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*Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara* by Elvira Woodruff, illustrated by Adam Rex
Also written and/or illustrated by Adam Rex:

Chu's First Day of School

Unlucky Charms (The Cold Cereal Saga)

Tree Ring Circus

Lucy Rose: Busy Like You Can't Believe
Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara
by Elvira Woodruff, illustrated by Adam Rex
Grades K-4 40 pages Knopf September 2006 Hardcover    

Darcy Heart O’Hara is born in Ireland, a seventh child born after six brothers. Granny, who has the gift of second sight, predicts that “One day this child shall hold the very heart of our family in the palm of her hand.”

Darcy is a born noticer, stopping to attend to small beauties wherever she goes. This makes doing the chores on her farm in Ireland a bit of a task, and her Granny and mother often grow impatient with her. She lives in the time of famine, 1845, when “money was as rare as whortleberry in December,” but Darcy feels rich with the many small beauties she notices, carrying some of the tiniest ones home in the hem of her skirt.

Her evenings are spent hearing the stories of Granddad, gathered around the fire with family, animals, and happy laughter. The happiness, however, soon ends as no crops means no money for rent. Her family is soon kicked off their land, offered free passage to America and little else in the way of choices. Their house is set afire, and the family spends the night in the ditch. In the morning, Darcy awakes before the others and silently steps through the ruins that had once been their home. As she peeks through the rubble, sifting through stones, she notices something special and places it in her hem.

Her family is forced to cross the ocean without Granny, who is too old to travel. She leaves Darcy with one final treasure - a bead from her rosary - and these parting words: “Help the others to remember, and not just the sadness, the hurt, and the hunger. Help them to remember the beauty they left behind.”

When Darcy arrives in Manhattan, she can’t help but notice all the differences from the only land she has known. During the first week in their new city, as the family gathers around a smoky little stove in a cramped city cellar to discuss their days and the days to come, Darcy begins to loosen the stitches of her hem. As she pulls out each treasure, the family cherishes the memories of that which they have left behind. As she pulls out her final treasure however, her family is silent. “And what is that one there?” to which Darcy answers “‘Tis a bit of our hearthstone.” With it comes the familiar smell of a peat fire and “the memories of Granny humming to the baby and the creak of her chair…”
“And so it was that Granny O’Hara’s prediction came to be true, for those small beauties that Darcy held in her hand called up the very memories her family held most dear.”
Small Beauties is a poetic Irish tale of the bonds of family, the magic of “small beauties” and importance of taking time to collect and cherish memories. Beautifully illustrated, this is a story to treasure and share. The length is best suited to older children, and adults will delight in telling and retelling this tale. It makes for a unique and heartwarming addition for any bookshelf.

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  Regan Windsor/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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