Kelly, Jacqueline. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Henry Holt, May 2009. ISBN 978-0-8050-8841-0. Ages 9-13.
Calpurnia Tate is the only girl in a family of seven children living outside Lockhart, Texas in 1899. Against her mother's wishes that she become a proper, marriagiable young lady, twelve-year-old Calpurnia has ambitions to become a scientist and answer the many questions she poses in the notebook her oldest brother, Harry, gives to her.
Calpurnia finds a kindred spirit in her Granddaddy, who spends his retirement studying Central Texas wildlife and flora when he's not trying to distill pecans into some sort of drinkable whisky. Calpurnia learns about the Scientific Method, reads The Origin of Species, and becomes acquainted with Dickens under her grandfather's tutelage.
The book takes a little while to get going, with a serious lack of dialogue for several chapters. Soon, though, Calpurnia's character begins to blossom and it's easy enough for the reader to become engrossed in Calpurnia's life. The book is episodic, with the characters driving the book more than a strong plot. It's an easy book to come back to and enjoy in several sittings without losing pace with the action. I would have appreciated a little more development of Granddaddy and some of the other secondary characters, but overall I thought this was a nice debut novel.