The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate Essay - Critical Essays

Jacqueline Kelly

Literary Criticism and Significance

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, published in 2009, is quickly reaching the top of many people’s favorite lists, is on hold at libraries across the nation, and has garnered praise from critics and readers of all ages. It has won numerous awards, the most prestigious being the Newbery Honor Book Award. The story is aimed at young adolescents between the ages of eleven and fourteen but will be enjoyable for adults also. The story has been praised as “charming and inventive,” “witty,” and “deftly crafted.” Many have particularly praised the strong theme of science that was highlighted throughout the book. Each chapter starts with a brief, applicable paragraph from Darwin’s The Evolution of Species that sets the stage for the storyline to come in that chapter. Along with its scientific overtones, the historical aspects of the novel were also met with praise; one critic described it as “the most delightful historical novel for tweens in many, many years.”

The main character, Calpurnia, was praised as having “unexpected bravery” and as being “fresh and convincing,” “memorable, warm, spirited,” and “spunky.” Many readers and critics are clamoring for a sequel, as the book definitely leaves one wanting to know “what kind of adult Callie will become” as she continues to evolve and grow. As Calpurnia seeks to find her place in the world, readers will be able to relate to her frustrations and struggle for identity.

Because of its scientific leanings, some of the word choices might be difficult for some younger readers. In addition to some difficult words, the shift of the focus away from Callie to her friends and family members might be a struggle for readers who prefer the focus to remain on Callie. For the most part, however, readers will be thrilled with the creative and inventive mind of the main character and her foraging through the intricacies of human nature and the natural world around her.