Tag Archives: Freya Blackwood

The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood


cleo1coverThe Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Freya Blackwood, hardback chapter book, 57 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2014.

Cleo is an average six year old living with her parents, having fun with her friends and learning about her world. In the first story, several of her friends have pretty new necklaces, and she wants one too. In the second story, it is her mum’s birthday, and Cleo wants to get her a really great present.

This is the first book in The Cleo Stories series. It contains two fun short stories, and is illustrated throughout. The illustrations are very distinctive and just lovely. They feel soft and gentle, and complement the story well. The stories are simple yet engaging, which is brilliant for young readers.

Cleo is a sweet little girl. I like her imagination and her sense of style. I love that she often wears animal ear head bands, as it reminds me of my own little girl. I enjoyed reading about her everyday adventures, and so did my first grader. We already have the next Cleo book to read!

The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present is suitable for preschool and lower primary school children. It is good for early independent readers, but is also lovely to share.


*The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present was the winner of the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Young Readers category.


The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood


IMG_1398The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood, hardback picture book, published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2013.

Peter and his father are forced to flee their home during the war. They take with them a book in a small iron box. This book is special to Peter’s father, and is the last remaining book after the local library was bombed. The road to safety is long , cold and arduous. When Peter’s father dies, he struggles on, taking the box with him, but when he can go no further, he buries the box beneath a tree. Peter escapes with his life, but he never forgets the iron box holding the treasured book.

The Treasure Box is a poignant story of war, death and loss. Peter loses everything he has ever known, yet he never forgets his father, his home or the treasured book. Some things are more important than gold, silver and rubies. Peter’s book is about his people, the people that were persecuted and forced from their homes, it is an important part of their history. When everything is lost, we still have our history and our memories. The Treasure Box reminds us of the importance of the written word and of history, which can help shape the future for the better.

The illustrations in The Treasure Box were perfectly matched to the story, creating just the right tone as the story progresses. Using subtle shadowing made some of the pictures appear to rise from the page, or created a looking-through-a-window effect. I also liked that some of the pages had parts made up of ripped texts, as if they had been made from the bombed library books.

This is a thought-provoking read for both young and old, and I found it incredibly sad. My preschooler and second grader were shocked when Peter’s father died, and the refugees buried him by the side of the road. They have never been exposed to war or its consequences, and this book was a real eye-opener. They asked a lot of questions, many of which I could not answer. They wanted to know why anyone would go to war, why they would force people to leave their homes, why they would bomb innocent people, why they would kill children, and how can we stop war. I wish I knew the answers and the solutions, and I wish no one had to endure the atrocities of war. The Treasure Box gave us a sorrowfully beautiful, age appropriate and heartfelt opening to discuss this very complicated and saddening topic.


The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood


IMG_0510The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2011.

When Lucy asks for a hug before bed, Mummy tells her it is her last one. Lucy promises to return it, and Mummy gives her a nice, gentle hug. Then Lucy runs off to share it with the other members of her family, where it becomes bigger and peanut-buttery, but still nice. The hug runs away with Annie, and Lucy chases her to get it back, but it’s not easy, and she really wants to give Mummy back her last hug.

This is a sweet book about sharing love within families and the differences each family member brings. It contains simple language suitable for emergent readers to try, and delightfully quirky illustrations. At the start of the story, Mummy appears to be searching for a skirt in the dirty wash pile in just her undies and shirt, despite it being almost bedtime. I liked that the house was messy, there were drawings on one of the walls and Mummy was breastfeeding the baby at the end. The steps in the house also made me think of the MC Escher house. I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the illustrations, and the realistic portrayal of a house with four children in it.

The Runaway Hug is a nice book to share while cuddling up with your child. It leaves us with a warm and happy feeling each time we read it together. Best for preschoolers and lower primary school children, this award winning* picture book is loved by both my preschooler and my second grader.


* The Runaway Hug won The Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Early Childhood category in 2012.