain genres/formats, but I checked everything when I sent my application). Eventually, I started to receive middle grade/YA fiction, and I've been exclusively reviewing in that area ever since.
I haven't received any real clunkers yet, but every once in a while, I receive something that's so amazing and so wonderful that it's truly an honor (and a scary responsibility) to be given it to review. That's exactly what happened when I began to read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Right away, I knew that this was something very special. I'm not supposed to really discuss anything that I'm reviewing until the review is published (if it is published....occasionally, a review isn't published for lack of space, but I haven't had that happen in a while). Believe me, it was difficult to not talk about this book!
Calpurnia is a remarkable and joyous creation. As she is more interested in the natural sciences than in learning to be a proper lady from a small-town upper class family, her interests, desires, and frustrations naturally cause havoc with her mother (the story ends at the turn of the last century). Thankfully, she has her grandfather in her corner, who surreptitiously feeds her books from his library (including the controversial Origin of the Species, recently published and causing quite the storm).
Calpurnia's growing sense of self, her life with six brothers, her adventures with her grandfather, and her tussles with her proper mother are sensitively and, at times, hilarious portrayed by Jacqueline Kelly in her debut novel. While it's always (well, usually) a treat to read a new book by a well-established author, it's a true joy to read a terrific book from a debut author.
There are scenes which left me laughing and near tears, often within pages of each other. It's just a beautiful, honest, and amazing book. If you haven't read it, you really must.