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 Rose.
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 stories.
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.
See Margot Finke's other books at: http://perfectmagiccarpet.blogspot.com/
Down Under Calling is available as an Amazon Kindle book: