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The Complete Cleo Stories

Cleo and the necklace; Cleo and the present; Cleo makes a friend; Cleo wants a pet

By Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood.

Reviewed by Helen Gearing

The Complete Cleo Stories will be treasured by long-time Cleo fans and new readers alike in an exquisite hardback edition which brings together all four Cleo stories. Created by wonder-team Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood (who have won dozens of writing and illustration awards in Australia and overseas) the stories follow six-year-old Cleo in her everyday life with Mum, Dad, Uncle Tom, and Cleo’s friends.
In these stories, Cleo navigates relatable, real-world challenges, including being the only child amongst her group of friends who doesn’t own a desirable item (Cleo and the necklace), sourcing a present for Mum’s birthday (Cleo and the present), being stuck indoors in rainy weather (Cleo makes a friend), and convincing her parents that getting a pet is a good idea (Cleo wants a pet).
Cleo is a delightful character who knows her own mind and is excellent at using her imagination to solve problems, frequently circumnavigating the need for parental assistance. Her family life is secure and happy, and her interactions with her parents and uncle are humorous and believable.
In each story, Gleeson expertly builds a strong plot without stretching the tension too high, making this a wonderful series for sensitive children four years and older, including those who enjoyed Jane Godwin’s The Isabelle Stories (released in 2023).
A highlight of this collection is seeing a positive portrayal of a single-child family. Cleo resists stereotypes of a lonely, bored, or spoiled only-child, and thrives in both her relationships with her family and her wider world.
Beginning with beautiful endpapers depicting a birds-eye view of Cleo’s neighbourhood, Freya Blackwood’s warm illustrations generously accompany the text with loose-line pencil and watercolour pictures on every spread. Blackwood is a master at capturing both movement and emotion, and each Cleo story is instantly recognisable as part of a cohesive whole, no matter which order the stories are read in. 
With high-quality paper and bindings, wide margins, and an embossed cover, The Complete Cleo Stories is a delight to hold (as well as a visual feast) and would make an excellent addition to any family’s library.
A & U Children 2023
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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