Book Activities for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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If you haven’t gotten your hands on The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate or the sequel,  The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly, stop reading this right now and go get them. I’ll wait. It really is that critical.

My kids have proclaimed these two books their favorite read alouds ever, and that says something because I have read a lot of books out loud to them in my 11 years of parenting and our 6 years of homeschooling. 

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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About the Books

From MacMillan Publishers:  “Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.”

What We Loved About The Books

Calpurnia loves science and being outdoors. She loves to learn and she defies the gender role stereotypes imposed on girls in 1900. She is a strong and determined female character. 

There is so much learning woven into the book, about the scientific method and how to approach nature study, about animals, plants and post-civil war history. This book is a great addition to a list of living books for studying that period of American history.

We loved Calpurnia so much that we created our own book club, complete with discussion questions and snacks.

I also made Calpurnia Science Notebooks for my kids. Calpurnia loves her notebook and uses it to sketch the things she observes in nature and to write down questions for further investigation.

See the books here:

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate  Winner of the Newbery Award

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

calpurnia tate quotes naturalist


You can download all the Calpurnia quotes from this post.

Download –> Calpurnia Tate Inspired Printables from Creekside Learning  pdf file.

Book Club Discussion Questions for The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate 

  1.  Why do you think Grandpa Tate is so interested in Calpurnia, but has trouble remembering the names of his other grandchildren?
  2. What do you think will happen to Calpurnia when she grows up? Will she achieve her dreams of going to the university and becoming a naturalist and scientist? Or will she have to follow her family’s plan for her of marrying and keeping house?
  3. How is life different for Calpurnia in 1899/1900 than it is for 12-year-old girls today? What would happen to a 12-year-old girl with the same dreams now?
  4. What do you think the future holds for the other characters? For Travis? For Harry? Granddaddy? Viola? 
  5. Calpurnia makes a list of things she wants to do before she dies: “The northern lights. Harry Houdini. The Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean…Niagara Falls. Coney Island. A kangaroo. A platypus. The Eiffel Tower. The Grand Canyon. Snow.” She does see snow at the end of the first book and the beginning of the second. Do you think she will see all the other things on her list in her lifetime?  If you were to make your own life list, what would you include?

Book Club Snacks  We chose pecan cookies, in honor of the Tate’s pecan grove and the prominence that pecans have throughout the book in the foods the Tates eat and Granddaddy’s experiments with distilling pecans.

We also had peaches in honor of this fabulous Calpurnia quote:

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate


How to Make a Calpurnia Science Notebook

There are so many wonderful Calpurnia quotes.  I chose a few for our notebooks but you may find others as you read that you want to copy into your notebook.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I took a simple composition notebook and covered it with a Calpurnia-inspired cover. You can download them below. Print it on brightly colored paper to match the Calpurnia books. (Note: To fit a composition notebook, I set my printer to scale up the size by 15 percent. You may have to play with it a bit.) This is the colorful paper I used to print them. 

Print the quotes and paste them randomly inside the notebook.

I told my kids they could do whatever they wanted with their notebooks:  Write down questions and observations, make sketches, doodle, take them outdoors when we do nature study or art journaling.

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

For more information about what ages this book is appropriate for,  read the detailed review at  Common Sense Media. I edited out a few things as I read aloud since my youngest listener is age 6. We also stopped and discussed a few things in depth, such as the anti-semitism of cousin Aggie that was briefly mentioned in the second book, the history behind Viola’s relationship with the family that is implied but not discussed (she was likely their slave pre-Civil War and now works for them in a similar role), and the many references to “the war” that are throughout the book. 

Download the notebook covers and quotes in a pdf document.–> Calpurnia Tate Inspired Printables from Creekside Learning

Calpurnia Tate

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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate