The Slightly True Story of Cedar B Hartley.
Once in a while you read a book so perfect you can’t imagine it being written any other way. To change the name of even the most minor of characters or to rejig some of the action would be a senseless act of vandalism.
For me, The Slightly True Story of Cedar B Hartley (Who Planned an Unusual Life) by Martine Murray is one such book. Originally published in Australia in 2002, this is a novel I’ve been itching to review on these pages, but now the time has come, I do so with mixed feelings. Part of me wants to keep it to myself, buying it for family and friends as a special treat, as “our secret”. Part of me wants to shout its brilliance from the roof tops………
This isn’t a book big on action. If you’re looking for elf wars go elsewhere. It is a book about growing up, growing friendship, being different and about acrobatics…..
On the matter of growing up, this book is as authentic as any early Margaret Atwood novel, and that’s coming from a huge Atwood fan. Although I suspect that this is a book which will be read mainly by girls, The Slightly True Story… is very funny, deeply moving and just about all you could ask for in a novel for children of either sex, or adults come to that. And, no, I’ve never met Martine Murray and I’m not on commission. Cedar B Hartley does, indeed, have an unusual life and this is a very unusual book. Treasure it. Philip Ardagh. The Guardian.
“…a wise, witty and endlessly inventive narrative…It’s a seriously charming and brilliant addition to Australian literature for young people.” Robyn Shehan- Bright. (Australian Book Review, April 2002)
“After all, if you don’t ask the world questions, then you won’t ever work out where the rainbow begins.” And, boy, does Cedar B. Hartley have questions!
Debut Australian author Martine Murray is a writer to watch. Equal parts Pippi Longstocking and Anastasia Krupnik, her audacious Aussie tomboy Cedar will quickly charm the Capri pants off the female pre-teen set with her pithy sayings and sweet naiveté. A thoughtfully placed glossary of Cedar’s slang is included at the end of the novel for those young readers unfamiliar with the jargon “down-under.” A delightful must-read for fans of Paula Danziger and Jacqueline Wilson. (Ages 12 and older) –Jennifer Hubert —
With unique and fully realized supporting characters and a multiethnic, urban environment, this story vibrates with authenticity. At a crucial moment, Cedar thinks, “Sometimes life hits you at such a startling lightning kind of angle, that you get pushed off your normal viewing spot. You stop knowing how things are. Instead of what you know, there are the patterns that stars make; the sound of the night breathing; the small aching spot where your feet touch the earth.- You think that if there is an It, you and It are nearly touching.” This unique, vulnerable, and hugely likable protagonist has the potential to push readers off their “normal viewing spots.” Small, wonderfully quirky line drawings accompany this breezy yet serious novel, which includes an amusing glossary of Australian terms.
Susan Patron, Los Angeles Public Library
How to make a bird
Short-listed, USBBY (United States Board of Books for Young People) list of Outstanding International Books for ch, 2011
Winner, QLD Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adults, 2002
Short-listed, CBCA Notable Books for Older Readers, 2004
Commended, Kraft Foods Prize for Young Adult Fiction, 2002
Commended, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adults, 2002
“ Martine Murray is one of the most original, irrepressible and exciting “voices” to be heard amongst writers at present.” (Viewpoint, Summer 2003 Moira Robinson)
“ Murray is an exceptional talent and this is a marvellous book.” (Australian Book Review Jan 2003) Robyn Sheahn-Bright.
Although Mannie’s defining attributes—acute self-consciousness and claustrophobic intensity—are hallmarks of many YA heroines, Murray’s powerful lyrical voice and close observation breathe new life into them…. First published in Australia in 2003, the novel offers an especially vivid sense of place—the harsh but open rural landscape and densely populated yet lonely, urban Melbourne. Kirkus reviews
Writing with an unusual sensitivity and a poet’s sensibility, Murray (The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley) details the tragedy-ridden life of 17-year-old Mannie Clarkeson. ….”I’d just float off, figuring that life would be better if I was a bird and not a girl with a bung leg and bad thoughts.” Mannie has high hopes, but her past and the loss of her love interest weigh down her journey. Told in a sweeping and elegant series of flashbacks, this novel, first published in Australia in 2003, presents a delicate internal journey and a sophisticated meditation on the struggle to find wholeness in broken pieces. Publishers Weekly
We’ve got an EMERGENCY DILEMMA to attend to. We absolutely have to find a home for the Rietta because it’s lost and its spots are fading…
This is the second book featuring Henrietta P. Hoppenbeek, a delightful first-person narrator who takes young readers along on her adventures to the imaginary Wide Wide Long Cool Coast of the Lost Socks, the land of which Henrietta is the future Queen. She travels with her best friend Olive Higgie (who has been known to eat pickles) and her baby brother Albert (who dribbles and dribbles, and also does other disgusting things like pooing his nappy), sailing in the bathtub to take the miserable Rietta home.
The hard cover format of this little offering, coupled with the illustrations – a combination of child-like sketches and collage – and design elements such as text which wanders over the pages, makes it visually appealing, and the whimsical text make it sure to appeal to readers of all ages, though it is primarily aimed at younger children.
Henrietta, The Great Go-Getter is a fun book with its unlikely encounters, bizarre creatures and inventive layout. The freshness and whimsicality of the little girl’s narrative are somewhat reminiscent of Lauren Child’s Clarice Bean. The characters, in their mild oddity, are well rounded and their relationships spot on. Olive may be a secondary character, but she is not a secondary person. She too can be clever and, as Henrietta puts it, ‘you have to admit it when someone else on the team has a good thought’. Same goes for Albert, the dribbling, burping baby, whom his sister ‘accidentally love(s)’.
Murray’s watercolour illustrations are a perfect match for her text. The soft purples and beiges echo the gentle poetry of the tale, while the clear, bold lines reinforce its sharpness and quirkiness.