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The Cleo Stories: A Friend and a Pet

Exploring the 2016 CBCA Short List: Younger Readers

Kids at play in the garden on detail from book cover

Author: Libby Gleeson   Illustrator: Freya Blackwood

Allen and Unwin | ISBN 9781743315286

Themes: Family, pets, play

Years: Australian Curriculum: English, Years 1 and 2; HASS (History) Year 1; Mathematics Year 2; Science Year 1 (NSW Stage 1)

Codes: AC – Australian Curriculum: English, Humanities and Social Sciences; Mathematics; Science  | EN – NSW syllabus for AC:; HT – History; MA – Mathematics

From the publishers synopsis: Cleo’s best friend is away, her parents are busy, and there's nothing to do but count raindrops — or tidy her room. Just when she thinks she'll never cheer up, Cleo has an idea. In the next story, Cleo longs for a pet but her mum and dad say no. Perhaps the answer is hidden somewhere unexpected. This book is a companion to The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present.

Unit writer: Helen Cozmescu

Building field knowledge

  • In small groups, brainstorm activities that the class enjoys doing, both at home and at school. Categorise the activities into those that can or cannot go ahead on a rainy day. Look at the weather forecast to find out the next rainy day. ACELY1788  EN1-1A 
  • In small groups devise a plan to count raindrops. Reflect why you would, or wouldn't, want to count raindrops. ACELY1656  EN1-1A 
  • Conduct a class survey to find out the numbers and types of students' pets then present the information as a pictograph. ACMSP050  MA1-1WM
  • Research the types of animals can we have as pets. Identify the needs that pet owners have to meet in order for their pets to thrive. Groups should prepare a poster and presentation, or an explanatory video, to explain to families how to care for their pets. ACELY1667  EN1-6B  ACSSU211  ST1-11LW 

Exploring the context of the text

  • In both stories, Cleo experiences a range of emotions. Use post-it notes to identify and mark these emotions throughout the text, then ask students to create faces using paper art techniques to depict them. Use the mirror game in to help students explore a range of different emotions, for example, frustration, jealousy, joy, sadness or excitement. ACELA1787  EN1-1A
  • Create a feelings continuum and decide where adjectives which describe ‘strengths’ of feeling can be placed, for example, content, happy, cheerful, delighted. ACELA1454  EN1-1A 
  • Make connections with other texts that share similar themes and topics (boredom, imaginary friends, wanting a pet). Discuss why different authors choose similar topics when writing for children. ACELT1587  EN1-11D
  • Compare the structure, characters and plot of these stories with those from the prequel The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present. Use venn diagrams to help with the analysis of each aspect. ACELY1665  EN1-4A

Responding to the text

  • Cleo wanted a pet and felt she was the only one who didn't have one. In small groups, ask students to share an experience where they felt they didn't have something. ACELY1667  EN1-6B 
  • Use boxes, blocks and other building material to make a magic city like Cleo’s. Ask students to write two different texts about their city; one informational text that describes its mathematical features and one entertaining text that uses the city as the setting for a story. ACMMG022 MA1-14MG  ACELA1463  EN1-7B
  • Cleo’s imaginary friend was called Cassie Pickles. Ask students to create their own imaginary friend then write a character description which includes their name, appearance, likes and dislikes. ACELT1593  EN1-2A
  • In both stories, Cleo uses things found in the home to solve her problems. Ask students to share stories about something they have played with that has not been a toy. Make historical connections by exploring how children in the past used limited materials to create toys and games. ACELY1788  EN1-1A  ACHASSK030  HT1-1

Exploring plot character and setting

  • Mum, Dad and Uncle Tom show patience towards Cleo. Find examples in the text and discuss how the author and illustrator depict their patience without directly referring to it. ACELY1670  EN1-4A
  • In the first story Cleo wants a friend and in the second she wants a pet. Identify how these 'wants' form the complications in the stories and how the author uses 'twists' to resolve these problems (for example, creating an imaginary friend and using snails as pets). ACELT1584  EN1-7B
  • Cleo’s family home is the setting for both the stories. What insights do we get about her life at home? What aspects of the setting are addressed through visuals and which through the writing? ACELT1581  EN1-11D

Creating texts

  • Write a persuasive text from Cleo’s point of view convincing her parents that she should get a pet. ACELA1463  EN1-7B
  • Talk about the things we can do if we are bored and make a class illustrated big book of ‘Things to do on a rainy day’. ACELY1671  EN1-2A
  • Support students to develop a story based on a real-life everyday experience they have had at home (for example, eating dinner, arguing with a sibling). Brainstorm ideas as a class then use a plot map or whole story map to develop ideas prior to writing. ACELT1833  EN1-12E

Examining text structure and organisation

  • The text doesn't contain any exclamation marks. Discuss how the omission of this type of punctuation creates a calm ‘tone’ to the text. Identify sentences which exclamation marks could be added to and read them aloud (with and without exclamatory emphasis) to compare and contrast the effects of punctuation. ACELA1449  EN1-9B

Examining grammar

  • Explore the dialogue used in the text, which is not linked to a dialogue tag. How do we know who is speaking? With a partner re-create a dialogue sequence. ACELA1461  EN1-1A
  • Infer characters' feelings by examining different dialogue sequences and creating thought bubbles to accompany each line of dialogue. Discuss how this dialogue helps us understand the relationships that exist between the characters. ACELA1461  EN1-1A
  • Choose a section of text and track a character via the use of nouns and pronouns. ACELA1468  EN1-4A

Examining visual and multimodal features

  • Categorise the illustrations into different visual angles (above, eye-level, below). Examine the writing that accompanies each illustration, discuss why the illustrator would choose to draw from these angles and identify how the use of this type of angle adds meaning to the text. To illustrate the concept, ask students to create a dramatic freeze frame of a scene from the text and use cameras or iPads to photograph it from the three different angles. Discuss the effect each angle has on the interpretation of the scene. ACELA1469 EN1-4A
  • Examine the first double page spread and use the See, Think, Wonder routine to guide discussion. View the next page and discuss its relationship with the previous page. Make connections with other texts where the illustrator zooms in and out, such as ZOOM. ACELA1453  EN1-7B
  • View and discuss the text's end papers and title pages for each story. How do they help the reader to identify the purpose of the text and provide a visual context and set the scene for the stories? ACELA1453  EN1-7B

Additional resources and links to other texts: See The Cleo Stories Book 1: The Necklace and the Present (CBCA 2015). See other texts which can be used in comparison, housing similar themes and illustrated by the same author — Freya Blackwood; Amy and Louis (.pdf 101 kB), Clancy and Millie: Very fine house (.pdf 380 kB), The Run-a-Way Hug.

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