Writer's Book Club


Join the Writer’s Book Club in discussing THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE! No membership or prior involvement required—jump in whenever you want! Discussions are open indefinitely.

To keep from spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it yet, I’ll post the discussion questions in the comments of this post. If you have read the book, click on “Comments” to respond with your thoughts. If you haven’t read it, then what are you waiting for?? Go out and get it!

Remember to be respectful of everyone, and the WBC should run smoothly. Let the discussion begin!


6 thoughts on “THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly


    1. Our first historical fiction for this book club! What do you think of the genre as a whole? If you read a lot of it, how does TEOCT rank in there? If you’re new to the genre, do you think you’ll try more of it in the future?

    2. I think we can safely say that this is a character-driven plot. Were you okay with the slow pace? If not, how do you think Kelly could have improved the plot or pacing?

    3. Voice is always so important, especially in this case: first person POV for an eleven-year-old girl in 1899. How did you feel about the voice? Could you identify with Calpurnia?

    4. In your opinion, what were the strong points of this book? The weak points?

    5. Share your favorite character and/or scene.

    Any miscellaneous thoughts?

  2. I think historical fiction is okay. I prefer pure history.
    This author was a good author, I just found the book to be boring.
    Once again, 1st person. Beginning to seriously hate 1st person!

    • Maybe you scared them off with your “this book is boring” comment! 😛 I know Ellie and I have been busy with WriteOnCon, and Sav and Vicki didn’t read the book. Not sure about the others.

      I prefer historical fiction to pure history (though I know that fiction takes liberties and doesn’t always “get it right”). I appreciate history, but I’m not good at remembering it. I like historical fiction cause it makes me feel like I was THERE, in that time and place. The characters help me relate and care more about it, and I’m more likely to remember the historical details. It’s a fun way to immerse myself in history.

      Apart from the history, other reasons why I loved TEOCT: 1) intriguing experiments + childlike ingenuity = funny ideas; 2) characters that seem real to me, especially Calpurnia and Granddaddy; 3) quiet humor that made me feel warm and fuzzy; 4) a wonderful voice that I got lost in; 5) a great combo of science and feminism.

      Calpurnia is kind of the 1899 version of my 11-year-old self. Or more accurately, everything I wish I had been at her age. So of course that makes me biased when it comes to the book, and I knew I ran the risk of looking silly when I picked it for this book club. But it did win the Newbery, so I’m not the only one who thinks it’s awesome!

      Pat, I know we’ve talked about this before, but I can’t remember why you hate 1st person so much. Can you remind me? 😀

  3. Well, mostly because I’ve been reading too much of it lately. If you’d asked me this a couple of years ago I’d say I just didn’t prefer it.
    The reasons: #1 – it’s too easy to write. (I know you’re not going to like that comment, or agree with it, but it’s what I think). It’s much more challenging to write in 3rd person perspective, and write good!
    #2 – it’s too limiting in its perspective, and thus becomes too limiting in its expression. How can you have foreshadowing, or misdirection, or any of the other wonderful tools of the artist? (Okay, you can, but it isn’t as effective, and tends to be a little more obvious)

    I think you just wanted to get me started on a rant! Shame on you. =)

    • Of course I wanted to start you on a rant. I needed some entertainment. 😀

      #1: Actually, I do agree with you: I find it’s easier to write 1st person. Which is probably why it’s so popular with all these new authors writing YA nowadays. Though in their defense, industry pros WANT 1st person, so I’m not sure who’s really to blame here. I originally started EOL in 3rd person and it was awful. When I switched to 1st person, I was able to develop the voice better. For TRE I tried 1st person present, and that was even easier. But I have another story idea that I think will be great in 3rd. I think it depends on the story; some are better suited for 1st or 3rd. I really think THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy should’ve been written in 3rd rather than 1st. And maybe the TWILIGHT series. But I think the PERCY JACKSON series is awesome in 1st person, because Riordan has a fabulous voice. I think great voice is crucial for 1st person. So it might be easier to write 1st person, but it might be harder to stand out in a stellar way.

      #2: Well, yeah, it’s limiting in PERSPECTIVE, but in expression?? Misdirection is so much easier with 1st person because most of the time the protag doesn’t know what’s going on! He/she doesn’t know what the other characters think or feel, unlike some all-knowing narrator who picks and chooses what to share with the reader and purposely hints at foreshadowing or misleads us. It’s rather annoying when you think about it. At least the 1st person protag is honest and revealing with what she does know, even if she is ignorant!

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