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Book Reviews of 'One Small Step,' 'Miranda's Beach Day' and 'The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate'

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009


By Jacqueline Kelly

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Henry Holt. $16.99. Ages 9-14

The year 1899 brims with firsts for 11-year-old Calpurnia Virginia "Callie Vee" Tate: There's the first telephone, first sip of Coca-Cola, first glimpse through a microscope. The only girl among six "pestiferous brothers," spirited Callie prefers helping her naturalist grandfather and pondering "The Origin of Species," that controversial tome, to her mother's lessons in the domestic arts. At the same time that Callie resists being "filled up with recipes and knitting patterns," her younger brother, Travis, with his kind heart and pet turkeys, balks at the accepted model of hardened masculinity. Though her parents have set her kid boots firmly on the path of the Texas debutante, Callie yearns to be a "lady scientist" -- a goal even her favorite, oldest brother deems "far-fetched."

In her debut novel, Jacqueline Kelly brings to vivid life a boisterous small-town family at the dawn of a new century. And she especially shines in her depiction of the natural world that so intrigues Callie. A hummingbird "the size of a winged pecan," large yellow grasshoppers and a hairy vetch share space with this engaging young hero. Readers will want to crank up the A.C. before cracking the cover, though. That first chapter packs a lot of summer heat.

-- Mary Quattlebaum


Celebrating the First Men on the Moon

By Jerry Stone

Designed by Andy Mansfield

Roaring Brook. $24.95. Ages 6-10

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