Very charming tale of a young girl in turn of the last century Texas, centered around her relationship with her naturalist Grandfather but with lots of room for piano recitals and noisy brothers, and best friends and getting the harvest in.
What I appreciate a lot about this novel is that all of the characters are portrayed with respect and affection. The center of the book is definitely Calpurnia's relationship with her grandfater - who gives her a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species and teaches her to observe the flora and fauna around her and keep good notes and test her theories - and so opens up her world to new ideas and ambitions. With that as the center it would be easy to fall into the mistake of portraying the more conventional members of her family as villains or fools; her mother who wants Calpurnia to learn to knit, the family cook who thinks its a disgrace that Calpurnia's biscuits are like rocks, the brother who teases her about spending so much time with books.
But the author doesn't make that mistake. Calpurnia lives in all the bustle and confusion of a large and loving family, who don't always understand one another but who do always care. None of the characters in this book are simplistic villains or heros they are all fully realized and pretty decent people with concerns and interests of their own. Except of course for the terrible google eyed girlfriend who is trying to steal Calpurnia's favorite brother away! Clearly she is an unmitigated horror. :)