The Cleo Stories: A Friend and a Pet
Allen & Unwin, 2015
64pp. hbk., RRP $A16.99
It’s a rainy day and the gloom matches Cleo’s mood. She’s lonely and bored and is amusing herself by counting the raindrops sliding down the window pane. Intent on counting to a zillion, she only interrupts her task when it is lunchtime. By the time she has finished the rain has almost stopped so that puts an end to that and with all her friends otherwise occupied it looks like it is going to be a l-o-n-g afternoon. Her mother suggests she clean her room and although that doesn’t appeal, something she spies on her way to do it, does. But once again Cleo gets into strife. However every cloud has a silver lining and while Cleo is scrubbing her hands to get the mascara off she sees her reflection in a puddle and that gives her an idea… and she finds a friend!
In the second story in the book, Cleo has fallen in love with her friend Nick’s new puppy, Peanut. She would desperately like a puppy too but dad is adamant that that won’t be happening because of the cost and the amount of looking after they need. Even when the puppy pees on her dress her determination remains and she tries the age-old art of pester power, but still to no avail. Even Uncle Tom can’t help her this time and she is even more despondent when the children at school talk about their pets and she has nothing to say. But after an altercation with her dad about the snails in the garden, she has an idea… and gets a pet that costs nothing and is easy to look after.
Readers first met free-spirited Cleopatra Miranda McCann in the first book The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present which won the CBCA Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers in 2015 so they will be delighted that she is back with all her imagination and determination to seek solutions to her problems. Gleeson has a knack of writing about events that will resonate with her target audience and Blackwood’s illustrations, based on her own daughter, contain much to explore while complementing the text perfectly. Newly independent readers, particularly girls, will be very happy to make Cleo’s acquaintance again and learn from her.