Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara Book Poster Image
Small treasure explores Irish famine, emigration.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness

A family is going hungry and loses their home.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that sad things happen here: The family goes hungry, loses their home, and is forced to leave grandparents behind when emigrating.

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What's the story?

Darcy is the youngest of seven children (and the only girl), growing up in Ireland in the 1840s. When she's born, her grandmother predicts that \"One day this child shall hold the very heart of our family in the palm of her hand.\" Though the family's farming life is hard, it's filled with joy as well, and Darcy is a noticer of little things, sometimes to her parents' exasperation.

But then the Irish Potato Blight begins, and the family has little to eat and no way to pay the rent. When they lose their house, they're forced to emigrate to America, leaving behind Darcy's grandparents, who are too old to make the voyage. But Darcy is about to make her grandmother's prediction come true in a most unexpected way.

Includes map and author's note.

Is it any good?

Sometimes it all just works. Elvira Woodruff's lyrical text, with just the hint of an Irish lilt, and Adam Rex's loving, luminous illustrations combine to lift SMALL BEAUTIES: THE JOURNEY OF DARCY HEART O'HARA -- a tale of sorrow and heartache -- into a gorgeous, moving, uplifting experience that can inspire children.

This focus on the little, seemingly insignificant things and their ultimate effect on the family (a theme illuminatingly continued in the author's note) gives the story unusual impact. How many children have their own hidden box of treasures -- stones, feathers, bits of broken things, etc? Kids who haven't spent their lives in front of a screen can relate to Darcy's openhearted embrace of her world and her collecting of meaningful objects, and will rejoice to see how much they come to mean to her family as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the focus on little things. Why, when so many bad things are happening, is the focus on pebbles and feathers? Why are they important? How does Darcy fulfill her grandmother's prediction? Children may want to know more about the historical period and their own ancestors.

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