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Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara    by Elvira Woodruff & Adam Rex order for
Small Beauties
by Elvira Woodruff
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

As six siblings looked lovingly on, 'On the night she was born, her father danced a jig in the firelight of their small cottage. It was what fathers did long ago, in Ireland'. She was named Darcy Heart O'Hara by Granny O'Hara, whose second sight foretold - 'One day this child shall hold the very heart of our family in the palm of her hand'. The year is 1845 in Irish Pobble O'Keefe, where Darcy lives in the cottages of Derry Lane. It is here that Granddad's hushed voice enraptures the children in awe as he 'spins tales of moonlit glens and fairy queens' - 'Long ago, on our fair Isle of Erin'.

As Granny predicted, Darcy grows into a special child, someone known as a noticer, with an awareness of everything surrounding her, especially the little things. Darcy sees wonder in butterfly wings, dewy spiderwebs, the shiny wings of a magpie soaring overhead, and fields full of golden buttercups. Darcy hears the constant voices of Granny and Mam to tend to her chores of milking the cow, and gathering the eggs, as she calls back, 'I'm on my way Mam ... I just stopped to watch the cloud castles' and points to the sky.

The summer brings soft weather with soggy fields of rotting potatoes, in every county. After replanting, the next crop fares the same as 'a blight had taken hold of the land'. When the agent demands the rent, Mr. O'Hara is unable to pay, so the collector takes away their cow and pigs. The Crown declares the land to be cleared, and eviction, with free transport to America. As the O'Hara's leave Pobble O'Keefe, their hearts are heavy, yet Darcy is determined to find a way to transport the 'precious little things' across the ocean. Without pockets in her garment, Darcy slips a special find into the hem of her skirt, among other little things she has gathered.

The graceful lilt of Irish accent can be heard in Elvira Woodruff's miraculous story. In Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara, Woodruff writes with finesse of Ireland's hard times, sadness, and fear, yet also joy, hope, and discovery as the O'Hara's arrive at New York's Manhattan island. The author's foundation for Darcy and her family sprung from her reading about a real family forced to leave Ireland during the famine - one of the children named Henry grew to be a pioneer in American industry.

Woodruff's repertoire includes over twenty picture books and novels for young adults, including Dear Austin: Letters from the Underground Railroad, and The Ghost of Lizard Light. Adam Rex's illustrations - in sepia tones of characters and their expressions, along with Irish hillside scenery - match the beauty of this picture book's written words.

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