Another Review at MyShelf.Com


Trial by Walkabout
Margot Finke

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc
January 6, 2014/ ISBN 1616334509
Tweener /

Reviewed by Karen Cioffi


Great Children's Middle-Grade Adventure by Margot Finke

There are a number of factors that go into writing ‘good’ fiction for children.

The Writer’s Digest article, “7 Ways to Make a Good Story Great,” gives an excellent description and a lot of insight into this topic. It explains that as a writer you need to (1) ‘go beyond the five senses; (2) take advantage of your characters idiosyncrasies; (3) write the nitty-gritty; (4) don’t write down, thinking the audience won’t get it otherwise; (5) don’t include irrelevant content; (6 and 7) bring forth emotion from the reader.

Margot Finke’s middle-grade adventure story easily covers all these elements and more. Trial by Walkabout is good writing. The story captures the reader and has him anticipating the next page.

The story’s protagonist is 13-year-old Josh Howard. He and his older brother, Tom, are like most brothers, always fighting. With their parents away, Tom locks Josh out of the house after a fight.

“Outside, you!” A hard shove shot Josh out the door flat
on his back in the dirt. The door slammed, shaking the frame.
“You can stay out there ‘till the rains come for all I care.” Tom’s
voice faded as he moved further indoors.

This is the catalyst that motivates Josh into taking a huge risk, one that involves danger, survival, tribesmen, and friendship.

Josh, who wants to get back at his brother, goes on an Aussie walkabout with an Aboriginal friend, Bindi.

Bindi needs to go on this journey to fulfill his manhood ritual.

The two friends encounter a pack of wild dogs, lethal snakes, a scary emu, a huge and dangerous male kangaroo, and a crazy Medicine Man.

Finke crafts an action packed story that blends just the right amount of backstory throughout the book, so the reader learns of the rich Aboriginal background and the treacherous outback terrain.

In one nail-biting scene, Josh and Bindi have to scamper up into trees to escape death by a pack of wild dogs:

Josh watches the savage dogs, clinging desperately to the tree.

"Finally, the victim grew silent. A sob escaped Josh. The
slobbering sounds made by the dogs of death filtered up to him.
"He tried not to hear the soft tearing noises. And the smell -- the stench of every creature these four-legged killers had ever slaughtered rose from them in putrid waves."

The writing is at times raw and powerful, as shown above, just what boys love. But, along with the fast-paced action, it teaches subtle yet powerful lessons about loyalty and lying.

Trial by Walkabout takes the reader on an amazing growing up journey through the Australian outback. It's a wonderful children’s read. I highly recommend it for middle-graders and young adult.

Reviewed 2019