The Cleo Stories: The Necklace & The Present by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood
Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN: 9781743315279
(Age: 5-8) You just know when you pick up a book created by this pair of very talented individuals, that you are in for a real treat. Certainly, this is no exception!
Cleo is six and like most little six year old girls loves her family and her friends very much. She also loves necklaces and presents and in these two stories, her imagination and ingenuity come to the fore - amid some tiny mishaps.
When my eldest daughter was this age, she came home from school one day asking for pink court shoes because 'everyone' at school wore them. So when I read The Necklace with Cleo asking her parents for a necklace because 'everyone' else has one, I laughed with the reminiscence. As Mum and Dad kindly point out, three friends do not make 'everyone' and necklaces are special presents, not everyday gifts. Undeterred, Cleo is inspired by her clearly much-loved Uncle Tom and comes up with a highly creative solution!
Cleo's next dilemma is trying to think of just the right present for her Mum's birthday. Having only a few coins in her piggy bank doesn't allow for buying something expensive and flashy, she doesn't want to 'share' in Dad's present, she doesn't think helping Dad cook dinner is much of a present so what can she do? She wants to give Mum a proper present, wrapped up and tied with a bow. Then once more, her imaginative little mind results in the most perfect present Mum could ever want!
This is a gorgeous book - with sweet gentle stories which will resonate with little people, especially girls, and the ever-beautiful illustrations of Freya Blackwood (oh those endpapers!!! Just lovely!).
I am put in mind of the simple but charming stories of Milly-Molly-Mandy from so long ago - stories which still engage young readers. I foresee this will be in the 2015 shortlist - and deserves to be.
Imagination, creativity and values which we should be encouraging and nurturing in our small humans imbue the text throughout.
If you have a special little girl in your life - this will make a treasured gift - and for your newly independent readers wanting to move into a lengthier picture book, a perfect addition to your library shelves.
Check out Libby's website and also Freya's.