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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

STUDY GUIDE - 5 Mid-grade Books


Margot Finke's 


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a reading and writing frenzy!

My BOOKS  or

For more information about the
Aussie animals in my Books


I  think of reading as a MAGIC CARPET RIDE to fun, new places, new ideas, and adventure. I always write UP to kids, never 'down,' and  I use POWERFUL and EVOCATIVE words that paint clear mental pictures for young readers.

There are WORD GLOSSARIES at the back of most books, and VOCAB words at the bottom of many pages. They can check words they don't "get" in their Thesaurus. If we want to HOOK KIDS on READING, books must be fun, fast-paced, and seeded with the ideals we hope they will absorb. 



Books #1 through #5

#1 "Taconi and Claude - Double Trouble" 
Aussie Outback Adventure. Book #1.
These 5 mid-grade (young teen) adventures would work well in a Home Study Group, Book Club, or Classroom. 

Aussie Word glossary at the back of the book.
A coming of age story that deals with making good decisions, believing in your own ability to solve problems, and the value of loyalty, family, and friendship. There is humor when Claude, Taconi's sulfur-crested chatty cockatoo, offers smart one-liners.
Taconi is a son torn by how his future will turn out. He is fascinated by the "big smoke," yet his dad warns against it. But he is not sure if being an active member of his tribe is the way for him. He dithers until the Dreamtime Spirits show their hand. Then all is clear, and he comes to a decision about his future.

*What do you think loyalty involves?
*Can there be friendship without loyalty?
*What facts do you review when you have to make a decision?
*Use the links provided at the back of the book to learn more about Australia and its animals.
*Would you like to live like Taconi?
*Could you eat witchetty grubs live - if you were starving?
*Do you think his dad was crazy to want to be "Staton Cookie?"
*Would you be scared if you had to face a "man" ceremony, like Taconi?
*Would you like a mate like Claude?
*What do you think Taconi learned?
* Did any of their adventures scare you?


#2  "Trial by Walkabout" 
 (Multicultural Outback Adventure).  Book #2.
The next-generation- adventure in the outback)
Find extra details in the Aussie Word glossaries at the back of both books.

The grandsons of Taconi, and the Boss of Coorparoo Cattle Station, go walkabout together. The day explodes with threats, lies, sibling rivalry, and a question that has not been answered.  Josh soon realizes he would be dead meat without Bindi's bush skills to feed them and keep them both safe. What must he eat to survive - snake and witchetty grubs? He begins to understand that his friend might not have "schooling" as he knows it, but the outback smarts Bindi has learned makes him an "A" student of the outback. The algebra and spelling knowledge that made Josh feel superior won't feed them or save their lives. 

Dreamtime tales, told around a blazing fire, show Josh that other beliefs and cultures are very real. He worries about the threat he made to his older brother, and how to solve the problem of their sibling rivalry. And a crazy Medicine Man wants Josh dead.  Slowly, the outback, Bindi, and the beliefs of an ancient culture, all come together and help Josh find the courage to tackle his brother Tom, and finally find an answer to that long unasked question. 

*Is there sibling rivalry in your family?
*How do you deal with your feelings about your siblings?
*Do lies and threats ever serve a good purpose?
*Do you think Josh is superior because of his schooling or is Bindi superior because he has learned "bush smarts?"
*Maybe neither are superior - are both simply well equipped for the worlds they live in?
*What would you do differently if you were Josh?
*Could you eat snake and emu eggs if you were really hungry?
*Are you willing to accept that someone you really like has different beliefs from you - and try to understand those beliefs?
* What do you consider as being different - a belief unlike yours, a physical or mental difference, or a different race or color?
* Do you think differences make people more interesting, or not worth bothering about?
*Is the Medicine Man evil or just plain crazy?
*Would you be able to survive in the Australian outback?

SUMMARY- for Both Books.
With authentic outback settings, these 2 Aussie adventures, Taconi is set in the 1950's, on an outback cattle station in Queensland. Walkabout in the present time, and on the same outback Cattle Station. They offer a look into the lives of young aboriginal boys, and how having a white friend can complicate life. 

For Taconi, fun, danger, big decisions, and Dreamtime spirits,  all combine to put Taconi's life in turmoil. Fear of his man ceremony does not help, yet Claude, his pet cockatoo, offers helpful but funny one-liners.  

Josh and Bindi, on the other hand, test their friendship under life-threatening conditions, yet they manage to stay friends. They come out stronger and more sure of their place in life, their friendship, and how to make choices that work well and solve problems.

My Down-under Fun page offers details about the Aussie animals that are featured throughout these books.  

*Dreamtime: Australian Aboriginals believe that all things come from the Dreamtime, and return there when their time on earth is over. 
*The Dreaming - When aboriginals let themselves go back in time and revisit the past.
*Spirit Man - These are messengers from the Dreamtime.
*Billabong - This is a deep water hole in a creek or river.
*Lubra - what aboriginal women are called.

*Beaut and Bonzerboth these mean great, good or terrific.
*She'll be Jake - means everything will be fine or all right.
*Cripes - kind of surprised.
*Stunned Mullet - surprised - amazed - shocked
*Sheila - a slang term for Australian women (Not at all disrespectful). 
*Jackaroo - someone who rides a horse and drives or herds cattle.
*Tucker - food
*Melaleuca - a flowering native shrub.
*Biscuits - What you in the US call cookies.
Jumper - what Aussies call a sweater.


#3 "Down Under Calling" (Family Saga) 
A family saga that crosses the Pacific Ocean
(Aussie Word glossary at the back of the book)

My Down Under Fun - where you can find information about the Aussie critters that visit Grandma Rose's back yard. 

SITES where facts about Australia can be found:
Flora and Fauna.

This story is about the anger young Andy feels about things he has no control over, and his Grandma Rose, in far off Australia, alone and far from her family in Oregon. It is about a budding young friendship, and the need to be valued and loved, no matter how old you are. Wisdom comes to some with age, and the stories in the letters Rose writes to Andy proves this. They shock and amaze Andy and his friend, Kelly. 

Yet between the letters, their daily life flows on, often not so smoothly, on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. When asked, sneaky Grandma Rose offers insights and stories that make Andy think. He slowly changes from a miserable young teen, obsessed with playing computer games, to a bike riding enthusiast who becomes a "birder." He learns to accept what he can not change right now, and work to make the changes he longs for come true in the future. 

His parents are also working to bring about change, and a return to the life they enjoyed before being laid off work. Helping a friend, and realizing that the friend envies what HE has, makes Andy sort out his priorities.

*Can people be long-distance friends?
*Do you think Grandma Rose was sneaky?
*Is Andy right to feel angry about what life dumped on him?
*Do you know someone who has similar problems to Andy and Kelly?
*Did you guess what a Comfort Station was?
*Do you think older people are smarter than younger people?
*Do you check out facts about new things ( like the Aussie Animals) on the Internet?
*Are your parents always telling you to quit playing computer games and go read a book?
*Are friendships between kids and their grandparents really possible?
*What do you think Andy and Kelly learned from Grandma Rose's stories and letters?
* If you have a grandparent, ask them what it was like when THEY were growing up.
Do they share any similarities with Grandma Rose's stories?

Australia - general knowledge
Australia in Brief - ancient heritage, modern society

There is also a terrific post on Brain Fart Explosion -
Termites: Nature's Recyclers. 
Lots of research links included


#4  "The Revenge of Thelma Hill"
(Ghost mystery set in Oregon)

Twins, Frannie and Jeff, couldn't be more different. Optimistic Frannie is eager to make new friends and get on with her life. Jeff is consumed with doom and gloom about their Dad's promotion and their move to Oregon. Summer vacation looms for both of them, lonely and friendless-until Thelma Hill arrives. 

Not exactly the friend either of them imagined. No one believes in ghosts, but all the same, there she is, haunting their rented house, and raving on about revenge. Their basement is Thelma's resting place, and she is guarded by a jealous arachnid named Adolpha - YIKES!! When her fear abates, Frannie agrees to help trap Thelma's killer, and a reluctant Jeff is dragged along with her.

This story offers plenty of goosebumps and the idea that a good friend will always help you out. It also proves the old adage that "blood is thicker than water." They plot and plan together. Thelma Hill might be a ghost, but she becomes a sort of mother figure to Frannie. Her Mom has been mysteriously missing for a few years, and Thelma promises to call in a few "otherworldly" favors to discover what happened to her.

Unlikely friends sometimes prove the best friends of all, and this is true of Frannie and Thelma Hill. It turns out that they need each other, and NEED is a strong bond. Even Jeff sees the light at the end, and his bravery is wonderful to behold. After all, Frannie is his twin, and Thelma's killer can not be allowed to make her victim #2. Friendship, need, and a ghost's longing for revenge on her killer: this is the glue that keeps this ghostly tale on track. Oh, and don't forget the frying pan. Without it, there would be NO happy ending for Frannie, Jeff, or the Ghost of Thelma Hill.

*Do you have a sibling that acts like Jeff?
*What do you think his problem was?
*Is there sibling rivalry in your family?
*Should the ghost have asked Frannie to take such dangerous risks?
*Do you think ghosts are real?
*Is Frannie brave for hunting down the man who killed Thelma Hill?
*Or should she have said NO when the ghost asked for help?
* Are you afraid of arachnids - spiders?
* Could you keep such a big secret from your dad?
* Do you have a scary basement at your house?
* Do you dream of people you love?
* Did you think Thelma Hill would return with news of Frannie's missing Mom - or not?
* Do you have a friend you really need to be on your side?
*Do you think you could help someone in need the way Frannie did. It doesn't have to be a ghost - just someone that needs your help and support?
*If you were in Frannie's place, could you think of Thelma Hill as a friend?


#5 Daisy and Bartholomew Q .
                              A Fun, Fantasy-Adventure.

Daisy is a procrastinator. She puts off until later, things she should do RIGHT NOW--like the essay her teacher wants her to write. Her mom has nagged, but Daisy has not even begun writing it, and it is due tomorrow.

You see, the Thesaurus confuses her, so she does not want to look there for the fantastic new words the teacher told the class to find. Then, a weird critter arrived. Bartholomew Q was his name. He whisked her into Word World. As well as the fabulous words that kept popping into her head, there were Oogledorks, Dynoroars and Talking Adjective and Verb trees, plus other scary things--like Evil Big Crow. 

And Daisy never guessed she would be kidnapped inside a Thesaurus? Can the Lord High Bookworm save her? Will Bartholomew Q. Bookworm come to the rescue, or will Daisy have to save herself? And how can Butterflies, Swan Airlines, and sad and bedraggled Raccoon, help her get back home? You know the answer. . . read it yourself!

*Do you know someone who procrastinates?
*What sort of things do YOU put off until later?
*Would you like to go inside a Thesaurus and have an adventure, like Daisy?
* How about that cool Thesaurus Pathway, and those giant perfumed flowers--AWESOME!
*Do you think there are Featherbutt Birds anywhere else in the world?
*Would you be brave and resourceful, like Daisy.
*Is Daisy rude to call Bartholomew Q. "Green Fish Bait?"
*What if we all had sparkling yellow eyes, like the World World critters?
*Would you like a ride on Swan airlines?
*What about having a Bookworm or an Oogledork for a pet?
*Where are the Adjectives, Nouns, and Verbs on the talking trees? 
*Can you bounce a Glo Ball, or run faster than a Dynoroar?
*What do you think Daisy learned from her adventures in Word World?
*Do you think she will go back to see them all again and have another adventure?
*What did Daisy bring back with her?

Throughout all Daisy's adventures,  SUPER new words popped into her head - these are in BOLD. In Kindle, they can be instantly clicked on and explained. OR, use your Thesaurus for the paper version.


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