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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Calpurnia Tate: the new American Girl?

"The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" by Jacqueline Kelly, although new this month, has already earned quite a bit of attention. Not only is it on the Chicago Public Library's "Best of the Best" list, it's cover boasts the seal of a Newbery Honor Book.

"The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia’s sleepy Texas town, and there aren’t a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine, but instead, Callie’s contemplating cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She’s also spending a lot of time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. But just when Callie and her grandfather are about to make an amazing discovery, the reality of Callie’s situation catches up with her. She’s a girl at the turn of the century, expected to cook and clean and sew. What a waste of time! Will Callie ever find a way to take control of her own destiny?"

From the book's summary and reviews, the story reminds me quite a bit of the early American Girl books I grew up reading. I saw a commercial on TV recently for the new American Girl dolls, and the whole franchise seems to have lost touch with their beginnings. AG used to be so much more about teaching history and reading than having a cool, modern-day doll and all her thousands of pricey accessories.

"The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate", with its lovely silhouette cover, is aimed at a 9-12 age group. Watch a video about the book at Macmillan's website.


Sara said...

I totally agree about the American Girl series. I used to love them as a child -- they are what got me interested in history and historical fiction -- but now I think they've become too commercialized.
This book looks really good though -- something I would love to read and recommend to young readers.

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