Wednesday, February 03, 2016

#WNDB Wednesday: Cleo Edison Oliver: Playground Millionaire

Frazier, Sundee T. Cleo Edison Oliver: Playground Millionaire 
26 January 2016, Arthur A Levine Books
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

Cleo is starting fifth grade, but her real passion is starting businesses. Her idol is Fortune A. Davies, who has a television show about entrepreneurs, and Cleo takes her advice to heart. She sells avocados from her back yard trees, and everything is a business opportunity. When she realizes that many of her classmates have loose teeth, she comes up with a fairly painless way to remove them using a Nerf gun, and figures that there is a lot of money to be made if she markets it correctly. Unfortunately, her first session of tooth removal is interrupted when she becomes ill, and she knows that bringing the business to school is a risky proposition. She is also dealing with other issues-- her best friend, Caylee is angry with her, she is in trouble with her parents for small things like annoying her brothers and borrowing things without asking, and a classmate makes fun of her for being adopted. The last issue is one that bothers Cleo more than she would like to admit. She is proud of her name, and of being part Filipina and part African American, but she struggles with why her birth mother was not able to raise her. Luckily, her adoptive parents are very supportive, and manage to help Cleo navigate her way through all of her difficulties.

Cleo was a lively, engaging character who exhibited many of the traits inherent to 10-year-olds: trouble with impulse control, combativeness when upset, and enthusiastic exuberance about whatever is exciting to them at the moment. All of these things get her into trouble, but the adults in her life understand and try to redirect her in productive ways. There aren't a lot of books that show this side of the later elementary years, and readers like characters who occasionally get into trouble. I especially appreciated that Cleo's business at school was NOT something that went on for very long before she was caught. It was also realistic that she got a day of suspension for bringing a Nerf gun to school, even though the principal and teacher didn't blow the incident out of proportion.

The supporting characters are well drawn. Caylee has her own problems with her parents' divorce, but they aren't heard over the noise of Cleo being Cleo. There are mean girls in the class, a boy who likes to put erasers up his nose, and a teacher who wants to inspire students to do their best.

Readers who enjoy Ms. Frazier's other books will be glad to meet Cleo, who will appeal to those who like the realistic fiction books like Liberty Porter, Ten, and the works of Margolis, Naylor, Cody Kimmel and other books set in late elementary school.

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