Synopses & Reviews
A wonderfully human and humane debut from the Australian Kate DiCamillo
Cedar B. Hartley is exasperating and potentially infamous.
She steps on cracks. She plans to live an unusual life. She is the winner of her school's Bat Pole Championship (which she made up). She misses her brother Barnaby, who ran away, and who sends her postcards from all over. And she's definitely a hopeless winker.
But Cedar B. Hartley has potential. She knows the long distance between an idea and the real thing. And she has a green thumb for people -- which will come in handy as she discovers truths about her friends, her family, and her life.
"Cedar B. Hartley, the 12-year-old narrator of Australian author Murray's promising if uneven debut, takes pride in belonging to a three-person 'puddle' on her street: 'A puddle isn't just what's left behind, although sometimes you may feel like it is. A puddle of people is full of rich deposits.' So Cedar sticks with Caramella Zito, who is 11, extremely shy and chubby, and a 'brilliant artist'; and with Ricci, a middle-aged Yugoslavian emigree who takes Valium and dotes on her dog. Cedar's widowed mom is busy with her job, and Cedar misses her 19-year-old brother, Barnaby, who has run away from boarding school (but sends postcards with quasi-poetic messages). Then Cedar meets Kite, a boy with 'the voice of a river.' The son of a circus performer, Kite starts teaching Cedar complicated acrobatic feats, and Cedar achieves flexibility and balance both on and off the gymnastics mat. The narrative voice wobbles, and Cedar can sound precocious in places and unconvincingly na ve elsewhere. But at her best, Murray is capable of startling power, as in this description of an epiphany: 'You stop knowing how things are. Instead of what you know, there are the patterns that stars make;... the small aching spot where your feet touch the earth... And you've never felt closer to it. You think that if there is an It, you and It are nearly touching.' Ages 9-14." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Kirkus Reviews June 1, 2003 Starred review
Her father has died (of a heart attack, her mother says). her brother Barnaby has run away, and her mother loves her but is not home much, but Cedar B. Hartley, 12, is a feisty heroine with a "green thumb for people." She befriends a boy named Kite, son of circus people, and organizes a local circus to raise money for a neighborhood dog's operation. In the process, she finds her place in the community, answers to family mysteries, and a stronger sense of her place in the world. An ordinary suburb populated by ordinary, if eccentric, characters, is made extraordinary by Murray's vivid writing. Cedar's charming voice, the strong sense of place, and the author's interior drawings add up to a superb first novel for the Australian author. A glossary is included to help with such slang as pashing (snogging/tongue kissing), fair dinkum ("are you serious?"), and dag (an uncool person). Readers will be gobsmacked that this first effort at a longer work can be this good.
About the Author
Martine Murray is the author of THE SLIGHTLY TRUE STORY OF CEDAR B. HARTLEY, which received three starred reviews and was named to Booklist's roundup of Top Ten First Novels for Youth. She lives in Victoria, Australia.