Monday, 26 September 2011

The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley

I love finding wonderful new authors, particularly wonderful new Aussie authors! Martine Murray was unknown to me before I read this fabulous book. I'd seen the cover around about the place, but don't remember ever reading a review, although there was a glowing one in The Guardian

Thankfully this book was selected to be in the 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up that I am reading my way through (I've now read 169/1001- there's a long time before I can hope to be Grown Up!). 

This book was shortlisted in the Children's Book Council of Australia Awards (Book of the Year- Younger Readers) for 2003. Shortlisted. It didn't win! Which got me to wondering what did that year. It was a book I haven't heard of at all - Catherine Bateson's Rain May and Captain Daniel. I think I may have to read that now. Which is the bad part of reading a Great Book. I now want to read all of Martine Murray's books, and this one that beat Cedar. Yes, my TBR just got even longer. 

Cedar B. Hartley is a young girl growing up in suburban Melbourne. But she prefers to be called Lana Monroe, as that has a famous kind of ring to it. She lives with her mother who works full time with brain-injured people. Her father is dead, and her older brother, Barnaby, has been sent away somewhere and keeps in touch by sending cryptic postcards. 

First there's me, and I'm exasperating and potentially infamous. My name is Lana Monroe. I have red hair and I'm twelve, almost thirteen, which means I'm not old enough to be invited to play in Harold's bungalow but I'm too old for making water bombs or playing cumquat wars.  That's for kids. 

Cedar hangs out on her street after school before her mother gets home from work. Like lots of kids she knows the neighbours. Her friend Caramella. The gay couple. The Yugoslavian lady and her dog. Things happen after her dog, Stinky, goes missing. Cedar meets Kite, the bird boy, who teaches her to fly. 

Cedar gives us possibly the best explanation of dog people and cat people ever. 
The way I figure it, the world is made up of two types of people-dog people and cat people. If you drew a line down the middle and said all dog people on one side and cat people on the other, then the dog side of the world would be chaotic and muddy, an exuberant unparticular big kind of a place with many trees. The cat side would be clean and deliberate and full of sunny patches and silk couches. I belong to the dog side, so does my mum, and even Barnaby. But Marnie Aitkin, she definitely belongs to the cat side. It's the coral coloured fingernails. 
And how boys think

The thing about boys is that they don't talk in the same way as girls. They talk about things. Out-and-about things, things you can touch and see, not the things that are inside. Those inside things aren't really things at all, since you can't see them-not with your eyes- and you can't hold them- not with your hands. So they're situations. I call them situations of the heart. Boys don't talk about heart situations. If they're blokish, they talk about bulky things that move, like cars, footballs and chicks. If they're natty sharp, they go on about plug-and-socket things, like computers, stereos and science experiments. I think really smart boys probably talk about the government and the theatre, but there aren't many that smart. The smooth talkers talk about girls they see on the tram, and older boys like Barnaby talk about music, bands and marijuana, and what an antelope doesn't know. I don't think many boys talk about what an antelope doesn't know; only Barnaby, because he's a dreamer like our Dad was.

I really love books written in the first person, especially those with a unique, funny voice. They're some of the most memorable books for me. Vernon God Little springs to mind. And Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang.  We Need to Talk About Kevin. I definitely loved the vibe of the thing here. I loved the story. I loved the cover. I loved the little illustrations that were included as part of the text. 

I think we should all plan to live an unusual life! I'll definitely be reading more of Martine Murray's work. 

Kid Konnection is a weekly childrens book feature at Booking Mama


Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

I have a sister whose graduate degree was in "kiddie lit" or children's literature. It was quite helpful as I raised my girls. Your lists and reviews open a whole new world for me and the little people in my life. Merci!


bermudaonion said...

I prefer first person narration too - this book sounds like a gem!