The first book in this series contains two stories: The Necklace and The Present and are all about lovely little Cleo and the wonderfully simple, creative solutions she finds to the problems of a five year old girl.
These stories were written in part with my daughter, Ivy, in mind. Libby had seen quite a bit of her when she was in her preschool years and I guess it had served to remind Libby of her own daughters’ childhoods.
Like Cleo, Ivy has always had a lovely creative streak, so these stories became a vessel for me to remember and record some of her little creations. She is most content when surrounded by toilet rolls and sticky tape and has been known to return triumphant from the bathroom, waving a toilet roll 'trophy' about.
Ivy’s favourite time is spent in her playroom making enormous mess and beautiful creations.
So Cleo’s bedroom is littered with similar creations – a teddy bear with a paper mane or a beak, toilet rolls with wings attached (never butterfly wings, always bat wings), a mask.
Cleo often wears a set of rabbit or cat ears, just like Ivy did for several years, and an odd assortment of garments - she's not into pretty dresses, but the mismatched and inappropriate:
I was thrilled to read that Cleo's Uncle Tom has tattooed arms and that Cleo’s friend Nick wants tattoos when he is older. I have a good laugh when I think what some parents’ reactions to that will be!
I enjoyed finding interesting solutions to page layouts and the challenge of dealing with a lot more text that I was used to.
For me, the value in these stories is that Cleo is encouraged to be resilient when she doesn't get everything she asks for, and creative, as she inevitably finds her own solutions. Parents are faced with constant requests for things and saying no can bring about ingenious solutions. I see it all the time in Ivy’s playroom!
THE CLEO STORIES, written by Libby Gleeson and published by Allen & Unwin, will be out on 1st October 2014.