by Jacqueline Kelly
I thought I would love this book. Actually, I did enjoy reading it, for the most part.... I found the writing interesting and the turn-of-the-century setting delightful. The relationship that develops between the title character and her grandfather, of whom she was previously terrified, is nice, but it also bugged me that he is only interested in his granddaughter AFTER she expresses an interest in what HE is interested in, and completely ignores the rest of the family, including his 6 grandsons. Nevertheless, it was fun to read about the exploits of the only girl in a family of 6 brothers.
Then....the end left me feeling flat. I closed the book and said to myself, "What? That's it?" There was no "evolution" of Calpurnia. Aside from developing a relationship with her grandfather, she doesn't evolve. At the end of the book she is still the same preteen tomboy she was in the beginning. She has some interesting experiences, but I just didn't see the character building or transformation or "evolution" or whatever it was that was supposed to have taken place. Did I miss something?
The clincher is that I didn't care about Callie. I appreciated that she loves nature and wants to go to college and be a scientist. But her utter disdain for all things domestic is simply disappointing.... this is where the "evolution" should have come in; why doesn't she discover a bit of satisfaction in domestic pursuits and feel that she could feel fulfilled doing both? (Many women scientists of that time were also wives and mothers.) And what 12-year-old girl is not at least slightly interested in boys, or looking pretty? Sorry, it's just not realistic.
I wanted to give it 3 stars for good writing, but the author could have done a better job of character development, especially with the brothers.... they were quite "flat." Also, the story gets bogged down in science on occasion, and the book drags on far too long for such a simple story.
Age recommendation: 13 and up (though, quite frankly, I don't think anyone under 18 would find this book very interesting)
(I give the cover art 5 stars!)