Narrator: Natalie Ross
Run Time: 9hrs and 1 minute
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.
I have to admit that I probably would have passed over this book, if it hadn’t show up on a random book list that I was browsing one day, and then that it was readily available via audiobook from the library – so I didn’t have to wait on it. I don’t know why it is, maybe because the name in the title just made me want to chuckle and not take it seriously. Either way, if I had, I would have missed out on a brilliant YA book – it was totally worth the listen and I can see why it was nominated for the Newbury Award, even if it didn’t win.
I was immediately sucked into Calpurnia Victoria Tate’s (or Cally V’s) story – she is kind of how I imagined I would be if I had grown up at the turn of the 20th century – not wanting to be what was expected of me (a housekeeper, enjoying sewing etc), but rather wanting to play outside, into science etc. I thought that the author did a job of portraying the world how it was then – the idea that as 1900 rolled around the world might end (does this sound familiar?), the introduction of coca-cola and even the invention of the automobile. Cally’s grandfather definitely made the book all the more enjoyable – in all seriousness, he was a comic relief when needed but could also be serious as well. I loved how he was so absorbed in his own world that he often forgot what was going on around him.
There wasn’t anything really earth-shattering about how the story concluded – in fact, it was a relatively logical progression through-out and you could see how it was unfolding. I did like how the use of evolution in the title could be applied in two different ways – the study of evolution as with the grasshoppers and use of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Spieces but also the evolution of Calpurnia as a woman and a person – how she changed over the course of the 7 months that the book covered.
I love Natalie Ross as a narrator of audiobooks, she is rapidly becoming a go-to person for me. But it was funny when I first started listening to the audiobook because I had just listened to another book narrated by her recently (less than 2 months ago) and I kept hearing the voice of Dani (from Iced) in my head, because they were both young female characters between the ages of 12 and 14. I hadn’t really noticed this previously and it didn’t really bother me, just intrigued me that I could hear similarities in voice patterns even though one was an urban fantasy and the other a historical fiction. I can’t say much more about the narration – I loved how Ms Ross was able to provide so many different inflections to bring the characters to life – especially with the minutia of sounds that are part of life, but don’t necessarily show up in dialogue – like hiccups (there is a relatively memorable scene featuring these), burps etc. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I read it, but listening added a whole new dimension. It would be a great audiobook to listen to with kids on a car trip because it would suck them in (hopefully).
Anyone who loves historical fiction and YA should read or listen to this book. I give it 4.5 stars.