Uncle Tom is making himself a coffee. ‘What’s up, pumpkin? Youy’ve got a face as long as a wet week.’
Cleo shrugs. ‘There’s no one to play with and nothing to do.’
‘You’ve got an imagination,’ says Uncle Tom. ‘Use it. Make something up.’
Cleo is having a terrible day. It’s raining outside, her best friend Nick is away, and her parents are busy. There’s nothing to do that doesn’t seem to land her in trouble. When she spies her reflection in one of the rainy day puddles, Cleo has an idea – and her day gets brighter.
In a second story, Cleo desperately wants a pet. Her friend Nick has a new puppy and it seems like everybody in her class has a pet of some sort. Mum and Dad say a poet is a lot of work. But when Cleo sees Dad trying to get rid of the snails in the vegetable patch, she has an idea.
The Cleo Stories: A Friend and A Pet is the second book featuring the endearing Cleo and her family. The two stories in this new volume are just as wonderful as those in the first. Cleo is inventive and loveable, but she’s not perfect, making her someone young readers can relate to.
The format of the books, in hardcover a little larger than a regular chapter book, and with sumptuous colour illustrations on every spread, is inviting, and makes them suitable for either independent reading or sharing with an adult. Both adult and child will fall in love with Cleo.
The Cleo Stories: A Friend and A Pet
Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood
Allen & Unwin, 2015
Cleo is about to say that she got her T-shirt for Christmas and the whole family came, even Uncle Tom from America, and now he’s going to stay here. They all went to the beach for dinner and a swim. She is suddenly quiet. Maybe the other girls will think a T-shirt is not such a great present, not like a necklace. She touches her bare neck. What would a necklace feel like?
Cleo is excited about her friend Nick’s birthday party. But she is wearing her Christmas T-shirt, even though it’s not Christmas, and the other girls are wearing necklaces. Cleo is sure that she has to get a necklace too – even though Mum and Dad say special presents are only for birthdays or Christmas. Cleo’s solution, when it comes, is typical of her unique way of thinking.
When Mum’s birthday approaches, Cleo is determined to give her something only from Cleo, but she doesn’t have much money, and she doesn’t have a single idea. Mum says she doesn’t need a present – Cleo is everything she needs. Again, Cleo’s solution is unique, and very special.
The Cleo Stories are two delightful stories of a delightful girl in one delightful hardcover volume. Cleo is an individual – she wears what she wants, and she does what she wants – but she has a big heart and a ton of imagination. Young readers will giggle at her antics just as they’ll cheer her on when she fixes her problems with innovative ideas.
The two stories are told in simple text, accessible to early readers, without feeling simplistic. The illustrations are filled with the warm, whimsical detail fans of Freya Blackwood love so much, with end papers depicting Cleo’s neighbourhood a special treat.
A book to be treasured.
The Cleo Stories, by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood
Allen & Unwin, 2014
Available from good bookstores or online.