Taconi and Claude: Double Trouble

Taconi & Claude9781616331306_p0_v1_s260x420Taconi & Claude: Double Trouble

Margot E. Finke, Author

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Fiction, Jan. 2011

Themes:  Aboriginal boy, Australian Outback, Multicultural, Coming of Age, Courage

Suitable for Ages:  Middle Grade

Opening:  “The full moon cast a cold light on Taconi’s naked body as four wizened elders pinned him on the ground close to a blazing fire.  Sweat rolled off him, and his heart raced the thump, thump, thump of the feather drums: faster and faster.”

Synopsis:  This is a 1950’s coming of age story about a young aboriginal boy living in the Australian outback.  Nearly 13, Taconi  knows he will soon face his upcoming man ceremony  and suffers night terrors.   Secrecy shrouds the ceremony and he has no one to talk with except Claude, his chatty Cockatoo.  He’s also torn about leaving his mother and tribe to live with his father, who is a cook at the Coorparoo Cattle Station.   His father says that it’s good for Taconi to learn and understand the white man’s world if he’s to serve his tribe in later years.   Taconi will train as a jackaroo (cowboy) on the cattle ranch.  The Boss and the Misses throw a big party which gives Taconi’s father the chance to become the head “Cookie,” at the ranch.   But the meal is jeopardized when dingoes (wild dogs) raid the chicken house, leaving no meat for the soup.  Taconi wants to help his father and goes on a dangerous walkabout  into the bush with Claude to find good aboriginal meat for the soup.  He kills a Bandy-Bandy snake, searches for Witchetty grubs, a Goanna (lizard) and catches Yabbies (shell-fish) for his father’s soup.  Only Taconi and his father know the secret of a good pot of soup.  Trouble still lurks before the big ranch party.   And, Taconi must have the courage to deal with the Dreamtime Spirits planning his future.         

Why I like this book:  I was wowed  by Taconi and Claude from the first chapter.  Margot Finke has written a gripping story that weaves Aussie language and vivid tales of Medicine Men and tribal customs with an adventure that boys and girls won’t be able to put down.  Finke quickly draws the reader into Taconi’s life in the outback and the challenges he faces.  Each chapter is a page turner.   The characters are fleshed out, including his awesome Cockatoo, Claude, who provides much comic relief throughout the story.  The plot is exciting, funny and packed  with action.  Readers will enjoy learning about eating live Witchetty Grubs,  catching Yabbies and being covered by green fire ants.  There is a glossary of Aussie terms at the end of the book that will introduce readers to a variety of new vocabulary and expose them to a new culture.

Clara Bowman-Jahn also reviewed Taconi and Claude last year on her blog.

Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes middle grade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family.  Visit Margot Finke  on her website. 

Mama Grizzly Bear

Mama Grizzly Bear9781616333041_p0_v1_s260x420Mama Grizzly Bear

Margot Finke, Author

Gloria Gaulke Swan, Illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., October 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 6-12 yrs.

Themes: Grizzly Bears, Conservation,Nature, Threats, Protection

Opening/Synopsis“The great grizzly mama is awesome and wild/She’ll tear you to bits if you threaten her child/With her shaggy coat flying, she hunts down a meal/Her sharp teeth and claws make it look like a steal.”  Follow Mama Grizzly bear through the year as she hunts for food, prepares for winter hibernation and gives birth to her cubs.   By spring the cubs are ready to play and explore their new world.  But, Mama will spend the spring and summer teaching them lessons in survival, foraging for food and fishing.

Why I like this book:  Margot Finke is known for her beautiful rhyming picture books.  She has written a charming and informative book for children about Grizzly bears.  It is a great classroom book to teach children about the North American Grizzly bears.  Finke’s goal is to inspire a new generation of children to feel compassion towards animals that are threatened or endangered.  She hopes that some day they will want to take an active role in protecting them from their fiercest enemy — man — who cuts down their habitat.  The illustrations by the late GLoria Gaulke Swan, are rich and warm in color, and the detail is inviting.

Resources:  Margot Finke has created a fun section For Cool Kids at the end of the book where children can find resources on conservation for Grizzly Bears, free Grizzly Screensavers, and Grizzly Bear eCards.  The last page of the book is a Word Puzzle.  She also has a fun place on her website called Wild US Critters, where children can learn about grizzlies and other US animals.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D”

Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D”

Margot Finke, author

Ellen Gurak, illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., 2010, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 5-10

Themes:  Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, Differences

Opening/Synopsis:  “When Horatio Humble read words out loud/There were snorts and giggles from the classroom crowd./The teacher would frown and say, “‘Tut, tut!’  And Horatio’s mouth would close –tight and shut.”  Horatio is a bright student.  He gets A’s in Math and in History.   English and reading are a challenge.  He wants to read books, “But something was wonky within his poor head, so words in his books stayed a mystery instead.”   He and his parents meet with the teacher and Horatio learns he has dyslexia.  Horatio is told that he will attend a special class.  He is upset!  “Special class is for nitwits,” he whined.  “Every one of my friends will think that I’m dumb!”  After working with a teacher things begin to look brighter for Horatio.

Why I like this book:  First of all, Margot Finke beautifully wrote this book in rhyme.  The book is simple, compassionate and packed with hope.   Ellen Gurak’s bold and colorful illustrations are engaging  and show Horatio overcoming adversity.  This book should be in every school library.   It is fun and upbeat.  You can visit Margot Finke by clicking on her website.    She wrote a grade school rhyming book for dyslexic children

Resources:  There is a helpful parent-teacher guide included at the end.   Margot Finke also wrote a grade school rhyming book for dyslexic children.  If dyslexia is caught early it can be overcome according to the Mayo Clinic.  Did you know that Oprah, Bill Gates and Daniel Radcliffe had dyslexia?  To learn more about dyslexia contact the International Dyslexia Association and The Dyslexia Foundation.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.