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.