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EconKids Home Book of the Month December 2011. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate / by Jacqueline Kelly

December 2011. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate / by Jacqueline Kelly

Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
ISBN: 978-0-312-65930-1
Year: 2009 (paperback 2011)

Concepts: economics of gender, discrimination, occupations, unpaid work

Review: As the only daughter in a family of seven children, eleven-year-old Calpurnia Tate had trouble conforming to the strict gender norms that dictated what she learned in school, how she was supposed to spend her time, and what she could dream about for her future. In 1899 in rural Texas, girls like Callie in relatively wealthy families were expected to limit their aspirations to cooking, sewing, and ultimately marrying and raising their own children.

Callie, however, enjoyed nothing more than plodding around by the river observing animals, insects, and fauna, and taking notes in her special journal. This love of science brought Callie closer to her reticent grandfather, who had left the daily operations of the cotton gin and pecan orchards to his only son -- Callie's father -- so he could spend full days as an amateur naturalist. Her mother, however, had every intention of keeping Callie busy with cooking lessons and handiwork improvement. Would Callie manage to protect her time with her grandfather and chart her own course in the face of such strong expectations to do otherwise?

This expertly-woven story combines a powerful coming-of-age theme with entertaining vignettes about life in a large household abuzz with activity and commotion. Central to the main story line are important themes in economics concerning gender bias within households in the allocation of unpaid domestic work, and, closely related, the concentration of men and women in different types of occupations. The book's 2010 Newbery Honor is richly deserved.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children


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