Chris Barton talks with Jacqueline Kelly

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, is the sequel to the 2010 Newbery Honor-winning book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Austin-area author Jacqueline Kelly. Calpurnia Tate is one of those characters that lives on well after the reader has finished the book, and it is a delight to be treated to another wonderful story starring Calpurnia.

The books are set just about the 20th century in Central Texas, a little outside Austin. Calpurnia, the only daughter of a well-off family, is curious about nature, and receives encouragement and enrichment from her Darwinist grandfather despite her mother’s protestations. In the second book, Calpurnia continues her education and exploration of the natural world and how the world works, which includes new insight and knowledge about the weather, gender inequality, and veterinary science.

“The novel offers many pleasures, from its well-realized setting to its vividly portrayed characters, but the most irresistible is Callie’s wry, observant narration. Readers will flock to this sequel for the pleasure of revisiting this beloved character and her world.”
Booklist, starred review

Local author Chris Barton has allowed us to share his conversation with Jacqueline Kelly. To keep up with all of his great conversations with authors, and to be eligible to win free books from him — this month it’s The Curious World of Calpurnia Tatesign up for his newsletter.


Chris Barton: What drew you back to the character and story of Calpurnia Tate?

Jacqueline Kelly: I did want to write a sequel, mainly because I was getting such nice fan letters from young readers asking for one. But our big old house in Fentress, Texas, which served as the inspiration for so much of the first book, was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 2010.

It was a horrible experience and it took me some time to get over it. I wrote so much of the first book sitting on a cushion on the front porch as Calpurnia did, waiting for wildlife to come by and inspire another chapter. So now I just had to imagine myself sitting on the porch, waiting for a lizard or a mole or a hawk or a cardinal to make an appearance and trigger my writing.

And I drew a lot of inspiration from our dog Laika, a stray living near the San Marcos River, who we are pretty sure is half-Chow and half-coyote. Laika is a major character in the second book.

CB: Aside from fans of the first book, what kind of kid do you envision The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate appealing to the most?

JK: The book is written for all nature lovers, and all curious kids, and all strong readers. (I say this because the vocabulary level is pretty advanced. But there’s nothing wrong with making kids learn new words, right? Right!)

Besides fan letters from kids, I get quite a few letters from grandparents who tell me that Calpurnia’s world reminds them of their own childhood. Many of them are reading the book together with their grandchildren, which I think is just lovely.


For more about Chris and his books, visit his website. You can sign up for his enewsletter and have his conversations with authors delivered directly to your inbox.

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate is available July 7, and we are accepting pre-orders. Jacqueline Kelly will be at BookPeople on July 7 to celebrate the release of this wonderful new book. You are welcome to join in the fun and meet Jacqueline and discover the world of Calpurnia Tate.

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