Living off the Land

calpurnia tate

I attempted to join a virtual book club for upper elementary grades with other teacher bloggers, and we were supposed to read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by the beginning of May. I got distracted by other projects and did not read it until this weekend. I think the book would frustrate many readers today because it is a slower pace with more difficult vocabulary, but I liked it. The language and sentence structure is more sophisticated than books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and it has more substance.

Calpurnia lives in a rural area in Texas and spends much of the book with her grandfather pursuing her interest in nature and Darwin’s theory of evolution. I would classify the book as historical fiction and group it with other books about life on the prairie or frontier. Some of these titles are my favorites from when I was growing up. I read the Little House books repeatedly. I always loved stories where the characters had to grow their own food, build their own homes, and live off the land. When I started building a list of other books that fall in this genre, I realized that the majority have girl main characters– hmmm.

cabin faced west

1700s (Settlers and The American Revolution)

  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
  • Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

caddie woodlawn

1800s (Westward Expansion)

  • Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Little House on the Prairie series Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather (middle and high school readers)
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall series by Patricia MacLachlan

thimble summer

1900s (Mostly Around The Great Depression)

  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
  • Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
  • Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rowlings

Do you have a favorite read that is this style of book? It is a type of survival book, but the characters usually have resources and family or friends, and they work together to succeed.

For some more book recommendations, visit the Let’s Talk About Books link up.

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8 thoughts on “Living off the Land

  1. I adore this genre of writing, and believe teachers and parents are recommending far too few of these books. You put together an awesome list here. I would put Boxcar Children (at least the first two original books of the series) on this list, as well. I prefer the self-sufficient, usually quite optimistic, capable and positive protagonist, over the futuristic and surreal characters of the new dystopian society books, which threaten to take over the bookshelves. They’re really kind of a run-up to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations or Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn books for the older crowd. And a big shout-out for more complex vocabulary and sentence structure! Whoot whoot! Please make Wimpy Kid move over to the comic book shelf.

    • I thought about adding Boxcar Children but was trying to stick with the people on a farm setting. Miss Priss just read Boxcar in one sitting on Monday (it is on her summer reading list)! It is so timeless– everybody who reads it wants to live on their own in a boxcar.

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