THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly (Holt, May 2009) seems a fitting book to blog today on the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. Calpurnia, called Callie Vee by most of her family, hates the oppressive heat of the Texas summers. Most afternoons, while her family tries to nap in the shade, she heads for the nearby San Marcos River for a cooling dip. While she is floating on the water, she notices the life that surrounds her: insects, lizards and frogs, trees, and the like. Before long she is making notes in a journal, an amateur naturalist in the making. Calpurnia's gradfather, a veteran of the Civil War, is an imposing figure. However, Calpurnia learns that he too is a naturalist. The two begin to work side by side as time permits. Soon they discover what they believe to be a new species of plant life.
Chapters open with quotes from Darwin's ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES. Within those chapters careful readers will note not just evidence of what Darwin was discussing in terms of plants and animals, but also the quiet and gradual evolution of young Calpurnia.