When a reluctant grandson in Oregon is pressured into writing to his grandma in Australia, wonderful things happen. Both have a need for love and reassurance, and between letters their daily lives go on. Back and forth the letters go: Josh shares his problems, while Grandma Rose shares stories, and past memories that astonish her grandson and his friend Kelly. His Xbox gathers dust, while he and Kelly ride bikes and bird watch. Googling the weird and wonderful Aussie critters that visit Rose’s garden becomes a hobby for them. Soon, Andy and Grandma shrink the Pacific Ocean into a puddle they can easily ford.
There is a glossary of Aussie words and animals at the back of the book.
A SAMPLE from the Beginning:
On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, where water lapped the sandy eastern shores of Australia, Rose Larkin slept. She lived on the edge of the Queensland bush in a small town called Morningside. At sixty plus Rose was a light sleeper, so the sound of the rifle crack snapped her awake.
Silence. This was followed by the mutter of distant voices. Rose’s cat, Lady, sleeping at the foot of the bed, had not twitched a whisker.
“The same hooligans again I’ll bet,” Rose muttered, “Shooting at whatever moves.”
Stiff from sleeping, Rose threw on a dressing gown and headed for the back door. Outside the door she grabbed a long handled garden fork that leaned against the wall. She hefted it. Not a bad weapon – just in case.
A skimpy moon left the back yard in complete darkness. But Rose didn’t need a flashlight. Her feet had long ago memorized every pebble, dip, and curve that lead to the back fence. The voices now grew more distinct.
“Cripes mate, I killed somethin’!”
“Dumb git! You offed a ‘roo. The old biddy’s heard us for sure. Let’s scarper.”
The voices faded, lost in the far reaches of the wild bush area that backed onto Rose’s property.
Grim-faced, Rose reached the fence line. Soft scrabbling noises came from the bush side of the fence. Leaning the garden fork against a fence post, she hiked up her nightie and dressing gown. Climbing over the broken section of the fence wasn’t easy. Rose struggled. Then a tearing sound. Blast! My favorite nightie, too!
Finally, she made it over the fence and into the bush, hoping to find whatever was making those distressed rustling sounds. Aha… She peered down at the ground around her – dim and blurry. Stupid woman – forgot my glasses! Her toe hit something furry. Kneeling in the darkness Rose searched the ground with outstretched hands. She felt something warm and soft. Oh Lord, NO!
In front of her lay a still warm but very dead female kangaroo. Snuggled beside his dead mum, yet very much alive, was her joey.
“There, there,” murmured Rose. “Not to worry little mate. You come with me.”
It took a few more rips and tears to her nightie, but she finally got the joey over the fence and safely back to the house. Tucking him into a spare pillowcase, Rose hung the makeshift pouch on the back of a kitchen chair. His small head peeked out, all big ears and long snout, a wistful look on its face. The pillowcase, loosely knotted at the open end, was the best she could do to provide a pouch.
Oh-ho, he’s shivering. Mustn’t let the little bloke go into shock. Rose quickly filled a hot water bottle and slipped it into the pillowcase. A swift look through her winter woolies, and her young guest wore a blue beanie scrunched down over his ears. She had knitted the beanie last winter.
“That’ll have to do for now. First thing in the morning I’ll find out what to feed you. Then I’ll phone the police. I just hope they catch the hooligans that killed your poor mum.”
Rose, chilled to her toes, made herself a steaming cup of tea. The joey, blue beanie askew over one eye, ducked inside his makeshift pouch every time she ventured near.
AVAILABLE FOR KINDLE: http://www.amazon.com/Down-Under-Calling-Margot-Finke-ebook/dp/B00FZXORQK/
I want to thank Cheryl for allowing me to chat with her wonderful readers and introduce a book that means so much to me. Writing “Down Under” took me back to my long ago Aussie roots. It was a book I had to write, and it came right from my heart. In some ways it is a tribute to my mum. She was the most honest person I have ever known. Also a fantastic story teller, a terrific judge of character, and she always showed her love for me in caring ways.
Some of the stories Grandma Rose tells grandson Andy in her letters are ones told to me by my mum. Mum was shy, and only opened up to close friends or relatives. I know she would be delighted to know that I have connected her stories to a far wider audience. Mum is long gone. . . yet I still miss her a whole bunch.
Young Teen and Picture Books + Manuscript Critiques and Help for Writers.
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COVER: I love this hand drawn cover that captures where Grandma Rose lives as well as Andy and his friend Kelly together. Cover artist Agy Wilson chose wonderful colors to attract readers and the drawing has a down-home style that works well for this book.
FIRST CHAPTER: Grandma Rose is awakened by the crack of a rifle. Grabbing a long handled garden fork for protection, she heads out to the fence line. Climbing over the fence, she discovers a mother Kangaroo has been shot and killed, but her joey is very much alive. Rose takes the joey back to her house to care for it. The next day, a letter arrives from Rose’s grandson, Andy, who lives in Portland, Oregon. She wonders if Andy would like to hear about her new animal friend and sits down to draft her reply.
KEEP READING: What I admire about Finke’s work is the way she pulls you in. The opening pages drop you right into the story, as Rose is woken in the middle of the night by the noise of the rifle. You feel her urgency to discover what has happened and the pain of her discovery. That is tempered by the introduction of Andy’s letter and Rose wondering what his mother did to con him into writing. This looks like it will be a great book and I want to know what happens next.
I purchased a copy of this book for my Kindle. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.