HAZEL RYE by Vera & Bill Cleaver Cleaver
Kirkus Star

HAZEL RYE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hazel Rye at eleven is one of those indelible Cleaver heroines, feisty and determined. She doesn't care that she's been left back in school, and neither does her doting father Millard, a carpenter, who never learned to read himself and never suffered for it. Her ambition is to drive a taxi and make $300.00 a week like her married brother Donnie, and her chief desire is to get her ears pierced. Her father, who has forbidden the earpiercing, has given her the unused three-acre citrus grove on their property as a peace offering; and Hazel plans to sell the grove, get her ears pierced with or without her father's permission, and buy a pair of pure-gold earrings. ""If there was any money left over she would buy a car. It would be purple and shaped like a rocket."" But Hazel's self-confidence is shattered upon the arrival of the Pooles, a widow and her three children, who offer to work for the Ryes in exchange for shelter in the four-room cabin on Hazel's grove. When twelve-year-old Felder Poole convinces Hazel that he can make the grove thrive--and thus more saleable--she strikes a deal; then her father has a tantrum over her ""going behind my back."" But Hazel is fascinated with Felder, who knows all about making things grow and collects specimens to study under his microscope. His shock at her attempts to print labels, make change, or discuss ""propagation"" make her own inadequacies apparent. As she is exposed to the Pooles' ""high-faring"" table talk and their constant recourse to reference books, Hazel feels ""like I've been in a hole all my life."" Threatened, her father responds by forbidding her to work in the grove with Felder and relenting on the ear issue to appease her. But Millard is fighting a losing battle, and when he brings home a ship model to occupy the two of them, the project is abandoned because neither can read the directions. Worse, Felder tries to help and shows him up by explaining what the words mean. In one of their set-tos Hazel blurts out, ""It's your fault I'm like you. You don't want me to know tat from bat, because if I found out, then I'd know more than you."" The aftermath of that argument is a new Cadillac, yellow at her choosing. When the Pooles finally depart without notice, Hazel knows that her father is responsible. But the damage is done. She is left with new plants to care for, a dictionary she'll struggle with to make up for wasted years, and the grove which she now knows she will never sell. The Cleavers project Hazel's awakening, her father's pathetic treachery, the struggles within and between them, and her changing views of Donnie and his wife, the Pooles, and the world in general in uncomplicated scenes of direct, emphatic action and punchy conversations that ring with that special colloquial power.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1983
Publisher: Lippincott