Early Chapter Books for Young Animal Lovers: Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet

Our older daughter loves animals and aspires to be a veterinarian when she grows up. The last book she read was the National Geographic Kids Ultimate Bugopedia by Darlyne Murawski. She gave it a thumbs up for “interesting information” about different types of insects and “cute pictures.” Eugenie Clark and Jane Goodall were the subjects of two other books she recently read. She has been asking for a pet for years and was thrilled to receive a Betta fish from us on her most recent birthday. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that she has really enjoyed the Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet books!

img_1579.jpgCalpurnia Tate, Girl Vet books by Jacqueline Kelly

Calpurnia Tate, the main character of the series, is a rather unconventional young girl. The series is set in Texas in the early 1900’s. Calpurnia is interested in studying animals and plants, exploring the outdoors, and keeping a scientific journal—all pastimes deemed “unladylike” by her mother. Fortunately, she has a strong relationship with her grandfather, who supports Calpurnia’s interest in science and teaches her what he knows. In her spare time, Calpurnia helps out Dr. Pritzker, the local veterinarian, learning a great deal about taking care of animals in the process.

Each book of the series focuses on a different animal. The books are relatively quick reads due to large font size and detailed black and white illustrations scattered throughout. Calpurnia has a strong personality, some aspects of which many kids will be able to relate to. She is resourceful, brave, and inquisitive, making her a strong role model for kids. As a parent, I appreciate the amount of science that is included in these books. For example, in one of the books, Calpurnia and her grandfather discover an ammonite in the river bed. Calpurnia’s grandfather teaches her how to extract it without damaging it and discusses the ammonite’s relationship to the present-day nautilus. I also appreciate how Calpurnia challenges the gender norms of the early 1900’s, creating opportunities for parents to discuss this issue with their kids.

However, I do have a couple of notes of caution for parents. Calpurnia has six brothers, one of whom is more sensitive than the others and shares her love of animals. However, this particular brother is not always portrayed in a positive light and Calpurnia sometimes states that she does not want to be like him. Another issue that caught me off guard was that in one of the books, the Comanches that used to live where the Tate family currently resides were described as “bloodthirsty.” Luckily, I was reading this book aloud to our daughters and chose to drop the descriptor. While I don’t often censor what I read to our daughters, here I chose to do so because I didn’t feel it was integral to the plot and hadn’t had anytime to do historical research to prepare for that type of discussion. Some families may choose to discuss why the author chose to use that word, while others may wish to do what I did.

Overall, we’ve enjoyed the Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet books. Have you read any animal-centric books lately? Please feel free to leave recommendations!