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“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?”
“That summer” is the summer of 1899 and it is a scorcher. Amid the heat and the drought though, Callie is finding out who she is. She is a born scientist. She is a little lost in the shuffle of all those brothers, but one day, desperate for an answer to a scientific question, she bravely goes out to confront her eccentric grandfather in his “laboratory.” The rest is history. The two recognize a “kindred spirit” in each other and set out on scientific pursuits together. Granddaddy encourages Callie in all her experiments and dreams, seeing past her gender to her brilliant mind, but slowly Callie realizes that she is destined for a life of embroidery and children and cooking. She is not happy.
I love Calpurnia Tate. She is a childhood heroine for the ages, joining the likes of Anne Shirley in my heart. I do not say that lightly. I have loved Anne for about 20 years, but now she has good company with Callie.
Calpurnia is a thinker and a quiet fighter. When her mother tells her she can’t cut her hair, she does it an inch at a time. I have utmost faith that her fighting spirit will help her get what she wants and prepare the way for women who follow. She is funny and honest and she tries so hard to make her family happy with her. She is far from perfect and gets into some hilarious scrapes. She has a gigantic heart and tries to help those she loves any way she can. I wish I could know her in real life.
I love Granddaddy too. There’s a line that I can’t find now that says something about how Calpurnia and Granddaddy almost missed each other even though they live under the same roof. Callie wouldn’t be the girl she is without Granddaddy encouraging her. One person who believes in you can make all the difference in the world, and Granddaddy was that person for Callie. He is pretty funny too. He doesn’t have much patience for Callie’s long-suffering mom and will occasionally put her in her place with a perfect one-liner.
This book is pretty much perfect. I was lost in Callie’s world as I read along, flipping pages quickly to find out what she would get up to next, but not wanting to finish either. I wasn’t ready to be done with Callie’s story.
The ending was absolutely perfect. It’s a quiet moment, but it foretells big things in Calpurnia’s future. I was beaming as I finished.
I can’t recommend this highly enough. Everyone should read it, but little girls with big dreams will find a kindred spirit in Miss Calpurnia Virginia Tate.
Read an excerpt.
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