Cleo Edison Oliver: Playground Millionaire
January 26, 2016
Cleopatra Edison Oliver has always been an entrepreneur, just like her inspiration, successful businesswoman Fortune A. Davies. So when Cleo's fifth-grade teacher assigns her class a "Passion Project," Cleo comes up with her best business idea yet: the finest "tooth-pulling" company in town. With the help of her best friend Caylee, a Nerf gun, her dad's tablet, and her patented Persuasion Power, Cleo's Quick and Painless Tooth Removal Service starts to take off. But even the best made plans, by the best CEOs, go awry sometimes. A minor barfing incident during a tooth-pulling operation causes Cleo to lose customers. Caylee, initially enthusiastic about the business, grows distant as Cleo neglects their friendship in lieu of getting more customers. And when a mean classmate makes fun of Cleo for being adopted, everything comes crashing down. Will she be able to rescue her business, salvage her friendship with Caylee, and discover that her true home has been here all along?
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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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