Calpurnia lives on a cotton plantation in Texas in 1899. She is the only girl in a family of boys, and her mother is determined that she should become a proper southern lady. Calpurnia has other ideas. She loves nature and she loves science. She finds a scientific soul mate in her Grandfather, who is an amateur naturalist. They love to spend time together collecting samples, and noting observations in Calpurnia's notebook. In addition to balancing the demands of her mother and her time with her grandfather, Calpurnia must manage her brothers, and all the changes going on in their lives. It is a big job, but Calpurnia Tate is up to the challenge.
I really enjoyed this book. The family is realistic without being dysfunctional. The different characters are well defined and endearing. There is some mention of Darwin, evolution and the philosophical controversy that Darwin's findings engendered, but it is not the main focus of the book. I especially liked that, even though Calpurnia's dreams are different than her mother's plans for her, she is never rebellious or defiant. She just steadily works toward her own goals and gains the respect of those around her. This is a good choice for those who liked Anne of Green Gables or The Penderwicks. It is also amazing that it is squeaky clean-- no sex, violence or major edgy social issue--and still it won a Newbery Honor. If nothing else, that fact alone makes this a unique and rare find.(340 p)