Children S Jane Whiteley Only Opal

ISBN 13: 9780399219900

Only Opal

3.91 avg rating
( 139 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780399219900: Only Opal

Beginning when she is five years old, in the early 1900s, Opal keeps a diary, recording her dreams and chronicling her life with her adopted family as they move from one lumber camp to another.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Born about 1900, Opal Whiteley was five when she was sent to live with an Oregon loggers' family after her parents ``went to Heaven.'' She kept a diary ``of my fifth and sixth year,'' during which she stayed home from school to do laundry for ``the mama where I live,'' who found her a ``nuisance'' and frequently struck her; made pets of a crow (``Lars Porsena''), a mouse (``Felix Mendelssohn''), and several other animals; confided in a ``grand'' tree (``...Michael Raphael...He has an understanding soul'') and mourned when it was felled; visited a girl with ``no seeing,'' who enjoyed the flowers she brought; and wondered whether ``Kind God'' might allow her parents to be her ``Guardian Angels.'' Boulton, a poet who (according to the jacket) is the ``author'' of ``a full adaptation of Opal's diary,'' is cited by LC as author of this book, but according to the publisher these quaint, naive, wonderfully telling words are Opal's own, selected from the complete diary as it has survived. A note explains that the original was torn into ``a million pieces'' by a stepsister, then pieced together and published in the 20's--a tantalizing glimpse of Opal's subsequent life, otherwise unrevealed here. Cooney's illustrations are perfect--delicate and beautifully observed, her misty landscapes make an elegant setting for a thoughtful, sturdy child, finding her gentle but indomitable way among strangers who have no conception of her true quality. A touching, fascinating portrait. (Autobiography/Picture book. 4+) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Ages 6-9. The inner life of children, long ignored in accounts of pioneer history, is here given an unforgettable voice. Opal was five years old when her parents died, and she went to live with a foster family in a lumber camp in Oregon at the turn of the century. She was just learning to print, and she wrote about her life on scraps of paper, in her own solemn idiom, words of simple intensity. An afterword explains that the poetry in this picture book has been selected from Opal's childhood diary, which was published when she grew up. Opal calls her foster mother "the mama" ("The mama where I live says I am a nuisance . . . the mama likes to have her house nice and clean"). Cooney's clear, beautifully detailed watercolor paintings show the sturdy, solitary child, who imagines her own secret, mischievous world even while she's up to her elbows scrubbing laundry. Whenever she can, Opal escapes into the woods, and she finds her home there. She makes up names for her special companions: for example, her pet mouse is Felix Mendelssohn and her sheltering tree is Michael Raphael. When Michael Raphael is cut down, Opal's lament is a poem of tearing grief ("There was a queer feel in my throat / and I couldn't stand up"); and Cooney's double-page-spread painting shows the rich woodland, the crouching child, and the huge quivering tree crashed to earth. The story ends with Opal once again having to move and leave behind what she loves. Older readers might go on from this diary to read more about Opal and children like her. Hazel Rochman

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Jane Whiteley
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Jane Whiteley
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Whiteley, Jane
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