Children's Middle-Grade Adventure by Margot Finke
are a number of factors that go into writing ‘good’
fiction for children.
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.
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
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
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.
is the catalyst that motivates Josh into taking a huge risk,
one that involves danger, survival, tribesmen, and friendship.
who wants to get back at his brother, goes on an Aussie walkabout
with an Aboriginal friend, Bindi.
needs to go on this journey to fulfill his manhood ritual.
two friends encounter a pack of wild dogs, lethal snakes,
a scary emu, a huge and dangerous male kangaroo, and a crazy
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
one nail-biting scene, Josh and Bindi have to scamper up into
trees to escape death by a pack of wild dogs:
watches the savage dogs, clinging desperately to the tree.
the victim grew silent. A sob escaped Josh. The
slobbering sounds made by the dogs of death filtered up to
"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."
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.
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.