Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Corner View: Wisdom from an Elder
For the past three nights, we have been reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate as our bedtime story.
I usually read books to myself first, before sharing them with Blaze, but this time I didn't. If I had read it first, I probably would have waited a couple more years before introducing it to him. Tonight's reading included descriptions of violence both on and off the battlefield and it was all I could do to hold back the tears while reading aloud. It is an engaging book, though, and Blaze has asked me to continue reading it in the morning, which is his ultimate compliment to literature.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is the story of a young girl ( 11 years and 3/4) in 1899, who bonds with her Grandfather over their love of studying the natural world around them. Calpurnia becomes interested in natural selection, by watching the grasshoppers in her yard, but when she decides she would like to read Mr. Darwin's book on the subject, she is told by the public librarian that they would never keep such a book on their library shelves, that it would have to be ordered from another library, and then only with a note from her mother giving her permission to read such a thing.
Calpurnia had never had a relationship with her grandfather before that time. She had always been a little afraid of him and didn't believe that he even knew her name, even though they live in the same house. As she observes more of the world around her and starts to ask questions about it, she discovers her Grandfather has many of the answers she seeks. She discovers that he owns a copy of On the Origin of Species, but since it is such heavy reading for such a young girl with no scientific background, the grandfather explains the concepts in term that she can understand.
This is not just a story about a girl learning about Darwin, though. This is a story about a family living in Texas at the turn of the last century, when women and minorities had few rights and grandfathers could still tell stories about the brutality of the Civil War.