First Chapter Review of and Excerpt from Down Under Calling by Margot Finke

Down Under3_cover

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:


Grandma Rose

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.



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.

Download a FREE “Sneak Peek” inside ALL my books:





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.

World of Ink Tour: Margot Finke, Books with a WOW Factor!

Joining us today is Margot Finke, author of :
*Taconi and Claude Double Trouble- mid-grade adventure for boys and tomboys 10-14
*Horatio Humble Beats the Big D (dyslexia)- rhyming picture book 5-8
*Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind –
rhyming picture book 5-8

Thank you for joining us today, Margot. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I am a transplant from Down-under, and I have lived in Oregon with my husband and three kids for many years.  Kids all grown now, doing well, and have gifted us with seven grand-children. YEA!  I love to travel, read, read, read, and work in our large garden.  Of course that only happens these days in the cracks between writing, promoting my latest three books, and working with clients in my Manuscript Critique Service business.   

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

When I discovered I could get A’s on all my composition exams back in middle school. After that, writing simply became a part of me, like my fingers and toes. Before computers, I had drawers bulging with stories I had written  – most of them I’ll admit were pretty awful.  But it remained a wonderful outlet I could throw myself into when the rest of my life was crashing around me.  Then computers came along, and I convinced my husband to buy one. I joined a fledgling online writing list, and realized that if I really learned the craft of writing, I could do much better than that awful stuff in my drawers.  Several wonderful writers on that list mentored me. It took time, lots of rejections, and more writing and rewriting than I can possibly count – but I made it!

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

When I began to be serious about writing, my kids were young, and I worked part time as a teacher’s aide.  Kids loved my “off the top of my head” stories about Australia and their weird and wonderful animals.  The fun animal stories I told my kids at bedtime, and to the classes at school, became my first published books.  “Wild and Wonderful” comprises 7 rhyming books about animals from the US and Australia – fun e-Books, as well as educational; great for home school or classroom projects. 


Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

I don’t think it is harder.  I DO believe that many people think writing a children’s book is easier. For some reason, people assume you can rip off a picture book in a weekend, send it to several publishers ( no research done of course), and be immediately accepted by one of them.  Huge advance, followed by royalties, while author sits back and glows with pride. HUH?

Just like writing for adults, you have to learn the writing ropes, read many books in the genre you are writing for, and be prepared for lots of rejection letters.  Even take a writing class or three – GASP!  A good critique group will offer writing feedback as well as support. Rewriting and reworking your MS until it is well polished is always your secret weapon.

I have a friend who is a very successful children’s author, with many published books.  After her umpteenth book came out her mother-in-law said to her, ”Very nice dear, but when are you going to write real books?”

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

Oh, definitely the idea that comes to me in the middle of the night.  I can’t wait to rush down to my computer lair and start plotting and planning it into reality.  At the other end of the writing process is the rapt look on kid’s faces when I read them one of my stories. That engaged and happy look is my payback – better than gold bars, mate. 

Can you tell us what your latest books are all about?

Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble
Like a lot of boys these days, my son was a reluctant reader. This prompted me to write books with a WOW factor that grab their attention. I wrote  “Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble“ with boys (and tomboys) in mind.  Plenty of action, fast pace, an Aussie outback setting, + the surprise and mystery of an aboriginal tribe and its Dreamtime beliefs.  This historical novel, set in the early 1950’s, would make a great home school or class history project using the help in my Teacher’s Guide: ** I also include a glossary of fun and interesting Aussie sayings, plus aboriginal words and names.

Horatio Humble Beats the Big D
It seems that Dyslexia and other learning problems beset many of today’s children – especially boys. “Horatio Humble” is a smart boy, yet he can’t read.  He thinks going to Special Ed classes will brand him dumb. However, go he does, with amazing results.  The story encourages these kids that they CAN learn to read.
**The parent-teacher guide suggests early diagnosis + links to helpful websites and advice.

Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind
Many kids suffer deeply due to big changes in their lives. Changes they have no control over: like a death, a divorce, a move far from friends and family etc. “Ruthie” is such a child, and she reacts with snotty behavior and tantrums her parent find hard to manage. Finally, something wonderful happens to change her back to a sweet and loving girl.  Kid friendly and fun to read.

**The parent/teacher guide offers a helpful Q and A plus links to more serious help.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

Guardian Angel Publishing (all three) – Scroll down for Margot Finke

My Website for Autographed copies – + a free new Bonus Book!

Taconi and Claude is now available on Kindle at

Powell’s Books:

Barnes and Noble:

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

Margot’s Magic Carpet – all 11 books listed + links to BUY, Reviews, Trailers & more:

Website –  BUY my Books, Help for writers, Manuscript Critiques

HOOK KIDS on READING –  Lists of other great books, writing news and interviews: 

What is up next for you?

Polishing several mid-grade manuscripts, and completing a sequel to Taconi and Claude, titled “Survival by Walkabout.” The sequel has Bindi and Josh, the grand-sons of Taconi and Boss Howard, going walkabout together.  It begins with a spiteful threat and sibling rivalry, then the Aussie outback and a nasty Medicine Man almost kills them. Thanks to Bindi’s outback skills they survive – barely.  Once back on Coorparoo Station, Josh is determined to get to the bottom of his brother’s resentment.

Do you have anything else to add?

Yes please.  I would like to offer a new, TOTALLY FREE SHORT ADVENTURE to anyone who BUYS a hard copy book from my Website.   I will autograph your book, and also include a FREE (pdf) COPY of the short story. I wrote it to celebrate the publishing of these last 3 books, and it includes all 3 of the characters.

Taconi and Claude’s 21st Century Adventure.

Because of a magical Boab tree, Taconi and Claude find themselves trapped in the 21st Century. Ruthie and Horatio join forces to help Taconi and his cockatoo find their way back home to where they belong – in the Aussie outback of the 1950’s.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Margot. We wish you much success.

Thank YOU, for letting me spend time chatting with your readers.


Write a comment on any participating blog during my June Book Tour, 
and win a
FREE COPY of this fun time-travel story.
I wrote it specially for kids.

One copy per person.  Please leave your e-mail.
( Safe sample:   mfinke<@> )


World of Ink Schedule for Margot Finke

June 1st

The Brand Buzz Network – Author Spotlight

 June 2nd

Mymcbooks Blog – Book Review and Giveaway of Taconi and Claude 

June 3rd

Families Matter Blog – Interview 

June 6th

The Maggie Project – Guest Post: The back story of Taconi and Claude 

Roth’s Inspiring Books & Products – Interview 

June 7th

One Zillion Books – Book Review of Ruthie and the Hippo

 June 8th

Stories for Children Magazine FG Interview 

June 9th

Home School Blogger-Book Review of Taconi and Claude 

June 10th

Families Matter Blog – Book Spotlight 

June 12th

Utah Children’s Writer Blog – Guest Post: Tips on Writing for Children

June 13th

World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children with hosts: VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Christopherson and Irene Roth. 

Live Radio Interview at 11am MST (10am PST, Noon Central and 1pm EST)


or call in to listen or ask questions (714) 242-5259.

You can also listen on demand after the show airs! – Book Review and Giveaway of Horatio Humble 

June 14th

Writing to the Hearts of Children- Interview and Book Spotlight 

June 15th

The Crypto-Capers Review – Book Review of Ruthie and the Hippo 

June 16th

Home School Blogger-Book Review of Horatio Humble 

June 17th

Children’s and Teen Book Connection – Interview 

June 20th

The Writing Mama – Interview 

Wee Share Blog – Book Review and Giveaway of Taconi and Claude 

June 21st

Rambling of a Coffee Addicted Writer – Book Review and Giveaway of Ruthie and the Hippo 

June 22nd

Roth’s Inspiring Books & Products – Book Review of Horatio Humble 

June 23rd

Book Marketing Network – Guest Post: Tips for Online Marketing 

June 24th  
VBT-Writers On The Move – Guest Post: Finding a Publisher
June 27th  

Coloring Outside the Lines – Book Review of Taconi and Claude

Putting Words Down on Paper – Book Spotlight 

June 28th

Bless Their Hearts Mom – Book Review of Taconi and Claude 

Coloring Outside the Lines – Author Spotlight

June 30th

Putting Words Down on Paper – Interview

Taconi & Claude – Double Trouble by M. E. Finke

Taconi and Claude – Double Troublea mid-grade adventure for boys set in the Aussie outback of the 1950’s. Taconi is an aboriginal boy with big Dad problems, a chatty cockatoo as his only friend, and Dreamtime Spirits planning his future.  The magic feather he desperately needs eludes him, while fierv=ce green ats and Fun, danger, and enough yabbies, snake and witchetty grubs to feed any boy.

Read an excerpt!


Australia, sometime in the 1950’s

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.

The Medicine Man slid out of the shadows, a ceremonial spear in his hand. Firelight flashed across the wrinkles on his painted face. His bony old limbs ducked and bobbed to the ancient rhythm of the drums. Eagle, kingfisher, and cockatoo feathers swayed on his headdress. The Old Man plunged the tip of his spear into the flames, holding it there while he mumbled an age-old mantra.

When the tip of the spear glowed red, Taconi’s arms and legs dissolved into mush. There was no escape. The man ceremony was about to claim him. His insides threatened betrayal. N-o-o-o . . . mustn’t pee, mustn’t pee. . .

The Medicine Man thrust the glowing tip of the spear under his nose. Taconi felt the heat, sniffed its acrid smell. The tip sizzled, hovering over his reluctant flesh, poised, ready to burn him into manhood.

The singsong voice of the Medicine Man grew faint. The Old Man’s eyes stared into his, blazing with the power of timeless ritual. The stars—a billion sparkling eyes—whirled overhead, cold and uncaring. Taconi shut his eyes, waiting for his flesh to sear—waiting for the pain.

CHAPTER TWO (beginning)

Taconi held his breath. He waited . . .

When the pain didn’t come, he risked a quick peek. Smoke from the fire blotted out everything except the eyes of the Medicine Man. His burning stare hung over Taconi for a moment, before the smoke claimed him.

Bathed in sweat, Taconi jolted upright. “By Cripes, what’s happenin’?” Relief flooded through him. He was safe in his bed.

Outside in the cool pre-dawn air, Coorparoo Cattle Station’s feathered alarm clock, a sulfur crested Cockatoo named Claude, rasped, “Wakey, wakey. Rise and shine!”

“Crikey,” he muttered. “That man ceremony dream would scare the hide off a croc!” Ever since he found out about his upcoming man ceremony, the recurring dream had haunted his sleep. He glanced at the other bed and frowned. “Bed’s Empty. Dad musta left early for the homestead kitchen.”

He couldn’t understand what drove his dad to cook white folk’s muck for the Boss and the Missus. This was an outback size worry. If his dad got the cookie job, permanent like, there’d be no time for hunting together or throwing the spear. If he was to become a man of his tribe, Dad must teach him these things. The idea of his dad as cookie sat on Taconi’s shoulders like a giant termite mound.

He stared out the small window of the hut he shared with his dad. The vast expanse of Coorparoo Cattle Station waited for the day’s first sunlight. “Coor-par-oo,” he murmured, liking the feel of the word on his tongue. The soft sounds mimicked the gentle call of doves.

Read the reviews!

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…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.”

–Nicole Weaver, Reviewed for Blogcritics Magazine

“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.”

–Terri Forehand, Reviewed for Stories for Children Magazing and Blogcritics


Guardian Angel Publishing –

Barnes and Noble –

Powell’s Books –

Amazon –

+ available as an eBook and soon on Kindle

Autographed copies:

Margot’s Magic Carpet – all her books on one page

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

Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, though not interested in children’s books . Their three children are now grown and doing very well.

Margot didn’t begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, “I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs.”

“You are my heroes! “

Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D” by Margot Finke

 Math is a breeze and history is easy, but when it comes to reading, Horatio Humble just can’t get it right. All the letters mix together into one big mess. When Mom and Dad meet with his teacher and he hears the words “Dyslexia” and “Special Ed” floating through the air, Horatio is determined not to enjoy reading books.

Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D” is another fun rhyming story from Margot Finke. Published many times over, and focusing on reluctant readers, this talented author has a way with rhyme that begs you to pick up one of her books.  With her fabulous sense of humor, Finke has created yet another book that youngsters will enjoy reading time and again.

Confronting a disability like dyslexia can be frightening for parents and kids, but Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D” can help by offering hope that the challenge can be overcome. This book tackles the issue in a way that is entertaining, not scary.

Award-winning designer, illustrator and artist Ellen Gurak provided the illustrations for Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D”. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen her work. Following with the comical, rhyming theme of Finke’s text, Gurak created a series of illustrations that are cartoonish, but also managed to capture the emotions Horatio experiences throughout the story, whether that emotion be joy, sorrow, anger or fear.

I believe  Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D” would make an excellent addition to a school library, a language arts classroom, or psychologist’s office. With two pages of reference material included at the back of the book, not only is it fun, it is educational. I applaud Finke’s efforts to help children with dyslexia thrive.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc
  • ISBN-10: 1616331011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616331016
  • SRP:   $9.95
  • Margot’s Books Page: (Autographed books available here.)


     Powell’s Books  



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