When I think of my childhood, I am reminded of the simple everyday activities that made life fun: Climbing a tree. Playing in the ditch. Listening to crickets. Those were the days.
Approaching the age of reflection (which started as I entered my 30’s) I’ve realized that these memories are precious, because they are from a time of no constraints, no rushing, plenty of space, and imagination unsullied by the baggage of a grown-up perspective. When I started reading Jaqueline Kelly’s The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, it triggered memories of the small but defining moments of my own childhood, making it one of those “I’ll finish when I’m finished” types, that I would read into the wee hours.
Curious World is a follow up novel to Kelly’s Newberry Award-winning The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. It’s a slice of life story, following Callie Vee (Calpurnia’s nick name) and her family for one year. It starts with Callie’s softhearted brother bringing home stray animals, and while she scolds him for it, she helps him with it too. The dynamics of her family are spelled out clearly within the tale: While Callie is definitely the smartest (as recognized by her scholarly grandfather), she’s still the least respected and least likely to attend college, given her gender and it being the year of our Lord 1900; this is demonstrated through comments, and not in the least in the gift her father brings her back from a trip: A 5 dollar gold piece, a mere half of what is given to her brothers. When a new veterinarian comes to town, Callie discovers her calling, but must fight to do what she loves. When tragedy grips her world, Callie learns that she can overcome any obstacle, human or otherwise.
Callie’s narrative is clear, determined, and in the right age range for middle graders. Although she speaks in a manner that’s completely different than today’s youth, she’s entirely relatable, and after the first few pages, the reader falls into her cadence easily. She describes minutiae with reverence, bringing those small but important moments to life. She remains undaunted by the constant adversity she receives for her progressive ideas. Instead of giving up, Callie Vee comes up with a plan to prevail, teaching the readers that, no matter the circumstance, you can achieve more; try harder and let those nay-sayings fall on deaf ears. This is an especially important theme, particularly since the nay-sayers in this book are her family, trying to enforce their way of life on her. In this case, another important lesson for the younger generation: Adults are fallible, and not everyone fits into the same little box. Callie’s journey of discovery into veterinary medicine is fascinating, and the author has clearly done her homework on medical conditions and the nature of animals, enriching the plot. She’s unyeilding in her efforst to follow her passion, and it is something that pays off for her.
This book inspires the youngster I am at heart to refocus on my own goals and dreams. Callie Vee will be a great inspiration to all readers that are lucky enough to find this book on their shelf.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate in exchange for an honest review. Read about our review policy HERE.