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ONLY OPAL by Opal Whiteley

ONLY OPAL

The Diary of a Young Girl

By Opal Whiteley (Author) , Jane Boulton (Editor) , Barbara Cooney (Illustrator)

Age Range: 4 & up

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1994
ISBN: 0698115643
Publisher: Philomel

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+)