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 hear
As 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.”