This is an odd pairing, it’s true, but both books are coming of age stories with strong female characters who are surrounded by lots of brothers. Plus look at the covers. Sorcha and Calpurnia are almost in the same pose.
Daughter of the Forest ~ Juliet Marillier
Sorcha is the last of seven children and the only daughter. Because her mother dies following Sorcha’s birth, she and her brothers are left to raise themselves. Their father, Lord Colum of Sevenwaters is often away defending his realm from the Britons. Sorcha has a special bond with her brothers, particularly Finbar, with whom she can share thoughts. Finbar has his own sense of justice and when he rescues a spy from the torture of their father’s men, he calls on Sorcha, a noted healer, to help nurse him back to health and sanity. Simon is hidden by the local hermit, Father Brien. Sorcha makes steady progress earning Simon’s trust and helping him heal. But before she can finish, she is called back to her Father’s house for his imminent marriage. Sorcha and her brothers distrust their future step-mother and rightly so. No sooner is she married to Lord Colum than she turns the brothers into swans. Sorcha barely escapes and begins her quest to save her them. She must weave six shirts out of starwort, a plant that cuts her fingers when she works with it, and she must not speak or tell her story to anyone.
First off I must say, that I love Juliet Marillier’s writing. I read Cybele’s Secret last year and it was wonderful, too. She has a gift for creating a world and weaving a story and her characters always stand out. Good or evil they are all strong. It seems that it might be hard to like six brothers even though they have been turned into swans, but somehow she manages it. I got lost in the mystical, shifting forest of Sevenwaters and I didn’t want to come out. Marillier really puts her characters through a lot and my heart broke several times. But, I still wanted more.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate ~Jacqueline Kelly
Okay, fast forward a few hundred years and shift continents to a very hot, summer in Texas at the end of the 19th century, replace the fantasy with science and we can start talking about Jacqueline Kelly’s delightful children’s book. Calpurnia Tate is the middle child of seven and the only girl. All of her brother’s are named after Texas heroes: Henry, Lamar, Sam Houston, Travis, Sul Ross and Jim Bowie. Calpurnia or Callie Vee, as she’s known, lives on a pecan plantation and prefers to spend her time alone floating in the river, until a scientific question forces her to seek out her elusive grandfather. Granddaddy spends his days in an outbuilding conducting scientific experiements and trying to turn the pecans into some kind of passable liquor. When Grandaddy finds out that Callie Vee has been unsuccessfully trying to get her hands on a copy of The Origin of Species, he brings her into his library and gives her his own copy. Callie Vee spends the rest of her summer tramping around the river collecting specimens and conducting experiments with Granddaddy. Until her mother decides that Callie Vee needs to improve her domestic arts.
Yet another book that I read because I loved the cover. This was a charming story. It is wonderful to watch the world unfold through Callie Vee’s eyes. She is equally smart and naive and this combination is often quite humorous. Even though she is reading and learning about things that are probably a little advanced for age, she still has a little bit of the child left in her, which is quite endearing. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Callie Vee is talking to her friend about getting married. When she tells her friend that she’ll have to kiss her husband, the friend is completely shocked as if the thought had never even occured to her. Yet again, it is possible to enjoy six secondary characters. The brother’s are always causing some ruckus, yet they each have their unique personalities. And, Granddaddy is a wonderful mentor for Callie Vee. Kelly does a great job of capturing the time period. It is so much fun to watch the introduction of new technologies such as a “wind machine,” telephone and automobile. The tone of the book takes on a more serious note toward the end as she comes up against the limitations of being a young woman of her time, but the ending is sweet and magical.