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Review: Small Beauties:  The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara-Ireland with children

Review: Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara-Ireland with children

More than a million Irish emigrated during the Great Famine and Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara written by Elvira Woodrum and illustrated by Adam Rex captures part of their story, the courage that allowed them to emigrate, and the memories and traditions that followed them abroad. In this fictional account, Darcy Heart O’Hara is one of those children who sees the beauty in everything around her.  She is a “noticer” and much to her family’s frustration, she is always stopping to see things around her leaving her chores undone as she admires a spider web, the clouds, and the contrasting beauty between a magpie and the fields of buttercups.  Her older brother chides her to be more firmly rooted in the realities of planting a second crop of potatoes to replace the ones stricken by the blight.  But even amidst the hardships they face she continues to notice the small beauties, tucking mementos into the hem of her dress and watching the world around her. After the second crop fails, the family is faced with eviction.  They’re told that they will receive free passage to America if they leave, otherwise their house will be torn down around them.  The family puts off leaving for as long as they can, but at the end of the month, the Crown’s agent returns and destroys their house.  Her grandparents decide they are too old to leave Ireland and so the family is faced with being separated and probably never seeing each other again. In the wreckage of their house, Darcy finds a small chip from the hearthstone, and tucks it too into the hem of her dress. When they get to America, Darcy sees that everything is different and new.  “Instead of tiny cottages, Darcy saw tall buildings stretched to the sky.  Instead of fields of rotting potatoes, she noticed shops and carts overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables…And best of all was the hope that the family could one day buy land of their own.”  But she hasn’t forgotten the old, and as the tired family gathers in a cramped city cellar, she starts pulling what seems like an endless stream of objects out of her hem.  A little round pebble,...

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Review: O’Sullivan Stew-Ireland with children

Review: O’Sullivan Stew-Ireland with children

O’Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott is a tall tale in the Irish tradition and very enjoyable blarney.  Set in the town of Crookhaven, County Cork, it tells of the adventures of Kate O’Sullivan who manages to rescue the town from its misfortune and her family from the hangman’s noose by spinning tales and convincing the King that they’d been in worse spots before. As the story opens, Kate is on the coast, harvesting periwinkles for the evening stew.  Coastline foraging is still fairly common, you can learn more about how to do it at Slow Food Ireland and there are a number of recipes on Georgina Campbell’s Ireland website.  Lost in her daydreams, she hears a shout as the tax collectors try to take the village witch’s horse.  Kate runs to the village to get help only to be told that the witch is “not one of us.”  Furious, the witch goes into a snit and things changed in the village. “The fishnets came up empty.  The cows stopped giving milk.  Gardens died.  Trees fell on houses with remarkable accuracy.  And the rain was heavier than usual….”  Not one to be stopped, Kate convinces her family that they should steal the horse back from the king in order to appease the witch, arguing it’s better to die trying than slowly of starvation.  Needless to say, the attempt fails (with a surprising twist, the expressions in the illustrations are priceless).   Cast in front of the king, the king states “[d]o you realize the trouble you’re in? Have you ever been in a worse spot in your life?”  Kate pops up with “I have” and promises to tell her tale if the king will release them.  One story for each member of the family, she spins tales and you can almost hear her voice as you read the stories.  She manages to free herself and her two brothers, but when she tells the tale of her father’s worst fix, the King expresses disbelief, that is until the queen mother appears on the scene… O’Sullivan Stew is a great tale of strong willed women, kings, witches, fairies, selkies, sea dragons, talking animals, and giants.  It is set in County Cork  on Ireland’s southwest coast.  County Cork...

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