Opening: The full moon cast a cold light on Taconis
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. Hes 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 its good for Taconi to learn and understand the white
mans world if hes 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 Taconis
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 fathers
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 wont be able
to put down. Finke quickly draws the reader into Taconis
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
Clara Bowman-Jahn also reviewed Taconi and Claude last year on
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.
Taconi & Claude: Double Trouble, a Chapbook for Tweens, by
Margot Finke, is a wonderful addition to this genre. The book
is a coming of age story set in the 1950's in the Australian Outback.
There's a lot of Aussie information in the chapters to interest
kids who wonder what it's like "down under."
I found myself humming "Waltzing Matilda" as I turned
the pages and met fascinating creatures from that familiar song.
The story has strange words and phrases that are commonplace to
Taconi (and defined at the end of the story). Each time Taconi
encounters one of the special critters from the outback, you are
engaged and enter more deeply into his world and his conflict.
Taconi is an aboriginal boy on the verge of his "man ceremony."
His best friend Claude, the talkative Cockatoo, accompanies him
everywhere. Taconi is caught between two worlds -- the tribal
world he was born into and the white man's world he navigates
with his Dad, a cook on the Coorparoo Cattle Station.
The old and new ways constantly bump into each other. Taconi
must learn white man's customs in order to fit in there and yet
not lose his tribal heritage and connection. His faithful though
loud-mouthed pal Claude, talks a lot but also says just what Taconi
needs to hearAs any other adolescent, Taconi wonders: What will
I be when I grow up? What if I can't endure the pain, and cry
out at my "Man Ceremony," humiliating myself and shaming
my Dad? Does Dad have my interests at heart or is he ignoring
me as he pursues his goal? These thoughts haunt Taconi's dreams
and worry him during the day. Still he helps his Dad save the
soup and also searches for the blue kingfisher tail feather with
its powerful magic.
Eventually Taconi learns some important truths about his life
that enable him to accept and acclimate to both worlds.Transplanted
Aussie Margot Finke captures the reader's interest with her intense
beginning, Taconi's fearful dream. As you follow Taconi's story,
you worry something awful may befall the outspoken Claude. Or
the ancient and menacing Medicine Man may harm Taconi, his Dad,
or Claude. Ms. Finke keeps the story moving, having Taconi deal
with one problem after another as his wisdom and courage grow.
I commend Margot Finke for this exciting, entertaining story about
a distant world in a different time, but with a timeless message
about growing up and finding your own way. This one is sure to
be a favorite of kids here and "down under."
Taconi and Claude will delight middle-grade readers:
Set in the Australian outback in the 1950s, Margot Finke's new
book, Taconi and Claude: Double Trouble (Guardian Angel Publishing
Inc., 2011), will take you on a journey where you'll feel the
aboriginal boy's two biggest fears: the ceremony that will initiate
the 12 year old as a man of his tribe, and his concerns his dad,
who's started cooking for Boss and Missus, won't have time to
teach him how to become a man.
Because Taconi and his dad no longer live in the hills with the
rest of their tribe, Taconie has no one else he can ask. Staying
with his tribe has become impossible; Taconi's dad and the medicine
man are at odds following the death of the boy's sister.
Taconi feels as if he has one foot in tribe's way and another
foot in the white man's world. Yet, Taconi worries, if his dad
doesn't get the cookie job, he might never smile again. "I
want cookie job more than kookaburra wants to laugh," his
Taconi decides that only a tail feather from a blue kingfisher-like
the medicine man has-can help calm his man ceremony fears and
help his dad keep his job. "Just one feather from the kingfisher
bird, and big problems go pffft ... away on the wind," Taconi
says. And just maybe it will help him understand his dad's advice:
"Aborigine man must know how to live in black skin and with
Taconi goes walkabout to hunt for the talisman as well as for
bush meat-things such as witchetty grubs and bandy-bandy snakes.
His dad will need extra meat for an important celebration that
will bring other cattle station owners from hundreds of miles
away. How could Missus help but be impressed with such delicacies
for her dinner?
Accompanying Taconi is a cockatoo named Claude whose one liners
are as humorous as they are wise. Could it be that the Dreamtime
spirits are talking through him? For it's not soon after that
Taconi learns the real power is what's inside each of us, the
power that lives within our head and our heart.
by: Rhonda Fischer
Author of award winning: "Randy Kazandy - Where Are Your Glasses?"
* * * * Taconi & Claude takes place
in the Australian outback of the early nineteen fifties. An aboriginal
child, Taconi lives on Coorparoo Cattle Station, along with his
best friend, a cockatoo named Claude. Claude is about seventy years
old, has had many owners, and dabbles in a large vocabulary when
he talks to Taconi.
The book is intense. At the beginning Taconi is 13, and has many
fears concerning his upcoming and very secret man ceremony. He is
terrified about what might happen during the ceremony. Taconi lives
in his native world, yet he is also learning to live in the white
man's world. A world of eating termites, kookaburra's, frillneck
lizards, kangaroos, emu, and other creatures that live in the outback
world of Australia. Find out which of these animals is never hunted
by his tribe. Find out why Taconi looks forward to becoming an Elder.
When you pick up the book you feel as if you are actually in Australia
and hear the sounds of the bush in your mind, and feel the dampness
across your brow. It was an adventure I took without leaving my
house. Jump into the secrets and triumphs that Taconi works on to
help his father win his placement in the white man's world.
A wonderful glossary of Aboriginal and Aussie words are placed
at the end of the book. Not only your child, but adults will love
to learn about the life of the Aboriginals in Taconi's tribe, circra
1950. Taconi and Claude is full of outstanding facts about an aboriginal
boy who prospered.
Songs like Kookaburra Sings in the Old Gum Tree and Waltzing Matilda
are much more meaningful to me now. I heard that Kookaburra's indeed
don't sing at all, they laugh. That title needs to change. Find
your small reading place, and snuggle up with your child. Your adventure
with Taconi & Claude is about to begin.
Reviewed by J. Aday Kennedy -
for Brain Fart Explosion
Book Synopsis: Taconi, a young aboriginal boy, living
on Coorparoo Cattle Station, in outback Australia, fears the unknown.
His upcoming Man Ceremony, Dreamtime Spirits, and his Dad's change
of job are just three of the unknowns he must tackle. Claude, his
chatty cockatoo, offers wise one-liners. Yet Taconi must discover
courage and insight for himself. Suggested ages for readers: 9-14
For a taste of the Outback read Taconi & Claude by Margot
Finke. Experience the flavor of the wilderness through Finke's
picturesque prose. Taconi, the young protagonist shares his fears
and thoughts as he hunts and speaks to Claude, his cockatoo.
This bird has an attitude and spunky personality. His one-liners
add a touch of comic relief as Taconi struggles to mentally prepare
for his man ceremony. As I read the book Taconi took on an accent
and persona. His image became indelible in my mind. Finke does
a superb job of showing the inner most fears of the boy and his
determination to overcome them.
All boys will relate to Taconi as they approach their own "coming
of age" approaches.. The book is perfect for reluctant readers,
boys especially. Tromping through the Outback with Taconi &
Claude will provide hours of reading adventure. I highly recommend
Taconi & Claude.
& Claude - Double Trouble
Reviewed for: Blogcritics
by Nicole Weaver
Margot Finke has done it again! Her witty sense
of humor, unbridled passion and talent to write stories for
children and teens shine through like a beacon in the night.In
Taconi and Claude: Double Trouble, Ms. Finke introduces the
reader to the Australian outback. The two lovable characters,
Taconi and his beloved best friend Claude, a cockatoo, will
captivate you till the very end of the story. The story chronicles
the coming of age of a boy from a tribe in the 1950s era of
the Australian outback. Taconi leaves the hills to come with
his father to serve an affluent family at a time when he is
also to enter the manhood of his Tribe.
Taconi and the cockatoo experience daily challenges
together in a fun and amusing way. Along the journey, the reader
will learn much about Australian folk tales and primitive tribal
living.The most memorable moment in this delightful tale is
the authors ingenious way to show that in Australia it
is not too farfetched to indulge in eating snakes and other
There are a great deal of lessons one can learn
from reading Taconi & Claude. Here are a few that stand
1) Hard Work: Taconi learns from his dad that hard work pays
off. The lesson to be learned is that nothing comes easy in
life; one must be willing to work hard to achieve goals. In
the end, Taconi is inspired by his dads willingness to
work hard and he helps his father keep his job as a cook and
makes his father proud of the young man he has become.
2) Friendship: I love the strong friendship between Taconi and
his mouthy cockatoo. Even though Claudes death defying
curiosity led to Taconi being smothered by flesh-biting critters,
Taconi managed to forgive Claude and they remained close buddies.
3) Self Discovery: Taconi searches for the power he thinks he
needs to survive by diligently looking for the blue kingfisher
feather. Taconi is convinced that the blue kingfisher feather
has magical power that will help him obtain unlimited amount
of courage. In the end, Taconi discovers the power he is looking
for comes from within.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this book for
both girls and boys. I believe, students can learn a lot about
what it means to be loyal and the benefits one can reap from
hard work. Lastly, the glossary of Aussie terms at the end of
the book will introduce readers to an array of new vocabulary
and expose them to a new culture.
& Claude- Double Trouble
Reviewed for: Stories for Children
by Terri Forehand
I have the privilege of reviewing the newest
book by award winning children's author, Margot Finke. Her new
book titled Taconi & Claude, Double Trouble is a book I
couldn't put down.The theme is a coming of age book for a boy
from a tribe in the 1950's era of the Australian outback. Taconi
leaves the hills to come with his father to serve an afluent
family at a time when he is also to enter the manhood of his
His best friend is a mouthy old bird named Claude.
Claude shows remarkable wisdom throughout the story as Taconi
searches for the power he thinks he needs to survive. Together
they search for the blue kingfisher feather believing it has
magical power for courage and survival. Through many predicaments
and all kinds of trouble, Taconi discovers the power he is looking
for comes from within. Through the trials and adventures, Taconi
helps his father keep his job as a cookie and makes his father
proud of the young man he has become.
This story weaves Aussie language and vivid details
of the 1950's folk tales of Medicine men and primitive tribal
living with an adventure that readers will not be able to put
down. This story will interest both boys and girls with it's
humor, adventure, and the actions of one awesome bird named
Claude. Ms Finke includes a glossary of Aussie terms adding
to the overall feel of an adventure in the Australian outback.
Wonderful coming of age story with spirit and adventure that
no child should miss. I would definitely recommend this for
students, teachers, and librarians as a great book.
& Claude: Double Trouble
Reviewed by Donna McDine
The fear of the unknown sends Taconi's mind into
the darkest corners of his imagination. Will his ever changing
life continue to spiral out of control? Finding his one true
place while saddling the life as an aboriginal in the Australian
outback and then as a Jackaroo in the white man's world is a
With the anticipation of his man ceremony, Taconi
fights his inner thoughts to be worthy of his aboriginal customs;
all the while, striving to understand his father's need to become
the head cook on the Coorparoo Cattle Station. The fight for
balance becomes quite confusing for young Taconi in his determination
not to forget his heritage and accepting the need to live in
the white man's world.
Along the way he finds comfort and direction
in an unlikely companion, the outspoken Claude the cockatoo.
This unlikely and heartwarming friendship is wise beyond their
years and will have the reader cheering for Taconi's one true
quest, acceptance. Will Taconi be able to weave customs from
both worlds into a comfortable fit? Author, M.E. Finke expertly
brings forth her expertise of the Australian outback in this
fast paced fictional story transporting the reader with the
perfect blend of description and dialogue.
For a deeper understanding of the Australian, author M.E.
Finke provides a glossary of Australian terms, which will surely
bring out the love of reading to the most reluctant reader.
Reviewed by Donna McDine,
award willing author and reviewer.
Title: The Revenge of Thelma Hill
Written by: Margot Finke
Published in: Kindle
Twelve-year old Frannie's life, in turmoil with the reality
of abandonment by her mother, becomes even more frustrating
with the announcement of her dad's work transfer. Moving from
the comfort of Iowa to Oregon gets her thinking more and more
of her mother and the what if's. Her dad makes it perfectly
clear conversations about her mother are off limits. She would
turn to her twin, Jeff, for support but they have never been
Upon their move to Oregon, Frannie is determined to make the
best of summer vacation, even though the prospect of making
friends before school begins appears nil. Miraculously a friendship
develops in the most unexpected form. And when I say form, it's
the ghostly form.
Frannie's ability to tap into spirits from the beyond is fine
tuned and entwines her into an experience like no-other. The
task at hand is unearthing the key evidence into a long forgotten
death of a once wealthy newlywed.
Will Frannie trust her instincts and help the ghost of Thelma
Hill be released into her final resting place? Or will she allow
her negative relationship with her brother to consume her? Surely
there is more than one way to develop a positive relationship
with both the living and the dead?
Find out in this expertly written fast paced middle grade novel
adventure written by the Aussie from down under, Margot Finke.
The author's wholesome writing is sure to please her readers,
from children to parents and educators.
Learn more about Margot Finke's illustrious
writing career and critique services at http://www.margotfinke.com
I'm not much into ghost stories, but I enjoyed
The Revenge of Thelma Hill - a LOT.
It starts off with a scary first chapter, but
eventually we learn the ghost of Thelma Hill isn't evil. She
just wants Frannie James to help her. Thelma was murdered years
ago by her husband, who buried her in the basement of the house
where Frannie and her family now live. The ghost wants her bones
buried in a consecrated cemetery so she can go to Heaven and
for her murderer to get the punishment he deserves. She's certain
Frannie is the only one who can make that happen - but how?
The real scary character in the book isn't
the ghost, but her murderer.
The subplots include Frannie trying to find
out what happened to her own mother, who had left the family
when she was two years old, and dealing with her obnoxious twin
brother. Since the family moved to their new town during Summer
vacation her brother Jeff is the only kid she knows, but they
can't get along and quarrel constantly. And, of course, if Frannie
tells anyone she has been seeing a ghost they'll think she has
The author, Margot Finke, has done a wonderful
job of writing an exciting, tension-filled story and portraying
realistic characters and relationships.
Catrina Barton "KittyB78" (Mo, USA) -
See all my reviews
The Revenge of Thelma Hill
November 21, 2012
This review is from: The Revenge of Thelma Hill (Kindle Edition)
In the spirit of fair disclosure, this honest review is solely
my opinions, based on a copy supplied by the author. It has
not been compensated for in any way. Anyone who reads my reviews
can plainly see I say what I think straight up.
I loved the wordplay on the title chapters,
and felt it added a touch of flair to the story. The characters
are well fleshed out, and the plot was easy to follow. I enjoyed
the easy pace, and great characters. Miss Finke, knows her stuff.
Margaret C. Arvanitis
October 18, 2012
The Revenge of Thelma Hill
A hair-raising ghost story
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Author Margot Finke did a masterful job of bringing the characters
into 12 year old personalities in this hair-raising ghost story
and mystery. Who killed Thelma Hill? How can they find the killer
and bring him to justice so that the 40 year old ghost can go
on to her final resting place? Frannie spearheads the escapade,
dragging her twin brother into it at the end. They solve the
problem without adult help, facing a killer, and bringing terrible
danger to themselves. A perfect book for a scary Halloween night
read. I must send it to my 12 year old granddaughter. She will
love it too.
This is the story of twelve year old Frannie James who moves
to a new town and encounters a ghost thirsting for revenge.
In her quest to find Thelma's killer, Frannie gets help from
her eternally sulky twin brother Jeff. Frannie mends their friendship
and comes up with a clever plan to expose a murderer. The trick
is not to get killed while carrying it out.
I found this book to be an enjoyable read. Beyond the main story
is the background story of being twelve and motherless and starting
over in a new town, Frannie aches to know why her mother left
them many years ago and what happened to her. I also loved the
characters of her zit ridden techie brother Jeff and her harried
Thelma is a very realistic ghost who happens to have a ghost
familiar who's ten shades of scary.
A great gift for your tween reader.
Revenge of Thelma Hill
By Margot Finke
Cover Art by Agy Wilson
Fall is the right time of year to read Margot Finke's spooky
middle grade novel, The Revenge of Thelma Hill. It's a perfect
harvest offering for lovers of ghost stories. Agy Wilson's scary
cover immediately grabs you and pulls you in. Let's join in
the hunt to capture a killer.
Frannie and twin brother Jeff
have unhappily moved to Oregon due to Dad's promotion. Since
it's summertime, they've no easy way to make friends, and have
some time on their hands. What better way to fill it than tracking
down a murderer? There are a few problems -- the chief witness
and victim is a ghost, and the forty-year-old crime was presumed
an accident. Such obstacles don't deter Frannie James.
Frannie is the only one who
can see the ghost. She wants to bring Thelma's killer to justice,
but can't do it alone. Jeff takes some convincing to believe
in ghosts enough to help her. His computer "geek-ness"
is truly put to the test. These kids are strong characters with
courage and determination. We applaud their efforts though we
fear for their safety.
The story is exciting and fast-paced
with realistic scenes of sibling disharmony in everyday family
dynamics. Can the twins set aside their bickering to concentrate
on saving Thelma from a fate-worse-than-death? Have they undertaken
an impossible task on their own? They can't involve their busy
Dad -- he doesn't believe in ghosts -- but keeping him "out
of it" complicates matters. Other problems Frannie and
Jeff face keep the story interesting and enjoyable right up
to the climax. In the end we finally get answers to Frannie's
questions about their long-absent Mom. This is a most satisfying
ghost story for 'tweens.
Reviewed by Donna McDine - award willing author and reviewer.
http://www.donnamcdine.com/home.html ***** Stars A beautifully crafted story of bridging the generation
gap! October 31, 2013
The Aussie from Down Under, Margot Finke, has done it again!
Down Under Calling is a beautifully crafted story of bridging
the generation gap and ocean separation through good old-fashioned
letter writing and sharing stories of one's youth.
At the request of his mother, Andy Frazer is
reluctant in having to write a letter to his Australian Grandma
Rose. It was bad enough his family was forced to move from their
spacious home to a cramped apartment. Something about downsizing
at his father's job led to this. Along with not being allowed
to purchase any more video games he now had to write a letter
to some old lady he doesn't even remember. What could he possibly
What starts out as a burden quickly turns into
a true labor of love. The letter writing becomes a glorious
distraction that serves as the propeller of an exploding imagination
and curiosity. What Andy learns along the way is invaluable.
Journey along with Andy, Grandma Rose, and Andy's closest friend
Kelly as their lives become intertwined despite the separation
of an ocean.
The humorous letter exchanges will have the
reader turning the pages as quick as lightening. Author, Margot
Finke includes a glossary of Australian words for easy reference.
Visit Finke at www.margotfinke.com to learn about her ever-evolving
writing career. Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time visiting,
for Margot's expertise and humor spill from the pages.
Reviewed by Penelope Anne Cole
Looking for a mid-grade novel for a `tween-age boy who's interested
in all things Aussie? Here's the perfect book for you, Down
Under Calling, by Margot Finke. Ms Finke is a transplanted Aussie
with memories and stories to share about wild and wonderful
Australia. I highly recommend this book to boys and girls who
want to learn more about Australian animals. Parents and grandparents
will enjoy the growing relationship between Andy and Grandma
In Down Under Calling, Andy's mother wants
him to do something productive over summer - not sit around
playing video games. She suggests he write letters to his Grandma
Rose in Australia. We applaud his mother's pushing Andy knowing
that he and his grandmother will get to know each other better
through this correspondence. We'll all learn more about Australia
through Grandma Rose's sharing her memories with us about growing
up `down under.'
Andy, being a video game player, is not inclined
to write letters - how "borrring," he thinks, as he
reluctantly complies with Mom's urging. But once he receives
Grandma Rose's first letter, he changes his mind. Grandma Rose
has a lot of interesting critter visitors to her garden, which
backs to the Queensland Bush, plus entertaining personal stories
from her girlhood. Andy is hooked and his friend, a girl named
Kelly, is drawn in, too. The summer passes pleasurably on both
continents as they eagerly await the next snail mail installment.
Andy and Kelly's friendship also grows as they share their personal
Letter exchanges make for wonderful stories.
We get to experience life in two worlds. In this case we also
get Rose's remembrances of her life as a girl in Australia in
the 1940's, contrasted with her life today. Andy's perspective
broadens and his understanding of his own life's problems also
deepens. He develops a warm relationship with his grandmother
and gains a close friend in Kelly. They learn more about the
creatures in Australia through Andy and Kelly's `Google' searches.
Andy and Kelly find more to interest them outside in bike riding
and bird watching.
If you've ever carried on a correspondence
over a period of time you learn a lot about the other person
as you share information - and you learn more about yourself
as well. Andy learns his parents are having the same problems
he's had since his father was downsized, which changed their
living situation. The whole family has had to adjust to their
altered financial reality. In this day and age sacrifices seem
harder to make when we see others are much better off. This
story shows how families can stick together in hard times and
that expensive, `store bought' fun isn't a true necessity. It's
our relationships that really matter.