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Cover image for The slightly true story of Cedar B. Hartley, who planned to live an unusual life
The slightly true story of Cedar B. Hartley, who planned to live an unusual life

Publication Information:
New York : Arthur A. Levine Books, ©2003.
Physical Description:
233 pages ; 22 cm
When twelve-year-old Cedar loses her dog, it sets off a chain of events leading her to find a new friend, become an acrobat, and learn some bitter-sweet truths about family, community, and herself.


Call Number

On Order



In the tradition of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE and THE BEAN TREES comes a novel that charms and amazes, with a voice that draws you in like a warm-hearted charismatic friend.

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 the country. And she's definitely a hopeless winker -- both eyes go at once, like a blink.
But Cedar B. Hartley has potential. She knows the d ifference between touching and touching on a couch. She knows the long distance between an idea and the real thing. And she has a green thumb for people, like Ricci, the

Author Notes

Martine Murray is an Australian author and illustrator, born in 1965. She is based in Melbourne. Before becoming a writer, she studied art at Victoria College of the Arts and dance at Melbourne University.

Her books include A Moose Called Mouse, How to Make a Bird, The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley (Who Planned to Live an Unusual Life), The Slightly Bruised Glory of Cedar B. Hartley (Who Can't Help Flying High and Falling in Deep), Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars, Marsh and Me, and the Henrietta series. Henrietta and the Perfect Night, and Marsh and Me were named Honour Books by the 2018 Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award for Young Readers.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-In this tender growing-up story from Australia, 12-year-old, "exasperating and potentially infamous" Cedar B. Hartley misses her older brother who ran away from home, wonders about the circumstances of her father's death 11 years ago, and nourishes a friendship with Kite, boy acrobat. Her practice with him results in accomplished acrobatic routines, and their friendship gently evolves into romance. 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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) Twelve-year-old Cedar is an observer of life in her colorful Australian neighborhood, which includes her dog Stinky; her friends Ricci, sixtyish and Yugoslavian, and Caramella, eleven and Italian; bullies and mean girls; a distracted working mother; and an AWOL older brother, connected to Cedar only through a series of enigmatic postcards. It also includes the promise of a new friendship with fellow aspiring acrobat Kite, a boy with a voice like ""a river running steadily by,"" and the chance to perform with him in an unusual circus. The world-in-microcosm neighborhood even offers a mystery (why Cedar's brother was packed off to boarding school) and a revelation (the true cause of her father's long-ago death). Cedar narrates this captivating first novel with a remarkable originality of expression that will carry readers through both the particularities of an unfamiliar setting and the large cast of eclectic characters. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus 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. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-8. In her debut novel, Australian writer Murray creates a true original in Cedar B. Hartley, a 13-year-old girl who has her own way of overhauling the ordinary state of things. Her puddle of eccentric friends includes Oscar, who has suffered brain damage;ite, the bird boy, with whom Cedar forms an acrobatic team; and neighbors of all ages. In between training sessions withite, Cedar tries to separate the rumors from truth about her family: Why was her beloved older brother sent away? What really caused her father's death? Cedar tells her own story in an utterly unique voice, whose wandering, abstract descriptions and precocious vocabulary may limit the book's readership. But those able to follow along will appreciate Cedar's spot-on musings about everything from the differences between the ways boys and girls talk to the distance between an idea and the real thing. They'll also be charmed by Cedar's ferocious joy, intolerance for phonies, and devotion to her family and friends. You have a green thumb with people, Oscar tells Cedar. If these winning characters are any indication, Murray does, too. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2003 Booklist