July 2003

A delightful tale from Down Under

By Martine Murray
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Though born with an unusual name, Cedar B. Hartley prefers to stay out of the limelight. "As for me, I avoid the main swell of street action and drift toward the puddles," she says. "A puddle of people is full of rich deposits." Cedar, sometimes called Cedy, loves the people in her puddle. There is Carmello, her best friend and direct opposite; her mother, an earthy type who has to work two jobs to hold the family together; and her brother Barnaby, who got in trouble and had to be sent away. Cedar misses having a father the story she has been told about him is that he died of a heart attack. Shortly after her 12th birthday, though, things begin to change.

Drawn beyond her little puddle, Cedar meets Kite, a boy of few words but enormous physical gifts. The son of circus folks, he can swing through the trees like a bird and balance on his hands. Through Kite's quiet friendship, Cedy's puddle becomes quite large indeed. When her friend's dog needs an operation, Cedy and Kite organize a circus to raise the necessary funds. As the children collaborate to pull the production together, each character finds out his or her importance in the show and in the community. When she hears gossip about her father and brother, though, Cedar doesn't know what to think. Just when she is about to give up, Oscar, another new friend, shores her spirits. "Cedar, I think you . . . I mean, you planted seeds," he says. "Did you ever think what a thing would grow? You have a green thumb for people."

This debut novel from Murray, who is Australian, is sure to please. The first-person account is filled with wonderful colloquialisms from Down Under, which are explained in Cedy's glossary at the end. Whimsical line drawings add to the tale. Cedy's acrobatic moves are drawn to perfection even her failed ones! The story feels like a long conversation with a thoughtful, open and literate teenager; it was a disappointment to turn the last page and realize the conversation was over. Bravo for Cedar B. Hartley, the star of her own circus!

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