Monday, December 14, 2009

Interview with Jacqueline Kelly, author of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

KN: Grandfather’s library feels so real that as a reader, I feel as if I’m there. How did you create this incredible setting?

JK: What an interesting question, I haven't been asked that before. I filled his library with all sorts of weird and wonderful things that would have enchanted me as a child. I still find objects like that irresistible. The bottled beast comes from seeing an actual sample that Darwin had collected in a museum in Cambridge, England. The specimen was fairly distorted by that time, but what really thrilled me was a small hand-written tag that Darwin had affixed to the bottle. Seeing his own hand writing made it really come alive for me.

KN: Callie’s voice is exquisite. What did you do to make sure she sounded like a girl who lived in 1899, not 2009?

JK: Since writing a hundred years ago was more formal, I figured that speech had to be more formal then as well. I tried to give her an educated, formal sound for a girl of her age. No slang, and no modern words. I'm glad you think I succeeded.

KN: I learned about Texas ’s insects, plants and animals from reading the entries in Callie’s naturalist notebook? Do you keep a naturalist notebook, and if you do, for how long have you done so?

JK: I myself keep a writing notebook, not a naturalist notebook. But a lot of the story came from me sitting quietly on a cushion on the front porch early in the morning and just waiting for the birds and animals to come visit. The biggest shock was when a tiny mole came around the corner of the house one day, only about four feet away. I'd never seen a mole before, and we just looked at each other for a moment (or, rather, it squinted at me since they have terrible eyesight) before it scuttled away.

KN: Callie and grandfather’s relationship is rich and detailed. Were you close to a grandparent at Callie’s age?

JK: One of my grandfather's died before I was born, and I grew up on the other side of the world from my other grandfather, only seeing him a handful of times as a teen and adult. Since I essentially had no grandfather in my life, I had to create the one that I wanted.

KN: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

JK: I'm truly delighted by the response the book has received. It's been a great treat and a pleasure to meet fans of my girl!

KN: Thanks for the interview. If you want to check out a curriculum guide for this book click on

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