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Riverview writer says she hopes she never grows up

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Olga Iris Claudio of Riverview shows a portion of the children’s books she is preparing to submit for publication. She has been writing songs and doing performances in schools and events all over the county for many years based on the character ‘Little Olga’ but now wants to take the stories and songs to a wider audience. (Penny Fletcher Photo)
RIVERVIEW- If you like talking to animals, running in the rain and jumping barefoot into mud puddles, you might be just a little bit like Little Olga.

The ‘Little Olga’ character, who waves a magic wand, promotes peace and brotherhood and is often shown playing in a rainbow on CD covers, in games and during public performances, is hoping to soon become the star of a series of children’s books. Or rather, that’s what her creator, Olga Iris Claudio of Riverview, is stepping out to do next.

“First I thought about self-publishing,” Claudio said. “But the Little Olga character has been so well received at so many performances, I think she has the track record to sell.”

Since creating Little Olga in 2000, Claudio has done performances at schools, libraries, malls, special events and book stores, including Barnes & Noble.  

Claudio says the character has been with her for as long as she can remember, perhaps because she herself has refused to abandon enjoyment of things many think they have to throw away when they become responsible adults.

“I get the kids involved with nature, and animals, and taking care of the Earth,” she said, showing me photographs from some of her many performances as one of her unusual children’s CDs played in the background. “When I do a program, the kids dress up like animals, flowers, rainbows- wear wings- I bring things that spark their imagination and show them about nature.”

She used to run a full-fledged childcare center, but now does an after-school program instead, which is located at her home near the south end of Balm-Riverview Road. “When I did the child care, I was open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. but the after-school program is just four hours, from 2-to-6, so I can spend more time writing and getting ready to promote my books and other work.”

She also teaches Spanish at area preschools some mornings as well.

Along with a series of children’s books, Claudio envisions a line of Little Olga products, and is currently in discussions with two literary agents specializing in that genre.

Interestingly, she has kept the whole book of illustrations done by Maria Bolton of Orlando when she first got the idea for her Little Olga character. Bolton did pages and pages of different faces, body shapes, hair and expressions before Claudio finally said, “That’s it!” satisfied that Little Olga looked just as she should.

Claudio has also kept clippings and photographs from her performances around the state.

A lot of her ideas for songs and books came from children’s questions and observations, especially from her son Chris, who is now 16.

“One day he said, ‘look at that big red ball in the sky!’ Of course it was the sun, and that was when I wrote The Big Red Ball in the Sky,” she said.

Now she has several children’s books completed and others in various conceptual stages.

She also has ideas for a book about her doll, Claudia, that she has had since she was 7 years old, and for a family of stuffed monkeys that sit waiting on a table in the corner of one of her playrooms.

“They say it only takes 45 seconds to lose an idea so I always keep a pad and pen handy,” the now 51-year-old Little Olga said.

She gets many of her ideas from the children in her after school program. They have nature hunts for things she has hidden in Easter-egg-hunt fashion, including pebbles, acorns, flowers, leaves, feathers, wild berries and even a frog.

She also encourages each child to write a ‘book’ about nature, and provides a template  for the cover page for drawing and an inside page on which to write.

One book she has ready to go to an agent is “Little Olga and her Magic Wand” which will be available in both English and Spanish. “I have already done both translations,” she told me.

Born in Ft. Benning, Ga., Claudio’s father was career in the military so she had the opportunity to live in many places while growing up. Both her parents are Puerto Rican, and all her relatives (except her husband and son, both named Chris) live in Puerto Rico now, so the family tries to visit there every year.

Claudio said she found it strange that she had chosen the rainbow as a symbol for her Little Olga character, because afterwards, she was looking up the meaning of her name and found that “Olga” which is a Russian name, means “holy,” but “Iris,” her middle name, means “rainbow.”

That reinforced the thought that Little Olga was meant to be, she said. “That’s why I never leave out my middle name.”

“I don’t want to get too old to jump in puddles and run barefoot in the grass,” she told me. “Little Olga shows kids it’s good to be playful, and especially to enjoy nature and take care of the special, natural things on the Earth.”      

To find out more about her child care or performances, email her at littleolgarainbw@aol.com; call (813) 633-1851 or check out her child care site at www.loasp.com. The “loasp” stands for Little Olga’s After School Program.


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