2015 – 2016 Competitions

October 5, 2015 at 11:16 am | Posted in | 4 Comments

Competition No.28: A Sunny Summer Poetry Competition

Competition No. 27: A Mischievous Monkey Story Competition

Competition No. 26: A Hair-Raising Halloween Poem Competition



Sun yawning

Phew! I’ve just finished the judging of my Sunny Summer Poem Competition! It was tremendous fun, but exhausting… I think I need a good long drink of lemonade with ice!

There were a total of 79 fabulous entries this time, from 21 schools in 8 cities around the world: Calcutta, Chicago, Hong Kong, Perth, Seattle, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney! A big thank you to all of you for your very hard work and wonderful creations.

Free verse was definitely the favourite genre, but there were also some wonderful rhyming poems, a few excellent acrostics, and even one clever double-limerick! But no haikus this time…perhaps you were all haiku-ed out in my Hair-Raising Halloween competition last year!

Judging was very difficult indeed this time, as you will see, and I had to strictly follow the criteria set out in the Rules to make sure that I was fair to everyone. I thought it might be helpful if I set out here the criteria I used. If you weren’t among the top ten in your category this time, make sure you enter my next poetry competition, and see if you can apply the following pointers:

  1. The genre – did your poem follow the rules of the genre; was it a good example of the genre?
  2. Line count – I had to be very strict about this – no more than 16 lines were allowed;
  3. Great vocabulary – I was looking for really interesting and unusual words, used appropriately;
  4. Originality – I was looking for ideas that were different from the others;
  5. Style – overall, was your poem written well? Did it show a lightness of touch? Was the meaning clear? Did it ‘sing’? Style was the most important criterion, carrying the most points. Some of you wrote long poems with excellent vocabulary, but the overall effect was too heavy. Beware especially of the overuse of adjectives and adverbs!
  6. Summery and happy – yes, I did ask for this, and unfortunately there were some rather good poems that were really rather depressing, so they didn’t make the final cut!
  7. That all important X-factor – hard to define, but what I was looking for was something that made me go “Wow! This writer is a POET.” So I was looking for what I call a ‘poetic sensibility’ which marked your poem out; something a little bit magical and ‘other-wordly’.

The other essential tip to boost your poetry writing is – you guessed it – to read lots and lots of poetry! Ask your librarian or English teacher to point you to some great poets, and fall in love with their extraordinary words and ideas!

Just a quick further note: for schools in the Northern Hemisphere, this competition started just before the end of the school year in June, and ended after the beginning of the school year in August/September. So I allowed students still in Grade 6 in June to enter the competition, even if they are now in Grade 7! So you may find that someone in Grade 6 in the competition is no longer at your primary school; you might also find that the grades mentioned for contestants in other years are now one year higher.

First place winners will each receive a free signed copy of one of my books!

Here are the Top Ten in each category:


In this category there were 17 entries from 9 schools in 5 cities: in Chicago (Dryden School); Hong Kong (German Swiss International School, Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School); Shanghai (Shanghai United International School); Singapore (Canadian International School Tanjong Katong, United World College SEA Dover, United World College SEA East) and Sydney (Arden Anglican School).

Well done to everyone who entered, especially the younger contestants who were entering a writing competition for the first time! Keep practicing, and entering more competitions, and you’ll get better and better at your poetry writing!


FIRST PLACE: Madeline Painter, Grade 3, Dryden School, Arlington Heights, Chicago, United States, 9 years old

Readers will remember that Madeline won the Hair-Raising Halloween Poetry Competition last year. And this time she’s done it again! Congratulations Madeleine on a very sophisticated free verse poem, which conjures up summer vividly with its gorgeous vocabulary. Madeleine’s entry is very clever: take note of her skillful use of imagery (painting pictures), sound and sensation to evoke all the excitement of a water-gun fight, and the way that she has captured summer in such an original way – not by making summer itself the subject, but by writing about a quintessentially summer activity. And what a great ending! Singapore’s loss is Chicago’s gain, and Madeline is well on her way to becoming an accomplished poet.


The radiant sun shining on my face,

The swift breeze rushing though my hair,

The iridescent stream of liquid whizzing towards my belly,

Wait, what?

Ahhhhh, now I hear it,

Gleeful cries of “Water gun fight!”

More cries, this time “Cold!” And “That feels gooood!”

The sound of my victims’ guns clattering to the ground as the Warriors surrender,

Yes, it feels good to be victorious in a water gun fight.





SECOND PLACE: Anya Lin Husain, Grade 2, UWC Dover, Singapore, 7 years old

A well-deserved Second Place to one of the youngest poets to enter the competition! It was Anya’s beautiful imagery that impressed me most. I loved especially the opening line, and her description of sunset as it “spreads its colours and throws them into the air”. These original and lyrical lines bear promise of great poetry in the future from this young writer! Keep up the good work Anya!


Summer skies are purple and sweet like lavender 

Shining like crystal

A cool wind and a cool scent

Making a girl or a boy say

“Mommy I want some mangoes”

“Daddy where is my towel to dry myself”

Then Daddy says: “Let’s go upstairs” but too late

Girls and boys jump quickly back into the pool

Summer evenings are when the sunset

Spreads its colors and throws them into the air

And little kids count and sing the colors:

Golden red, yellow, pink, brown, silver, purple and 

Then finally black.

THIRD PLACE: Abby Heathcote, Year 3, The Kellett School, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong, 7 years old

Abby was the only entrant in this category to attempt an acrostic poem, and she did so with excellent results! Her brief poem paints a vivid picture of an English summer, and I love the way she has chosen her small snapshots: the sandcastles, the fish and chips, and especially the bare feet in the sand. Great job Abby!

Summer Fun

S un

U nforgettable fun

M aking sandcastles

M y family and me, shout “Whoopee!”

E nglish fish and chips

R unning barefoot in the sand.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Nicolette Ng, Grade 2, Shanghai United International School, Shanghai, 7 years old

A big well done to Nicolette, who at 7 years of age has written a very competent rhyming poem about summer! Her rhyming pattern was spot-on, and I did enjoy her “big beautiful shining sun” and her punchline at the end! Keep up the good work Nicolette and make sure you enter my next competition!

Summer Is Fun

Summer is fun,

We can play in the sun.

Summer is great,

I can’t wait.

We can go to lots of places,

We can see lots of faces.

We eat ice cream every day,

Then I go and run to play.

The sun shines very bright,

I like it in the sunlight.

I love it in summertime,

I lost my tooth and got a dime.

Every time and every day,

I run outside to go play.

The big beautiful shining sun,

I don’t need to get homework done.


SPECIAL MENTION: Lucinda Dudgeon, Year 2, The Kellett School, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong, 6 years old

A very special mention for the youngest entrant in this competition, Lucinda Dudgeon. I thought  her poem was adorable, especially her heartfelt plea that we keep our seas clean!

The Beach

The beach has lots of sand,

When I go there it always makes me glad.

The beach has lots of sea,

It says: “I am not a dustbin, don’t throw rubbish in me”.

There are fish living in the sea,

They say: “Don’t throw rubbish near me”.

I love to go to the sea,

I wish it would always be clean.


RUNNERS-UP: a big WELL DONE to the five runners-up! I look forward very much to seeing more of your work in future competitions!

 Megan To, Grade 3, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong, 8 years old

Sizzling in the sun with my friends

and family.

Umbrella held up to prevent my

peachy skin from turning brown.

My mom buys me chocolate ice-cream

because I feel very hot in Summer!

Mosquitos buzzing around looking

for my skin.

Enjoying the summer with my family.

Running around in Summer is so

much fun!

Shreya Gudi, Grade 3, Canadian International School Tanjong Katong campus, Singapore, 8 years old

Summer Time

On a summer day,

I would go to the bay,

Watch the waves crash by the shore,

Yes, school is a bore.

Summer seems too good to last

It will soon become my past

For when summer ends,

It will go around the bend,

For now, get in the pool,

Stay cool,

Build a treehouse with my tools,

And have lots of fun,

In the very hot sun!

Thomas Gordon, Year 2 at Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, Sydney, 7 years old

Beach Balls

I like to kick around,

Rolling on the ground.

If I throw it high,

It might touch the sky.

Then it won’t be found.

Max Chen, Grade 2, Shanghai United International School, Shanghai, 7 years old

Summer Day

It’s summer, 

Go out and play!

It’s the best day,

And beautiful trees!

See honey bees,

And play in the woods,

Or read a fascinating book!

Aerin Lau, Grade 3, Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau, Hong Kong, 8 years old

Summer is the best

The children play in the beach

Swimming with their mama’s reach

They go back to the shore for a rest.

If you didn’t have any assignments

We could have a vacation!

We could go to different locations

And you would have a flood of excitement!

Summer is extremely hot

And we would sweat a lot

This is what I hate

And washing is too late!

It is really boring in summer

I wish school would start sooner

With no friend or classmates

Why school always starts so late?



In this category there were 62 entrants from 21 schools in 7 cities: in Calcutta (DPS Newtown); Hong Kong (Australian International School, Beacon Hill School, Chinese International School, Discovery Bay International School, French International School), German Swiss International School, Kowloon Junior School and Shatin Junior School); Perth (Good Shepherd Catholic School Lockridge); Seattle (Hamilton International School); Shanghai (Shanghai United International School); Singapore (Canadian International School Lakeside, Canadian International School Tanjong Katong, United World College SEA Dover, United World College SEA East) and Sydney (Homeschool).

Congratulations to every one who entered; please do enter my next Clever Competition as I would love to see more of your work, and practice truly does make perfect!

 A special word for short-listed entrants Elisha Xu, Emily Cameron, Mia Santangelo, Rene Xin, Neil Vijayan, Bastien Buwalda, Aisha Zobrist and Kenton To for their fantastic poems. While you didn’t quite make the final cut, you made the top 20 in a very competitive field!

 FIRST PLACE: Aria Fafat, Grade 6, UWCSEA Dover, Singapore, 11 years old

Aria’s free verse poem was a knockout! Her wonderfully original idea of a summer pencil drawing pictures on her Canvas of Life, her superb vocabulary, her summery images and wonderful style ticked every box for me. Aria placed first in the Hair-Raising Halloween Poem competition last year, and this time has won another well-deserved First Place – congratulations Aria on an excellent poem!

The Artist

My canvas stands blank, eager and anticipating.

A shade of grey lead skitters across the corner;

Meandering purposefully through the void of white

Possessing my eyes in a hypnotic trance

Sketching and shading shapes of colors.

A cool splash of foaming surf of blue;

Golden crabs on glowing grains;

Books lounging on a lazy hammock;

A bed of vibrant flowers amidst fragrant breeze.

Charcoal figures come to light.

Smiling faces of family and friends!

With sticky cones of cream and ice

A pause…

Oh! The line hops on me and shades me a lemonade

A hat on head… sunglasses tinting the skies…

Ah! the Canvas of Life, painted by the line of Summer…


EQUAL SECOND PLACE; Isha Jain, Canadian International School, Lakeside; Jemma Julian, Homeschooled, Sydney; Sonia Mei Husain, UWCSEA Dover, Singapore 

This time, for the first time, there are multiple entries in Second Place. These are three very different poems, with different strengths and weaknesses, and, try as I might, I found it impossible to choose between them! I’ve explained my reasons below. Taken overall, these poems were outstanding!

Isha Jain, Grade 6 Canadian International School, Lakeside, Singapore, 11 years old

Isha’s rhyming poem scored high for great vocabulary, originality and X-factor – I loved the home setting, with cosily familiar ingredients, the squabble with her brother and the crickets’ duel! I especially loved the penultimate line with its description of nights ‘sheathed in silver’ and days ‘woven gold’ showing a lovely poetic sensibility. There was however a small mistake with tense (past in second line, present in the last lines) and her use of the word ‘berserk’ wasn’t quite right; berserk means hysterical and demented, a negative connotation which doesn’t really fit this happy poem!

Summer paradise


I felt my heart aflutter!

Long, blissful days with no end in sight,

Late, lazy mornings, left to my own plight!

Curled in bed, cradling a much awaited story,

Elated to find Albus Potter in Hogwarts dormitory.

Munching Doritos and gorging on luscious ice-cream,

Guffawing uncontrollably at the ludicrous antics of Mr Bean.

Lounging by the cerulean swimming pool,

Observing the progress of two crickets, engrossed in a duel.

Squabbling with my brother and stealing his treasured pen,

(You best an older sibling only now and then).

No assessments and no homework,

Purposeless and idle! I am going berserk!

Nights sheathed in silver and days woven gold,

Oh! How I wish the summer would last tenfold.

Jemma Julian, Year 6, Homeschooled, Sydney, 11 years old

I loved Jemma’s poem about a friend who escapes the tyranny of technology for the joys of summer for many reasons: the great title; the very original ideas; the internal rhyming pattern in every line which was both clever and original; her trademark advanced vocabulary. But I felt that her choice of words was sometimes strained in order to fit the internal rhyming pattern (wildlife, milestone, glummer) and this did take away from the total effect. Jemma is no stranger to the finalists list and has placed in three previous competitions. Well done again, Jemma!

Finding Summer

You were a newcomer to that scorching-hot summer,

Until now had spent your life in a cold place with no wildlife.

Lived inside your precious phone and that’s all you’d ever known,

Until I smashed that thing, told you to believe again in the faerie ring.

Why waste, on technology, a whole lovely day, when you can go and play?

Trapped in virtual reality, when you could be free!

But now we share our imagination to make fun with creation,

Pass long hot hours making daisy chains out of flowers.

Climb up trees with the greatest of ease,

Go to the beach, swim and buy an ice cream each.

Eclipse the boiling sun with incessant fun,

Jump around then roll along the grassy ground.

Defy the heat by sleeping under one sheet…

Before you came here, I bet you were glummer, but now you can enjoy the summer.

Lived inside your precious phone… I’m so glad you overcame that milestone!


Sonia Mei Husain, Grade 4, UWCSEA Dover, Singapore, 9 years old 

Sonia’s poem is an exercise in simplicity, clarity and charm. I loved the ‘burning sand under pink feet’, the ‘tan lines’ and the disarming honesty – ‘spying on your neighbors’ and ‘boredom’! Her poem demonstrates that it is not necessary to write a lot of words to create a vivid and effective poem. As is often said, sometimes less is more! However I felt that the last 3 lines did lose a bit of steam. Overall, a fantastic effort, placing 9 year old Sonia right up there with the ‘big kids’ in Grade 6! Well done!


Summer is crystal clear waves

Under blue skies

Burning sand

Under pink feet

Late breakfasts

Tan lines

Midnight feasts

Visit from grandma

Summer is spying on your neighbors

And boredom 

A surprise visit to Thailand

And finally “start of new school year” shopping

And so when all these things are used

Summer can start again.


THIRD PLACE: Filip Janousek, Grade 6, Canadian International School, Lakeside, Singapore, 12 years old

Filip’s poem was all about X-factor, or that ‘poetic sensibility’ I mentioned before. Bells which ‘shout like crows’; long shadows like ‘creatures’ with ‘big long hands and legs waltzing’; the sun ‘wrinkling up your whiskers and fur’, the kids ‘rumbling around’ – wow, wow, wow! And I loved the final prayer. With the use of more sophisticated vocabulary, and more summery description, this poem would have ticked every box! Keep on writing Filip – you have real promise as a poet and a writer.

Summer time

Summer, the awesome time,

When the school bells shout like crows,

And kids rush out of the school doors

To pools and houses to enjoy this wonderful time.

In the mornings, the sun wakes up early,

To wrinkle up your whiskers and fur,

It leaves long shadows looking like creatures

With their big long hands and legs,

Waltzing in the early summer breeze.

Kids shout all around cities and villages

As they enjoy this beautiful time.

They rumble around, playing tug o’ war

And hide n’ seek around the giant peak of a hill.

At the end of the last day,

All the kids pray:

“Summer, oh summer, please come back tomorrow.”


HONOURABLE MENTION: Uma Kewlani, Grade 6, Canadian International School, Lakeside, Singapore, 12 years old

Uma’s poem was another beautiful example of poetic feeling. While for me, lines 3 to 5 were unnecessary and let the poem down, I loved the rest of the poem, with its images of movement – running, prowling, flying into the sun – and the close of the poem with the writer’s heart beating to the rhythm of the hummingbird’s wings. Beautiful work Uma; please do keep writing!

The Feeling of Summer

I move through the rustling, lush green grass

My fingers skim across the blades as I race through the plain

I sprint through the maze of grass and fall upon a rock

The rock blazes with heat

I get back up without a second glance

I run to the beat of the birds chirping, the leaves rustling, the wind howling,

I am prowling across the ground

I jump and hit the sky

I fly, fly across the plains, fly across acres of land, fly straight into the sun

My hair blows out behind me like a halo

As I land right onto a tree

I lay down and slowly fall asleep

I hear the crows cawing and the hummingbird’s tiny wings beating

My heart beats along to the wings

And I slowly realize I am finally at home



 Quinten Buwalda, Year 4, Australian International School Hong Kong, 9 years old

I thought that Quinten’s acrostic poem was clever and contained some great vocabulary for a 9 year old!

Summer Madness

Shinning sun warming my bronzed skin

Umbrella slowly drowning in my melting ice cream

Mermaids swimming in the glittering pool of my imagination

Milkshakes quenching my everlasting thirst

Endless excitement on the balcony of my cosy house

Relaxing on the golden beach with my feet on the warm sand

Majestic mangos adorning the branches of the towering tree in front of my window

Adoring my newfound freedom that was painfully taken at school

Dancing in the cool summer breeze with my dazzling friend

Nothing stopping me enjoying lazy afternoon naps in my comfortable hammock

Extraordinary patterns emerging from the beautiful pink sky treating my squinted eyes

Seagulls harmonically squawking in my sensitive ears

Summer Madness, it couldn’t be further from my reality


Ady Lam, Year 6, Beacon Hill School, 11 years old

Ady’s list poem was soooo summery, with some great vocabulary (including four of my Wicked Words J)!

Summer is…

Summer is June,

July, August.

Summer is beaches,

Disneyland, your bed.

Summer is playing,

Watching movies, having fun.

Summer is crystal-clear ice,

Holidays, sunglasses.

Summer is enjoyable,

Exciting, groovy.

Summer makes you effervescent,

Ecstatic, Happy

Do tell, where do you plan to spend your

estival vacation?

Hong Kong, Brazil, Thailand?

Summer is pleasant,

Now THAT’S indubitable!


Adya Agarwal Gupta, Grade 4, Canadian International School Tanjong Katong, Singapore, 9 years old

Adya’s lyrical poem contained some gorgeous language and images, especially her bees pollinating and the Buisson (a sort of flowering bush) blooming!

 A Sunny Summers Day

My eyes flutter open

Sunlight streams in

Was this really happening?

Or was I just imagining?

Have the bees started to pollinate?

The flowers can’t wait!

It’s definitely not in my mind,

Winter’s far behind!

Hurrah! Hurray!

A trip to the beach today

Water roars in delight

Covered in shimmering sunlight

The fan spinning on

Playing with my blouse made out of chiffon

A Buisson blooms in glory

For summer is a whole new story.


Lillian Lee, Grade 6, Hamilton International Middle School, Seattle USA, 12 years old

Lillian’s double-limerick was perfectly executed, great fun and made me smile! It’s a sad goodbye to Lillian, who has entered every competition of mine for the last three years! Good luck with high school Lillian, and make sure you keep up the wonderful writing!

Billy’s Summer

There once was a boy named Billy

During summer he laughed himself silly

Estival vacations

75 days of PlayStations

He loved every bit of it, really.

But he started to miss his good friends

So he went out and bought some school pens

School’s not so bad

When it starts he’ll be glad

Besides, there’s always the weekends


SPECIAL MENTION: Sylvia Chan, Year 6, Shatin Junior School, 10 years old

Finally, a very special mention for Sylvia, who was brave enough to write a Shakespearean sonnet! It’s not quite perfect, but it’s a fantastic attempt, and I thought that the last four lines were inspired! Great job Sylvia, and best of luck with your move up to Shatin College!

Shakespeare Sylvia’s Summer

The school year is ov’r and done,

I despise the heat from the sun.

I hadst no choice than to turn on AC,

Or taking covereth of shadow beneath a tree.

Thy house doth hadst been destroyed,

As thy enemy leaps ov’r thy imaginary void.

The lightsabers flash through the air,

Though madeth out of plastic, causes adults despair.

I enjoy ice-cream fresh from the freezer,

And fresh fruit juice from the squeezer.

Mosquitoes and bugs are my biggest foes,

Biting any bits of skin that hadst been exposed.

Inside the house, to be hot or not to be hot,

The fan, the cooler, the fridge or not?

Shall I compare summer to a summer’s day?

Full of joy and full of play.





MK and vine lo res

Helloooo again all you wonderful writers out there! It’s been a tough job judging this competition, but great fun too: your Mischievous Monkey Stories were so entertaining and varied! I do love the way that you all took my list of ingredients and mixed them up in so many different and original ways! I asked you to write a story including a mischievous monkey, a Chinese Emperor, a magic teapot, a big flood, a Chinese setting and the colour verditer; I also asked you to use at least three of my Wicked Words correctly! Well, I’m delighted to say that not one of your stories was the same, despite using all the set ingredients, and some of you went absolutely wild using lots of my Wicked Words, which of course earned you extra points!

Now the best writers are always looking for ways to write even better, and so this time I’ve decided to share with you a little more about what I’m looking for when I judge my competitions, and what common problems seem to be occurring in many of the entries I have read. Even the winners (announced below) will get a little bit of positive criticism, which I hope inspires them to polish their fabulous writing even more! So please don’t mind if I’ve said something a bit critical; it’s all in the vital cause of creating the great writers of the future!

I really enjoyed reading your stories! You did extremely well including the special characters and events which I asked for, although a few of you forgot to include my Wicked Words. But I’d like to make just a few general comments to help you with your writing next time:

Judging a competition is hard work, and the only way to do it properly, so that the very best writers win, in the correct order, is to make a list of everything I expect to see in good writing, put it on a spreadsheet, weight it for importance, and mark every story accordingly! This means that while the special ingredients I give you, as well as things like length and originality are very important, I do mark more “boring” things which are fundamental to good writing!

  •  There were quite a few grammatical errors; in fact nobody’s story was grammatically perfect. The very best way to improve your grammar is to read good books, every single day, for leisure and pleasure. This will give you an innate sense of what looks and sounds right when you are drafting and editing your story;
  • The most common grammatical problem was TENSE. Please be very careful when you are editing to ensure that your tense remains consistent throughout the story;
  • Speech marks were missing in many stories! Do make sure you revise these, and understand how to use them!
  • Commas were either used in the wrong place, or in the place of semi-colons or colons, or sometimes were not used where they should have been! Again, please revise the rules, and make sure when you edit your story that you pay careful attention to your punctuation;
  • One great tip to avoid grammar and punctuation errors is to look at your screen when you type up your story! You will find that your computer software will often underline wrong grammar or punctuation in red, and if you click on that, it will suggest the correct version! This is no substitute for knowing the rules of grammar and punctuation for yourself (which you will acquire if you are a constant reader), but nonetheless it will help you to edit your script before handing it in.

 When readers read a story, they start automatically painting pictures in their heads, drawn from the information given to them by the writer. That’s why the more information about setting and character, the richer and more satisfying the story, and the higher you will score in writing competitions. From this arises two points:

  • Anyone who knows me knows that I am a setting-fiend! I need much more information from all of you about the SETTING! I need to read descriptions of landscape, weather and season and I also need to know when/in what era the story is set. I love it when a writer uses the weather, or the season, throughout the story to add atmosphere or to drive the plot. I love it when a writer gives me a detailed picture of a place, (in this case, China), which convinces me that they’ve done a bit of research and really understand the place they are writing about!
  • I also need to know more about the CHARACTERS! What did they look like, what sort of personality did they have, what motivated them? The more you can tell me, the richer and more interesting the picture I can paint in my mind as I read your story! And don’t forget that details about characters, such as their background, or any special qualities they may have, can become important ingredients in your plot!

 Finally, while most of you made a fabulous effort with the beginning of your stories, I did find that some stories tended to meander in the middle, with no clear build-up to a climax, or with multiple small climaxes and no clear structure. I found even more often that the resolution of the story problem and the ending came in a bit of a rush and was not very satisfying! Please remember that the end of the story is JUST as important as the beginning, and no matter how good the start is, if the ending isn’t strong, the reader will be left with a negative impression.

The solution to all issues of plot structure, setting and characters is, of course, TO WRITE A STORY PLAN BEFORE YOU WRITE YOUR FIRST DRAFT! I can always tell if someone has used a story plan, because their story starts well, ends well, and ticks all the right boxes!

Enough of my little lecture, and on with the announcement of the 12 fantastic winners of the competition (6 in each Category), and the publication of their stories below! And at the end, there’s a little treat from a Singaporean kindergarten! First place winners also receive a free signed copy of one of my books!


In this section there was a total of twelve entries from seven different schools in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia! There was some fabulous creativity among the writers in this section, including two very well-attempted poems in rhyme! Well done to all the entrants in this category as follows:


Discovery Bay International School Hong Kong: Year 3 – Tabitha Peters

ISF Academy, Hong Kong: Year 3 – Amanda Ning Fook Li


Arden Anglican School , Beecroft, NSW: Year 3 – Emily Davis

Dominic College, Hobart, Tasmania: Year 3 – Lucas Atkinson; Bree Bester; Xander Roberts; Jasmin Bailey; Jayden Buckley


Canadian International School, Tanjong Katong Campus, Singapore: Grade 3 – Leela Strathern, Manas Agrawal

Stamford American International School, Singapore: Year 3 – Madeline Painter

UWCSEA East, Singapore: Year 3 – Aisha Zobrist


FIRST PLACE: Emily Davis, Year 3 Arden Anglican School, Sydney, 9 years old

Readers will recall that Emily came first in the Three Chinese Characters Story Competition last year – and now she has done it again! Emily’s story was complex, very original and contained several clever twists as the plot developed. She managed to incorporate a grand total of no less than eight of my Wicked Words in a story that oozed style and great vocabulary. I loved her use of adjectives, the terrific beginning and the rather wry end. Do be careful Emily with your punctuation: there were a few hyphens and commas missing, and a couple of errors in tense. But overall the story was wonderful! Well done, Emily, on another fantastic result!

Tea 4 Two

 “Fruit, fruit, glorious, sweet fruit” The monkey squealed with delight from his perch high above the grand palace courtyard.  A tantalising smell of ripe mango wafted up to him. Just a few more minutes to wait.  The cook would be out of his way and then it would be all his.

“Quiet, quiet must not draw attention “the monkey thought.

He swung down from the roof dropping onto the kitchen windowsill.  Peering into the room saliva dripped from his verditer stained mouth.

 A glint of gold flashed in the sunlight.  Was it a shiny mango?  He eyed each piece of fruit intensely looking for the glint once more. There.. there it was…. But in the hands of the cook!  Her cheeks were red, her open mouth was huge. His orange fur stuck straight up as her high pitched scream hit him.  Just before the shiny thing followed smashing into his chest.

 “ Hiii Yaaaaaaaahhhh. Take that you pesky monkey!!” screamed the cook.

The monkey fell backwards, wrapping his tiny paws around the gold teapot.  He did a backwards flip, sprung up the drain pipe, across the roof and away. Back to his jungle home.

 The monkey stared intently at his reflection in the gold surface of the teapot.  How elegant he looked, how bold and brave. He stroked it loving, over and over until the surface shone like the Emperor’s golden pendant.

 A blue bird flitted down, its verditer wings glowing in the afternoon sun. Intrigued by the monkey’s precious pot, she cocked her head watching as the monkey muttered to himself in a trancelike state. “Fruit, fruit, gold, fruit,”  “Poor monkey,” thought the bird. “He must be famished.” It was already late in the season and the trees had hardly produced any fruit this year.  She glanced up at the trees and gasped: – they were no longer bare instead they were covered in white blossoms.  To her amazement they started transforming into fruits, hundreds of them.  The bird eyed the scene with increasing suspicion.

“ ..So grand, so amazing, I should be the Emperor,” murmured the monkey.  The blue bird stretched out her beak to nudge the monkey but instead she nudged thin air.  Only the pot remained still glowing like the embers of a fire…

The Emperor’s bed was embroidered with gold thread covering layers and layers of silk bedsheets. No one in the whole of China had a bed so sumptuous. The Emperor opened one eye and screamed.  He jumped up and down on the bed on his hands and knees, ripping the silk bedsheets, his eyes bulging, wild.  Where were his trees? Where was his precious teapot?  He screamed a high, cold scream. Who had dared to part him from his glorious life in the Jungle? Where was he now!?

 Suddenly a servant burst in. ”Sire, sire I heard you scream and and…. “

The Emperor scrambled up the hand engraved wooden bed post.  The post creaked under his weight, the bed canopy sagged down. The servant stifled a screech and ran out.

“Help, help.  The Emperor is unwell, someone help him. Where is the Empress? Find her she will calm him down.”

The Empress swept into the room carrying his favourite tea. “My dear Emperor what troubles you?  Did the servant upset you?  Or was it the bedsheets again?” The Empress glanced at the Emperor and then hastily looked away.  “ Errr.. how about some tea?” She kept her eyes firmly on the ground and placed the filled teacup on the bed.  The Emperor dangled an arm down snatched the tea cup, gulped down some of the tea and then spat it out all over the Empresses face.

“ Aaaaghhgh” cried the Emperor “ as his wife rushed out of the room.

“Ergh that stuff had been atrocious and who had been that ugly woman?” He had to get out of this horrible place. 

Frantically he looked around, spotted the open door of the bathroom and bounded in. Heaving himself up onto the basin to reach the open window above, his foot slipped on a tap.  A torrent of water gushed out into the basin.  The Emperor lurched forward hoisting himself onto the windowsill with a grunt and inadvertently lost his sleeping cap which fell into the basin blocking it.  The water continued to cascade down overfilling the basin and flooding the floor.

The Emperor’s nightrobe caught on the catch of the window tearing a hole revealing his bottom. A drainpipe snaked to the ground. The Emperor clambered out and wrapped his body around the pipe. The drainpipe tore away from the wall under his weight. Landing on the stone courtyard, he stared in disbelief at his hairless paws. He brought his hands up to his face – hairless. The Emperor was completely bamboozled. Just then a pandemonium of servants raced out from every door of the palace to seize him…

The bluebird flew off with the teapot clasped tightly in her beak, watching as the Emperor was chased round and round the courtyard by his servants. Her beak unclasped, the teapot fell. Spinning round and round she prayed she had thought right. Oh please let it be!  The Emperor snatched up the pot with great exuberance. This is how it had started and it was how it would end.   He shut his eyes tightly, grasped the teapot and he thought of being back home in the jungle, back with all his monkey friends.

 When he opened his eyes there were his trees, there were the other monkeys whooping.   He had never been happier in his whole life.

 The Emperor collapsed into the waiting arms of his servant. He was ushered inside and laid down in his bed. He lay fitful and clammy with the Empress by his side.  As she watched, the colour returned to his face.  He appeared peaceful, his eyes not so wild and desperate.

“It must indubitably have all been a dream “said the Emperor and he laughed. The Empress smiled with relief that her husband was once again himself.  The story of the flood and of the Emperor’s chase around the courtyard could wait.

SECOND PLACE: Leela Strathern, Grade 3, Canadian International School, Tanjong Katong Campus, Singapore, 9 years old

I loved Leela’s exciting story set in the future, where a Chinese emperor rules the world with the help of a magic teapot. It was action-packed and good fun to read, although there were a few errors in spelling and especially some missing commas. Overall a terrific story though, which won Leela a very creditable second place!

The Owner of the Teapot

This is a story set in the future. It is not a future you would expect with robots, lasers and drones. This future is ruled by a mystical, magical royalty. A Chinese Emperor rules the world from America to Australia from the north pole to the south. China’s Ang dynasty controls everything, but little do people know that the key to the power of the dynasty was not money, not factories and not armies, but a humble, vertider teapot.

“Oi, get off me!” shouted the mischievous monkey called Lun Kee to his older brother. Lun Kee looked ordinary but was actually sly and sneaky. His older brother gripped him by the tail trying to stop him running off. Life was hard in the monkey kingdom ever since the Emperor took over the world. The Emperor had put all the monkeys to work. All the monkeys had protested but the Emperor had thrown his head back and shouted: “Nonsense!” The monkeys knew that the Emperor was not in power because people wanted him to be, but rather because of the teapot.    

Lun Kee, with a determined look on his face, said “I’ve got to get that teapot.”

“No,” said the older brother whose name was Arn Kay. Arn Kay was fastidious and did not like chaos.

“Huh,” said Lun Kee defiantly. “Arn Kay, you’re not going to stop me”.

But even Lun Kee gasped as he stepped out of the monkey kingdom. Little did Lun Kee know that the monkey kingdom was guarded by soldiers, with guns! Even if Lun Kee was mischievous, he was not evil so when he stepped out of the monkey kingdom he didn’t attack. Instead, he tried to talk his way out of it.

“Um , hi guys!” he said trying to look as casual as possible. “Just erm …popping out… um… fooooor … a well… you know… erm morning walk, he ha ,” he giggled nervously.

But unluckily for Lun Kee the guards looked furious. “GET HIM!” they shouted. Lun Kee had to run for his life!

“Just nearly there,” he muttered. As soon as he took his first step into the Emperor’s kingdom, he gasped. It was not the leafy jungle he was used to in the monkey kingdom. It seemed more like a town square with teashops and a bakery with ladies sitting outside and chatting. Children were playing, weaving round the adults’ legs and robot guards with heads like parakeets were walking everywhere.

Despite Lun Kee’s gulp, he boldly quickened his pace. “Ooof, Ow,” Lun Kee said as he bumped into something tall. Lun Kee looked up. The thing looked down. Lun Kee gasped. It was a robot parakeet!
“Oi, whatcha doin ‘ere?” it said pulling him.

“Nothing,” said Lun Kee before changing his mind. “Oh uh, didn’t the Emperor tell you he, erm, sent for me?” he said, lying.

“Well he must have forgot,” added Lun Kee and believe it or not the guard actually believed him!

“Yesssss” Lun Kee cheered to himself as he ran inside the palace ignoring the pandemonium he caused as he knocked over statues and pottery. Children screamed, running everywhere. Suddenly he ran into what looked like a grove. And it was: the sacred grove of the vertider magic teapot.

“Careful,” said a bossy voice.

Lun Kee looked around and there he saw a young girl – the Emperor’s daughter. Lun Kee looked at his feet like a schoolboy being told off.

“Well I just wanted to have the teapot.”

And the princess answered, in the most unexpected way possible: “Hi. My name is Li Wu, which means beautiful. You can take the teapot. I don’t see why it is so important to Daddy. But only for a joke you understand. You have to put it back.”

You see, young Li Wu didn’t know about the charm the teapot carried. Lun Kee nodded his head, but Lun Kee being Lun Kee, would never return it. It would be his. All his. Lun Kee was excited. The teapot was a brilliant blue, with a glimmer all around it. Lun Kee stumbled and drips of water spilled from it. But even when he stood upright, water came trickling out.

Lun Kee thought: “How could such a tiny teapot carry so much water?”
Lun Kee got worried. Suddenly he screamed and jumped up as water gushed out. There was a flood up to his waist. Panic was everywhere. People screamed and ran and covered their faces with handkerchiefs and were hanging onto the rafters of the ceiling. Children were crying as buildings crashed onto each other.

As soon as all the monkeys (including Arn Kay) heard about the flood they rushed to the Emperor’s land. When Arn Kay saw the teapot he pressed his hand to his heart. His untrustworthy brother. What else would he do?

Li Wu, seeing Arn Kay’s worried expression laughed and said: “Come here monkey man”.

Arn Kay scuttled over nervously. Li Wu whispered and said: “First we rob the teapot from your pest of a brother.

“But I can’t…” he began. But just at that very moment a clap of thunder came. The Emperor rose out of the palace.

“WHO HAS MY TEAPOT!!!!??” he screamed and then he lowered his voice, his face red with sweat trickling from his forehead. “And whoever has it, they will give it back”, he said through clenched teeth.

Li Wu had a brainwave. “Lun Kee, if you give up the teapot all the monkeys will be free of slavery”.

Lun Kee didn’t know what to do. Li Wu ran to the emperor.

“Dad. Come! You can get the teapot if you free the monkeys from slavery.”

Suddenly a change swept over the Emperor. He almost looked kind.

“Alright,” he said.

Lun Kee didn’t have a choice but to hand it over. And from then on the monkeys and the people lived happily and had a party to celebrate. Oh, and they shared that sumptuous teapot.

THIRD PLACE: Aisha Zobrist , Grade 3, UWCSEA East, Singapore, 8 years old

Aisha Zobrist, a first-time entrant in my Clever Competition, has won a well-deserved third place with a magnificent story in rhyming verse! The rhyming couplets were almost perfect; all the necessary ingredients including Wicked Words were correct and present, and the rhythm was not bad too! There were a few very small errors in grammar and punctuation; remember Aisha that the rules apply in poetry too! Overall, it was a remarkable achievement for an eight year old! Well done Aisha!

A Monkey Tale

A monkey so brown, as mischievous as could be

Was sitting up high, on a branch of a big Banyan tree.

In the forest of China with trees so tall,

The monkey climbed high looking over the wall.

Over the wall, in a land so fair,

Lived an Emperor named ‘Puyi’ with very dark hair.

Puyi was liked by almost all of his people;

He entertained in the Forbidden City playing games under the steeple!

None of them knew of Puyi’s teapot, that was magic,

Letting this get into the wrong hands could end up being tragic!

A man named Chan with a mellifluous tone,

He was kind, he was caring and enjoyed walking around all alone.

On his walk one day, in the forest so bright,

He spotted a monkey swinging around at great height.

He watched and he watched as the monkey swung by,

He is up to something, thought Chan, I will find out, I will try!

Now Puyi had the magic teapot hidden away from sight,

It was a very nice colour of verditer and white.  

The teapot was handed down years and years ago,

By Puyi’s great grandfather; his name was Pow.

Chan watched the monkey and followed the sounds;

They were heading through the forest towards the Emperor’s huge grounds.

He watched and he waited and wondered what was going on,

Then he saw something interesting and thought ‘hang on’.

The monkey was trying to stop a young man,

Who was dressed in dark clothes and was hiding his face behind a fan.

He climbed up the walls to enter inside,

But the monkey disturbed him and the man ran off to hide.

Chan asked to speak to the Chinese Emperor right away,

He told him of the monkey and the man that got away.

The Emperor laughed loud and sounded quite ecstatic

Of the thought of a monkey being so erratic.

The Emperor ordered Chan to leave his grounds at once,

He thought what he heard was complete nonsense,

All would be good if he listened to this man,

But instead Puyi carried on and Chan needed a plan.

The next day the rain poured and poured to the ground,

It was heavy and fast and made a very loud sound.

The man thought it would be good to steal the teapot today,

As everyone would be keeping out of the rain hiding away.

The rain did not stop and a big flood began to appear,

The man decided he would hide in the palace and wait until it cleared.

The monkey saw the man and decided to wait,

And see what the man did and would do something before it was too late.

As soon as the man was hiding inside,

The monkey swung off in the trees so high,

The monkey found Chan who decided to follow him,

Running through the rain felt quite tiring and grim.

They arrived at the palace, rang the bell and stood aside,

And as soon as the door opened the monkey went wild.

Everyone followed to see what was going on,

The Emperor appeared and banged on the gong.

Chan told the Emperor of the man hiding away,

Puyi called for security to catch the man right away.

They opened the door and guess who they found,

Yes, the man – hiding with his fan and sitting on the ground.

Security took him off to the dungeons right away with his fan

And Puyi ordered to speak to the monkey and Chan.

Puyi was happy, as happy as could be,

He thanked Chan and the Monkey who smiled with glee.

He asked them to choose something for being so caring

And explained what they did was very daring.

Chan asked for a suit to make him handsome and smart,

The monkey found a banana and held it close to his heart.

The suit was made and Chan looked resplendent and fair,

He helped save the magic teapot because he cared.

The rain had stopped and all was well,

Over the Forbidden City you could hear a loud bell.

Puyi, the emperor had ordered everyone to meet at noon if they can,

He stood and he told them all about the monkey and Chan.

Do you know who would be happiest of all right now,

I know, of course it would be Great Grandpa Pow.


FOURTH PLACE: Madeline Painter, Grade 3, Stamford American International School, Singapore, 9 years old

Readers will recall Madeline’s wonderful entries in my last three competitions, in which she gained a Special Mention in the Shaggy Sheep Poem competition, a Sixth Place in the Three Chinese Characters Story Competition, and finally First Place in the Hair-Raising Halloween Poetry competition! Combining her terrific skills in both poetry and story-writing, Madeline has, like Aisha, written her story in verse! Her story was great fun, using six Wicked Words correctly, and displayed a dry sense of humour, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Do be careful though, when writing in rhyme, to make sure that your rhyming pattern is consistent. Here Madeline’s rhyming pattern chopped and changed a little, which lost her some points.

Emperor Shingdai and the Land of the Monkeys

 Once upon a time, before the land was too fertile in China,

There was an illustrious emperor.  He had a verditer colored gown,

And he loved it very much cos’ it fit with his verditer colored crown.

Now this specific emperor ruled the land of monkeys.

But they were kind of crazy and most of all pretty funky.

 This fastidious emperor loved his gown a lot,

But his monkeys were tantalized,

Which made the emperor demoralized,

For he still didn’t know what the monkeys would plot.

 To defend the mighty gown,

He would gather up his men with their donkeys, kids and wives,

Then take them all to war and risk their lives.

 But he did not fear for he had a special teapot,

It had an extra special plaque,

And inside the teapot lived a genie with the gown just on his back.

 The magic teapot was like a good alarm,

For it always started to flood.


Oh no no. Not water but blood.

 The monkeys didn’t know this so one day they tried to nick,

The gown from that special teapot of brick,

Although it really makes the tea taste thick.

 They snuck into his safe

And tried to open up the hatch,

Just to find it was locked!

And all while they chattered lots and talked.

 The lightning flashed outside.

The thunder rumbled too.

But the monkeys still thought their confidence would make do.

 The waters were pouring everywhere!

At least that’s what the monkeys thought,

There was really blood in the air!

 The emperor saw that blood in the air,

And it made his hair stand on end,

For he knew he would have to defend,

That special, special gown.

 So the emperor marched all the way to town,

He gathered everyone all around,

And told to people of the coming flood.

 He really made ’em pusillanimous,

Like petrified ostriches with their heads in the mud,

When he told them it would be blood.

 As soon as he said that, the blood gushed mellifluously.

It went everywhere in town.

Blood traveled through the bushes, trees, and roads, up and down.

Even on the luscious gown!

 Then the monkeys with the gown came into view.

The men cried charge,

And the babies, well they just cried,

While the women grabbed all the egregious monkeys on cue.

 A while later, the resplendent gown was returned to the pot.

The blood flood had just about dried up.

The monkeys found they were banned from the palace.

Unfortunately for them, they could no longer cause any malice.

 The gown is now safe and all is copacetic.

But the monkeys have never been apologetic.      

The pot, the genie inside and the emperor all rest in peace,

Under the very place where the first drop of blood was ever released.


 FIFTH PLACE: Amanda Ning Fook Li, Grade 3, ISF Academy Hong Kong

Amanda’s story was action-packed, with an excellent beginning and a philosophical ending. It was a fun read, and I really enjoyed her description of the terrible flood. But watch out though for those backward speech marks Amanda, and be careful with your spacing!

The Monkey and the Teapot

Slash! Coco’s tail whipped again at the metal bar. The cheeky monkey was in a “special room” with strong walls (no furniture to break). The emperor stared at her from on his throne, fascinated, wondering when she would be calm enough to simply stick her tail straight and hoist herself out of the room.

Suddenly, a servant rushed into the room, dropping to his knees. “FLOOD!” The servant cried. “Your Majesty! The windows and doors are all locked, but we are now floating on the wave-”

The emperor jumped up high. “WHAT!” He roared.’’- and a wall is cracked-’’

Coco had been listening, obviously, but now she started screeching,”Out! Out! OUT!” Again and again, like she wanted to get out of the floating house.”Throw anything you can find OUT! NOW!”

The frantic servants started hurling pictures, pots, papers, and a whole ton of other stuff through the window. A guard made the mistake of ripping a bar from the window of the room Coco was in, and the naughty monkey leaped out. A maid quickly closed the window, but not before Coco swung out, yelling to be back in a “minute”.

The little monkey grabbed a chunk of wood and held on tightly (like her life depended on it. Actually, it did.). It carried her through the storm, past wreckages, over a wave, and finally, stopped in front of a twig. Suddenly, Coco launched herself onto the bobbing stick, staring at the marks on it. She paddled through the waters, until she came to a floating house.

Back in the floating emperor’s now damaged palace, the emperor was YELLING


The guard fell to his knees.”Your Majesty, forgive me! I beg you! Sorry…”

Coco hoisted herself onto the plank, which seemed to fall apart every second. She stumbled across the broken door. As she stepped on a trapdoor, the monkey fell through the ground to a dark chamber.

 “Hmph! I pity you. But no more chances after this!” The emperor summed up.

”What great kindness his majesty has!”the servants murmured.

When the monkey noticed a load of golden pots, she squealed. Now, Coco was an absolutely fastidious ape, so she picked the shiniest pot, which was hidden among the other rusty ones. When she walked outside, the whole ocean seemed

to bow before her, saying: ”I am now under your command, mistress.”

Coco looked, in wonder, at the shining pot. Especially its glowing verditer rim, which she wondered what it did. She dipped the pot into the sea, making a scooping gesture, hoping she could scoop the flood up, bit by bit. As she bent down, her pinkie touched the verditer rim, making the already glowing pot shine with glory.

 After a blinding flash, the whole flood was sucked up into Coco’s hands. It was absolute pandemonium!

Houses floating on tides suddenly crashed down onto the now dry land. The same happened to the emperor’s completely wrecked one. Coco stared in amazement, then turn to run as the now-not-so-sumptuous ruler of Shanghai turned to grab her.

“DARE NOT ESCAPE!” He roared, and made a wild lunge at her. The monkey

swung from house to house, bar to bar. The emperor could not catch up, so gave up.

 After the monkey escaped, she caused chaos all over China with the flooding pot. A saying was always passed around: ”When there’s the monkey, there’s no peace.”


SIXTH PLACE: Tabitha Elizabeth Peters, Year 3, Discovery Bay International School Hong Kong, 8 years old

Tabitha’s story of a hungry monkey who learns how to share was a lot of fun; I especially liked her inclusion of other jungle animals, including the peacock that collected lollipops! There were a few errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling (especially with words that needed to be joined up, or hyphenated; watch out for these when you are editing Tabitha!) But overall, a fantastic effort for an eight year old!

Mike – the Mischievous Monkey

Many years ago, in the deepest, darkest forest in China, there lived a nosey, greedy, bossy, impish and jumpy Monkey called Mike. He was a lot of trouble to the other

Animals and didn’t really care that Winter was coming. Even though some of the Animals did not hibernate, they all hated Winter and going out in the Winter for hours looking for food, would certainly make their feet freeze! All that Mike did every day was cause pandemonium for the other Animals!

One bitter day Mike woke up and was colder then ever. He did not have enough food for the day and did not dare to go out in that horribly horrible day – but he was a little hungry!

So he swung on the vines to Tiger’s house. Suddenly, the vines broke, so he had to walk. When he got to Tiger’s house, Tiger was snoring away peacefully next to a mountain of food. The door was locked, so Mike could not get in. He tried and tried, but just looking at those nuts and berries and a lot more glorious things was making him more and more hungry! He finally gave up trying to get in.

So he walked to Peacock’s house. Peacock was opening a big wooden box, while brushing her verditer coloured feathers. Inside the box were lolly pops, caramel, chocolate, nuts, sugar plums and berries. As you know, Mike can cause a lot of trouble to the Animals. But the Animal he liked to disturb and cause trouble to the most to is Peacock. Peacock never forgot the last time Mike interrupted her. She was resting in the sun and suddenly Mike appeared. He was trying pull of one of her delicate feathers! Mike managed to grab hold of one and pulled it out while Peacock

ran around the wood screaming with pain while blood dripped from her bottom. From that day on, Peacock didn’t like Mike not one bit…

Suddenly Peacock saw Mike and grabbed her hair brush and tried to smack Mike with it! Mike got away easily (Peacock’s a slow runner). Mike was really cold now. Mike suddenly stopped, he was standing in front of a giant tree and at the top was a magnificently ripe mango! He tried to jump but he was far too short. So he went back to his house and got some books. Then he stacked them up next to the big tree. But he did not have enough books to reach the mango! He hungrily walked home.

A few days later the Emperor’s magical teapot said “floods are coming, floods are coming”. The Emperor loves animals and would cry for hours if they were all swept away into the deep dark blue sea! So he stepped up and said “bring me all the

animals you can find and do it fast!” In the morning all the men in the land went

searching for all the animals and gave them shelter when they entered the Emperor’s village.

Mike was lucky enough to share a house with the Emperor, but he was still hungry! He suddenly had a wicked idea. He would sneak into a room of the huge house which had gold, rubies, emeralds and pearls in it.

Now, the Emperor had shown them (the animals) all the rooms in the house; there was the coat room (it was splendiferous), the swimming room (with an EPIC waterslide), the Dino room (with real Dinosaur bones in it) and last of all the jewel room. The jewel room had a pass code and the Emperor told them it, so Mike decided to steal some jewels so he could buy fruit.

When everyone was telling jokes, he tip toed quietly up the marble staircase to the jewel room. He accidentally forgot the way and bumped into the coat room where THE EMPEROR WAS CHANGING FOR DINNER! Mike had to think quickly. But the Emperor saw him! Mike only had time to say “I’m lost, I was trying to go to my room but I got lost! And I forgot where the jewel room is.”

The Emperor was picking up a red and golden coat and put it on while he said “for the jewel room it is down the hall and to the right and for the Monkey room, go down to the sitting room and turn left.”

Mike ran to the jewel room and when he arrived he was amazed. The pearls were iridescent and the crystals sparkled like nobodies business. But he had to act quickly.

So he grabbed some pearls and gold and a crown, but then the Emperor hurried into the room and saw Mike… Mike ran for the window but the Emperor caught the Monkeys tail, “I thought I could trust you, but you’re nothing but a Mischievous Monkey”.

Mike would have loved to say “so what?” But he kept his mouth shut. The Emperor carried Mike like a baby which made him very tired and soon he was fast asleep. Soon they entered the prison where there were murderers and robbers. Mike had a room all to him self which he liked very much. But he would prefer to be in the jungle.

Suddenly he saw a window and next door was the key to open the door! He was too big to fit through the window to get out but his tail was the right size. So he slid his tail into the window and got the key and unlocked the door. Then he went to the market and bought fifty-two bananas and twenty packets of nuts! When he arrived at the jungle, there was no food! So when Mike came along every body was surprised, do you know why? Well because Mike was sharing!

Everybody tucked in and Mike rather liked being good and never did a bad thing again!


In this section there was a total of 31 entries from 17 schools in 5 different countries!


Arden Anglican School , Beecroft, NSW: Year 4 – Mayah Natarajan; Kiran Viranna

Good Shepherd Primary School, Lockridge Western Australia: Year 6 – Aniela Matkowski

Homeschool: Year 6 – Jemma Julian

Hutchins: Grade 4 – Tama Connelly


Australian International School Hong Kong: Year 6 – Bas Buwalda

Beacon Hill School: Year 6 – Ady Lam

French International School: Year 4 – Antonia Yeo, Aryan Kalliat, Kristan Tse, August Joly; Year 5 – Athene Fox

Japanese International School: Year 6 – Ciara Wan

The Kellett School: Year 4 – Lidiya Chernyavskaya

Kingston International School: Year 5 – Karis Leung

Kowloon Junior School: Grade 6 – Marissa Chow

Shatin Junior School: Grade 4 – Jocelyn Chung, Stefanie Learng, Jannie Kung; Ruby Lee; Sze Long Cheung; Joey Zheng; Grade 5 – Benedict Pang; Scarlett Tse; Grade 6 – Maryanne Ko


Delhi Public School Newtown, Kolkata: Grade 4 – Arjya Kanjilal


Canadian International School, Tanjong Katong, Singapore: Year 6 – Abigail Bilsland

UWCSEA East, Singapore: Year 3 – Aisha Zobrist; Year 5 – Suryansh Shetty


Shanghai United International School, Shanghai: Grade 4 – Nicholas Ng

FIRST PLACE: Abigail Bilsland, Grade 6, Canadian international School Tanjong Katong Campus Singapore, 12 years old

Congratulations to Abigail on her well-deserved first place in the Years 4 to 6 Category! Her very original story of an Emperor’s court comprised entirely of Chinese animals made me smile and her detailed description of the distinctively Chinese setting painted a beautiful picture for the reader. Her choice of vocabulary was also excellent, and I loved the way she managed to incorporate not just three, but eight wicked words into the text! My only comment is to be careful with your punctuation, Abigail, especially remembering when to use hypens and, in appropriate places, replacing commas with semi-colons! Overall a fantastic story – well done! I look forward to seeing more of your work in future!

The Story of Princess Malala Monkey

Princess Malala Monkey stopped for a moment to smooth down her chocolate brown fur then she stepped into the clearing.  She glanced around, taking in the Chinese style curved roofs and colourful walls of the buildings. All the buildings were beautiful, but it was the biggest one, in the middle that really drew Malala’s attention. It was resplendent, with two curved roofs and a flagpole! In front of the building stood an excited and noisy crowd of animals.

A regal looking panda cloaked in sumptuous Chinese style robes emerged from the crowd of animals, and they all fell silent.  “Announcing the illustrious Grand High Emperor Panda-monium, and his wife, the Grand High Empress Pandora Panda-monium” introduced an eagle.  The Emperor fell into a deep bow. “Welcome Princess Malala, pray, allow me and my darling wife to show you around”.

The Emperor and Empress led Malala over to the building in the middle. “Welcome

to Zhú ting ( ), or Bamboo Hall.  This is where we eat, cook, play, and do almost everything except sleep. We sleep in the huts in a circle around .” The Emperor explained. The hall was amazing.  It was wide and tall, with half of the floor covered in rugs.  He led Malala over to a gargantuan circular counter, with about fifteen animals busily working on hundreds of platters of food and gallons of drinks.  “Here is our kitchen, where our chefs prepare food for the entire troop.”

“Now, please humour one of my little idiosyncrasies and allow me to show you our magical teapot.”  The Emperor and Empress sat on the floor and gestured for Malala to do the same. A red panda set a case down at the feet of the Emperor, gave a bow, then scurried away.   The Emperor opened the case, inside was a big teapot and five cups, all ornately decorated with different symbols.  “This is a quilin, it has the head of a dragon, the scales of a fish, the hooves of an ox and tail of a lion.  It symbolises peace and happiness, the dragon symbolises heroism and nobility.  The teapot holds an ancient charm and protects our village from destruction. Oh, it would seem it is time for lunch, I hope you like bamboo rice Princess Malala?”

As Malala lay in her hammock, listening to the rumbling of thunder in the distance, which was quite atrocious for Spring weather, all she could think about was the teapot. The symbols were so delicate, so intricate, she needed to see them again.  She rose from the hammock, and entered .   She found the case and opened it, picking up the teapot, she felt the teapot begin to slip through her lush brown fur, she tried to put it back, but it was too late. The precious teapot lay, in six pieces, upon the floor.

Malala panicked, and hastily stuffed the pieces of the teapot back into the case.  She felt a drop of rain, and then another, sliding down her face, intertwining with her salty tears.  She ran back to her room, and took out her own verditer teapot from her belongings and swapped her teapot with the broken pieces.  She quickly returned the case to , and went to bed.  Malala had a terrible night, listening to the sound of the lashing rain outside.  In the morning, she stepped out of her hut to find out just how much the teapot really had protected the village.  The constant rain had flooded it!  

As Malala stood there, gaping, the Emperor and Empress exited their cabin.  The Empress gasped  “the teapot!”.  The Emperor yelled “Get the teapot quickly!”  All the animals rushed towards .  Malala just stood there, watching as the Emperor started lifting the latch. Suddenly he stopped, and turned his head towards a loud swooshing noise.  All of a sudden, a gargantuan wave appeared, towering over the small village, they all watched in horror as it fell.

It was chaos, the wave thrashed them around.  Out of nowhere Princess Malala felt sharp claws pierce her shirt and she was plucked into the air.  She looked up and saw a stork had saved her.  From her vantage point, she could see the other animals shouting, yelling, drowning below.  Suddenly a hawk swooped down and retrieved the Emperor another saved The Empress.  Malala looked around, and saw hawks, eagles, storks and even albatrosses saving all the endangered animals.  

As the water receded, the birds set them all back down on the ground.  The Emperor opened the case, quickly this time, to reveal the verditer teapot.  Malala slunk off while everyone else gazed, with lugubrious faces, at the verditer teapot.  She miraculously found her own box where she had placed the broken teapot and thought the least she could do was to return the broken pieces.  She slowly ventured back and quietly explained what she had done.  The Emperor looked very grave.  “There is a way to redeem yourself.  The legend of the teapot says if it is ever broken, all the pieces must be put back together with the utmost apologies of whoever broke it”.

The animals sprang into action.  The albatrosses held the top bits in place, the little animals held the bottom pieces.  Princess Malala apologized to the teapot. Cries of “It didn’t work!” rang out across the village.  As Malala broke down in tears, apologizing not only to the teapot, but every animal in the village, something amazing started to happen.  Her tears started levitating.  They floated towards the teapot, gluing it back together, it had worked!  All the animals started cheering.  But Malala knew they were still sad about their beautiful village being completely destroyed.  “I know it’s my fault, I want to put it right.” she whispered to the teapot.  The teapot would have smiled if teapots could smile, instead it repaired the village even bigger and better than before. 

Now the real celebrations could begin! 


SECOND PLACE: Arjya Kanjilal, Grade 4, Delhi Public School Newtown, Kolkata, India, 9 years old

A warm welcome to my Clever Competition to Arjya Kanjilal from Kolkata in India. I was so impressed with Arjya’s story about a mischievous monkey with a watergun; her lyrical writing style, descriptive imagery and almost perfect grammar was exceptional, particularly given her age of just nine years. Arjya is, I predict, a great writer-in-the-making! I very much look forward to reading more of her work in future competitions.

 The Great Flood

Once, in China, there lived an emperor whose name was Tai-Wong. He was very rich and kind. His palace was the most beautiful one in the world. It was made of white marble and had gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires embedded in it. It had carvings and sculptures in the carved-out niches. He had a lovely garden, with the rarest flowers. His most favourite flower was the moonflower, a rare flower that bloomed every full moon night. It was pearly silver, the colour of moonlight. He often visited his garden and listened to his little nightingale sing, as he was very fond of nature.

One afternoon in spring, he was sitting in his garden, when he suddenly heard a distant call. “Beautiful teapots at only 50 Yuan!” It was a trader who came to sell foreign teapots at cheap prices. The emperor said, “I’d like one, please!” The trader said, “Which one would you like, sir?

“That one, with the beautiful verditer spoon and intricate carving and designs”, replied the emperor.

The trader smiled and said,” I’ll tell you a secret about that teapot. It’s magic!!! If you take that spoon and dip it into the teapot, when it is filled with tea and wish something, then your wish will come true.”

“Is that so? I would love to take it!” was the emperor’s reply.

He waited till it was dark and the full moon shone bright in the night sky. “Let me test it” he thought.

He went and filled it with tea and then dipped the spoon into it.

“I wish the moonflowers grow twice as big as they are now”, he said.

And the moonflowers grew considerably bigger. He excitedly called his minister who came immediately.

“Yes your majesty?” he said. “I would like all the villagers to get a chance to make their wishes come true.” he said and then related the whole story to the minister.

“Your desire is our command”, said the minister bowing before hurrying off to tell the news to the people of China.

The first villager had a talking pet monkey named George. He was very mischievous always troubling the villagers in their work. He was always up to mischief, stealing valuable things from the villagers.

The villager made his wish. “I want it to rain. My crops aren’t growing very well due to the drought”, he said.

It slowly started raining. The farmer started rejoicing and George made the best use of the moment. He sneaked the teapot away from the table. Following what his owner had done, he dipped the spoon into the tea and wished for a water gun which immediately appeared in his hand. He giggled with glee thinking of the pranks he could play. He sprayed water at the villagers and said, ‘Don’t you want some cooling showers in this hot estival season?”

Now the rain that had started did not stop. The rain poured on and on for days flooding the streets of China. George got onto a tree to avoid the flood with the water gun in one hand and the teapot in the other.

Suddenly, the teapot slipped from his hand falling into the water. He swung from tree to tree trying get the pot but barely missing it each time. Finally he got a grasp on it. However, a voice said, “You can only have one gift – the water gun or the teapot.” The voice came from the teapot itself. George thought for a while then said, “The water gun.” The teapot drifted gradually away from him. He played around for a while with his new toy but soon got bored.

He spotted the emperor sitting in his garden. He seemed to be depressed. The flood was causing danger and havoc in China. It was causing loss of property, and if it continued, people might drown. George understood this and suddenly felt guilty. If he hadn’t taken the teapot, Tai-Wong could have wished the flood away. He badly wanted to help, so he said, ‘I don’t want this water gun anymore. I want the teapot.’

But the voice, which had come from the teapot, said ‘You wished for the water gun and got it. The wish cannot be reversed.’

“What? No! I just want to help!” George said in horror.

“Sorry, it cannot be reversed.” The voice said again.

“Silly water gun! I don’t want you anymore! I’ll throw you into the water and I don’t care if the mellifluous water takes you away!” said George, and threw the water gun into the water.

As soon as it touched the water, it turned into the magic teapot!

“You have well passed my test.” said the voice. It was a little fairy. “I have lived in the teapot all the time. When you wished something, I made the wish come true. You were the first person to wish something to help others rather than satisfy your own selfish desires. Take the teapot and give it to your emperor.” She then flew back into the teapot and disappeared.

The teapot floated into his hand. George swung from the tree and over the flood, and went to Tai-Wong’s garden. “Your majesty? I believe this is yours. Use it to stop the flood, please.” said George.

The emperor wished the flood to go and said,” Thank you. You have saved my kingdom!”

The fairy flew out of the teapot just then. She had a pretty golden crown on her head and wore a long, flowing gown.

She said, “I am Angelina, the fairy queen. Now that the flood is over, I can see that you’re all very happy. After all, “All’s well that ends well”.

She waved her wand and lo! There appeared a sumptuous feast with delicious food to celebrate the occasion.

George realized his mistake, and chose to help others rather than create chaos among them. And thus the citizens lived on peacefully, commemorating George’s brave act every Chinese Year of the Monkey!!


THIRD PLACE: Bas Buwalda, Year 6, Australian International School Hong Kong, 11 years old

The beginning of Bas’s story was one of the most impressive in the competition; I also loved his detailed character descriptions of the Emperor and his son, and the mythical quality of the story, not to mention his great vocabulary! But I felt that the action in the story was a little delayed by the long background section at the beginning, so that the story felt unevenly weighted. Careful also, Bas, to make your endings as powerful as your beginnings! Nonetheless, an impressive effort and I can’t wait to read more of your work.

 The Dragon’s Gift

The wind howled through the iron bars and the heavy stomping of boots echoed as guards in flashing, red armour paraded in front of the iron-plated room. A lone figure sat silently in a corner. The prisoner finally stood up and shuffled out of the shadows into the light.

It was a rather peculiar boy. He was a metre and a half tall with his hair a distinguished white colour. He stared at the angry storm flashing outside his miniature window. One of the guards walked past and noticed the boy, “Come here!” he shouted in a hoarse voice and the boy slowly twisted his body so that he was facing the guard. The guard screamed in horror; the boy had no eyes, just empty sockets. Back into the dark confounds of his cell, this time with a bandage around his head, the boy crouched down, the horrible memories swimming around in his mind.

Emperor Quin of China was an honourable emperor who ruled China with a fair and gentle hand. He had everything he ever wanted: a wife, beautiful concubines, food, and a grand palace. A sumptuous life all in all. An intricate network of loyal advisers ensured he was aware of almost everything that was occurring in his empire. However, he didn’t realise that most soldiers serving him were arrogant and cruel. Thinking themselves superior to all the hardworking farmers. These so-called warriors wrecked the farmer’s lands and pillaged their houses.

One evening, a weary messenger ran into the palace garden where Emperor Quin sat quietly praying to the elders.

“Your newborn son has arrived”, “He is with your favourite concubine your majesty” the messenger whispered.

“I shall be there” and with that the emperor dismissed the messenger while he finished his prayer.

Downstairs the Emperor spoke with a mysterious woman in hushed tones, “Are you sure he’s cursed?”

“Either that or he has had to pay a punishing price, losing his eyes for a blessing”,

“Fine, I must be on my way now, for no one must know he is the son of the emperor”

The woman hurried away carrying a basket, a cooing basket. “What’s his name?” the Emperor called out after the women, “Hung” the woman stated blankly, “His name is Hung and one day he will be the greatest man in China” then she left without another word.

Hung was 12 when the warriors ambushed his farm and killed his mum. It was a pandemonium of cries of anguish and fear, bloodcurdling screams and an eerie silence that followed. He had hidden under a nearby Camellia bush and waited there till the night passed.

The next morning, Hung woke up to the sound of heavy breathing, realising he was no longer alone. Hung heard someone softly reciting an ancient chant featuring a magic teapot and recognised him as a member of the Dragon clan: the Emperor’s finest advisors that could wield spells and possessed great wisdom.

Hung took some rice cakes out of a leather sack he had found in the forest and offered it slowly to the man. The man feared him at first but realised Hung meant no harm to him and they ate together and started to chat. The chat became a talk, which became a friendship, which became a bond.

After having spent two solar terms in the woods together, the man blessed the boy with a special gift, a monkey. “Your new eyes” he whispered and walked off into the woods. Hung and the monkey lived in the forest, depending on each other and surviving as to their unbreakable bond.

Two years later during the wet season, Hung and his mischievous monkey friend Chai, were caught in a flood. “Come on Chai” Hung shouted as the water kept rising steadily, “We have to get to the higher ground”.

Suddenly, a piercing scream echoed around the forest clearing and Hung spun around, just in time to feel a body brushing against him in the rushing water. With seconds to spare Hung reached out for it and dragged a man out of the current. The man started to splutter and coughed up water.

“Yuck!” he exclaimed as verditer blue coloured water gushed out of his mouth. The man slowly opened his eyes and stared at the boy in front of him. “How dare you miserable farmer touch a warrior, I will make you pay”, he shrieked. The next minutes were a blur, the warrior swished his sword out of its scabbard and the metal narrowly missed Hung’s head. Then the warrior feinted a dash and leapt at Hung trapping him so that he could not escape. Blackness surrounded Hung as he heard the warrior laughing,

“Wake up!” shouted the guard while he unlocked the heavy reinforced door, “Wake up you lazy bag o’ bones!”, “You’re going to have your trial today”, “Should’ve known better than to touch an emperor’s warrior”.

“I’m sure I will be exonerated from this false accusation” Hung softly replied, “The emperor is a good man”. Hung fought back the tears as the soldiers dragged him to the palace, where he awaited his fate. The emperor looked at the frail boy in front of him, he resembled someone but he couldn’t exactly remember whom. Finally, he asked the boy’s name, “Hung” the boy replied, “My name is Hung”. The emperor’s heart skipped a beat as he calmly asked where the boy’s mother was. This was too much for poor Hung and he collapsed in front of the emperor, his eyes welling up with tears.

“She’s dead!” he cried, “They killed her”. For a moment, Emperor Quin was silent, then he stood, marched up to the boy and hugged him. “Welcome home my son”. The look on Hung’s face was priceless, but he felt strangely at home. Finally, he would be safe with his monkey friend Chai and his dad, the emperor of China.

FOURTH PLACE: Suryansh Shetty, Grade 5, UWCSEA East Campus, Singapore, 11 years old

Suryansh’s story also started beautifully, with a breathtaking description of sunset over the Emperor’s kingdom. I also got really excited by the plot, involving the machinations of a devious counselor, as well as the antics of a cheeky monkey. But again, Suryansh, do be careful to put as much time into your story ending as it’s beginning! Here I felt your ending was a little weak, which let the story down a little. Nonetheless, a very well-deserved fifth place!

Emperor Yang and the Mischievous Monkey

Emperor Yang sat on the silver armchair in his large balcony. He watched across his wide kingdom in fascination. He always loved looking at the busy streets of his kingdom. And sometimes he just liked watching the slow swaying of the lush green trees in the giant mountains across the valley or listening to the birds sing in his garden.

But today he was looking at the bright glow descending into the hills. The Emperor smiled as he looked at the estival sun kissing the mountains in the horizon. It was not like the paintings of sunsets that his royal artists would sketch. It was much more real and it brought a smile to his face. He wished that the sun always shone brightly on his kingdom.

The Emperor rose from his armchair and walked through the silk curtains into his royal bedroom. He lay on the golden sheets of his resplendent bed curling his moustache and thinking about his people and his country. In his happiness and joy at watching his empire prosper, he could not shake off his constant fear about what harm could befall his beloved country.

The next day Emperor Yang was sitting on his throne in the royal court. His courtiers and advisors sat on chairs lining the emperor’s throne on both sides. The Emperor smiled and waved as they rose up to bow in respect.

“I would like to start the proceedings today with the news of the kingdom,” boomed the king. “Minister Huang, give me your report”.

Minister Huang looked at the emperor and nodded.

“The rice farms are growing well, my lord,” said the minister. “The production of silk cloth is rising as well”.

“Excellent! Now let’s proceed on to…”

“WAIT your Highness!”, a voice called. The emperor was furious that some one had interrupted him. He searched around for the courtier who dared to interrupt him.

“It was Kai who spoke, my Lord,” said Huang. The courtiers were secretly happy to see Kai being pulled up, as they were quite jealous of him. Kai was the emperor’s favorite minister. Old but short, Kai was sitting on a small chair looking at the emperor.

“How dare you interrupt me?” Emperor Yang screamed at Kai.

“I’m sorry my Lord, but I met a divination lady today and she told me the future of our kingdom”, he explained in a low voice. Emperor Yang could see the fear in Kai’s eyes and smiled. He liked having power and command over his court.

“She said our kingdom would be washed by a flood!” Kai said fearfully. The Emperor’s smile faded. The courtiers gasped. There was a long silence.

“Although.., my Lord, I believe there is some hope,” said Kai. Kai pulled out a large teapot from under his seat. It was decorated with painted flowers and vines covering it. It had a magical verditer glow to it, which made the emperor curious.

“What is it?” asked the Emperor.

“A magic teapot. If filled with tea leaves and placed at the foot of your throne it will prevent the flood,” explained Kai.

“Do you have proof that this teapot will save us?” asked Emperor Yang.

“Just wait and watch, my Lord,” Kai smiled gently.

 “You shall be rewarded greatly if there is no flood”, the Emperor said to him magnanimously.

“Oh my Lord! Thank you!” Kai replied ecstatically.

“You deserve it Kai, if you are right,” said the Emperor. Kai gave another smile.

Soon the courtiers were talking about the flood and the fate of the kingdom. The Emperor was very worried. If Kai were to be right about the flood and wrong about the magic teapot, his kingdom would perish. But the Emperor trusted Kai.

In the evening after a busy day at the court, the Emperor placed the silver teapot on the footsteps of his golden throne. It was filled with tea leaves. He smiled and was about to walk back to his bedroom when he heard a loud crash. The Emperor panicked. Was there a thief in his palace? He walked slowly towards the throne.

“Who’s there?”, he screamed. To his shock, the teapot was broken. Tea leaves were spread across the floor and the precious teapot was shattered to pieces. He heard a loud screech next to him. Emperor Yang turned around to see a small furry monkey jumping up and down furiously. The Emperor burst into rage.

GUARDS GET THAT MONKEY!!!” he screamed. Three large men armed with sharp spears charged towards the small ape. The mischievous monkey scampered away as it saw the guards approaching. All night the guards tried to catch the monkey. That night, the Emperor couldn’t sleep properly thinking about the pandemonium that would ensue in his kingdom if there were a flood. His people would drown and his kingdom would be submerged. He tossed and turned on his bed hoping Kai was wrong.

The next morning, the Emperor was very glum. All the courtiers had heard about the monkey incident, including Kai, who looked very scared.

“We all know what happened last night and the blasted monkey is to be blamed,” said the Emperor angrily. “I am also very sorry Kai, for your magic teapot”.

“It’s okay my lord”, said Kai fearfully.

“I am also sad to say, we must make plans to evacuate the kingdom,” said Emperor Yang. “There’s a flood coming and we are cannot stay here for long”.

Hundreds of sweat beads had formed on Kai’s face. He knew his game was up. His plan to seek unjust recognition and reward was now unraveling.

“Actually my Lord, the divination lady said that it was a mistake and the flood was going to happen in another kingdom,” stuttered Kai as he lied to cover up his failed scheme. The Emperor was exuberant when he heard it.

Splendiferous! God Bless Our Kingdom”, he said. And the kingdom didn’t have any troubles in a long time. Kai secretly vowed to never lie again.

FIFTH PLACE: Jemma Julian, Year 6, home-schooled, Sydney, 11 years old

A warm welcome again to previous prize-winner Jemma Julian from Sydney in Australia, with a clever, witty and very original story about an ageing Emperor and his entry into a Bonsai Competition! Jemma used a remarkable total of no less than fifteen of my Wicked Words correctly, among a large range of other fabulous vocabulary! But I did want to see more description of the Chinese setting and, while there was a teapot mentioned briefly, there was no magic teapot, and this I’m afraid meant that the entry had to be marked down.

Please, everybody, when you enter my competitions do make sure that you take heed of every single ingredient that I’m asking for, as otherwise points will have to be deducted!

But Jemma’s writing is fantastic! Please keep it up Jemma; you have real talent and a very original mind, and I very much enjoyed reading your entry!

 The Monkey House Bonsai

The locals called the palace of their Emperor ‘The Monkey House’. All with good reason, for their Emperor kept monkeys. They also scorned their Emperor’s senility. And his old age. Yes, his subjects had stopped being in awe of his age long ago and couldn’t even remember his birthday! So when the Emperor started collecting monkeys, news came that Emperor Penjing was finally losing his marbles. All the surrounding kingdoms of China thought that the Emperor was mad too…

Emperor Penjing sighed happily. He sat on a splendiferous sofa drinking tea from a verditer teapot with his monkeys. Suddenly one of his monkeys- Mei- rushed in, carrying a golden scroll.

‘Penjing, here is the invitation we have been anticipating! The Bonsai Contest! In two months bring your finest bonsai! The winner gets to take one loser’s land! Ah… a tantalising prize. Shall we participate?’

‘My name’s the Chinese name for bonsai! I think…’ said Penjing gallantly. ‘We must participate! I’ll design the bonsai!’

Penjing was most fastidious about bonsai designs. He created the most resplendent bonsai. Now only the tree and the Spell were needed…

 In eastern China there was a Dragon Tree. Dragon Trees are the most superb trees created. This one’s scaly bark was its namesake, and it had most sumptuous leaves of green.

Penjing sent a quorum of monkeys to retrieve it. When they brought it back the Imperial Being threw off his robes, put some gardening clothes on and pruned the tree to a miniscule size himself! Twenty monkeys then planted and watered the Dragon Bonsai. After the bonsai recovered its pruning Penjing used the Spell.

At midnight, Penjing took five leaves from the bonsai and mixed them with ground dragons’ bones, carried the mixture out of the palace and tottered up the Imperial Mountain, clutching his walking stick. When he finally reached the jagged summit peak, he blew the powder and leaves into the night.

Suddenly the bonsai, which Penjing had took with him, glowed with iridescence! The green leaves of the bonsai changed. The leaves shined bright with not only green, but red, yellow, black and white!

 Penjing wasn’t the only one who’d entered the contest. Neighbouring Emperor’s had entered too, and they all had their eyes on Penjing’s widespread land. They all knew Penjing craziness. They would have little competition with the doddering old fool!

How wrong they were…


‘WOOOOOHOOOOOOOO!’ The monkeys screeched. The Bonsai Competition was tomorrow, and they were travelling by bus to Tibet, where the contest was to be held!

The journey took a day and a night. By midday the monkeys were causing pandemonium! Penjing tried to subdue them, but his efforts didn’t work. Finally the use of long words caught their attention.

‘Monkeys, stop this atrocious tomfoolery right now! It’s annoying the pink elephant!’

The monkeys spent the next two hours looking for the pink elephant.

They were just about to drive down into a valley when a monk came running up to them.

‘Don’t go down there! That river,’ he pointed to a fast-flowing river. ‘There have been many rains recently, and the river could flash-flood at any moment!’

‘Oh my!’ Penjing cried, ‘We must go into the valley! Beyond the next mountaintop the contest is held!’

‘No! You must go around the valley!’ The monk stamped his foot. ‘Maybe a week ago I could’ve let you go. The river was mellifluous then, but NOT NOW!’

The monkeys started guffawing. What entertainment! Then Mei did a very mischievous thing.

‘Monk-ee monk-ee, you’re as bad as a monk-ee!’ She sang. The other monkeys and Penjing roared with ineffable laughter as they drove onwards. The monk shouted insults after them.

But the monk was right.

At dusk the flood hit. The bus was swept under a torrent of muddy water. The voracious water pulled the monkeys and Penjing out of their seats and spun them through the surge of water and threw the bonsai off the bus.

Suddenly the water seamed to tire of its game, and washed the unconscious Penjing, monkeys, and conscious bonsai onto the bank.

‘Well, I don’t think that Emperor will be much competition!’ Said the Emperor of Japan, and picked up the bonsai.

Mei woke first. ‘Oh no! The bonsai! How…?’ And promptly woke everyone else up.

Penjing and the monkeys were distraught. They spent all night wandering through muddy flood wreckage before Ming, the oldest monkey, had an idea.

‘Perhaps another Emperor took the bonsai while we were unconscious! We’re halfway up this mountain anyway, so let’s see! The contest is held in an hour!’

So Penjing and the monkeys trudged slowly to the next valley…


When they reached the valley they realised that they were not nearly the first. Six vibrantly coloured tents were set up, and loud snores were coming from them. So Mei went in searching for the bonsai.

‘Found it!’ She said.

‘Good job!’ Penjing whispered ecstatically.

‘How dare you steal my bonsai!’ The Emperor of Japan cried, emerging from his tent.

‘Your bonsai? You don’t even have a bonsai, you pusillanimous worm!’ Mei cried.

The Emperor of Japan swelled in anger, but everyone could see guilt in his eyes and the way one eyebrow twitched. The Emperor of Japan was known for his eyebrow twitching. It always twitched when he lied.

Several other Emperors had arrived by now and had realised the situation. They were appalled!

‘This is against the Bonsai Contest law!’ An Emperor cried.

‘Penjing is the real winner! You stole!’ Another shouted.

‘You’re the batty one, not Penjing!’

‘Give him your land!’

The Emperor of Japan gulped, and ran away.

The Emperors and monkeys cheered. Penjing won the Bonsai Competition.


After Penjing won, his subjects, and other Emperors respected him. This he was happy about, but the thing he was most exuberant about was that people finally had remembered his birthday.


SIXTH PLACE: Mayah Natarajan, Year 4, Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, New South Wales, Australia, 9 years old

Well done to Mayah, another talented 9 year old, whose well-structured story of a spangled, magic teapot with a conscience was very entertaining, and contained some wonderful imagery. I especially loved the wind whistling like a hummingbird! There were a couple of errors in punctuation and spelling, and a little more research was needed (Chinese Emperors had no contact at all with individual peasants J!) but it was well-written and the surprise ending was terrific!

 The Spangled Teapot

On a humid summer’s night a gentle breeze rustled the bushes and the wind started to whistle like a hummingbird. As a limp, slim figure appeared at the doorway and a steady, booming voice rang through the moonlight room.

‘Come in, peasant, ‘cried the rotund emperor. ‘Begin’ he boomed.

The peasant stuttered and began. ‘Sir, your father is dead, however you have inherited a teapot that grants wishes for the greater good, a dam leading to the Yangtze River and a palace,’ trembled the peasant .

‘I will keep them all. They sound sumptuous,’ beamed the emperor, ‘Finally something wonderful to have!” The emperor galloped around the room singing.

The peasant called another trembling peasant with the gold sparkling teapot. The emperor placed his rough hands on the teapot and snatched it away. He gave them Yuan notes for their service.

‘You may go now’cried the emperor. He stared at the spangled teapot and grinned. He was amazed, his father was dead and he out of all his father’s sons was the one to inherit all these amazing things. Super, fantastic!

He ran his chubby fingers down the gold teapot. “I have heard of this teapot. It grants your greatest dreams!’ he boomed. He immersed himself in his wonderful thoughts. The emperor envisaged of all the wonderful things he could ask for. A wife, all the money in the world; endless ideas popped into his mind, he would be too tired before he could ask the teapot for everything he wanted.

He placed the teapot on his desk, he asked for All the Riches in the World.

Astonishingly, nothing appeared! He cried in anguish and demanded many impossible things which did not appear and his frustration grew. Day after day the emperor tried again and again but still the teapot failed him and he grew even more impatient. He would yell at his servants and slam doors unnecessarily and started to knock on the teapot ’s sides and yell ,”Are you in there! ” Little did he know that the resplendent teapot was listening, and was in agony.

The teapot really wanted to be left alone but sadly it couldn’t move without the emperor ‘s help who it thoroughly disliked. Then the teapot had an idea. It was genius, maybe his dreams could be granted! He would grant himself a wish for the greater good. These humans wouldn’t go crazy over me anymore when I for fill these plans. It’s really only going to be a few people who will be affected. The teapot praised itself for being such a genius. It was a dream come true : – the teapot’s wildest dreams. It would go on an adventure!

The teapot called upon all nature’s forces and asked them conduct the unimaginable for it. The teapot explained that the emperor didn’t deserve what he had and to teach him a lesson. At first they all disagreed. Then the teapot told them how the emperor treated it. Finally, they all came round.

A few weeks later there were rumours that the Yangtze River would flood. The rumours never reached the emperor who was always bargaining with the teapot. Anyway he wouldn’t listen to those low down peasants. They weren’t to be trusted. The emperor always thought he was too good for them. He decided that he would try one more time and try to get all the Riches in the World..

Later that day the illustrious emperor heard even more bad news, his beloved mother was dead from a heart attack. He got even more frustrated and would shout and shout until he had a sore throat. He was in agony much like the teapot.

He yelled at the teapot for the hundredth time and then the teapot started to shake and the room rumbled. The emperor yelled in anger once more. He lost his balance and fell over planting his face on the Persian rug. He heard gushing water and his ears started to buzz. He couldn’t work out were the noises were coming from. Bad luck, he thought I’m back to square ‘yi’. The emperor was out of ideas. He couldn’t tell the public and ask for ideas, they were bound to steal the teapot once he told them. He was dumbstruck. He pulled himself up and trudged to bed.

Late one night through the open back door came a gurgling sound that filled the night air and a stream of verditer water flowed through the door. The Yangtze River was flooding. There was no sound that night but only gushing from the flood.   No one knew that the agonised teapot was behind it all. How could such a little teapot be capable of this? The teapot was jumping for joy (inside), it had got its revenge.

In the meantime, the Emperor was sleeping soundly in his bedroom shrinking and becoming hairier and hairier by the minute. He was turning into a monkey. As the transformed Emperor glanced around with his sparkling wicked eyes, he noticed that he was being carried down the Yangtze River. The raft swayed from side to side. The Emperor was not angry but happy, for he was fulfilling his childhood dream. Now what mischief could he do?


When the competition was first posted on my blog, I was thrilled to hear from teacher Gail Zobrist at Raintrees International Kindergarten in Singapore, who asked if her class of little ones could enter the competition. Of course I said “Yes!”. Mrs Zobrist explained as follows when she sent this terrific entry:

Dear Sarah.

We have now completed our story, please find attached. The children have written the story together with guidance.  They have learned lots of new words and meanings and have started using these words in their daily conversations, both at home and at school.

Ms. Angie and I are both very proud of our 13 kindergarten children who have all individually had an input to the story. They chose the names, the settings and the main idea of the story. 

Our lunch time teacher Ms. Mel read the story to the children today and kept stopping and waiting for the children say what happened next, she couldn’t believe how well they knew the story and was able to change their voices between characters. 

We hope you enjoy the story. Many thanks for letting us enter your competition.”

Raintrees International Kindergarten. Singapore. Busy Bee class (Matilda, Masanari, Bennett, Martha, Daisy, Rocco, Linnea, Angus, Robert, Manya, Leo, Ettore and Daniel), ages 4 – 6 years old.

Teachers Ms. Gail Zobrist & Ms. Angie Than

I am delighted to reprint their wonderful story below. I loved the greedy Emperor and mysterious but caring Monkey, and the kids were very clever to use three Wicked Words correctly! Well done, Busy Bees, and make sure you keep entering my competitions! For their special effort, I’ll be sending the class a signed copy of The Tale of Ming Kee Monkey!

The Mysterious Monkey in Fujian Province

A long, long time ago in ancient China, in Fujian province, there lived an Emperor. It was summer time, also known as the wet season, but on this particular day, the sky was blue and the sun shone bright.   The Emperor was called Tang Qian and he lived in a large palace made from gold.   Tang Qian lived alone with only a few servants to cook, clean and tend the garden for him. He was a very greedy Emperor and had plans to make his palace even bigger. He was very lackadaisical, and he ordered the gardener to cut down some trees outside of the palace walls so he could make his garden bigger.

Hiding in a tree near the palace was a mysterious monkey. He was mysterious but very caring. He watched the Emperor’s gardener cutting down trees and seemed angry at what the Emperor had ordered the gardener to do!

The mysterious monkey was called Wan Hou. When the Emperor wasn’t looking, Wan Hou entered the palace, climbed through the kitchen window and found himself inside a room called the secret chamber…. Inside this room was a magic teapot. The magic teapot was gold and red. Wan Hou grabbed it and, to his astonishment, the teapot squealed, “Let me go, I belong to the Emperor”.

Wan Hou took the magic teapot and put it inside a big red bag that was left beside a large chair. Wan Hou left the secret chamber with the bag under his arm and sneaked out of the palace and back into the trees.

The Emperor did not know that his magic teapot had disappeared. Nobody saw the mysterious monkey enter or leave the palace. Once Wan Hou was high up a tree he opened the bag, took out the magic teapot and told it to make the Emperor’s gardener stop digging up trees. The teapot told the monkey that if he would not take him back to the secret chamber, he would start pouring water from his spout. There would be lots of water which would fill the rivers running next to the palace and would cause a big flood. That night, Wan Hou made himself comfortable in a tree, not too high, looking over the palace.   He went to sleep with the red bag next to him. He was feeling a little bit worried about what the teapot might do.

During the night, while Wan Hou was sleeping, the teapot started to pour water. The water made a big puddle which got bigger and bigger and bigger. Wan Hou woke up with his tail dangling in the water. He saw the river was filling quickly and was worried there would be a big flood so he grabbed the magic teapot and climbed higher into the tree ordering the teapot to stop pouring water. But, the teapot did not listen. Wan Hou shouted “This is atrocious, stop pouring water right away!”

As the flood got bigger and bigger, the monkey could see the water was heading towards the palace. In the morning, Wan Hou could see the Emperor, in his palace garden, starting to panic as the big flood started to run down towards the palace walls.

Only the Emperor knew the magic word to stop the magic teapot from pouring water. The magic word was ‘verditer’. This was because the Emperor’s favourite colour was greeny blue. The Emperor’s special robe was the colour verditer, so this made it easy for the Emperor to remember.

The Emperor, feeling worried, ran back into his palace and straight to the secret chamber to find the magic teapot to ask for help with stopping the flood. He was shocked and annoyed to see that the magic teapot had disappeared!

He was very disappointed, sad and angry. He summoned his servants to look for the teapot. But, no one wanted to help. They told Tang Qian “You are a very greedy person and you don’t pay us very well… we are leaving to go back to our village to rescue our belongings from this big flood!”

At this point in time, Tang Qian burst into tears as Wan Hou was watching high up in the trees. He saw how upset Tang Qian was. He returned to the palace and told the Emperor that he would return the magic teapot on one condition, “You must not be greedy anymore and be kind and caring.” The Emperor said, “I am sorry… I am terribly sad… we need to stop the teapot from pouring water.” The Emperor told Wan Hou the magic word. Wan Hou went back to the forest, climbed up the tall tree, found the magic teapot and said the magic word. “Verditer!” Instantly, the magic teapot stopped pouring water.

Wan Hou took the magic teapot back to the palace and handed it to Tang Qian who was very happy to see it. Tang Qian kept his promise and was not greedy anymore. He decided to be kind and caring and he opened up his large palace for all of the village people to come and live.

Tang Qian held a splendiferous party in his palace and three cheers were given.

Hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray. The Emperor kept his promise and everyone lived happily ever after.


Large_Haunted_ House_and_Moon_PNG_Clipart

Aaaaagh! Eeeeek! Brrrrr! ! That’s how I’ve been feeling while judging all the entries in my Hair-Raising Halloween Poem Competition! It’s been absolutely terrifying – and not just because of the large number of entries! All the poets had great fun with this one, making their poems as gory and horrifying as possible, and I for one have been properly spooked! There were dozens of death-defying zombies, great armies of ghoulish ghosts, fearsome packs of slavering werewolves and countless covens of waspish witches! Graveyards and haunted houses and macabre cellars abounded! Skeletons skulked, vampires vanished into thin air, and evil lurked behind every shadow! Not to mention pools of blood dripping just about everywhere! But in all this gruesomeness there was a lot of fun too, with clever twists and surprises in many poems!

And if you’re wondering why the judging has taken some time…there were a huge 127 entries this time, from 27 schools in Hong Kong, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney, Western Australia, Seattle and the UK! There were even entries from some whole classes! And the entries were all so great, making my job even harder! But at last I’ve come to my decision and the top ten entries in each Category are posted below.

Remember I was looking for poems of no more than 16 lines; a strong Halloween theme; interesting vocabulary; original ideas; lots of gory details; poetic style, be that for a rhyming verse, an acrostic, free verse or other form; and that special chill factor to make the hairs rise on the back of my neck!

It was great to receive entries from so many new schools this time! Welcome, and I hope to see your students enter more of my Clever Competitions in future.

Congratulations to everyone who entered on a fabulous effort, and very special congratulations to the following:


There were a fabulous 52 entries from 11 schools in this section! Well done to all of you, and especially to the place-getters below, and the five further writers who made it to the shortlist: Craig McSheaffrey and Philippa Large from The Kellett School in Hong Kong, Elqui Johnston from Windmills Junior School in West Sussex in the UK, and Keshana Nathaniel and Andrea Overton from Methodist Ladies College in Melbourne. Here are the ten winning entries!

FIRST PLACE: Madeline Painter Grade 3, Stamford American International School, Singapore, 8 years old

Congratulations to Madeline on her very macabre but highly effective free verse poem about a werewolf! Her use of sophisticated vocabulary, strong imagery and economic style made this poem a standout in the competition and is remarkable work for an eight year old. As First Place winner, Madeline receives a free, signed copy of one of my books!


The horrifying sight of a werewolf

Standing proudly at the zenith of the mountain 

The fetid smell of bodies 

Half devoured, left to rot 

The salty taste of raw meat 

The yowling and howling 

The predator tantalized by the prey

Then the sight of limbs

And agonizing pain as they are


Ripped off





SECOND PLACE: William Cheong, Class Y02C, German Swiss International School, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong, 7 years old

William’s excellent acrostic poem was another outstanding entry from a young poet. I loved the way William managed to rhyme his acrostic poem so accurately, whilst keeping the rhythm flowing smoothly! For a 7 year old that is a truly impressive feat, and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future!


Haunted houses and spooky trees,

Alone I tremble at my knees.

Lanterns glow in the dark, dark night,

Loud, scary sounds give me a fright.

Owls hooting and black bats flying,

Witches cackle, cauldrons frying.

Excited children trick-or-treat,

Eager for lots of sweets to eat,

Nocturnal life is so much fun;

Halloween, please hurry and come!

THIRD PLACE: Eloise Roberts, Class 3AW, The Kellett School, Hong Kong, 7 years old

Another terrific effort from a 7 year old here, with a wonderful surprise twist at the end! I loved her idea of a child hiding under her pillow in bed, squeezing her bear and frightened out of her wits, but regretting her fears in the morning. Great work Eloise!


Scariness of doom

They send you away

As the shadows creep through

Creeping, creeping, creeping

Into your bedroom window

Pillows there to hide your head.

Slowly the door rattles.

It makes you sleep under your blanket

As you tightly squeeze your bear

And as the shadow goes away

Waking you up all night long…

People asking me (in the morning)

Did you like Halloween?

I didn’t answer because I couldn’t

Get rid of that nasty thought

I was really jealous that I didn’t go trick-or-treating.


RUNNER-UP: DeriAnne Mak, Year 2, Oberthur Primary School, Bull Creek, Western Australia, 8 years old

Congratulations to DeriAnne, our very first Western Australian place-getter! I thought this poem was extremely evocative, with its nasty little goblins playing havoc on a housing estate with their screaming and hopping and knocking! I also loved the strong use of simile in the opening lines. Well done DeriAnne – and make sure to enter my next competition!


The night is as dark as a charcoal

The air is still and as cold as an ice

The clock ticks and tocks at twelve

You see all the little ugly goblins running around everywhere

The goblins’ humongous eyes, balding heads and their sharp pointy claws

Climbing, squatting, screeching and hopping like a humpty dumpty

And the whole of the goblins’ band rock the estate

By knocking on doors and screaming for “Trick or Treat”….

It’s Halloween.



Stephan Roh, Class 3AW, Kellett School, Hong Kong, 8 years old

I thought that Stephan’s rewrite of John Lennon’s classic “Let It Be” was very clever! The timing was perfect and he managed to incorporate the Halloween theme very effectively. Nice work Stephan!

HALLOWEEN IS COMING (In the tune of ‘Let it be’)

Halloween will soon be here,

Feel the air of creepiness

Halloween is coming Halloween,

And when it’s going to come there will be trick-or-treating

Halloween is coming Halloween

Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween

Whisper scary songs, Halloween.

And when those empty hearted spirits walking outside your door

Taking their friends with them


I went outside to get some treats until I saw a man with scars

Halloween is coming, Halloween.

Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween

Whisper scary stories, Halloween.


Jordan Jao, Year 2, Our Lady of Good Counsel Public School, Deepdene, Melbourne, 8 years old

I loved the vivid descriptions in Jordan’s ghoulish poem. It definitely sums up the hair-raising side of Halloween!


Mysterious, ghostly, disgusting.

Scratches with ugly blood dripping from a frightening vampire.

Greedy wolves howling at a crescent moon.

Sweat dripping on your forehead like red blood.

Trick or Treating with mysterious incredible houses.


Eve Williams, Class 3AW, The Kellett School, 7 years old

Great work from Eve, with not one but two Halloween words in this clever acrostic!


Pumpkins gleaming

Utterly scary witches

Moonlight shining

People dressed up

Kind of spooky decorations

Icky costumes

Naughty children eating sweets

Scary faces

Glittery gleaming pumpkins

Haunted houses

Obvious monsters

Spiders crawling up my leg

Trick-or-treating children

Surprising scares


Ruby Podmore, Year 3S, Methodist Ladies’ College, Melbourne, 9 years old

Another great acrostic based on Halloween, this time by Ruby from MLC in Melbourne.


Haunted, dangerous and destroyed castle.

Adventurous and heartless.

Lonely and terrifying.

Lifeless and about to die.

Only you know what to do.

Witches, ghosts and spiders around every corner.

Eating heads off people and leaving their bodies behind.

Exciting potions and cauldrons.

Sam Blackburn, Class 3AW, The Kellett School, 8 years old

Sam’s neat little free verse about Halloween proves that you don’t have to write a long poem to make a big impression!


Trick or treating

through the spooky

darkness with my

friends kicking

pumpkins everywhere

witches whooshing past

me stealing candies

from everywhere.


Evangeline Fam, Year 3, St Joseph Primary School Rockdale, Sydney, 8 years old

Here is another great effort, this time in rhyming verse. Well done Evangeline!


Put on your costume walk in the street

It’s time for trick or treat

Witches, Zombies and scary things roam

Will they end up in your home?

Lollies to children everywhere

Let’s see who will get them in their hair.


In this section there were 74 entries from a massive 20 schools around the world! Congratulations to the ten winners below, as well as the following fabulous writers who made the shortlist: Lillian Lee of Hamilton International School, Seattle; Emily Bemi of Kowloon Junior School, Hong Kong; Ennika Mak of Oberthur Primary School, Bull Creek, Western Australia; Ngoc Truong of Deer Park West Primary School, Melbourne; Hugo Foster, Gabi Brown, Annabelle Slocombe, Laura Ward and Sachin Ng of Holy Family Catholic School, Lindfield NSW; Jemma Julian, homeschooling in Sydney and Neve Trainor, Santa Sabina College, Strathfield NSW.

FIRST PLACE: Aria Fafat, Grade 5, Canadian International School Lakeside Campus, Singapore, 10 years old

Huge congratulations to Aria, whose exceptional free verse poem, full of fabulous vocabulary, vivid imagery, poetic style and a horrifying ending earned full marks! For her First Place, Aria receives a free, signed copy of one of my books!


It’s a blood-curdling night, necromancy threaded into the thin air

Bloody hags drift about, aimlessly, pointlessly

Pale and lifeless, I walk to a tenebrous house, its cracked windows beguiling

Dragging me in, a powerful aura; I step inside…

In a maze, I am, trapped, nowhere to go

A never-ending rollercoaster, chilling my heart with despair and anguish

My hands find a bag, opulent with blood-red sweets,

I open one; it’s even more enticing… my mouth’s afire…

A skeletal hand snakes through looming corridors,

Holding a pumpkin, mush dripping from its mouth and eyes, like a waterfall of guilt

Watching my heart quicken and sweat in agony.

Take me… Help me, it pleads; unwillingly, I reach out for it…

A black silence engulfs me, whispering secrets of the unknown.

The wind whips me with answers…to swirling questions never asked

I know now why I am here, how I am here.

It’s Halloween, I have been Summoned; it is now the time to Scare…Them.


SECOND PLACE: Sophia Witting, Year 5, Santa Sabina College, Del Monte Campus, Strathfield NSW, 10 years old

I laughed out loud at the ending of Sophia’s clever and very original poem about a strange face in the window at Halloween. She had me completely on edge right to the final line, and then delivered a very witty, unexpected punch-line! Well done Sophia and keep up the great work!


There is a strange face in my window

on this eerie Halloween night.

It has glowing eyes of fire

and razor sharp crooked teeth.

A full moon lights up the sky.

Guiding my cat on her prowl

Slinking slowly and silently across the window ledge.

Screech! Bang! Smash!

The glowing beast has vanished.

My knees knock and my palms sweat.

The cat door flaps violently,

Floorboards creak,

Hot breath hits my neck.

My Dad?

I slowly turn to see ……

My cat with a pumpkin stuck on her head!


THIRD PLACE: Matilda Hardy, Class 6W, Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Lindfield, New South Wales, 12 years old

Congratulations to Matilda, who wins Third Place with this excellent poem in alternate rhyme. I loved the way her story lures us into complacency with its cheerful opening, then leads us to a truly terrifying conclusion. Great work!


With all our whimsical costumes and colours,

My merry group ventures out.

With my friends and I and all my brothers,

We’ll have fun without a doubt.

Gaily we knock on the apartments room doors,

Collecting mountainous numbers of sweets.

We jump into the elevator and go to “Ground Floor”

Then finally we emerge onto the car free streets

Suddenly, the dreaded house appears.

Its minions surprising us in troupes

My eyes are brimming with tears,

As we all merge into one horrified group.

They’re swarming around us in numbers,

They have too much power!

With their big black thumpers,

He whispers to us, “This is your last hour”.

RUNNER-UP: Lidiya Chernyavskaya, Class 4, Kellett School, Kowloon Bay Campus, 8 years old

I was hugely impressed with Lidiya’s funny and fast-moving poem in rhyming couplets. Not only was the rhyme great, but the rhythm was perfect! An excellent effort from one of the youngest competitors in this category – I look forward to see more of her work in the future!


Halloween’s an eerie sight,

When you wake, your face goes white.

Werewolves, bats are everywhere,

Hairy spiders – up the stair.

Zombies, goblins lurk about,

Try to bite you when you’re out.

You can never find your shoe,

Evil witches pounce on you.

There’s no point in bawling: “Mum!”

Vampires spot you and growl: “Yum!”


HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Isabel Duggan, Grade 5, Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak, 11 years old

I loved Isabel’s poem, with well-executed rhyming couplets, clever story, and witty punchline. Isabel has placed before in my Competition, and her writing is getting better and better!


It’s a mystery how just one sharp knife

Can transform a pumpkin into a pumpkin with life

You’ll walk out the door of your hair-raising shack

Unaware of the eyes stabbing you in the back

You don’t make it far, only a meter or two

When you suddenly realize that you’ll soon be stew

You turn around slowly and see what you dread

An evil pumpkin, that does want you dead.

Ignoring your Goosebumps, and the dark of the night

You build up your courage and blow out his light.


Emily L’Estrange, Orange Public School, Orange, New South Wales, Year 6, 12 years old

I loved Emily’s stylish free verse poem, which proves that sometimes simplicity is the most effective way of conveying an idea. Great work Emily!


Creak, creak the old door squeaks 

The sound of an old woman laughing 

Crunch, crunch big footsteps sound

A wailing meow of a black cat

Trick or treat, children call off the street

Knock, knock a banging sound

The wind howls

The thunder laughs

The trees moan

The rickety shack creaks and groans

The storm is alive

It’s Halloween.


Sophie Malek, Class 6W, Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Lindfield, New South Wales, 11 years old

Fabulous free verse from Sophie Malek, who uses some excellent vocabulary and detailed description to scare the reader very effectively! I especially liked the rhetorical question at the end, which begs the question as to exactly who the narrator is and why they are safe!


Can you hear the angry ghosts whispering in your ear?

Or see the cackling witch eyes as dark as coal,

Creeping nearer and nearer.

On Halloween night, the heinous goblins won’t put up without a fight,

Foul wicked vile intruders dangerously roam the night,

Malevolent vicious vampires pouncing and scaring you half to death,

And hoping that it’s your very last breath.

Shrieking pumpkins eyeing your every move,

Can you feel the moaning rotting zombies grabbing you?

“Shoo,” says the atrocious mummies with evil glinting eyes,

There are death-defying pirates, who are full of meanness and lies,

The evil witches stirring up their brew,

I am safe, but are you?


Olivia Berry, Class 6W, Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Lindfield, New South Wales, 12 years old

Olivia had me properly spooked with this very original Halloween poem written from the perspective of a blood-thirsty child-eating monster! Well done Olivia!

I hear the laughter of children walking down my driveway,

Is this my next victim?

I run to the front door and wait for my prey.

“Ok you knock,” says one little kid,

One little juicy kid.

Knock, knock, knock goes my door.

I open it and put on a fake smile

“Trick or treat,” the little children say

I grab one of them and all of the others run away.

She screams a high-pitched screech just like running your fingernails down a blackboard

I take her into my kitchen where a pile of innocent delicious children are lying.

I grab my target and pierce my needle like teeth into her neck.

Her thick metallic blood trickles down her neck as she breathes her last breath.

I leave her in the kitchen and go to my front door

I’m hungry for my next prize…


Marissa Chow, Class 6A, Kowloon Junior School, 10 years old

Fabulous work again from Marissa Chow, a regular entrant in my competitions. She scared me silly with this action-packed free verse!


My fingers tremble and twitch;

My body shivers and shakes;

As I approach the lurid haunted house.

Creak! The rusty door swings on its hinges.

Oh why, oh why, did I agree to this dare?

Clickety-clack clickety-clack

I whirl around so fast,

That my head nearly falls off.

Every single hair on me

Is rising on its very end.

I want to screech, I want to shriek;

This is absolutely sheer terror!

A dark shape scuttles towards me,

Looming; towering; blocking my view.

Goosebumps crawl all over my skin…

Help! It’s a cadaverous, macabre walking zombie!


Ennika Mak, Year 5, Oberthur Primary School, Bull Creek, Western Australia, 11 years old

Finally, a very impressive effort from Ennika Mak for the only attempt in the competition to cast a Halloween spell! I thought that this one was terrific!


Smoky spooky air is floating everywhere

Eye of zombie and toe of frog

Wing of bat and tongue of snake

Buzzing wasp and blind ant sting

Goblins eyes and nose of witch

For a charm of powerful spell and trouble

Like a haunted hell, broth bubbles in a creepy town

Double, triple tons of spell and trouble

Creepy crawlies, goblins jumping, talking pumpkins

Skeleton marching and flying broom sticks every where

Smoky spooky foggy air

Is a charm of powerful spell everywhere

Double, triple tons of trouble

Creepy crawlies, goblins jumping, talking pumpkins

Skeleton marching and flying broom sticks dreaming of “trick or treat”

On this freaky spooky Halloween.



2014 – 2015 Competitions

October 16, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Posted in | 9 Comments







What a lovely time I’ve had judging this competition! You all obviously love trees just as much as I do, and it was such a treat to read about your favourites. There were so many different species: fruit trees like apple, mango, cherry and lemon; old classics like ash, oak, pine, willow and weeping birch; Asian species including palm, banyan and Bonsai trees; and my Aussie favourites, the Jacarandah, the gum and the ancient Wollombi Pine. There was even a family tree! And they were all such beautiful things, full of ancient wisdom and comfort. I feel like hugging a tree right now! The poems were very clever too and I was so impressed by the effort that all the writers made. There was everything from acrostics, rhyming couplets, diamond poems, and free verse; there was even a fun limerick!

The entries came from a whopping 20 schools in 7 different cities on 4 different continents! In Hong Kong SAR: American International School, Australian International School, Christian Alliance International School, Diocesan Girls Junior School, French International School, German Swiss International School, The Kellett School, Kennedy School, The Peak School, Shatin Junior School and Yew Chung International School; in Shanghai: British International School, Puxi and Shanghai United International School; in Singapore: St Joseph’s Institution International School; in Melbourne: Geelong Grammar Junior School, Methodist Ladies College and St Joseph’s Malvern; in Sydney: Kambala Girls School; in the UK: Great Missenden School, Buckinghamshire and in the United States: Greenlake Elementary School, Washington.

Remember I was looking for great vocabulary, a fantastic writing style, a vivid description, original ideas, real imagination and creativity. Above all I wanted your poem to make me FEEL something.

I loved reading all the entries, but there were some real standouts, and here they are:



FIRST PLACE: Sonia Mei Husain, Year 3, British International School Shanghai (Puxi), 7 years old

Congratulations to Sonia for her beautiful poem about the Tree of Life. At just 7 years of age, I thought her poem was a fantastic effort. I loved the gentle reflectiveness of her verse, and she made an excellent effort to rhyme most of her couplets. As first place winner in her section, Sonia wins a free signed copy of one of my books!

My Tree of Life

My tree of life is an ancient tree

From living so many years before me

Lovely tree, mother tree

Better tree than other trees

Raising hatchlings, taking care

Giving shelter and spoiling me

My tree of life is what you see

From outer space, trees are free

And deep in ground you see the roots reaching deep

My tree of life is a look out tree

If I get lost, my tree is with me.

My tree of life never sleeps

It never tires while I weep

My tree of life loves me so

It watches out for me from head to toe

The tree of life is just like you and me


SECOND PLACE: Anjali Rungta, Grade 3, American International School, Hong Kong, 7 years old

Readers will remember that Anjali also came second in this section in my last Silk Road Story Competition! This time she has done it again, with her witty and very original rhyming verse, in which she cleverly managed to correctly use 8 of the Wicked Words from my Wicked Word page on my blog, just for fun!

The Apple Tree

There once was a magnanimous tree that stood out from a group of trees,

It swayed back and forth to the breeze.

Then came the voracious storm,

Which caused the land to reform.

Except that one tree, all the trees shivered with fear,

But all was calm when passed by a deer.

She had a mellifluous voice and her eyes were filled with warmth,

But out of the blue came riding past the resplendent King Edward the fourth.

His arrows were drawn upon the noble animal,

When suddenly the tree sheltered the animal with its arms, which was very radical.

The tree stood bold in front of the armed king,

Then suddenly the king felt a sting.

Then realized this was no ordinary tree,

This was the God’s Apple Tree with a big Queen Bee.

King Edward bowed and asked to be exonerated from the atrocious crime he had foolishly committed,

Edward’s pandemonium nature was graciously forgiven by the illustrious Apple Tree.  


THIRD PLACE: Ashling Walshe, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School, Shanghai, 8 years old

Well done Ashling for this neat rhyming verse about a tree in winter. I especially loved the “radiating glow”:

My Winter Tree

My tree is cloaked with snow

I love its radiating glow

It looks at me

I smile with glee

It waves its arms

Like dangling crystal charms

It tells me a little story

Full of winter glory

I give it a huge hug in return

And have no worry for the ferns


Diya Jalan, Grade 3, St Joseph’s Institution International School, Singapore, 8 years old

Diya is a regular entrant in my Clever Competitions. Here is her entertaining poem about a most unusual Pandemonium Tree:

The Pandemonium Tree

Tree stands there waiting.

Days pass nothing,

But wait is that a squirrel scurrying up the tree.

Tree sways along happily,

But that¹s not all, no it isn’t.

SSSSSSS! Is that Mr. Snake slithering up tree?

Now pecan

Here comes toucan

But that¹s not all no it isn¹t!

Is that a monkey?

Ape and frog

Termite army and the army of ants

Is that a sparrow and a parrot there?

My favourite tree is a complete pandemonium.


Rose Lyden, Year 2, The Peak School, Hong Kong, 5 years old

Rose is only 5 years old, so I thought that her acrostic poem was very clever indeed for her age. Keep up the good work, Rose!

I Love Trees

I like climbing trees

Lovely and warm

Only trees are nice

Very comforting

Entertain you when you’re sad

They say ‘hello’ with their branches

Really happy when I see them

Excellent help when you are hot

Every day they are here

Sometimes I run around them



FIRST PLACE: Jemma Julian, Grade 4 to 5, homeschooling, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 9 years old

Jemma is being home-schooled in Sydney, and I’m willing to bet from the lovely imagination, deeply poetic sensibility and evocative words in her poem that Jenna is a very BIG reader, and that she often reads under her favourite tree! I especially love the verb “loll” and her simile about the seed “fragile as spider’s web”. Well done Jenna – as First Place winner in this category, you win a free, signed copy of one of my books! Keep on writing!

My Jacarandah Tree

As I jump over your lilac flowers,

 The bees loll, drunk on your nectar.

 I feel your soft smooth bark

 As I climb up to my favourite bough.

 Leaves flow, gently down,

 Onto the soft carpet of leaves and flowers.

 I sense your breathing, through the leaves.

 Your sigh when the wind comes.

 So long ago you were a seed,

 As fragile as spider’s web,

 But now you’re as tough as steel.

Oh how I love you Jacarandah tree.


SECOND PLACE: Kristina Akova, Year 4, German-Swiss International School, Hong Kong, 9 years old

Kristina has written an outstanding acrostic poem here, which is a very mature effort for her age. Acrostic poems aren’t always easy or simple; look at the fantastic word pictures Kristina paints, with her “explosion of leaves”, “terrific root labyrinth” and “extensive shade”. I also loved her question to the birds. I look forward to seeing more of Kristina’s work in the future!

Emerald Ash Tree

Explosion of leaves

Magnificent trunk

Extensive shade                                             

Restful appearance

Aiming for expanse

Looking for company

Dreading the storm

Asking the birds

Shall we sing?”

Humbly awaiting their answer

Terrific root labyrinth

Relying on rain to survive

Enchanting presence

Eye-catching sight


THIRD PLACE: Lexy Gillies, Year 4, Kennedy School, Hong Kong, 8 years old

Lexy’s poem is just delightful. Short, sweet and so evocative of the long thin branches of the weeping birch. The “whippy twigs” are just right! Lexy’s entry was typed in a lovely sloping format, which reminded me of the swaying of a birch tree – I’ll try to reproduce that here. Well done Lexy!

The Weeping Birch

She is my summer tree,

           her whippy twigs

                  where catkins stay,

                             her golden leaves

                                   that dance and sway,

    She rustles when

             the wind blows

                    and every time

                           you hide in her

                                 she seems to say ‘hello’.


HONOURABLE MENTION: Chelsea Parker-Burton, Grade 5, Kambala School, Sydney, 10 years old

Chelsea is a regular entrant in my competitions, and her poetry is getting better and better! I share her sense of wonder about Australia’s Wollemi Pines, discovered only in 1994, and thought to be long-extinct:

A Rare Discovery

I wonder about the Wollemi Pine, ‘Dinosaur tree’ or ‘living fossil’

Discovered not so long ago, growing high and wide, bark like bubbling chocolate

Leaves changing lime green to a deeper bluish-green, such a clever tree

Secrets kept and cannot be told, growing in sandstone ridges and canyon walls

Millions of years tall and proud, warm rainforest keeping you hidden and safe

Thought to be extinct, but growing still rugged and hard to reach

I want to visit you often to wonder at your knowledge.



Duncan Michael Gardiner, Year 5, St. Josephs Primary Malvern, Melbourne, 11 years old

I thought that Duncan’s poem about his family tree was just plain clever! It also made me smile – well done Duncan!

My Favourite Tree

Welcome to my family tree,

There’s Mum, there’s Dad, Sam, Eamon and Me.

The tree grows tall and branches out,

And this is where my Grandparents sprout.

On one side there’s Grammy and Pop,

But wait there’s more it doesn’t stop.

Pa Bob and Nana Di are on the other side,

And at the top the tree grows wide.

There’s Aunts, Uncles and Cousins there,

And we’ve even got some twigs to spare.

Of all the trees there are around,

This is the one I have found.


Olivia Cox, Grade 4, Geelong Grammar Toorak campus, Melbourne, 10 years old

A lovely free-verse poem from Olivia, which cleverly captures the feeling of comfort and safety we feel around trees:

The Tangled Tree

Let me tangle my branches around you

I’ll let you up high where you’re safe and sound

Make up codes and passwords to climb me

Climb into my fragile and old branches

Spy on neighbors

I’m old, I may not be able to hold a hammock

Rest your back against my long, thick branches

I have skinny branches so don’t pretend you are a circus person on a tight


Don’t ever stop climbing me when you think you’re too old

Stay with me

Video games are not fragile, old and safe and sound

I’ll never let you down

Let me tangle my branches around you.


Hillary Lo, Grade 6, Shatin Junior School, Hong Kong, 9 years old

Well done to Hillary on yet another winning entry! Her poem was the shortest in the competition, but proves that you don’t need to use a lot of words to paint a picture very sharply and effectively:

Winter Tree

Tiny flakes of snow relax on my eyelids,

My breath slow and steady.

I watch as layers and layers of icy snow cover all the green,

The white leaves looming over me.


Clare Beaton-Wells, Grade 4, Methodist Ladies College, Melbourne, 10 years old

Clare’s poem about a Bonsai Tree is an excellent example of rhyming verse – I look forward to seeing more of your work, Clare!

Bonsai and Me

My favourite tree is a Bonsai tree,

It seems to have something in common with me,

A presence that seems wise and calm,

But also awake just like an alarm,

Bonsais are special as if they were art,

Twisting and turning never falling apart,

Each leaf so tiny as light as a feather,

Solid as one whole but working together,

These trees sure are a one-time experience,

Each is unique in its own special appearance!


Athene Fox, Grade 4, French International School Hong Kong, 8 years old

There are some beautiful images in Athene’s clever poem about a very regal pine tree with a rather regal name! I thought this poem was an excellent effort for an 8 year old!

Her Royal Highness

In the depths of my imagination I can perceive 

A regal forest, on an island, full of trees 

Where in the center stands a highland queen 

A friend most dear to me

Scent of perfume the sweetest known

And a low voice heard with the breeze’s gentle moan 

Her arms are clothed in glowing shades of green

She is tall and strong with dress of brilliant sheen.   

They show her happiness in summer’s hue 

She loves to give out cones to all her friends 

Before she sees the glowing whites of winter 

You may think she’s human but you’ll see

That Kate is really just a lone pine tree. 



Claudia Wong, Year 5, Australian International School Hong Kong, 11 years old

I really enjoyed Claudia’s poem, with its great choice of vocabulary and some lovely imagery:

I Have a Tree

I have a tree,

One that grows like a rose in my backyard.

It tosses its head back proudly and shakes out its mane,

Standing dauntlessly with bark as rough as card.

I have a tree,

That I glance at wearing a look of pity when it loses its hair.

But Winter’s threats go as Summer’s warmth takes over,

Admiration’s the feeling when it grows back with flair.

I have a tree,

Where I scale its branches to my heart’s content.

It’ll be there after I fly to heaven,

A solid block of wood that even hammers can’t dent.

I have a tree…



Bianca Cretella, Grade 6, St Joseph’s Primary Malvern, Melbourne, 11 years old

A special mention to Bianca, for a poem that was just bursting with passion:

Cherry Blossom Trees

Cherry blossom trees how I love them,

Their colour is beautiful when I look at them

I feel like I am taken away of the loveliness in the colour,

That they have more beauty then anything in the world.

It is a world of beautiful.

Nothing is more pleasant when you are under a tree.

You feel in a world of happiness and joy and fun

Having one near you would make you feel amazing;

Relaxed like nothing else in the world,

If I had one I’d treasure it for the rest of my life.

For all of the gold and silver in the world I wouldn’t trade it for my blossom tree.

As the leaves fall and the days go by nothing is more romantic then to watch a blossom tree.

And to Georgia Lyden, Year 4, The Peak School, Hong Kong, 7 years old

Georgia was the youngest entrant in this Category, and deserves a special mention for her really sweet poem about the kindness of trees, which really touched me:

My Tree

My tree will always be kind to all things

She will always be like a parasol shading me from the sun

She is as big as a giant

I like to sit under her green leaves and relax

When the wind blows through her leaves it sounds like a lullaby

Koalas love to climb in her broad branches and so do I

She is part of Mother Nature’s big family

She hugs me when I am sad

She is as alive as I am

I love my tree very much

She loves me back

I hope others will learn to love her as much as I do.




Cute Ram

Wow! That was hard work, but a whole lot of FUN! I’ve just judged a grand total of 175 fantastic entries and if I read about one more sheep or ram or goat. I’m going to start bleating VERY loudly! Your poems were excellent, and there was a great variety, with everything ranging from knock knock jokes to riddles to haikus to limericks to cinqains to rhyming couplets to some really good free verse! And I really loved all your sheep, rams and goats – they were a hairy, noisy lot on the whole but quite adorable, just like Rodney Ram!

 And the competition keeps getting bigger and bigger! This time your entries came from a huge 32 schools in 9 cities on 3 different continents! In Beijing: Montessori School of Beijing; in Hong Kong: Australian International School, Christian Alliance International School, Discovery Bay International School, French International School, Glenealy School, German Swiss International School, The Kellett School, Kennedy School, Kowloon Junior School, Quarry Bay School, Renaissance College, Shatin Junior School, Singapore International School, St Paul’s Primary Catholic School; in Melbourne: Geelong Grammar Junior School, Ivanhoe Grammar Junior School, Melbourne Ladies College; in Shanghai: British International School Puxi Campus, Britannica International School Gubei Campus, Shanghai United International School, Western International School of Shanghai; in Shenzhen: Shen Wai International School; in Singapore: International School of Singapore, Stamford American International School; in Sydney: Kambala Girls School, Lindfield East Public School, Our Lady of Dolours School Chatswood, Robert Townson Public School, and one homeschool; in Taiwan: Morrison Academy Kaohsiung; and in Seattle USA: Greenlake Elementary School.

Remember I was looking for excellent vocabulary, great ideas, good spelling, and especially, something to make me smile! In addition I judged your poems on correct length (no more than 16 lines), correct subject matter (ram, sheep or goat), originality, style, whether it all made sense, and that crucial, hard-to-define X factor! It was soooo hard to choose the best ten in each category, but I made it in the end! And here are the results!


There were a total of 75 entries from 20 schools in this section, as well as a wonderful contribution from a whole class of Grade 1s which you can read below in the Special Mention section.

FIRST PLACE: Nicholas Ng, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School, Hongqiao, 9 years old

Congratulations to Nicholas on winning this category with a wonderful, witty rhyming verse, which made me smile a lot! The rhyme was almost perfect, and I especially liked Nicholas’s main character, a feisty little lamb that simply wouldn’t give up! For his excellent effort, Nicholas wins a signed copy of one of my books. I wonder if he’ll choose The Tale of Rodney Ram?

The Tiny Lamb

Once there was a tiny lamb that thought he would become a ram,

He started acting big and strong, he bellowed like a banging gong,

But in fact it didn’t sound loud at all, the sound was really kind of small,

So he got a big trombone and rattled up his every bone,

He quickly used up all his air, but it wasn’t raising any hair.

He tried several ideas, he did; he hadn’t ever succeeded.

Then he became really sad, his head was down; he thought he was bad.

His father came, strong and horned; said to his son ”Don’t be forlorn,

When I was young I was also weak, I was so small I could only squeak,

But I became stronger as I grew, I know it will be the same for you.”

And with that they walked towards the sun,

And played and talked and had lots of fun.



Madeline Painter, Grade 2, Stamford American International School Singapore, 7 years old

Congratulations to 7 year old Madeline, whose free verse entry came a very close second. It was chock full of fabulous alliteration, using unusually sophisticated vocabulary for her age, and her teacher tells me that Madeline’s work is always like this – wow! She is clearly a talented writer, and I look forward to seeing more of her work in future competitions! But it wasn’t quite as much a poem as it could have been – Madeline’s entry only just falls inside the limits of free verse, so on this occasion, she was pipped to the post by Nicholas!

 Ricky Ram’s Green Goats and Sarcastic Sheep

Ricky Ram read rare, rotten reviews about ridiculous, reluctant rascals.

Green goats gape, gawk, and gossip about gross, grizzly, gurgling, geeky geckoes.

I saw some shy, shifty, small, simply sooooooooo sarcastic, sneaky, sudoku solving sheep, shrugging their shoulders.

I think Ricky Ram would be very reluctant about sleeping with gossiping, green, goats and sneaky, sooooooooo sarcastic, sheep.

THIRD PLACE: Shiraz Palestrant Rothschild, Grade 2, Montessori School of Beijing, Grade 2, 8 years old

Shiraz’s delightful rhyming poem had an interesting rhyming pattern (AABBA) which was faithfully adhered to – a real achievement at her young age. I especially enjoyed her use of some unusual ingredients (boerwors sausage and rooibos tea) and her funny storyline. Well done Shiraz!

 Rodney the Ram

Rodney – oh that shy little ram                            

He’s romantic and likes to eat jam                        

His friend Robert the rabbit                                  

Noticed his habit                                         

And made him a jelly from yam                           

Another friend Henry the horse                           

Brought South African sausage – boerewors!     

Rodney gathered his charm                                  

His smile lit up the farm                                             

And together they drank rooibos – of course!                

Now Peter the pig was his friend                         

But he criticized Rodney to no end                       

Afraid of confrontation 

Rodney ran to the gas station

And Peter he did not offend.


HONOURABLE MENTION: Sera van der Vorm, Grade 3, Stamford American International School Singapore, 8 years old

Sera’s acrostic poem was skillfully written, and I particularly enjoyed her list of unusual names for Rodney’s flock.

Rodney Acrostic


Oh! He is dazzling and what a great leader!

Dumb isn’t it to dance on a hillside like him?

Never finds anything beautiful without flowers.

Emma, Luna, Anna, Amelia, and Orinoco love him!

Yes Rodney is the best!



Cadyn Lam, Year 2, Renaissance College Hong Kong, 6 years old

What a terrific effort for a 6 year old – well done Cadyn! I thought that your poem was not only clever, but also great fun with the rhyming words used in your middle section, and its’ great punch line!

Sheep Ram Goat

Sheep, ram, goat,

Where do you want to go?

Hong Kong! Hong Kong is the place we want to go!


Sheep went on a jeep,

Ram went on a tram, 

Goat went on a boat, 

And they all arrived in Hong Kong,

Making people confused,

Is it the Year of Sheep, Ram or Goat?

Erin Claire Muir, Britannica International School Shanghai, Year 3, 7 years old

Erin’s poem is an unusual and very effective free verse. Excellent work!

Who Was That?

Who was that?

You don’t know that sheep

Did you see him?


That sheep

Yes but who is he?

You don’t know that sheep

No I don’t

Oh that sheep is brilliant


That sheep

Oh yes, that sheep

But who is he?

You don’t know that sheep

No I don’t

Because he is a ram!


Sharni Rangaiya, Year 3, Robert Townson Primary School, Sydney, 8 years old

I loved Sharni’s riddle and thought she made a good attempt at rhyming many of the lines.


I am kept outdoors

But I can keep you warm

I make a great feast

At the very least

I’ve got mind-blowing horns

Every year I get sheared

I’ve got the best hooves in town

You might see me around

I am a full-grown male lamb

Can you guess what I am?

I’m a ram!

Nick Akov, Year 2, Kellett School Pokfulam, 6 years old

Another great effort from a 6 year old, which made me grin. Well done Nick!

Sheep Sweep

Once there was a sheep who drove a car called “Beep”…

Woke up a bird who was deep asleep

Scared a frog who was trying to leap

Surprised a duck who was mending a jeep…

And landed in a hay heap!


Noe Godin, Year 3, Britannica Shanghai Internationals School, 8 years old

This poem was so much fun, and I really liked the way Noe tried to rhyme every line the same way, with a rather cute ending!

Rob the Ram

Rob is a very special ram

Red like a strawberry jam!

One day as he’s walking around the farm,

A bull goes out in a door’s slam.

He must be at least 500 kilograms!

Rob stays quiet like a very old clam…

He fears that this would end in a big wham,

And does not want to be the piece of ham!

Surprise! The bull does him no harm!

But welcomes Rob with open arms!

Cause no matter the color, they are best friends… yes Madam!


Octavia Guiomar Blanche, International School of Singapore, Singapore, 8 yoa, Grade 3

Knock knock jokes are hard to write well, but I thought that Octavia’s effort was well executed and very funny!

Knock Knock Joke

Knock knock

Who’s there?


Ba-aa-aa who

Ba-aa-aad time to enter!



Even though they didn’t win a place, the gorgeous Grade 1s who bravely entered the competition deserve a special mention! Well done to all of you – your poems were adorable!

Olivia: Grade 1, Stamford American International School, Singapore

Goat Acrostic

Goats are extremely woolly and sleepy and say maaaa and eat everything and they are cute.

Organised goats listen well and they don’t maaaa too loud.

An extremely big hungry eater.

Tailless animals.

Jan Borwankar Visa, Grade 1, International School of Singapore, Singapore, 6 years old

Sheep Acrostic

Shy as a mouse

Happy as a baby

Economy class

Extremely soft

Perfect looking

Claire Ziebart, Grade 1, International Montessori School of Beijing,

7 years old

Different Sheep

Sheep has fur as soft as a pillow

When sheep jump over the moon they say hello

Fur as curly as messy as cloud

Mom said pet sheep is allowed

Back legs bend backwards, which creeps me out

When they walk away from me, I pout.

Minna J., Grade 1, Stamford American International School, Singapore

Goats Eat Everything

Goats eat everything like tables and cloths, boomerangs and plates but not buildings.

Goats jump and jump all day long but they never stop not even when the sun rises.

And finally, one last Special Mention for a group entry from a Grade 1 class in Shanghai!

Class 1B, Britannica International School Shanghai

Follow my leader

The curly, wurly sheep was feeling rather low,

So he sat on a log just like the Gruffalo.

Along came a mouse,

So the sheep said ‘Hello’

The sheep asked kindly ‘Can I follow you home?’

(Sheep like to follow, just in case you didn’t know)

The sheep and the mouse stopped by a stream.

Sheep was feeling hungry, (always it would seem)

And mouse, well he just fancied a clean!

Sheep had a thought so bleated to mouse,

‘Climb on my back and dry off in hair. There’s plenty of room because I’m hardly ever bare!’

Mouse feeling sleepy did just that,

So sheep followed dutifully and laid down for a long nap!



In this section there were a mighty 100 entries from students in a total of 21 schools. The competition was fierce, with a longlist of 22 entries at a very high standard. In fact, using my judging criteria, the top three finalists all scored equally for different reasons, making the choice of overall winner extremely difficult! But this is where my instructions in the competition came strongly to the fore, in particular my special request that your poem made me SMILE!

FIRST PLACE: Ivana Wong , Year 5, Kowloon Junior School, 10 years old

Congratulations to Ivana on winning first place in the Year 4 to 6 Category! Her poem was very good indeed! It read very well, with excellent attention to rhythm and rhyme, and in particular, it was great fun! I laughed out loud at the image of Rodney soaring into a puddle at Shirley’s feet, and I thought the ending was brilliant! Keep on writing Ivana – you have real talent! And in the meantime, as first place winner, you can now choose a free copy of one of my books as your prize!

Romeo Ram

Romeo Ram fell in love one day,

With Shirley Sheep who lived not far away,

She walked past his field with her family flock,

And his beating heart clanged like a clock!

His eyes started spinning as he ran to the gate,

But in his great speed he stopped too late!

His head hit the bars with a dreadful bump,

And between his horns appeared a red lump!

Now Romeo wasn’t a ram who gave up,

So he charged at the gate ‘Giddy up, Giddy up’,

Over he soared right into the street,

Landing in a puddle at Shirley’s feet!

“Oh Romeo!” she baa-aad in a gentle voice,

“I don’t need heroics to make you my choice;

You’re a ram in a million, as all can see,

So Romeo Ram, will you please marry me?”


SECOND PLACE: Claudia Wong, Year 6, Australian International School HK, 11 years old

I loved Claudia’s rhyming verse, with its really striking imagery, vocabulary and clever use of metaphor. I especially loved the “turquoise meadow” and “shattered bones”. It came a very close second, only losing out by a whisker to Ivana’s poem due to having less of that “smile” factor!

(Note from Claudia: The sheep are the clouds, the wolves are the storm clouds and the bones are the rain)

Sheep of the Sky

Enchanting me is the flawless, azure sky,

It seems to go on forever from where I lie.

Swiftly a sheep trots into the turquoise meadow,

Hastily all of its fluffy, woolly family follows.

They prance and dance, sleep and graze,

Playing joyfully under the sun’s hot blaze.

Out of the blue, a pack of wolves attack the rams and ewes,

Their shattered bones fall to earth after being chewed.

There isn’t a glimpse of a single sheep, not even a trace,

For days the dark crowd stays in place.

But as the weeks pass, the grey mass shrinks to a crack,

And the snow-white flock comes happily galloping back.


THIRD PLACE: Hillary Lo, Year 6, Sha Tin Junior School, 10 years old

Competition regular Hillary has done it again, with this gorgeous free verse poem, full of original touches, like that lovely word “loll”, day and night “intertwining” and the superb last line, where the moon is a “dutiful aged soldier”. First class work from a real poet!

The Black Little Lamb

Clouds of cotton candy loll,

Grazing, nuzzling the tufts of grass.

A puff of black enters the stage,

All heads, all faces turned to him,

As he dances in the spotlight,

Glorious, confident and determined,

His little face ambitious and inspiring.

A thoughtful look illuminating his round face,

Audience watch, as silent as mice.

Day and Night intertwine,

As the sun wraps her comforting arms around him,

And the moon high up guards him,

A dutiful aged soldier.


HONOURABLE MENTION: Cheryl Lam, Year 6, Renaissance College HK, 10 years old

I thought that Cheryl’s Zodiac Poem was really clever and I really enjoyed some of her descriptions – especially the “pipsqueak elf”, the snake’s “penetrating stare”. I’m not a fan of the word “butt” as my regular entrants will know – but the rest of the poem was so good I’m prepared to overlook it this time!

The Best in the Zodiac

I’m far better than the other twelve,

Ox is gigantic, mouse, the pipsqueak elf.

Tiger has sharp claws that claw you to death,

Dragon has quite a temper with that fiery breath!

Horse is a show off; he tries to impress the mares,

And sneaky snake makes you dizzy with it’s penetrating stare!

Dog barks like crazy, and scares you off with a BOO,

And Rooster annoys everyone with his COCKLE-DOODLE-DOO!

See! No others like me, soft and sweet,

Monkey scratches his butt with his feet!

And here comes Pig, you know what I’ll say,

Everyone knows that he just pigs out and plays!

After all this, all of you MUST know,

Sheep is the best and is always on show!

I’ve got all the good features:  Soft, cuddly, and I don’t crow,

You must know that I’m really the BEST in the Zodiac now!



Chelsea Parker-Burton, Year 6, Kambala School, Sydney, 11 years old

Chelsea has met the finalists list again in my Clever Competition with this beautiful free verse with its rather wistful ending. Lovely work Chelsea!

yáng (Sheep)

Sheep are among the animals that we like most.

Gentle and calm just like a ghost.

The white endearing creature often reminds people of beautiful things.

I look up the hill from my perch on the wall, smiling at the merriment at hand,

Lambs in lighthearted animation frolic in every step,

Daisies trampled down in the jollity,

Ram and ewe, standing patiently under the trees for the sun to ease,

Early morning and evening flocking from one field to the other,

Lighthearted, never complaining,

What do they do over the long night? I would like to see.

If I could raise my weary head and peek out into the black night.

Marissa Chow, Year 5, Kowloon Junior School , 10 years old

I really enjoyed Marissa’s take on the subject matter, with a rather unique style involving a series of rhetorical questions. Great work, Marissa!

Baa! Baa!

Baa! Baa!

Who wouldn’t like

These clever, shy creatures

Who helped all on Earth

When the great famine took place

By landing in the rice field

With gods riding on their back.

Baa! Baa!

With white and fluffy wool

These animals keep you warm

By kindly agreeing

For you to shear and wear their fur.

Baa! Baa!

Who wouldn’t appreciate

These hardworking, generous rams?


Diandra Paez, Year 6, Our Lady of Dolours, Chatswood, Sydney, 11 years old

This is an excellent haiku from first time entrant Diandra, with a great use of simile in the second line and a perfect follow-on punchline in the last line.

Haiku – Sheep

Grazing in the grass,

Their wool like cotton candy,

Hard to tell apart.


Athene Fox, Year 4, French International School HK, 8 years old

Snapping at Diandra’s heels is this haiku from Athene, another competition regular, with an outstanding alliterative opening. I loved her imagery of a “bumbling babe”!

Haiku – The Naïve Lamb

Bleating, bumbling babe

It skips along the green grass

Ready for a meal.


Emily Griffin, Year 5, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 10 years old

Emily’s free verse poem is wonderfully evocative, with some gorgeous imagery, though it did make me feel a little chilly!

A sheep runs down the field as its wool blows in the crisp wind,

He crunches on the grass as a rain drop lands on his shaggy body

He dashes toward cover soon to be safe under the tree’s leafy roof

He snuggles against his flock to watch the rain pour,

His eyelids droop and everything goes black.

Aashi Shah, Year 4, Glenealy School, 9 years old

Congratulations to Aashi for this very original take on the subject! It really made me stop and think, especially when I do love eating my lamb chops L!

The World Through a Sheep’s Eyes

The thin, green flaky bits growing from the earth,

The tall, brown manmade structure sitting still,

The small, yellow, stinging insects flying around,

And of course, the hot, sweaty animals tending to the farm,

This is all the world through a sheep’s eyes.

We take sheep for granted,

Not thinking a bit about them,

We take their wool, their milk and sometimes even kill them,

Their wool is for them and their milk is for their lambs,

Even though they have a right to, they don’t protest.

Let’s spare a thought for them, and remember how much they do for us

In this Year of the Sheep!



Jemma Julian, Grade 5, homeschool in Sydney, 10 years old

Alas, there was one entry in this section which was simply wonderful…but not a poem! Jemma’s entry fell just over that fine line between free verse and narrative prose. Remember the definition of free verse: verse without regular metre or rhyme which nonetheless retains a poetic form. Here Jemma has written a brilliant, funny story chock full of really superb vocabulary, originality and style. But…it’s not a poem! But it’s so good, I had to let you all read it! Enjoy! And Jemma – keep up the excellent work and make sure you enter my next competition!

The Long bearded Goat Clan

An emperor named Yaotang-shi. was renowned for his mustachios and his beard.

One day when he was preening his luxuriant beard, a messenger came from Japan.

Begging him to hear of the Exceptional Long Bearded Goat Clan.

Incensed, Yaotang-shi stamped and yelled for the Goat clan to appear.

In preparation Yaotang-shi groomed his moustache and beard into a maze of shiny ringlets.

Next he tried quadrilateral spikes with cherry blossoms divine.

The regal goat appeared at court, with a curled bouffant of impressive size.

His herd appeared behind him, holding suitcases packed with grooming accessories.

The emperor Yaotang-shi blushed; how could he be seen in his morning gown?

But still he keenly said, ‘Oh! Is that the latest style in Japan?’

‘Oh yes,’ replied the goat, ‘I like yours too, So … original!’

The emperor Yaotang-shi looked down at his simple beard and drooping moustache,

Saying, ‘why thank you sir…Would you care for a cumquat?’

‘Yes please’ replied the goat, swallowing it whole.

Would you care for some of my Japanese sushi? I made it my self.’

Soon it was time for the goat to leave and they both wept until their beards were soggy.




cover image without textPrecious and Bright IdeaFrog

At last I’m done! And what a TERRIBLE time I had judging this competition –because your stories were all so good!

Your stories took me on the most exciting journeys through China, from the Forbidden City in Beijing to the Great Wall of China to the Silk Road to Dunhuang – and beyond to Mongolia, India and even Australia! I met famous historical characters such as the mighty Emperor Qin Shi Huang and the great maritime explorer Zheng He, as well as magical beings like witches, pirates, dragons, fairies and ghosts. There were princesses of every description, from kind and clever to greedy and cruel; from cheeky to moody to ugly to beautiful. Some were artists, others were scientists; there was even a princess rabbit! Your talking frogs were all wonderful characters: some wise and kind, others greedy and ambitious; some royal, some cursed, and all of them quite magical. Then there were the rams, which were usually clever and sensible and very wise, but on occasion very silly and sometimes even evil! As you can imagine, I had a lot of fun reading about them all!

This time, there were 36 entries from 16 different schools in 6 different cities in 4 different countries – an impressive number given that many schools have been on summer holiday during most of the writing period. The entries came from: Hong Kong SAR China (Chinese International School, German Swiss International School, Kowloon Junior School, Shatin Junior School); Melbourne, Australia (Loreto Mandeville Girls School); Seattle, USA (Hamilton International School); Shanghai, China (Shanghai United International School Hongqiao, Wellington College International School); Singapore (Avondale Grammar, Canadian International School Lakeside Campus, Stamford American International School, United World College Dover); and Sydney, Australia (Arden Anglican School, Rose Bay Public School, Turramurra Public School, one homeschool).

The standard was very high indeed, so that picking the finalists came down to a question of the finest details, including grammar and punctuation. Remember I was looking for:

  • All the required ingredients (the ram, the Chinese Empress or Princess, the talking frog, the storm and the colour vermilion)
  • A Chinese setting for at least part of the story
  • A title
  • The correct use of at least 3 of my Wicked Words
  • No more than 1000 words long

And here’s what I was especially looking for to decide the winners:

  • Original ideas
  • Fabulous vocabulary
  • Terrific style including excellent grammar
  • Accurate spelling
  • Proper punctuation
  • Detailed descriptions of characters
  • Detailed description of setting including season and weather
  • An attention-grabbing start
  • A great problem or challenge
  • Interesting story development with some complexity
  • A convincing climax or cliff-hanger
  • A satisfying ending
  • A good structure to the story overall (so the action in your story looked a bit like a Story Mountain)
  • And that hard-to-define “X-factor”, which made the story memorable.

 If you’re not a finalist this time, a great way to improve your writing is to re-read your story and see how it measures up to the list above J – this works even better if you do it with a trusted friend or teacher, or with mum or dad. And next time you enter, make sure your story ticks all those boxes!

A big tip to all you writers out there: characters and setting are VERY important! The more you tell me about a character – what they look like, what sort of person or animal they are inside – as well as the place where the story takes place – what it looks like, what season it is, what the weather is doing and so on – the more marks you’ll get!

Here are the top six entries in each Category – I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did! The first place-winners in each category will also receive a free signed copy of one of my books!


 In this section there were a fabulous 14 entries from schools in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney! I was so impressed with the overall quality of writing from such young students – and very excited to think that their journey as writers is only just starting out!

Congratulations to Trevor Yung of Kowloon Junior School in Hong Kong; Nicolette Ng of SUIS Shanghai and Emma Bower, Ryan Larkin, Lachlan Hong, Rachel Grant and Zachariah Clutterham of Turramurra Public School in Sydney for your wonderful entries. While you didn’t win a place this time, your stories were terrific! Do make sure you keep entering my competitions in the future, and I’ll look forward to seeing your writing get better and better!


FIRST PLACE: Emily Davis, Year 2, Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, New South Wales, 8 years old

Congratulations to competition newcomer Emily on winning First Place in this section, with her richly imaginative story about a village girl from Dunhuang on the Silk Road, who saves her city and its famous silk by finding the last mulberry seed. I was very impressed by Emily’s knowledge of China and silkworm cultivation, which indicated some serious research, and I thought her story idea was very original, with a neat twist at the end. Emily also managed to weave six of my Wicked Words into her story, alongside some impressive vocabulary and turns of speech. A superb job Emily; I hope to see much more of your writing in future.

The Silk Princess

This story starts when I was just known as Ling, before I became grand and important. At a time when my hair was long and black I lived with my family in Dunhuang, a city on the edge of the Gobi desert. Dunhuang is famous for the quality of its silk and the luscious mulberry trees which grow around Blue Crescent Lake. The Silk Road runs to Dunhuang bringing many traders exchanging sumptuous goods for our silk.

My job was looking after the rams and ewes; I knew nothing of silk. My mother and father worked for the Emperor, planting and caring for the mulberry trees. They were not rich but their jobs were important. Without this care the silkworms would have no leaves to eat and the city would have no silk.

One day while attending to the rams in the field I became aware that the wind had picked up. It started to strengthen, a loud whistling through the sand dunes. Looking up at the orange tinged sky, I noticed the rams running and wondered why. My eyes began to sting and water. SAND STORM!! A huge wave of sand came hurtling towards me as I ran towards the house. The sand whipped my legs making them sting. I heard a trumpet call in the far distance followed by the faint voice of the Emperor’s squire ordering us to shelter in the palace grounds. My family was ahead. Reaching my little sister I picked her up, holding her against my chest protecting her face from the sand.

We got to the palace gates and hid behind the huge stone walls. Choking back tears we huddled together hoping that the wall would not collapse. The sand storm hit, the walls shook with its power. My nose and mouth filled with dry sand, I felt like I was suffocating. The sky continued to darken. My thoughts turned to the nightlight that my mother always dimmed.

Finally it was over; the sky began to lighten. I could see the shadowy outline of the palace grounds. Everything was covered in layers and layers of sand. My family and I dragged ourselves out of the palace grounds. Before us lay the remains of our house. Nothing left, only ineffable despair.

My mother told me to search for the rams and ewes and call them by name. I went to look in the fields near the mulberry trees. The mulberry trees that once were so bright and beautiful lay bare, pitiful skeletons. The whole plantation was totally destroyed. Digging my hands around the base of a tree I found a few precious silkworms still clinging to a buried leaf. Poor little silkworms, how long would they last without the mulberry trees? No more cocoons would be made and so no more silk. Without the silk no more trade. It would result in pandemonium. Dunhuang would fall.

Just then I heard a groaning croaking noise. A small green frog lay on its side, a large lump in its stomach.

“Help me! Help me!” said the frog

Speechless, I looked closely at this old, plain frog. Did he really speak? The frog opened his slimy mouth and there was something there at the back of his throat. Trying not to gag I gently reached inside his gooey mouth and retrieved… the LAST MULBERRY SEED IN THE LAND!

“ You are welcome to it” croaked the frog

“ It gave me only pain, may it give you only happiness.”

Racing towards the palace gate with the mulberry seed clutched tightly in my hand, I felt exuberant. I imagined great cheers of joy at my return. But all that met my eyes was despair, horrible despair. As I approached the Emperor, he bowed his head.

“ What is it girl?” he said, sounding tired

“Emperor, I have found the last mulberry seed!” I said ecstatically.

“ Really!” yelled the Emperor. “May the Gods bless you!”

Soon the precious mulberry seed was planted and taken care of by my family and the other mulberry growers. The seed took and grew into a healthy seedling. Even though I knew that it was being looked after by experts, I still came tip-toeing in every morning to check the tree was safe. The silk worms had also survived, kept alive by the small number of leaves that we had. But it was many years before silk could be made again.

One night, I was walking up to my bedroom after visiting the tree when I heard a voice say, “So you’re the girl who brought us hope, who saved our population”.

There stood a handsome young man with a resplendent gold crown on his head. Gazing into his sparkling eyes, I fell… in love!

The tree and our love grew and grew. On a wondrous day I was dressed in a fine, vermillion silk gown. Perfect as red is the colour of hope and joy. In that moment I changed from a village shepherd girl into a Grand Royal Princess. No longer Ling, but the Silk Princess.

SECOND PLACE: Joel Allen, Year 3, Rose Bay Public School, Sydney, 8 years old

I absolutely loved Joel’s clever and highly entertaining story about a ram with super powers, an evil overlord frog and a famous princess scientist-inventor! It was very well written, with fluent expression and excellent grammar. It was fast-paced and funny, and the ending made me chuckle out loud! I especially loved Joel’s fabulous vocabulary, which was quite outstanding for an 8 year old. Well done Joel – your second place is richly deserved!

 The Epic Tale of Ruben Ram

“That’s odd”, thought Reuben Ram, “I thought Princess Tabatha’s science laboratory had the best security in the world”. Reuben was reading a newspaper article about the Princess’s abduction from her lab. He was reading the article through his apartment wall and over his neighbour’s shoulder using his x-ray vision.

This was Reuben’s preferred method of reading the paper. He didn’t like to go out much for fear of his secret identity being discovered. You see, even though Reuben looked like any other ram on the outside, he was really quite different on the inside. With his x-ray vision, hyper speed, frost breath, mega strength, the ability to fly and of course his famous super baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa which was known to blast his enemies into oblivion, Reuben was a super ram! He even had a resplendent, vermillion cape to prove it.

When he was a little lamb, his mum had made him promise that all the special things that he could do would only be used secretly to help others. Reuben was torn. In order to keep his identity secret, he tried to keep the special work that he did out of the public eye, preferring to help ordinary people who faced trouble in their everyday lives.

Princess Tabatha definitely didn’t fit that description. She was one of the most illustrious scientists in China. She was famous for her state-of-the-art science laboratory and inventing the first biological teleporter. She was tiny with long, brown hair and big glasses and although she wasn’t particularly outgoing, her magnanimous nature meant she was always respectful and kind of those around her, despite her amazing intellect.

So it was particularly distressing to read that the Princess had been kidnapped by none other than evil overlord Timmy the Talking Frog. Somehow Timmy had broken into the Princess’s laboratory and grabbed her along with her teleporter’s blueprints. She had gone missed two days ago now and no one had any idea where Timmy had taken her. With the blueprints and Tabatha’s brilliant mind, two days was long enough for Timmy to recreate parts of the teleporter and use it for his evil ambition to rule the world. This was getting serious.

“I’ll just have to risk being discovered”, said Reuben as he leapt into the sky.


Reuben was flying at super speed using his x-ray vision to track down Timmy’s evil lair. “I finally found it,” he said to himself. He used his super baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa to blast his way down to the base.

When the dust had settled, he saw Princess Tabatha locked up behind bars. And they weren’t any old bars, they were electrified bars; if you touched them, they would zap you to smithereens. On the far side of the room, Timmy was tinkering away on a complicated looking machine. That must be the teleporter, thought Reuben, who knows what kind of havoc Timmy will wreck once he has finished building it.

“Stand down Timmy!” yelled Reuben. He ran towards the control panel for the bars, ripped open the cover and slammed the button to turn them off. Princess Tabatha was free! She ran for safety. Before Reuben could react, Timmy activated the special machine and Reuben suddenly found himself in the middle of a terrible sand storm in a desert.

“Oh no!” thought Reuben, “Timmy’s teleporter must already be functional!”

It was impossible to see far through the howling sand gusts and it was incredibly hot. Reuben however, was a super ram, so could put up with a bit of heat every now and then. He leapt high into the air above the storm. Reuben realised that he hadn’t been teleported far. He could see Timmy’s lair only a few kilometres away. Timmy must still need to perfect his machine, I had better get back to stop him and to help Princess Tabatha, thought Reuben.


Timmy had locked up the Princess again and was pressing her for the last bits of information he needed to complete his teleporter. Tabatha was bravely resisting giving him any information.

Reuben blasted back into the base and turned off Tabatha’s bars again. Tabatha took refuge while Timmy and Reuben faced off.

Timmy, who was armed with two fire rays, fired several shots in rapid succession towards Reuben who managed to dodge the rays. Reuben in turn, used his frost breath to fire at Timmy. But Timmy was too quick and always managed to jump out of the way… he was a frog after all.

Meanwhile, Princess Tabatha had crept around the back of the room to Timmy’s teleporter and she was hard at work rearranging some of the wires and adjusting the nobs.

Timmy leaped high over Reuben’s head and landed near the teleporter. He noticed what Tabatha was doing; she was fixing the machine! Before he could leap for her, one of Reuben’s frost breaths finally hit its mark and Timmy’s legs were frozen solid. Before he could break free, Tabatha slammed one of the buttons and Timmy disappeared before their eyes.

“Where did you send him?” asked Reuben.

“Let’s just say he won’t be bothering us again,” said Tabatha with a knowing smile. “Thank you for coming to help me”, she said, “I’ll make sure you are rewarded and that everyone knows how brave you have been.”

“Please don’t tell anyone who I am. I don’t want my enemies to know my identity”, said Reuben.

“I understand”, said Tabatha, “I promise to keep your secret. Perhaps instead you can come and work in my lab.”

“I’d love that”, said Reuben, “now let’s get you home.” Reuben carefully picked up the Princess and shot up into the sky to take her back to her Chinese kingdom.


As Timmy got the feeling back in his legs he slowly looked up. It seemed as though he had landed in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant. When he turned around, his gaze was met by several French chefs who were slowly licking their lips…


THIRD PLACE: Ashling Walshe, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School, 9 years old

Readers will recall Ashling’s third place win in the Ode to My Favourite Tree competition late last year. It seems that she’s a great story-teller too! Ashling’s story of an ugly princess with inner beauty, an observant pet ram and a village boy-turned-frog is a tour de force of imaginative story-telling! I love her fantastic choice of words, including a massive 11 Wicked Words, and especially the way the narrator in the tale changes.


Princess Lee Ying:

Long, long ago before your great grandparents were born my father ruled Imperial China. The rest of my illustrious family members were very popular except for me, Lee Ying, the youngest princess. I was very ugly. I had a bulbous wart-covered nose; dull eyes a long pointy chin and long, greasy, lifeless hair.

Nobody liked me but my father loved me dearly. Even the servants were inordinately lackadaisical around me, leaving dull clothes for me to wear instead of my resplendent gowns. Over time I became very shy. So shy that I only felt comfortable around animals. I especially loved my ram. He was the wisest and most sympathetic of my animals. He taught me to be considerate and to have an obliging heart no matter what happened.

Chen Wang the village boy:

My name is Chen Wang and I lived in a small village at the foot of the Himalayas. My family was very poor and my mother was very sick. We didn’t have enough money to buy medicine for my mother. As I was already 15 years old I decided to travel to Beijing to get a job to buy medicine for my mother.

After a long journey I arrived in Beijing at the gates of the Imperial palace and heard the gossip about princess, Lee Ying. I immediately began to hatch an egregious plan to tantalize the princess.

“Father, father, I have heard about a boy in the city named Chen Wang who claims that he can make a beauty potion. Please father, find him and bring him to me.”

The Emperor has called for me and two soldiers arrived to take me to the Imperial palace. When I arrived, the Emperor questioned me for a long time. Finally he asked what I wanted in return for making his daughter beautiful. Although I was terrified, I summoned the courage and asked for five coffers of gold and five bolts of the finest silk to be sent immediately to my family at the foot of the Himalayas. The Emperor agreed.

The Emperor asked what I needed to make the beauty potion. I really had to use my imagination. I asked for vermilion dye, special perfumes, almond oil, carrot cake and cacao milk. I slowly stirred the ingredients into a big cauldron until they came to a bubbling boil. Then I poured the vermilion potion into a glass and asked to be left alone to add the magic ingredient. Actually, there was no magic ingredient.

Finally, the Emperor returned with the princess and her ram. She really was ugly! I asked to be left alone with the Princess, but she insisted on the ram staying with her.

“Drink” I ordered. The princess raised the bubbly vermilion potion to her lips and eagerly poured the contents down her throat. I held my breath. Suddenly, the princess’s face began to change color. Her face was as vermilion as a ruby. A storm exploded in her stomach; thunder and lightning; Bim! Bam! Boom! It was deafening. Her nose began to shrink, her warts started disappearing, her chin shrank, her lips turned a beautiful blood red, her dull eyes sparkled, her greasy hair turned a shiny chestnut color and her skin became as smooth as ivory. Her whole face radiated beauty.

The princess was exuberant. I sighed a colossal sigh of relief. She rushed out of the room to show the emperor and her subjects her beauty. While the princess was busy displaying her newfound beauty, I was busy getting ready to sneak out of the palace.

The Princess’s Pet Ram:

Although I am just a ram and usually very trusting of people, this boy made me suspicious. I stayed behind and saw him packing hurriedly. “Stop!” I said. “Young wizard do not leave so hastily. We are thankful for what you have done. You must stay and be our guest for a while”

The boy looked scared, so I suspected that he was a fraud. I decided to watch him carefully. As the days passed the princess became more and more popular. Admirers came from far and near to attend sumptuous feasts and ask for her hand in marriage. A month passed. One day while I was sitting next to the princess in the throne room a storm erupted inside her. She started to change, her nose became immense and now her whole face became covered in warts, her eyes were even duller than before and her hair was incredibly greasy.

The Emperor rushed in. There was pandemonium in the throne room. The Emperor ordered his guards to torture and execute the boy. When Lee Ying heard this she ran to the prison. I followed close behind and when she got to the boy’s prison cell she touched the boy’s hand and asked, “Why did you play such an odious trick on me?” The boy went down on his knees and murmured, “I committed this atrocious crime for my mother. I’m terribly sorry.”

After we left Chen Wang I accompanied Lee Ying to see her father. Lee Ying explained the boy’s story to her father and pleaded with the Emperor to exonerate the boy. Although the Emperor was outraged, he didn’t have the heart to refuse his daughter especially after what had happened. Finally, he said, “I will agree not to execute him, but he must be severely punished and you must choose the punishment.”

As Lee Ying didn’t have a frog in her menagerie, she decided to have boy turned into a small green frog. After Chen Wang had been turned into a frog, he said, “Thank you for sparing my life. I will never forget your generosity.”

When people heard how magnanimous Lee Ying had been they adored her. Although she wasn’t beautiful, the people of the kingdom learned that true beauty is hidden deep within.

Lee Ying lived a long happy life and when her family passed away she ruled China wisely until the end of her days; with me, of course, the wisest ram in the world!


FOURTH PLACE: Sonia Mei Husain, Grade 3, United World College-Dover Campus, 8 years old

You may remember Sonia’s prize-winning poem in my Ode to my Favourite Tree competition last year. Here, her tale of a hard-working village girl who makes the Emperor face up to the poverty in her village and who helps to end foot-binding in China is very well written, and I especially appreciated her empathetic and imaginative depiction of Peiyi’s village and the hardships she suffered there. Well done again, Sonia!

 Peiyi’s Journey

Peiyi was one of two daughters born on a stormy night. Her twin Minli was fourteen minutes older and seemed five times more beautiful. If there were space for one more person on the donkey wagon the spot would go to Minli. Peiyi thought that she was never chosen because of her shockingly short height but in reality it was because Minli’s feet were bound in elaborate layers of cloths and she was relearning to walk while Peiyi’s feet were spared because she was needed to help out in the farm. China was growing as fast as weed. People were sprouting everywhere and so many more mouths to feed. Peiyi’s village was suffering from famine. Men were overworked. Women were house bound and Peiyi was the only one left with healthy feet to work. She felt any second she was going to collapse with exhaustion.

One morning that started like any other, Peiyi drew pails of water out of her village’s only well when she spotted a green yellowish frog that stared back at her intently. His beady black eyes blinked as if they were trying to say something. Peiyi reaches out to help the frog climb out of the well. Once safely out, she stroked his burly head and to her surprise the frog spoke in a croaky voice, asking to be taken back to Princess Mei.

“Princess Mei” Peiyi gasped. “That is the Empress’ daughter!” she cried. “The royal kingdom is in the City of Moon Rain”, she cried. “That must be at least 50 miles away!”

But Peiyi agreed to help. The very next morning at the crack of dawn, she left home with a blanket, a china bowl, a pair of chopsticks and some water. The talking frog was tucked safely in her jacket’s pocket.

After five long days of walking, Peiyi shouted ecstatically “I see it, it is right ahead. The gates to the City of Moon rain”.

The talking frog gave a happy croak. He guided her through an underground passage that led to the Princess’s vermillion pagoda. The princess had long curly eyelashes on her big dark eyes on her beautiful pale skin. Her dress was weaved from golden thread and had a design of red Chinese lanterns. Her jade and ruby brooch fitted perfectly on her round bun. She walked gracefully and confidently. Peiyi noticed immediately that her feet were not bound. Princess was delighted to be reunited with her frog and smiled kindly at Peiyi before breaking into a happy child-like dance. The commotion brought the Emperor to the princess’s pagoda. With one look of Peiyi, he was puzzled what a village girl is doing inside the palace’s gate but the princess soon explained.

The emperor thanked Peiyi profusely and offered her a pagoda to stay in and rest. But Peiyi thanked him politely and said that she must return home right away for she hadn’t left a message that she was going to be away. Her parents would be so worried about her absence and who would help distribute food to their people? “Very well”, said the Emperor, I will escort you myself and see the conditions of your little village myself”. He loaded his royal carriage with supplies to last him a fortnight. A grand procession of carriages pulled up behind the royal carriage and off they went the same path Peiyi came only a few days ago.

Upon arriving at the village, the Emperor gasped at ubiquitous display of poverty; the many leaking roofs and broken roads with flooded grounds everywere. He thought out loud “My servants live in better conditions” and at listening to this Peiyi tried to stifle her laugh at the Emperor arrogant outlook, but it was too late. The Emperor heard her full and thoroughly and understood that he had long ignored his people.

“Is this how people in my country live”, he cried.

Peiyi said “It is up to you to help the farmers, who are dying of famine and they can’t grow enough crops because the women are house bound. My father depends on me for everything, because I was the lucky one to not have my feet bound. I don’t know what would become of my family without my help”.

The Emperor understood immediately what had to be done. He called a meeting with his advisors, some who were very intransigent, and after a bit of argument from some of his advisors, he finally concluded that foot binding will become illegal in China.

A few days later, the Emperor fell ill. A messenger ram arrived with a note. The note read: Xie Xie (Thank You) from Peiyi village. He felt great joy to having done something to help and that made him feel much better. For the rest of his ruling, the emperor went on helping different villages.

This is a story about how one girl, born 14 minutes younger, and ignored because of her height went on to save her village.

FIFTH PLACE: Aoife Walshe , Grade 1, Shanghai United International School, 6 years old

Writing talent often runs in families…and Aoife’s wonderful entry, at just six years of age, competing with her older sister Ashling above, proves the point! Her story about an ugly frog with wicked ambitions is remarkably well written for her age, with excellent structure, some great descriptions and a strong ending. An outstanding effort for such a young writer – I can’t wait to see more of her work!

 The Ghost Princess and The Wicked Frog

Long, long ago in ancient China an emperor and his daughter, Mei Ling, lived in the Imperial Palace. It was summer in Beijing and the Empress was away at her summer palace.

Mei Ling was a pretty, kindhearted little girl with long, shiny black hair. Her favorite color was vermilion so she always wore beautiful vermilion gowns. Mei Ling’s favorite animal was her ram because she had been born in the year of the ram.

One day a fat, ugly frog came to the Imperial Palace to ask the Emperor for a year for himself; The Year of The Frog. However, when the frog saw how sumptuous the palace was he changed his mind. Now he wanted to be Emperor! The Frog Emperor.

The frog hatched a plan to poison the Emperor. He had been watching the Emperor and discovered that the Emperor loved to eat cookies, so he secretly put a delicious poison cookie on the Emperor’s plate. Just before dinner the princess came into the big dining room and saw the yummy cookie. Mei Ling couldn’t resist it, so she ate the cookie. Mei Ling died and turned into a ghost in the shape of her shadow.

When the Emperor discovered that his daughter had been poisoned there was pandemonium in the Imperial palace. The Emperor demanded to know who had committed this atrocious crime. The wily frog immediately blamed the ram. The Emperor was so furious that he kicked the ram all around the Imperial Palace and finally kicked him over the palace walls.

Mei Ling had been watching all of this and she was so sad to see how her favorite ram was being wrongfully treated.

Because Mei Ling loved the ram so much and because she was born in the year of the ram Mei Ling’s shadow now changed into the shadow of a ram. Mei Ling decided to watch the frog carefully. She started following him around. The next day she saw the frog dressing up as the Emperor and admiring himself in the mirror. Mei Ling now knew what the frog wanted.

The frog tried to kill the Emperor many, many times but each time the ram’s shadow thwarted his plans. Finally, Mei Ling became so mad with the frog that she appeared in front of him as the ram. The frog was terrified and he begged for forgiveness. Mei Ling told him that he was the wickedest animal she had ever met. She butted him so hard that he went up, up into the air and was caught in a storm high up in the sky. The storm carried him for a long time, spinning him around and around until he finally came down with a splash into a slimy pond far, far away from the Imperial palace.

This is why frogs now live in slimy ponds.


SIXTH PLACE: Madeline Painter, Grade 2, Stamford American School, Singapore, 8 years old

Madeline is an up and coming writer to be watched! You may recall her excellent entry in my Shaggy Sheep Poem Competition, where she won an Honourable Mention in a very stiff field of competition. Here, her clever and witty story about a cheeky empress with a wardrobe problem has won her sixth place. Great effort Madeline!

 Empress Shigashidoo and her Little Friend

Once upon an unknown galaxy, on a dinky little planet called earth, in a itsy-bitsy country called China, there was a cheeky, illustrious little empress and her name was Shigashidoo.

Her little problem was she awfully liked this sumptuous vermilion dress and wanted to keep it clean, but she loved rolling around in the mud more.

“You got your dress dirty!” was always the instant remark from her mother when she twirled through the door after a walk with that little vermilion dress of hers, which, in case you haven’t noticed, she was very fond of.

Now, little Shigashidoo loved animals, so much her room was filled up with a panda, a pig, a ram, and herself. Now that ram was tantalized about going on walks and rolling in the mud and often went on walks with little Shigashidoo.

One stormy day, coming back from a walk looking as muddy as ever, a little frog stopped her in the middle of the path. That frog wasn’t any frog stopping in the middle of the path. How do we know this? The frog spoke!

This is what he said and I quote, “Hey! Why don’t you come over here? I got somethin’ to show ya’!”

Somehow Shigashidoo, as an animal lover, trusted the frog. Although she knew trouble was brewing, she had a voice in her head saying, “Follow the frog, Shigashidoo, follow the frog,” and somehow, that voice belonged to her mother.

So Shigashidoo followed the frog, just as the voice had instructed. Behind her, her ram that she so dearly loved, trotted along. But what she did not know yet, was where fate was going to take her…

A bit later, the frog stopped short at the entrance to a small, narrow cave. “You want me to go in there?” she asked sounding surprised. “Sure do,” replied the frog. Shigashidoo shrugged and walked in the cave, her faithful ram following.

“First, something for that ram of yours.”

The ram stepped forward seeming like he trusted the frog as much as the little empress did. The frog presented a bubble blower to them.

Shigashidoo accepted the gift reluctantly. “Why do we need bubbles?” Although Shigashidoo thought the frog might be a few generations short of an emperor, (a.k.a. a few bricks short of a pyramid) she did what the frog said and to her amazement, a bubble grew the same size as the ram and went around him.

“Now your turn,” the frog blew a bubble on her and ordered them to roll around in the mud. They did and got no mud on them! This was exactly what little Shigashidoo wanted!

She pranced home with her ram and could hardly wait to tell her mother the good news.




 In this section there were 22 fantastic entries from schools in Hong Kong, Melbourne, Seattle, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney! The writing quality was very high indeed, and the task of choosing six finalists extremely difficult. Congratulations to Marissa Chow of Kowloon Junior School in Hong Kong; Lillian Lee of Hamilton International School in Seattle; Annette Shabana Dass and Ella Kappo of Canadian International School Lakeside in Singapore; Elise Willett of Wellington School in Shanghai; Lara Goodman of Rose Bay Public School and Annabelle Laughton, Lily Barnett, Charlotte Morris, Hannah Field, Taylor Collings and Amelia Hamer of Turramurra Public School in Sydney for your excellent entries – do make sure you enter my next competition!

Special congratulations to Kristina Akova of German Swiss International School in Hong Kong; Eleanor Martin of Loreto Mandeville in Melbourne and Nicholas Ng of Shanghai United International School Hongqiao, whose entries very nearly made the final cut!

And now for the six best entries, with a very Special Mention at the end!


FIRST PLACE: Warren Cheong, Year 5, German Swiss International School Hong Kong, 10 years old

Warren’s story of a moody Empress, a missing magical Ram, a warty frog and a brave nephew is action-packed, with a great story structure, plenty of sophisticated vocabulary (including six Wicked Words) and a fluent writing style. But it was his attention to small descriptive details – which set the action very firmly in China – which helped him to pip the post to secure First Place against some very tough competition. Well done Warren!

 The Hunt for the Golden Ram

The palace guard shook with terror as precious plates, antique china and glittering jewels flew past his head and smashed to the floor. The Empress Zili was in an atrocious mood because her precious golden ram, which was studded with vermillion rubies, had vanished. The magical ram was the source of her omnipotence as it could grant endless wishes and immortality to whoever held it.

“Get me my golden ram! Heads will fly if nobody finds it!” the empress shrieked as her cruel eyes narrowed. “Whichever one of you flea-brained imbeciles retrieves it will be granted one wish. I need my ram back now!” she roared as her resplendent robes rustled with rage.  

Hearing pandemonium echoing through the palace’s corridors, Yong Gan, Empress Zili’s nephew, raced to the scene of the crime.

“What’s happening, Aunt?” Yong Gan panted.

“My golden ram is missing. China will slip from my grasp without it,” the empress despaired.

“Don’t worry. I will take on your gargantuan challenge and get it back for you, even if it costs me my life,” Yong Gan assured her.

Yong Gan noticed that there was a hole in the safe where Empress Zili kept her treasures. He looked into the hole and spotted a dark, twisting tunnel that the thieves had hollowed out to get into the royal palace. In a flash, Yong Gan slipped into the hole to follow the criminals and retrieve the ram.

He reappeared several days later dirty and exhausted. To his surprise, he saw the Great Wall of China looming above him. The country he was in did not look like China though: there were no guards and no merchants travelling the Silk Road. Yong Gan sat down in the dust and despaired. How would he get his aunt’s golden ram back when he was in such unfamiliar territory?

Just as Yong Gan was about to give up, he heard someone croaking in Chinese. Puzzled, and thinking that perhaps the hot sun had gone to his head, he looked down and spotted a warty, brown frog with wise, bulging eyes. The frog introduced himself politely, not giving Yong Gan time to think about how strange it was to find himself talking to an amphibian.

“Good afternoon, Your Highness,” the frog croaked. “I can tell you are from the Forbidden City by your splendid clothes and the way you have styled your hair. I am Rui Zhi, former advisor to Empress Zili. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“Rui Zhi! I cannot believe my eyes. It’s been years!”

“Are you Yong Gan all grown-up? Can it be true?”

“Yes, Rui Zhi, it is me. What happened to you?”

“I was exiled by your aunt all those years ago because she caught me trying to make a wish on her magical golden ram,” Rui Zhi explained. “I could see how unhappy China was, and how greedy your aunt was becoming. It was my greatest wish to give happiness back to the Chinese people. I was using the ram to wish for every citizen to make a wish of their own. Your aunt flew into a fury, banished me to Mongolia and turned me into a frog.”

“Your misfortune might be fortunate for me,” Yong Gan stated. I am on a mission to find the ram, which has been stolen by Mongolia’s emperor. He knows how weak China is and wants to seize power for himself. Can you be my guide? If we succeed, I know my aunt will exonerate you.”

“Let me show you the way!” Rui Zhi agreed excitedly. “I know this country inside out after thirty years in exile here.

The pair travelled through the hot, dusty Mongolian plains for hours, stopping briefly for food and water. Suddenly a castle appeared on the horizon, armed with terrifying looking weapons and defended by enormous walls lined with soldiers.

Before the travellers had time to reach the city walls the Mongolian emperor had used the ram to conjure up a malevolent monsoon that would keep them away. Winds as powerful as an army whistled and whooshed past them. Rain pounded the ground as loudly as a cavalry of horses. The ground flooded and fog shrouded them. The water was so deep that Yong Gan could not wade through it, so the frog boldly decided to swim to the castle and rescue the golden ram.

Rui Zhi swam silently towards the castle entrance. The sky was dark enough that the Mongolian soldiers did not notice him breaking through their fortifications. Rui Zhi worked his way stealthily through the castle and found the golden ram. He moved swiftly and made it out of the palace without being noticed.

Just as Rui Zhi and Yong Gan were about to escape, the Emperor of Mongolia stopped the storm from raging, and the pair became visible as they dashed to the Great Wall. Soldiers started shooting arrows at them, but they were no match for courageous Yong Gan and he easily defeated them all before escaping back through the tunnel into China.

When they got back to the empty safe in the Forbidden City they ran outside to where Empress Zili was sitting angrily on her throne.

“We found the golden ram, aunt!” Yong Gan cheered.

“My royal advisor, is that you?” Empress Zili asked the frog.

“Yes, I am Rui Zhi,” the frog informed her.

“You shall be exonerated and turned back into a man,” Zili exclaimed. “I am over-the-moon that you helped to find my treasured ram.”   

The empress muttered some magic words to the golden ram and the talking frog disappeared, in his place stood a wizened man.

“As for you, Nephew, you shall be granted a wish,” the empress said. Yong Gan wished for the whole of China to be joyful.

From that day on China was peaceful and her people had easy lives thanks to the bravery and wisdom of Yong Gan and Rui Zhi.

SECOND PLACE: Jemma Julian, Grade 5, homeschooled in Sydney, 10 years old

Readers will remember that Jemma has placed in the last two previous competitions with her original and very sophisticated style. This time she has given Warren a very close run with her whimsical story of a magic paintbrush, an artist princess, and two very brave animal friends. Jemma’s vocabulary is simply outstanding, on top of which she managed to correctly use 11 of my Wicked Words in her story! She even had me reaching for the dictionary with that extraordinary word “thaumaturgic”! I’m not going to tell you what it means – you’ll have to look it up for yourselves! Fantastic job Jemma – keep up the good work!

The Magic Paintbrush.

The ram was chewing grass as he surveyed the pond below him. A beautiful cream- white frog with vermillion eyes stared out at him from between green reeds. How jealous the ram was of the frog’s skin. He was only dark sienna, the colour of seaweed. The ram didn’t know what seaweed looked like, as he had only ever been in this one grassy landscape – in the painting that Princess Shuang was now painting.

‘Oh, poor ram,’ said Princess Shuang. ‘He has such a dreary coat. I’ll brighten him up.’ She mixed some colours on her palette and painted the ram’s legs a sumptuous purple and gave him an illustrious black goatee.

The ram felt instantly better. He now had a resplendent coat to rival the frog, but there was something missing… something that could bring him to life. Yes! It came from Princess Shuang small hands holding her tattered bamboo brush as she painted down his back and tummy, bringing the gift of life with each stroke.

The ram suddenly found himself next to Princess Shuang and gave an exuberant kick of his heels while she brushed life into the frog. Princess Shuang got a terrible surprise and promptly burst into tears: her painting had come to life! The frog jumped about wildly.

“I am sorry for Come- quit’s rude behaviour,” said the ram fastidiously. “He has no manners.”

“How dare you!” croaked the frog, wishing to elucidate. “My name is Cumquat, your Majesty”, he said.

“Your majesty”, cried the ram, bowing down on one foreleg. “My name is Mellow. Where are we and what is your name?”

Princess Shuang, who was in shock, spent several minutes opening and shutting her mouth. “My n-name is P-p-princess Sh-shuang. We are in the P-p-palace in the F-f-forbidden C-city of B-b-Beijing. How did you come out of my p-p-painting?” she blurted.

“It was the thaumaturgic brush Princess Shuang,” said Mellow, bowing again.

“Grandma’s old brush?” She picked it up, wondering at her serendipitous discovery.

“Yes your Highness”, answered Mellow and Cumquat.

“Oh, please don’t call me that!” Princess Shuang said. Mellow and Cumquat looked at her in a puzzled way. “I just hate it. Ever since Ma and Da died, I’ve been told I have to be queen and now everyone calls me that. They used to call me Sweet Peach, but they don’t even call me Shuang anymore.”

“Your parents are dead?” said Mellow, “We are so sorry to hear this.”

“Yes, about a year ago they were on holiday for two weeks in Tianjing city. There was a rockslide and…” Princess Shuang began to cry again.

“You poor girl,” said Mellow, with lugubrious respect.

But then Princess Shuang said something which changed their lives forever. ‘Will you be my friends?’

Three months later, their friendship was still happy and strong. Unfortunately, Mellow and Cumquat’s paint was flaking off with every game they played. Soon they would become only paint-dust and he and Cumquat were worried. Between them they stole the magic brush from Shuang while she slept. They painted themselves back into their canvas.

Shuang woke up. She’d been having the most horrible dream about Mellow and Cumquat becoming two dimensional again. But it was only a dream, thank goodness.

“Mellow! Cumquat!” cried Shuang repeatedly – silence.

Shuang felt afraid. She looked but could not find her special brush. She looked at the painting. Two animals on the canvas- a cream coloured frog and a brown ram with purple legs looked out at her.

“No!!!” choked Shuang. “It can’t be true!!”

“I’m sorry,” thought Mellow.

“We were turning to dust Shuang,” thought Cumquat.

At that very moment Shuang’s heart turned to ice. Choosing a new canvas Shuang began to paint. Mixing a dark sumptuous blue with grey, black, white and a little vermillion, Shuang painted a hurricane monsoon. Fiery blues mixed with vermillion makes the most hazardous, desolate storm. The storm swelled and roared from her canvas. Lightning flashed, hail dropped, thunder rolled, and the wind beat a heavy, fast rhythm against Shuang’s Palace.

“There, I’ve painted the perfect storm,” cried Shuang. “I hate you Mellow, you deserted me, you pusillanimous ram and Cumquat, you despicable frog!”

The storm rose to a crescendo. A bolt of lightning threw itself down from the heavens, straight into Shuang’s small body.

“Cumquat, something’s not right.” Said Mellow, peering out from the wet canvas.

“I know Mellow. Something terrible is happening to Shuang!” croaked Cumquat.

“We must help her!” Cried Mellow.

“How- oh!”

“The sacrificial way is the only way we can help Shuang.”

“But we will die! Turn to dust!” Cumquat yelped.

“She’s our friend, and she’d do the same for us, I know it.”

“ But-“

“ Quickly Cumquat! Hold me tightly and say what I say.”

“For a friend, we exchange our lives.

For a friend, each of us dies.

For a friend, who needs us,

We will turn to dust.”

Rainbow colours swirled around Cumquat and Mellow.

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” they cried in unison. Suddenly they were in Shuang’s bedroom- but where was Shuang?

“Shuang! There she is!” Mellow cried. Under a pile of hailstones was Shuang, ice cold and deathly pale. Cumquat put his head on her chest. The faintest, tiniest beat.

“She’s alive, just.” Said Cumquat gravely.

“M-Mellow? Cumquat?” whispered Shuang. “Will die because of me? I didn’t know, I was so happy to have some friends. I didn’t see that you’d turn into… dust.” Her voice faded away and Mellow and Cumquat’s paint flaked off, the beginning of their sacrificial ending.

Mellow and Cumquat started to disappear. Their bodies slowly disintegrated and their paint blowing away.

“Don’t go Mellow and Cumquat!” cried Shuang. “Please, don’t leave me, I will die instead!”

But all she could hear from the outlines of Mellow and Cumquat was Mellow saying:

“I told you that she would die for us Cumquat, and maybe she will, in another time, in another life. We are all bonded… for eternity.” 


THIRD PLACE: Aria Fafat, Grade 5, Canadian International School, Lakeside Campus, Singapore, 9 years old

Aria’s story of tragedy, love and sacrifice, including a fearsome dragon, is truly moving – and I loved her fabulous writing style, especially her description of the childhood years of Meili and Honggan: “The clearings in the forest were their playgrounds, the animals their uncommon friends, the cave their cradling home” – now that’s what I call great writing! Aria’s third place is well-deserved – and I very much look forward to seeing her entry in my next competition!


The raging fire spread across the village, and crept up to the palace, where the Great Empress of China had just delivered a baby girl. The Emperor took the baby and fled towards the forest. He gave the baby to his friend, the ram, to carry her to safety while he stood guard to stop any would-be attacker. The village, meanwhile, was in complete pandemonium, people running about in chaos. One village woman also fled with her baby boy to the forest, and left him in a stone cave. She ran back to help salvage what was left of the village, hoping that the fire would not reach her little one.

The golden ram took the baby princess to his cave in the meadow – a cave which he shared with his friend, the frog. They gave the baby girl some water and tried to comfort her. Soon, the girl fell asleep, but the sounds of crying continued. The frog hopped deeper in the cave and saw another baby, swaddled in blankets.

“Jinse, look!” The frog called out to the ram. The ram came over and looked at the wailing baby. He had rough, black hair and a thin, unhealthy body; caked with dirt and grime. Jinse took the baby boy and kept him with the sleeping child. In comfort at the sight of another baby, his crying stopped. A gentle bond had been forged.

Alas! The fire could not be tamed. It destroyed all in its path – palace and village alike, even as the lush greenery of the forest protected all within. By the time morning arrived, all else had been lost…

Over the next few years, the children grew up as brother and sister. The clearings in the forest were their playgrounds, the animals their uncommon friends, the cave their cradling home. The frog had named the girl “Meili” and the boy, “Yonggan”. Meili and Yonggan were inseparable, whether they were sprinting through the foliage or lazing around by the stream in warm sunshine. In each other’s company they found contentment of life.

On that fateful day, while Meili was out collecting berries and nuts as a birthday treat for Yonggan, she heard the distant sound of thunder. Before long, the clouds had gathered in angry force. Hard rain started pouring down in gushing rivers and icy winds whipped her hair. Mist swirled around the clouds and mud splashed across her grass dress. While trying to get home, Meili tripped over a rock and blood oozed out from her cheek. She moaned in pain and scrambled around to find a place to hold. Her legs and arms were full of scratches and her feet were throbbing.

Back in the cave, everyone was waiting for Meili.

“Jinse, Yonggan lets go search for Meili. I’m worried that this ferocious storm has done something to our little princess” said the frog anxiously.

Yonggan comforted him, “Frog, do not worry. Meili will return. She will find her way back.” So they waited for what seemed like eternity.

Meili had lost her basket of nuts and berries. She limped along the muddy field and found herself in front of a cave. She called out weakly, “Yonggan ? Jinse? Frog?” No one answered. She went in. And gasped! A vermillion glow danced on the walls, and the carcasses of humans and animals were all over the floor. Meili looked around her in scared wonder.

Suddenly a voice boomed,” Who dares disturb the great dragon, Zhulong?” Meili jumped, but didn’t answer.

That was when the fireballs came.

“Meili? Meili where are you?” Yonggan and the frog had gone to search for Meili, while Jinse stayed home, in case Meili came back. As they crossed the stream, the frog noticed a trail of blood, scraping the damp grass. They hurried along the trail till Zhulong’s cave in front of them.

“Yonggan. This is cave of the dragon. No one comes out alive.” The frog warned.

Meili dodged gargantuan fireball after fireball. Zhulong had still not shown himself, but the fire seemed to have come from the roof of the cave. “Stop! Please stop Zhulong!” she pleaded. Hearing her voice, he sprung out of his hiding place and roared,” No one gets out of here alive! You will die.” With his red scales shimmering, he breathed another fireball that grazed Meili’s leg. She screamed with pain.

Her shrill cry reached Yonggan and the frog. Yonggan ran to the cave. Inside, Meili was hurt and Zhulong was about to pounce. Yonggan shouted, “Zhulong! Don’t waste your fire! Come and battle me by hand.” Zhulong snarled and they grappled for a while. Then, the frog stopped Yonggan from tearing out Zhulong’s scales.

“Yonggan! If you kill this beast, the world will be in darkness forever!” Yonggan scrambled back. “Zhulong, please, let us go!” Zhulong laughed atrociously. “Yonggan, I can’t do that! I need food!”

Meili painfully got to her feet. She put her hands up and said,” Oh, Zhulong. If you are so hungry, please take me and spare Yonggan and Frog. I am hurt and useless, now. Eat me.”

As Zhulong got ready to kill her, the frog turned to Meili.” Your father tried to save you from fire. But your destiny is embedded in you. You did well my child. You did well.”

Zhulong let go of the fireball, and Meili was blown backwards. Yonggan, unable to bear the pain of being without Meili, ran at the dragon. Zhulong let out another fireball and Yonggan too, was blown away. Then it went dark.

“Meili?” Yonggan was ablaze, but he couldn’t feel anything. Meili was right next to him, on fire. They were spirits. Fire spirits. And as the two floated together, Meili smiled at Yonggan. “Yes?” “Nothing” Yonggan held her hand and together they watched the fiery sun set.

Two different lives, entwined as one, and even in death inseparable. That is the true meaning of love.

FOURTH PLACE: Dominic Jun Cheng, Year 5, Chinese International School, Hong Kong, 9 years old

I loved Dominic’s tale of a magician ram, a frog princess, a neon dragon and a wicked witch! It is entertainment from start to finish, with some great vocabulary and a fun ending. A very impressive effort from one of the youngest contestants in this category.

 The Magical Ram and the Frog Princess

The vermilion ram was bored. Yang had been living on an ancient and very soporific farm outside Beijing for his entire life. He was intelligent and kind, but fed up. More than anything he longed for adventure and to discover the world.

On a day that Yang thought could not get any more boring, his adventure finally began. As he was chewing on some juicy green grass a frog hopped over and, to his surprise, started talking.

“I haven’t seen the color vermilion since I left the imperial palace,” the frog croaked.

“Well I am not an ordinary ram,” Yang replied. “I am a magical ram with transfiguration powers.”

“Transfiguration powers? May you please turn me back into the princess that I really am?” asked the frog.

“Not unless you help me escape from this dirty, noisy, stinking farm,” Yang said. “Even though I am magical I will always be vermilion. Everyone would notice me if I escaped, I can’t do it alone.”

“I will help you,” agreed the frog princess as she hopped over the farm’s ramshackle fence to open the gate.

The ram and the frog had not gone very far when a huge and terrifying storm blew up. Thunder clapped and lightning crashed so they sprinted to a cave to shelter. They heard a massive boom and thought cave was going to explode and bury them alive. They could not believe their eyes when a gigantic neon dragon with lightning flashes on his back appeared instead.

“What are you doing in my cave?” the dragon roared.

“We are on a quest to turn this ordinary looking frog back into an imperial princess,” Yang stammered.

“A real princess?” the dragon asked, “I have always wanted to help a real princess.”

“It is indubitable,” Yang told him. “I have transfiguration powers and can change her back into a princess here if you will let me.”

“Be my guest,” the dragon said happily.

Yang lifted his hooves to transfigure the frog back into an imperial princess. Magic flashed, but nothing happened.

“Why haven’t your powers worked?” roared the dragon angrily.

“Oh, now I remember,” the frog whispered. “Only the witch can change me, it was her who cast the spell.”

“Treacherous villain! What an egregious crime,” the dragon boomed. “What is this witch called?”

“Witch Wupo,” the frog croaked.

“I know that witch. She used to be an enemy of mine, I will be very happy to kill her for you,” offered the dragon. “She lives on the planet Mootanious, twenty light years from China. I can travel at one light year per minute, so let’s go!”

Zoom, zoom, zoom! The frog and the ram felt like their bodies were left behind in China as they rocketed towards Mootanious. They could only see blackness and hear the whooshing of the dragon’s wings. All of a sudden there was a choke and they went flying off the dragon’s back and landed on the planet’s cushioned surface.

“Don’t worry if your feet sink down,” the dragon told them. “This planet is made from clouds.”

“It seems lifeless here. The witch must be hiding from us,” Yang said. “Let’s go and find her.”

The dragon, the ram and the frog princess walked until they became so exhausted that they fell asleep in a heap on the marshmallow-y ground.

In the morning, they spotted a pitch black dot dashing north. They realized it must be Wupo so they jumped back onto the dragon’s back and flew after her. As they got closer they saw that the witch was riding on her broomstick towards her gingerbread house. Wupo spotted the friends and turned her broomstick in the opposite direction. The dragon wanted to follow her, but the ram said, “Stop! I will transfigure myself into whatever potion Wupo is making in her cauldron. We will catch her, I promise!”

The dragon stopped at the witch’s front door and breathed out a lightning bolt to destroy it. The ram tiptoed in, looking around carefully for traps. He had to destroy Wupo’s bubbling potion so that she had no power left. He tipped it into the fire, which then turned invisible. It was very powerful stuff. In its place, he transfigured himself into a shimmering vermilion-colored potion and slipped into the witch’s cauldron to wait.

Once it was dark again Wupo returned to her gingerbread house. She wanted to finish her potion and was happy the dragon was not there. She was surprised when she spotted that her potion had changed color, but she thought it was because the recipe was so strong. She tried a spoonful. As soon as the liquid touched her lips she turned bright pink. When it was in her mouth she had grown a snout, a curly tail and some wiry ears. When she swallowed the mouthful she was one hundred percent pig and started snuffling around her gingerbread house in panic.

“Ha! We have got you now, Wupo!” the dragon cheered.

The pig snorted back, “I knew that pesky princess would come back to get me. If I promise to be good, will you change me back?”

Before the dragon could answer, sparks began flying. Something incredible was happening to the frog and to the vermilion potion. Poof! The frog became a princess again. She was not a pretty princess that you read about in fairytales but, abracadabra, the potion became a prince with bright vermilion hair and he did not care. He thought she was tantalizing.

The princess and the vermilion prince forced the pig onto the dragon’s back and they all flew back together to China. The left the pig at the dirty, noisy, stinking farm where the farmer was happy to have her instead of a vermilion ram. Then off they went to the imperial palace where they transfigured the dragon into a gargantuan guardsman before they lived happily ever after.


FIFTH PLACE: Isabel Duggan, Grade 5, Loreto Mandeville Hall, Toorak, Melbourne, 11 years old

Congratulations to first-time competition entrant Isabel on this clever twist on the true story of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang and the Great Wall of China, as well as her very original idea of a gang of rams led by the evil Thundertooth! It was good fun to read, and well written too. I look forward to seeing more of Isabel’s work!

 The Dominating Horns!

Lu had been walking for hours on end. Her face was wet with tears and her eyes were red with rage. Lu wanted to stop and rest, find some food, or maybe some water. But her anger forced her on. An unwelcome menace had slipped into her life and she was going to stop it, no matter what it took.

Lu’s eyes had been staring at her dirty sneakers the whole trip. They were once pale pink, but the dirt as red as blood, Lu had been rambling in for the whole journey had turned the sneakers a dark and evil vermilion. It was the colour that gave Lu the impression; she was staring into the devils eyes.

But the sound of an unfamiliar voice bought Lu’s eyes back into the world.

“Why are you crying little girl” The voice was concerned yet inquisitive.

Lu looked around, trying to find someone who may have spoken the words, but all she saw was a drooping dove-tree in the distance losing a war against the heat.

“Down here”

Lu looked down. What she saw was not what she expected. Her eyes lay upon a gaunt looking frog. He’s smooth green skin and white chest lacked moistness and even though he was a frog the intelligence his eyes were filled with, only an owl could contain. Lu just stared. The frog was obviously used to this.

“Yes, yes I know, I am talking frog. But the way you are looking at me suggests that I have two heads, which I certainly do not. Now please tell me what caused you to be so upset.”

Even though Lu thought she had swallowed her tongue in shock, she tried her best to explain her story clearly and accurate.

“My Father is the resplendent Qin Shi Huang. He is the first emperor of China, which makes me the illustrious empress. A few days ago, he and his men made the decision to build a huge barrier around china to protect us. He’s calling it the great wall. People say it’s being built to protect us from armed men with horses and weapons, but the reality is much worse. My father tells me of a big and powerful ram named Thundertooth who leads an army of hundreds and maybe thousands of rams called the Dominating Horns. Only yesterday, the day before the building of the wall would begin, during the middle of the night my Father was taken by the Dominating Horns. This morning, everyone was in a state of pandemonium. I got my things and started to look for him. I had no idea where to go, but I needed to find him. My life isn’t complete without him.”

Lu had told her story extremely quickly and only in one breath, which left her gasping for air once she finished.

The Frog waited patiently for Lu to catch her breath before introducing himself. “My name is Lewis, the talking frog.” His said in his posh voice and held out his webbed hand.

Lu looked at the slimy hand and shook her head. “I don’t want to get any disease from your germy hand”. Lu felt bad almost immediately after she said it.

Lewis didn’t seem to mind though. “I know quite a bit about the Dominating Horns, in fact I even know where their evil lair is. But I’ll only share my knowledge with if you pour some of that divine liquid onto my dry skin. I’ll drop dead in this weather without my beautiful silky flesh being moist.” He said motioning to the water bottle Lu held in her frail hand.

She made the deal and soon learned that the Dominating Horns’ base was in the middle of Hallstatt, an abandoned city of China. Lu had never been to this place in China because she never knew it existed. She imagined it, as small and shadowed by an evil presence. Walls that were once red were painted black, and bought bad luck, but when Lu arrived at the town, it was tremendously worse.

Lu felt as though the town itself was sapping her only strength left from the long journey to even get here. It smelt like death and decay lingered in the air she tried terribly hard not to breathe in. The very few buildings this town had, cast shadows that played tricks on Lu’s eyes. A cold breeze blew by carrying disturbing whispers with it. Lu felt an ever-present sense of inescapable dread filling her heart.

And her Father was here.

Lu took a closer look at the town and saw many rams guarding every door. She was going to need a plan to get herself in and her father out. Lu thought and thought, until she remembered her black belt in karate!  

All it took was a kick to knock out one of Thundertooth’s rams guarding the door to the prison. Lu took the keys from his belt and entered the dark room. Lu felt as though something evil was waiting around the corner, ready to grab her. But what she saw instead was a room with a single candle lit, in the center of the room. The candle seemed to bring dark much more than light, and Lu didn’t see the point of it.

But her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a very familiar voice.

“Lu? Is that you?”

Lu couldn’t be more relieved.


Lu ran to the cell that her fathers voice came from. She used the keys to unlock the door and hugged her Father!

“What have they done to you?” Said Lu, concerned.

“Oh, nothing they were just going to hold me prisoner so I wouldn’t build the wall. But that explanation can wait. How do we get out of here”?

Lu showed him the way back home and made him a big bowl of chicken and noodle soup before announcing to the whole of China that Qin Shi Huang was home safe and sound.

SIXTH PLACE: Gabriel Ben, Grade 4, Rose Bay Public School, Sydney, 9 years old

Gabriel’s entry made me laugh out loud – especially when I saw how cleverly he had re-interpreted my Tale of Rodney Ram – not to mention the Legend of the Five Rams of Guangzhou about how rice came to China! I thought the story was great – and I especially loved the talking frog with his distinctively Aussie accent! Great work Gabriel!

 The Adventure of Rick the Ram

 Somewhere near Beijing, tucked away in the great and vast land of China, was a small village ruled by a wealthy empress. The empress had pale skin, was very polite and she normally wore a bright red dress with white lotus patterns and gold stripes running down the front of her dress. The empress lived in a stone castle built by the hands of her great ancestors. The villagers were extremely kind people, who loved their ruler dearly. And in return she gave the villagers a place to spend time in with their families and to live in. So they all had a happy life – whether rich or poor.

The empress and her village made most of their money to build the magnificent statues and buildings in their land by selling wool from the fluffiest sheep in all of China. The empress had a favourite sheep and it was a male ram called Rick. Rick was a grand animal. He had curly horns that were brown and strong and his wool was soft and white. Every day he was sent flowers from his admirers who were the dashing female ewes. Every time he showed them his teeth that shone like stars they all lay back and fainted.

The empress had everything. She had gold, servants, a lovely village; there was nothing else she wanted except one thing. There was an ancient Chinese legend that a wise, 100 year old talking frog that can only be found in a pond near a patch of unknown crop would be brought to a Chinese town by an animal that lives in a royal palace, and the empress wanted that frog as much as anything. So every night, from when the empress was a child, she would look up at the sun setting in the vermillion coloured sky, which would be slowly becoming purple, and wish for the frog to come.

One windy night a huge storm struck the village. Rain and hail flooded the grass, lightning split the sky, thunder rumbled like a giant’s belly and all the houses were nearly swept away – all of the village people were ineffable – they couldn’t describe the storm! At the time, Rick was in the grass battling against the wind to get past, when he suddenly got swept away like a rag doll!  He landed headfirst into an atrocious muddy puddle! Luckily, the angry storm had finished before the bright sun came up. Rick had never been so happy to see it! He stood up and slowly took in the view around him.

Then he saw a frog jumping in a pond. “G’day mate!” it said. Rick nearly jumped out of his skin! As Rick studied the frog closer, it jumped onto Rick’s soggy back.

 “Fetch summa that rice over there” the frog said as it hopped down from his back and over to some light green grass that had grown crazily making the shape of a bad attempted mohawk. “Bring it back to ya village.”

As Rick bent down and picked up some rice in his mouth the frog hopped onto Ricks muddy but dry back again and together they slowly made their way to the palace.

 As Rick walked onto the wet but magnificent marble ground, the empress walked up to Rick and gave him a hug.

“My dear friend, where were you? And what is this strange plant you have in your mouth?” she said.

“It’s a rice crop” the frog said. The empress was so bamboozled that her eyes nearly fell out of her head in shock!

 “My god!” Is this really what I think it is?” the empress managed to choke out. “Is this the frog of my dreams?” she gasped.

“Mate, if you’re referrin’ to me, yes.” the frog croaked.

The empress, having recovered from her shock, lifted the frog in amazement.

“Rick, your-your-your wonderful” she stammered quietly.

As Rick turned red in the cheeks and smiled he dropped the rice into some dirt that had been flooded during the dreadful storm. As weeks passed the rice grew taller and taller, and the village was known throughout the world because not only of the wool they had, but Rick’s adventure, the discovery of rice, and the amazing talking frog. By this happening, the village had started the ‘silk road’.

In honour of Rick, the empress had a giant stone statue of him built in the middle of the village. And that is where it still is.


 SPECIAL MENTION: Hillary Lo, Grade 6, Shatin Junior School, Hong Kong, 10 years old

Hillary Lo, SJS Grade 6

A very fond farewell to Hillary Lo, who first started entering my Clever Competitions four years ago, when she was just 7 years old! Hillary has never missed a competition since, and has won a place every time, with her poetry just as good as her prose! Highlights were her First Place in the Grade 4 to 6 Category of the Handsome Horse poetry competition last year, and her Third Place in the Shaggy Sheep Poem competition this year. Hillary has also been an enthusiastic follower of my blog, contributing many comments to its pages. Sadly this competition is the last time we will see Hillary’s special talent, as she is now moving onwards and upwards to high school. Thank you Hillary for your devotion to my Clever Competition and to the cause of great writing, as well as for your fabulous contributions – I hope to see your name up in lights as a famous author one day! Here is Hillary’s last great entry:

 The Story of Xin Ya

A young figure of 9 stood by the doorstep, her clothes ragged and torn. With tears trickling down her cheeks, she was solemnly waving to a girl with the same identical face but taller.  As footsteps padded down the stairs, revealing a heavily built lady with a belly that looked like an explosive balloon that might burst any time, the puddle widened.The lady was the only one wearing decent clothes, and she snapped at the two sisters while she lay on a sturdy wooden chair, slumped sideways like a sack potato.

Xin Li gave one last goodbye to her departing sister, attacking her damp face with a lace handkerchief. “There, there. See you,” Xin Ya whispered comfortingly to her sister and herself as she wanted to believe that they would. On the matching wooden table, lay catalogues and cute outfits for the new baby. “Real Cuju footballer! Unlike you two dirty faced, lackadaisical girls!” she boasted proudly and turned her back with disgust on them.

The reason why they were so filthy was because all of Xin Ya’s salary provided this disgraceful woman with new clothes and hair accessories, her body dripping with diamonds.

“Bye, Xin Ya! Good luck!” Xin Li tugged at the creaking door, her body crumpling due to her tiredness and sadness.

“Yeah, good riddance!” cackled a very unpleasant voice.

Xin Ya froze, as solid as the ground, when she spotted a bobbing head with streaks of white hair and wrinkles of worry near the market on her way, whom she recognised was her late father’s ailing mother, who was concerned about the two sisters.  Xin Ya ducked as she realised how sad she would be if she knew Xin Ya was leaving.

Xin Ya gave a wry smile as she reached the guards at the palace door and the palace towered over her. “Xin Ya. Consort Xu’s maid.” Xin Ya sighed as she went through the same procedure as she did every 2 years. A grim expression plastered across her face as Consort Xu and Consort Wu, with new sumptuous robes, sashayed behind one of the most illustrious people Xin Ya had known during her time in the palace- Empress Yang.

Xin Ya and the guards obediently bobbed a curtsy to each of the women.

“See? As the day of my upgrading ceremony is looming, I wear nicer silk! ”

Consort Xu frowned as Consort Wu boasted.

“Well, my dear sister Empress, she is your new maid. Xin Ya, you should be grateful since the emperor let you become upgraded!”

Empress Yang looked like she was facing dirt. “Get yourself here quick!” Xin Ya felt relieved to have the soft silk for maids rubbing against her shivering body. She playfully stuck two blue lavenders in her new hairstyle and returned to Empress Yang.

“Well, you do look better.” Empress Yang said flatly as she nodded approvingly, trying not to show how impressed she was.

Xin Ya hummed as she watered the flowers by the pond and noticing a lime green frog perched on a lily.

“Good Morning, my pretty little ‘un. What a mellifluous voice you have! I could fall into a dream!” There was a hint of French.

“I, Bergamo, was born in Canada. And during a big storm, when the wind spins rapidly like knifes in a blender, the old frogs leave. Empress Yang uses us orphans to create an anti-aging frog soup. Terrible! Luckily, we escaped at the last minute. Xin Ya, help us stop Empress Yang. Go on, I shall reunite with my family soon!”

Bergamo camouflaged himself in the pond. Xin Ya hurriedly created ripples, feeling around. She shrieked when she found gargantuan frogs who burped but not once that humble talking frog.

A clatter of footsteps slowly became louder, and the Emperor appeared, looking resplendent in his vermillion robes for the morning prayers. A ram was highly neighing and snorting at fearful and nervous eunuchs and maids.  “No grass, Stanford!” Stanford neighed in protest.

Xin Ya turned to Stanford. “Calm down, Stanford! Who’s a handsome clever boy?” Stanford nuzzled up to Xin Ya in agreement. Xin Ya stroked his head comfortingly as he nudged her pocket. A piece of paper floated out of Xin Ya’s pocket.

Emperor Tang gasped as he read the contents written by the Empress.

“Emperor Tang, may I ask what you are in such hurry for?”

The Emperor looked stricken. “Xin Ya, Yang’s title shall be removed. I have already chosen the new Empress! In 5 minutes, you have totally captivated me with your kindness, and I believe that you will become a great empress. I totally admire your idiosyncrasies, as well as how you happen to sing and talk to the pond while you’re cleaning!”

Xin Ya’s mouth fell open. “But, Emperor, I am only a maid! Oh, thank you!” Xin Ya kneeled on the ground, amazed.

On the day of this very imperial marriage, it was an utter pandemonium, maids rushing everywhere to dress the perfect duo and the whole city ringing of how the maid became the Empress, a very important ingredient- kindness.

Everyone adored the iridescence of the pearls placed on Empress Xin as the sun created a spotlight for this couple.

A few days later, a storm arrived. Xin Ya thought of Bergamo and bit her lip worriedly as she lit up a candle specially for this honourable frog. She sat silently, and snapped back into her senses when she heard a nervous knock. The new maid walked carefully over to her.

“Good Afternoon, Empress Sin.” Xin Ya clamped her hand over her mouth when she recognised that voice.

“Xin Li!” Xin Ya rushed forward to pull the young girl into a big embrace.

“Xin Ya! I can’t believe it! Mother is fine but she’s devastated because “he” was a girl after all.”

“I’ll look after you, Xin Li, you’ll see.” Xin Ya kept to her promise, as the fluffy white clouds in the sky took the shape of a smile.

2012 – 2013 Competitions

October 31, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Posted in | 7 Comments







What a fabulous lot of poets entered my Autumn Haiku competition this term! There were over 60 entries from 15 different schools in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, South Africa and the UK, and your haikus were really quite wonderful. Chills, breezes and wind featured heavily of course, and there was even the odd blanket and cardigan, but leaves and trees in changing colours were definitely the order of the day for most of you, for obvious reasons! As ever, it was a very hard job to judge the competition. Unfortunately, there were some wonderful poems which I couldn’t include because they didn’t meet the strict haiku rhythm criteria in my Competition Rules (5 beats, 7 beats, 5 beats). I was looking for proper haiku structure; beautiful imagery; great vocabulary; excellent spelling and original ideas! Here are the results:

Grade 1 to 3

Haikus might be short, but they are actually rather difficult to write, which is probably why we didn’t have many entries from the younger set this time. But the entries we got were really terrific!

FIRST PLACE: Kairavi Sivasankar, 7 years old, Year 3, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong

Congratulations to Kairavi for her wonderful description of Autumn and its cosy conclusion! I thought this poem was clever, and a great effort for a seven year old. As first prize winner in this section, she wins a free signed copy of one of my books – well done Kairavi!

Cold and dark mornings

Trees turn red, copper and gold

Blankets get thicker.

SECOND PLACE: Gauri Ranjan, 6 years old, Grade 2, French International School, Hong Kong

I loved Gauri’s wistful conclusion which reminds us that autumn signifies change and getting older for all of us – especially for a six year old who longs to be taller!

The end of summer

Trees grow red and leaves fall down

In fall I am tall.

THIRD PLACE: Janelle Ong, 8 years old, Class 3B, Shanghai United International School Hongqiao, Shanghai

Well done to Janelle for sending in four excellent haikus! This one was my favourite – I think we can all agree with it!

How I love Autumn

Orange red leaves everywhere

What an awesome sight!

HONOURABLE MENTION: Devika Rajesh Bhojwani, 4 years old, K2, YMCA Kindergarten, Hong Kong

My Honourable Mention goes to Devika for her very sweet haiku with an ending which made me smile! Devika also happens to be the youngest entrant in the competition, so double congratulations on a magnificent effort!

I love autumn leaves

I love to play in the breeze

Take me out now please.


Amy Lee, PYP 3C, Shanghai United International School, Shanghai

Leaves are colorful.

The leaves fall down to the ground.

Wow! What a great view.

Nicholas Yeung, 8 years old, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School

When the autumn comes

The first leaf fall from the tree,

The leafs all turn brown.

Annie Lee, 9 years old, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School

Cool breeze on the air

Crunchy leaves are everywhere

Animals in rush.

Grade 4 to 6

We had many fabulous entries in this section, and as you can see the winners are very accomplished young poets with original voices and a unique eye. I was so impressed with their entries, and had a hard time deciding on the placings! Well done to everyone who entered, and a special hello to the students of Morrison Academy Kaohsiung who sent in 12 fantastic entries!

FIRST PLACE: Gabby Green, 11 years old, Class 5B, Australian International School Hong Kong.

Well done Gabby for your hauntingly beautiful entry – this is powerful and mature writing from an 11 year old, and I was very impressed. As first place-winner in this section, Gabby wins a free signed copy of one of my books.

Lonely autumn sky

The whitest moon in my eye

My troubles reach me.

SECOND PLACE: Jenna Jones, 12 years old, Grade 6, Springfield Convent, Cape Town, South Africa

Congratulations to Jenna on another winning entry in my competition! Jenna was first place winner in my Trouble in Tropical Paradise Story Competition, with a clever story in poetry form. Jenna’s wonderful imagery and use of simile in this haiku made it a clear place-winner. Lovely job, Jenna!

Burnt butterfly wings

Decorating autumn trees

Preparing for flight.

THIRD PLACE: Charlotte Wu, 10 years old, Grade 5, Shanghai American School, Shanghai

More powerful imagery and a poignant ending from Charlotte Wu who takes third place in this section. I especially loved the “wild soft brown dirt hall” and the image of the grave. Beautiful work Charlotte!

The red leaves shall fall.

On the wild soft brown dirt hall

Leaves lie in their grave.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Gabrielle Liu, 11 years old, Grade 5, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Gabrielle wrote to me that the inspiration for her poem was the colour of fall leaves, and the way they give an illusion of a fire that does not burn. What a lovely imagination, translating into an excellent haiku!

The crunch of dry leaves

The treetops blazing with fire

Glowing but not burned.


Lauren Ho, 11 years old, Grade 6, Chinese International School, Hong Kong

Autumn has returned,

Once again I feel lively,

Stepping on dry leaves.

Yavanna Verkest, 9 years old, Year 5, Renaissance College, Hong Kong

Coldness has set in

Like a shadow on the land

As leaves start to fall.

Jade Poon, 10 years old, Year 5, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong

Swirling twirling leaves

A chill dances on the wind                  

Leaves crunch on the ground.

Vanessa Charlotte Yim, 10 years old, Grade 6, Quarry Bay School, Hong Kong

Vanessa sent in a poem of three linked haikus – a very clever device, and I especially enjoyed the last haiku in the triplet. Well done Vanessa!

Autumn, leaves fall down

Summer is gone forever,

I’m filled with sadness.

The season of love

Filled with beauties of nature

Farewell, hot summer.

I wait long enough

Looking for your arrival

The autumn breeze blows.

Anna Laytham, 10 years old, Grade 5, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, Taiwan

If leaves are falling

And it starts getting colder

Autumn’s gonna come.

Hillary Lo, 7 years of age, Grade 4, Sha Tin Junior School,  Hong Kong.

A very special mention to Runner-Up Hillary Lo who was the youngest entrant in this section, and wrote this very pretty haiku: a lovely effort Hillary. Keep on entering the competition!

Let the autumn breeze

Touch you on autumn’s day to

Light your memories.



Nee Noo WOP!  What a fabulous way to start the New Year! There were a fabulous 84 entries into my Martian Christmas Story Competition, from nine different primary schools in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan, and from kids as young as 5 and old as 11! There were terrific poems, exciting narratives and wonderful descriptions! There were all sorts of Martians – kind and evil, generous and mean, and mostly very strange! There were Santas and Marsantas of every description! There were interplanetary wars, intergalactic voyages, rockets, bombs and craters! There were alien families with strange names, alien monsters, and aliens just like us! Jesus made a frequent appearance of course! Above all there was the planet Mars, red, cold and dusty, though sometimes surprisingly decked with gorgeous trees and flowers! I had so much fun reading all your stories, and I think you’re all fabulously clever for spending your holidays and weekends writing! That’s the best way to become an author!

This time we had an extraordinary 41 entries from the 6 years and under age group. It seemed a little unfair to judge them alongside some of the older Grade 2 to 3 children from other schools (aged 7 to 9) so I’ve judged them in a separate category of their own on this occasion.

I was looking for correct length, proper attention to the topic; the correct use of at least 3 of my Wicked Words; and I gave extra points for additional Wicked Words. In narrative stories I was looking for a proper narrative curve with a great beginning, interesting problem or challenge building up to an exciting climax, then a proper resolution and a satisfying ending. In descriptive stories, I was looking for a detailed and interesting description of Mars! And in all cases I was looking for good grammar and spelling, original and imaginative ideas and great style!

Here are the results (Wicked Words have been printed in bold). The first prize winners in each section win a signed copy of one of my books, sent to their home address!


There were an impressive 41 entries in this section, mainly from Kennedy School in Hong Kong. Thanks to Cheryl Reddin and Jo Grainger for encouraging their students to enter!


Daniel Kim, Grade 2 ESF Kennedy School, Hong Kong, 6 years old.

Daniel’s story was a fantastic piece of writing for a six year old, with a magnificent 6 Wicked Words used correctly, some great descriptive sentences, and a good story line with a great ending. Well done Daniel!

Christmas on Mars

Once, there was a boy called ‘Danny’. He was 8years old. Danny was fantastic at making friends because he was magnanimous. He always focused on Space and Aliens.

It was Christmas day so Danny invited all his friends and relatives to have Christmas Party. They gave and got lots of presents and ate tasty foods. They sang carols too.

Suddenly, they heard a gargantuan noise ‘Boom!!!!’ Everyone ran out the door to see what’s happening in Danny’s yard. It was a strange UFO! Danny and his friends were very frightened to see a real UFO. Danny was very interested in aliens, so he went closer to the UFO. He comes more close to the UFO, unexpectedly Danny was sucked into the spaceship. The UFO quick as a blink disappeared.

Danny fainted for a long time. When he opened his eyes he was bamboozled. It was not his home anymore, ‘Where am I?’ There was a bit cold and dark. He looked around the strange place curiously. He squinted and saw a large group of aliens coming to him. One of the alien gave Danny a small pill and alien said some words but he couldn’t understand any words. Danny ate the pill and fell asleep again. When he woke up something changed. He could breathe very well and feels good, also he could understand alien words. An alien took him to a different place. That alien’s name was Claire. That place had many kinds of food but it looked not yummy. It’s decorated by red, rusty, iron rocks. Some voracious alien slurped slime juice. Lots of aliens on the other side were singing songs. Danny listened carefully and understanding what they were singing. It was a Christmas carol! Suddenly, Danny remembered his Christmas Party. He missed his family and friends.

Claire was a magnanimous girl. She was 4ft tall and fatty. She had different size of eyes and ears were pointy. She looked not pretty but she was much smarter than she appeared. Claire and Danny became good friends. Claire told Danny that he was in the planet Mars and they were celebrating Christmas. Danny was very surprised to be in Mars and worried about his family back at home. All the Martians were wishing on a star. That star was so resplendent. Danny thought it was Earth. Danny looked lugubrious so Claire kind hearted girl asked him what he was worried about. Danny told her that he wanted to go back to home.

At that moment, ‘Vrrooom!’ A rocket spaceship appeared in front of them. All the Martians were afraid of unknown rocket. Three Astronauts came out of the spaceship. They looked like human beings. They saw Danny and all unmasked their faces. Two of them were Danny’s parents! Danny ran to his parents and gave them a big hug.

Danny explained all the happening to their parents. Claire was happy to meet Danny’s parents. All the other Martians also were happy to meet them too.

It’s time to go back home, Danny and Claire gave a big hug and said, ‘Good bye!’ Then Danny and his parents got aboard a space rocket. Claire watched until Danny’s rocket was disappeared.


Aarza Sachdeva, Grade 2, ESF Kennedy School, Hong Kong, 6 years old

I loved Aarza’s story! There were some beautiful descriptions of Christmas, Martian-style, and I thought the idea of dancing flowers was very imaginative. Congratulations Aarza!

Christmas on Mars

It was Christmas Eve on red Mars. There were Christmas carols and people were playing biolin instead of violin. On Mars, it is so hot that it is hot snow everywhere on Christmas Eve.

There was a man and a woman whose child was named Mumin. She was very kind and helpful. They saw some people decorating their houses so they started to decorate their house with blue and green pearls. They made a Christmas tree out of wires. After that, they decorated it with flowers which could talk. The house looked resplendent.

For Christmas, Mumin wanted a button which has magical power from which she could grow flowers that can talk and dance forever. But when it was Christmas Eve, Martian the Santa fell asleep and he was in a rocket which was going to Jupiter to visit his grandpa. So a reindeer gave Mumin the button.

The next day, it was the Christmas cool pool party. Mumin and her friends were invited for the Christmas cool pool party. It was lunch time and it was a pandemonium to queue up for the food in lunch time. After that, Mumin and her friends came to Mumin’s house for a sleepover. They played all day long with Mumin’s toys. Soon it was night and all her friends went asleep with Mumin.

Next day, Mumin and her friends went for camping and they looked resplendent when they were going. But when they reached the camp ground, Mumin’s dad realized that he had forgotten the marshmallows. So they went back to their shop, got some marshmallows and went camping. In the camp, they were playing but no one knew how to dance. Mumin had an idea. She pressed the button and all of a sudden flowers appeared. The flowers were bright in color, smelled great and looked sumptuous. And best of all, they could dance forever. So the Christmas present that Mumin got from the reindeers helped her camping trip. Everyone danced a lot and had lots of fun. It was a great Christmas Eve on Mars.

So till the next time, Merry Christmas from Mars!!


Saanvi Bahadur, Grade 1, UWCSEA East Campus, Singapore, 6 years old

Clever Saanvi wrote a free verse descriptive poem with some really lovely and imaginative imagery including 3 terrific Wicked Words. Pretty good for a 6 year old: – well done Saanvi!

Christmas on Mars

There are no Santas

And no gifts and no Christmas trees

Instead of Santa, there are flowers that give juice

Instead of gifts, Mars changes into a new place with flowers turning red

And grass turning silver and the trees are all blue

Instead of wish lists, there are boots with notes

And a wish for Christmas for the flower which gives juice on Christmas instead of Christmas trees

Girls do a dance and boys write a poem

The girls dance with a silver juice flower picture

On top of the skirt there is a silver and golden dot dot shirt

The adults organise a party for all their friends

The friends have to guess who is the person who wrote the party’s surprise letter and for who??!!!

The surprise letter does not show who gave it

It only shows who it is for

There is also yummy sumptuous food at the party

And the friends are ecstatic

There is pandemonium since people are having so much fun at the party!



Lindsey Mulligan, Grade 2, ESF Kennedy School, Hong Kong, 6 years old

Lindsey wrote a lovely story with a lot of excellent dialogue and some terrific alien characters! And the speech marks were very well done for a child of Lindsey’s age – congratulations Lindsey!


One warm dusty morning on Mars some aliens were asleep. Suddenly Santa Alien said “HO! HO! HO!” All the aliens woke up and said “SANTA ALIEN!” Presents for you Franko, Parfy, Pohadoo and Bart but no presents for you Moko. You have been so naughty this year.  And he burst out crying. “I WANT A PRESENT!” he said in an enormous voice.” Wait for a minute.”  Santa replied. I forgot to give Franko, Parfy, Pohadoo, and Bart a kiss.  No kisses for Moko. But let me think, I will give Moko a kiss. He loved Santa Claus for giving him a kiss but he wondered where his present was. OK you will all get a present. When Santa Alien finished talking to Moko, all the other aliens opened their presents and shouted, “This is so exciting!” “I want to open my present too” said Moko. “OK, there you are, a Robot from Mars. This is your present for Christmas, but you have to promise me to be a good girl.” Said Santa. Then Santa went to deliver more presents to other aliens.


Eleanor Barrett, Grade 2, ESF Kennedy School, Hong Kong, 6 years old

Eleanor’s story although short is a really good piece of writing, with some great vocabulary! It only needed a bit more of a description of Mars and the Martians to make an excellent story!

The Martian Christmas

One exciting Christmas morning on Mars some little twin aliens woke up in astonishment! Mars was not red it was white! It`s Christmas! They shouted shocked. “I`ve been waiting for this day all year” said twin 1. “Let`s go and open our presents” said twin 2. “But first we should wake up mum, dad and our big brother”. So they woke up their mum, dad and big brother. Then they went to the machine shop to get a Christmas tree. But there were no more but the twins had a spectacular idea we can make a Christmas tree out of colored paper! “You have saved our Christmas” said mum. So the Martian family made their Christmas tree out of tantalizing colored paper so they had a very merry Christmas and happy new year.


Shaye Thakrar, ESF Kennedy School Hong Kong, 5 years old

I couldn’t close this section without a mention of our youngest entrant, Shaye. Shaye even managed to use two Wicked Words correctly! What a fantastic effort for a five year old!


One day in Christmas at Mars. The Martian was evil guy. The Martian came in the building. He stole some money in the bank. The floor was red. And the ceiling is red. Full with decoration it look sumptuous.  The evil guy stole more.  Then some think happen. Santa came to see Mars.  It took long to get there I must bring presents.  Oh no!  I am very late. Yippy! Presents. Santa came to Mars.  Look what I have got.  I don’t know!  Let’s open the presents. WOW!  It is pandemonium it is exciting.  I want to play this now yes.


In this section there were a further 22 entries from the German Swiss and Singapore International schools in Hong Kong, Shanghai United International School, Shanghai American School and Western International School in Shanghai, and UWCSea East Campus in Singapore.


Shaan Mutreja, Year 3, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong, 7 years old

Congratulations Shaan on an outstanding piece of writing! I think everyone will agree that Shaan’s story is hugely imaginative and very well-written, with a great story line, some wonderfully original ideas (I especially loved the pig-like “swangler” in the last paragraph!), great imagery and superb vocabulary in addition to  four Wicked Words used correctly. A well-deserved first place Shaan!

Christmas on Mars

It was Christmas Eve and I was playing with my computerised telescope. I was observing a galaxy tour when I saw something amazing! Dots were flying from Mars to Jupiter, but they were too big to be stars. Little did I know what was happening.

A million miles away on Mars lived Narr, a nine-year-old Martian girl. But Narr was no ordinary girl; she was the youngest member of MARSS (Mars Alien Rescue & Spy Society).  Narr was sitting on her bed reading her favourite book, The Adventures of Ligoomthe Galaxy Explorer. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, Narr saw something. Narr dropped her book and turned around to see her Mars globe changing colour from red to blue – it was a level ten warning. She thought it must be something very serious and immediately teleported to the MARSS control room. Inside everyone looked serious and gloomy.

Narr soon discovered everyone was miserable because the toys in Santa’s factory had been stolen! Santa had just outsourced his toy factory to Mars. But when he arrived by sleigh and entered to fill up his sacks he only saw the wrapping machines and no toys. Santa screamed and Ola, the Martian in charge of the factory ran to see what the matter was. Santa was standing in shock with his mouth wide open but with no sound coming out. Quick as a flash, Ola ran and hit the alarm calling the MARSS agents. How could this have happened? Millions of children around the world and no toys for Santa to deliver. Imagine the pandemonium! Every single MARSS agent had been sent to investigate.

Narr was in a team of four with Ca, Bili and Ganman. Ca’s speciality was making things; he was the best inventor at MARSS.  Bili had an amazing ability to smell and he could sniff out water from two miles away. Finally Ganman, the team’s leader, was an illustrious, wise old Martian.

Narr and her team looked in every single nook and cranny but could not find anything. Suddenly Bili sensed a strange smell and had the idea to look in the air conditioning vent. There hiding was a pile of purple skin. It could only belong to the Jupitians, the archenemies of the Martians. Ever since the two moons Phobos and Deimos moved to Mars atmosphere, the Jupitians believed Martians had stolen their moons. Unlike Martians who are green in colour, Jupitians can change colour like a chameleon. But each time they change they moult their old skin so it is a bit of a giveaway, and now the picture fits! It could only mean that the Jupitians stole the toys.

Narr and her team decided to fly to Jupiter in Ca’s latest invention – the Bomb Ball- a round rocket with ten weapons that can travel at infinity miles per second. (Fun fact: Martians are not just the colour green but they are green as in environmentally friendly. They recycle objects that we put in the bin on Earth to make their equipment. A normal rocket would use 155 tissue paper rolls, however a Bomb Ball uses 992 tissue rolls.)

Jupiter is bigger than Mars and its leader is the atrocious King Ug. Ug is a big, fat Jupitian with poisonous feelers in his crown. King Ug is well known for his greediness; in fact last year he had 100 dishes at his Christmas feast all for himself.

When the team arrived at Jupiter they decided a good starting place was King Ug’s palace. Ug has a sumptuous palace which was covered in diamonds so was very easy to find. The MARSS agents hiked up Ug hill to the palace. When they were a quarter of the way up they found a clue about the missing toys. A Furby toy with a “made in Mars” sticker still stuck on it. The Jupitians must have dropped it whilst climbing the hill. They must be on the right track; the toys must be in King Ug’s palace.

The team quickly ran to the palace gates but they were locked and could only be opened with a special entry card! But this is Narr’s speciality – she is small enough to squeeze through a gap in the gate and opened it from the inside. However, the gate was old and rusty and CREAKED. They had to be quick to remain undetected. They headed to the tallest tower but a guard had heard them and pressed the intruder alarm. Luckily the presents were inside the tallest tower, but now Ug’s soldiers had surrounded the team. Ca used his watch to call the Bomb Ball, which landed on the tower roof and sucked the tower up into its boot, with Narr and her team.

On Christmas Day, Narr woke up and was not sure if the adventure was a dream or real. Her book was lying on the floor, but when she took a closer look she was very happy to find a stocking by her bed and it was filled with toys! Her senses act crazy with the glorious smell of Uncle Unflu’s roast swangler. The swangler is native to Mars. It looks like a pig with huge horns. In fact it is the horns that make the dish so delicious because they are filled with delectable honey gravy-like liquid. Narr went downstairs to a wonderful sight! All her cousins were around the tree enjoying their toys. No plants grow on Mars so the tree had been carved out of an asteroid and was decorated with real stars and glittering red rocks from the great canyon.  It looks like this year’s big hit is a battery-operated duplicator that can copy anything – including Martians. Narr’s cousins have gone crazy- so instead of 5 cousins, there are now 95. Narr is happy, the 95 cousins are happy, children all over the world are happy!


Two fabulously descriptive stories tied for second place in this section!

Divyasha Joshi, Grade 3, German Swiss International School, 7 years old

I loved Divyasha’s story about the Stonk family, their encounter with Santa, and their Slobbergob Festival! This was a fantastic effort for a seven year old – well done Divyasha!

The Christmas Santa REALLY got lost

The Stonk family – Mummy Stonk, Daddy Stonk, Slong Stonk the son, Plonk Stonk the daughter, Nonk Stonk the baby were enjoying their holiday which is just like our Christmas – not like our single day, because their celebrations lasted for one week. They were enjoying their resplendent snack Martian purple and green slimy cookies, as they got themselves ready for their holidays called Slobbergob Day…

Then suddenly a loud roar and a blast of rocks came from the ground. The Stonks looked startled. In front of them appeared a big stranger with long white beard and wearing funny red and white clothes in his sledge and his reindeer. The Stonks had no idea who or what this atrocious thing was!

Little that they knew that he was Santa who was crying and the reindeers were snorting. Santa is lost! The sleighs Satellite Navigation had gone haywire and some how Santa had ended up shooting out of the Earths gravitation and flying to Mars. Only 33 million miles away from where he should be!

“I’m lost” he sobbed as he looked around very confused indeed.

Santa started panicking and didn’t know what to do. What strange surroundings, he thought! The ground was purple, the sky was green, and the ‘people’ seemed to have pointed orange heads with 6 antennas with twisted balls of lime green slime. Their heads very pointed and bright orange colour, with 6 waving antenna. These were tiny on the baby, bigger on the children, and enormous on the Mum and Dad. The adults are about the size of a large elephant. The children are at various stages that size. The Martians seemed to be living in little cracked eggs and rocks.

The Stonks came to see what was wrong. The astonished Stonks saw what had really gone wrong and what the problem was? Santa didn’t know how to get back to earth in time for Christmas. He was really sad but his reindeers seemed very comfortable in this new land. Reindeers were adventurers and liked magic. Reindeers could also understand Martians language. The Martians were communicating by “thoughts” and they all spoke a strange language made up of grunting thoughts, shrieking thoughts, howling thoughts, car horn thoughts which if a human was to have the thoughts in their head it would be awful.

How strange – Santa couldn’t understand what was happening? How could Reindeers communicate with Martians? He was more confused than ever before?

Then Santa thought of a plan! He thought if he could somehow talk to the reindeer and they could try and explain everything to the Stonks. Will this work – he was in a dilemma? But he had no choice but to try!

The Stonks became friendly but could not talk to Santa and the snorting sounds of the stonks was driving him crazy. The reindeers were translating everything for Santa now.

They showed Santa all the things they are going to have for their Slobbergob Festival and Santa and the reindeers told them all about Christmas and they are remarkably similar.

Santa and the reindeers were invited to lunch. Here’s what they found out about Slobbergob day.

Martians celebrate Slobbergob Day over 7 days.

On the 1st day they put up a Slobber Gob tree and decorate it with slime and goo.

On the 2nd day they decorate their house.

On the 3rd day they buy presents and new clothes for their friends and family.

On the 4th day they cook big meals for the next day. They make slimy cookies, green cake, Sticky Rock salad, Yucky sparkly mellifluous yellow yogurt, effervescence lava drink.

On the 5th day they call friends and family for the big feast.

On the 6th day they go to Harrods, which is like our Church and they pray to “Stars” (their God).

On 7th day they take out the Slobbergob tree and take the decorations out otherwise it’s a bad luck!

They were amazed to see the similarities between both festivals and Santa and reindeers really enjoyed the celebrations!

After partying, feasting and having splendiferous time, now Santa looked really sad. The Stonk know how to cheer him up.

They called in their engineers and they were able to fix Santa’s  Sat Nav, everyone was happy! Santa and the reindeers had a wonderful time and now they were able to go back to earth and make sure all the lucky children would get their Christmas presents.

As they were shooting along on their way back Rudolf called out to Santa, “Santa, the sleigh weighs a bit more than it used to.”

‘Never mind’ replied Santa “it must be a mix up in the gravity fields.”

Little did they know one of the Stonk Children had sneaked on board the sleigh and is going to Earth with them!!!!!…….

Get ready for the sequel!

Russell Kwok, Grade 2, Singapore International School Hong Kong, 7 years old

What a funny and imaginative description from a 7 year old this is! Full of funny Martian names, strange Martian carols, weird gifts and food and fantastic decorations, not to mention 7 Wicked Words! There were some grammatical errors, but these were more than made up for by the originality of the writing! A wonderful effort Russell!


Boom!!Baam!! Loab!!!!!

Is it World War in Mars?  Not really. That was the Martians fire work called Mardam. The Martians were celebrating the arrival of their new born king named Marsus. (Is it like our Jesus?)

Marsus was born billion years ago. Now the Martians were celebrating Marsmas every year.

“Tomorrow is Marsmas,” said Coco’s father, Muddle. Coco was a smart Martian child with a green head and three eyes on top. Muddle had a similar head but in blue, sometimes it would turn green depending on his mood. Muddle and his children as well as every child on Mars were singing Martian bells. ” merlala, canbely…” It all sounded bamboozled to us but not to them.

While they were singing, suddenly a gargantuan shadow casted over them. Everyone was scared and ran home in pandemonium.  Oh, they did not know that it was actually Malgus Manta! Manta was a jolly old man about a million years old.  His face was blue and extremely large. He came every year to give splendiferous gifts for everyone. There were all sorts of things like silver slimy jelly, dust pens, hydrogen drink, golden marshmallow…He did not carry any gift bag, once he opened his hand, the gift would appear like magic.

Everyone would get a gift even the most atrocious wizard from planet Naboo would not be missed.  He was locked at a high security prison called Marcan. Manta gave him something called “to-be-good potion”. It was a famous antidote.

During Marsmas, the Martians ate something special too. They liked dusty choco log and pink Martian turkey with black meat. They also had something very strange called Galtegu. It was like a piece of golden ham with purple escargot and some blue ice cream. It was perhaps serendipitous to them.

The city also had decorations like floating stars and planet’s confetti, Pluto trees and signs made of Mars rainbow dust! It was very bright everywhere, a bit hyperbole. Their houses looked like ginger bread house and they were eatable indeed. However, the Martian hated the taste. Maybe we would find it tasty!

Although Martians celebrated their Marsmas in a very different way but they all looked very happy!


Vedant Bahadur, Grade 2, UWCSea East Campus, Singapore, 8 years old

I think that Vedant’s story is great; there’s a good strong story line, with a great start and an even better ending. Perhaps the only thing missing is more description of Mars and the Martians to give a stronger sense of place. Very well done Vedant!

Christmas on Mars

My name is Ben and I have always wanted to visit Mars. One day, we got a letter from the Space Center saying “Your invitation to visit Mars with us is on 19th Dec 2012. You are allowed to take 2 people. P.S. 24th Dec is Christmas and we will celebrate Christmas on Mars.”

So let me tell you about our visit to Mars.

When I and my mother reached the Space Center, the Captain of the ship greeted us with a broad smile. The Captain taught us how to live on a Spaceship after which we boarded the ship. The Captain said “ We are going to take off in 10, 9, 8,7,6,5,4, 3,2,1,0….. Blast off!” The rocket zoomed through the air and out of Earth’s atmosphere. I was so happy that my dream was coming true! I looked out of the window; all of those stars I saw looked so big! Finally, it was lunchtime. The food was so sumptuous, but the food was floating all over the place! After lunch, the Captain showed us the spot where we could get a good view of space. I saw some kind of orange ball. I asked the Captain what it was. When he saw it he got very excited. He told me that it was Mars. He even said that we might be the fastest people to get to Mars! I felt even more excited because my dream was coming true on a special day and that we might be the fastest people to reach Mars.

As we drew closer, I could see how orange Mars really was. It was nearly dinner time when we reached Mars. The Captain had prepared some sumptuous food on the ship. He said “We have to come back to the ship to eat every meal. I shall put cameras all over the camp. Oops… I forgot to tell you that we are going to set up a camp site.” I said “But I don’t know how to set up one”. My Mum said “We are here also to learn how to set up a camp site sweetheart”.

After we set up the tent, the Captain said “If you need to use the bathroom, go inside the ship. Can you please get the sleeping bags in the ship and put them inside your tent”. We saluted him and did as we were told. The Captain just laughed.

The next day, the Captain allowed us to explore. For some reason, we were not floating. We walked further. We met a Martian! My Mother and the Martian were shocked but I was not. I just said “How is Christmas on Mars like?” “Ah…Martmas” said the Martian. I took out my notebook and wrote that Martians say Christmas as Martmas.

“First tell me what you are and who you are?” said the Martian. I said. “I am Ben and this is my mother and we are humans. And you?” The Martian said “I am Martan. Only people with green stockings and a Martmas tree get presents but I don’t think you will get any since there are no more trees left!”

“What!” cried me and Mother at the same time. “It’s a long story, sit down and let me tell you. A long time ago, Mars was full of trees, water and streams. Each family took one tree and placed it in their house. But after many years living happily here on Mars, 2 volcanoes erupted at the same time and it destroyed everything in the wild except us, our houses, and our trees” said Martan. “Thanks for your help, Martan, Bye” said me and my mother. We waved goodbye to Martan and walked away.

When we got back I went to the Captain and said “We don’t get presents here if we don’t have a Christmas tree shaped like a Martian’s head”.

“I got a Christmas tree on the ship, all we have to do is trim it in the shape you want it to be” replied the Captain. The Captain handed me a trimmer. With my mother’s help, I trimmed the tree to look like a Martian’s head. As the day went by I met more Martians and got even more excited, since Christmas was coming closer. Soon it was Christmas Eve, and the Captain showed us three stockings, 2 were red and one was green.

Forgetting what the first Martian said, we took the two red ones because I like red. As for the Captain he shouted “Yay” and happily took the green one.

After we ate dinner, I found it surprising that I slept fast. Normally, on Christmas Eve it’s hard for me to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up early thinking that the Captain would not get any presents! I quickly woke up my mother and told her. We quickly got out the presents we had got for the captain, sneaked to the tree and put the presents inside his stockings. We then went to our stockings and looked inside. My mother got some books for adults and I got books about Space and Mars, and how Martians speak and live. We were so ecstatic! Then it suddenly it struck me! On Mars only people with green stockings got presents. Then how did we get any? We were totally bamboozled.

The Captain smiled and said “I realized that you would not get any presents and sneaked in some for you and so did all the Martians”. I exclaimed “We thought the same since you had green stockings and had forgotten about how it is on Mars! This is SPLENDIFEROUS!”

We all smiled and said “There is no difference between Christmas and Martmas! It’s all about giving on Mars as it is on Earth.”



Annie Lee, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School, Shanghai, 9 years old

Annie’s story is an interesting take on Dr. Seuss’s famous story The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I really enjoyed reading this tale of terrible rules, a clever solution and a very strange dream. The spelling, punctuation and grammar were very good too – well done Annie!

Christmas on Mars

Ms. Lizi came home from work.  She was very exhausted.  She fell right to sleep as soon as got into bed.

Suddenly she was on the outside of the Earth. She was on a planet.  The planet was red like a fire truck, and as cold as the North Pole.  She shivered. She shivered so much that she could hear her teeth were shaking.  When she looked up, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

There were living creatures on Mars!  They were as small as a baby and they had green skin all over.  They all had sad faces.  They were Grinches.  The Grinches were the creatures who lived on Mars for 20,000 years.  When they saw her, they welcomed her.  They told it was Christmas. She was confused. It didn’t have a single decoration. They told the rules of Mars. Number one, do things bad to make others feel sad or mad!  Number two, spend the whole time yourself and never help others!  Number three, if someone feel lonely, make that Grinch feel more lonely or sad!

Ms.Lizi was surprised.  How could the rules do that?  She asked the Grinches, “Do you follow the terrible, atrocious rules?  They shook their heads madly.  “Who made those rules?”  She asked kindly.  They cried a little bit.  They said in a small voice, “This rule was very old. It started after king Grinch Hinch III died and Grinch Hinch IV ruled the planet.  It still continued until now, even though the queen Grinch Hinch IFFwas ruling the land!

Ms.Lizi’s face turned red. She was so mad.  She thought the kings who kept the rules were ineffable.  So she decided to find a solution for this, then make the rules vanish forever.  She thought and discussed it over and over for ideas.  They voted for the best idea.

It was: Turn on the Christmas carols for 2 weeks very loudly everywhere.

Then a little kid Grinch came rushing.  “We need to take action in this right this second!  Quick!  The queen is about to give birth to Grinch Hinch the 10,000.  She hates Christmas carols!  That interrupts her so she will stop doing what she was doing and sit in the bed for 10 minutes!  We will need to do it!”  Ms.Lizi took a peek out the window.  She saw a female Grinch that was black all over and had a wrinkly face. The other Grinch told her that the female Grinch was the queen.

They put the speakers nearest the queen’s bed, and turned on the carols.  They were so lucky that the queen had opened all the windows wide.  It would be louder and better to hear.  When the queen heard it, she sat up and screamed, “Stop it right now!”  Then the Grinch turned it on louder.  Every time she ordered it to stop, the Grinches put it louder.  So she gave up and called the king. “Delete the rules!!”  Then the music stopped.  The Grinches cheered.

They set up the Christmas tree.  But it was -100 degrees centigrade.  It was too cold.  So every Grinch went to their homes.  The next morning the Christmas tree was frozen. It still looked nice then the bell rang.  It meant the king was going to talk about something.  So they listened, “Dear all Grinches, I’m so sorry that I treated everyone so badly.  I’ll let everyone be nice to each other, and the rules are changed to the opposite of the bad rules. I will let the Grinch Hinch 10,000 treat you very nicely.  I promise I will!  Plus, I’ll train the queen to get used to the carols.  You can celebrate Christmas every year!  Good bye and merry Christmas to everybody on Mars.”  The Grinches cheered again. They were exuberant.

They put up more decorations.  The next morning, it was frozen and looked very cool.  It was very beautiful.

Ms. Lizi was looking everywhere with amazement.  Suddenly some kind of noise was wandering.  It became shiny and hot!  The ice decoration started to melt. She gasped.  Everyone else did too. They couldn’t live in hot weather.  Ms. Lizi started to imagine about frosty winter woods.  It was normal again.  Suddenly, a noisy bell rang really loudly 30 times.  She found out that the noise was an alarm that used to wake her up.

She opened her eyes.  It was just a dream! She thought she had a mellifluous dream.  When she put her glasses on, then looked at the clock, she was surprised.  She was terribly late for work!  She was three hours late.  She imagined the students were playing wildly, jumping up and down on tables and chairs, talking loudly, chasing, running everywhere and fooling around and creating pandemonium. She went to do her daily morning things as fast as an ineffable big tornado.


Cherry Wu, Grade 3, Shanghai American School, Shanghai, 8 years old

Cherry’s story is a great mystery with a very touching ending! I loved some of the descriptions of Mars too – good effort Cherry!

The Unwrappable Present In Mars

Katy was a little girl living in Mars, she was eight years old. She had three blue eyes, half black half blond hair and she had three hands. She was always wearing a purple shirt on, and was living with her grandma and grandpa.

Their house had four windows, two in the front, two at the back, the windows were shaped like triangles, and they had a garden in the back of their house, the plants were actually bugs but they were just curled in a ball and never went away.

Inside the house was a couch, and it was made of jelly. The light bulbs of their lamp were actually flyer flies which made it light up.

It was Christmas time in Mars, Mars has ten blue suns all shining together, and the snow would be pink, just like cotton candy. Every Christmas there would be a little celebration where each kid would find a box! Each box was unwrappable when they found it. A shining star would appear on the ceiling of each kid’s bedroom, telling the kid where to find a book, all the clues of opening the unwrappable box would be there for you to unlock the present.

One night, Katy walked past a Christmas tree which has splendiferous decorations. Katy found a sparkling box under the Christmas tree. The box had layers and layers of ribbons, each time she pulled the ribbon off another one popped up! On top of the box, there was a word “Mystery” and it had a hole, she tried to open it but she couldn’t. Katy realized that it was the unwrappable present!!! She was so happy she danced with joy and chuckled “now I need the star.” A few days later when she went to sleep, Katy saw a star on her bedroom ceiling. Katy was so amazed she whispered “this can’t be happening.” And she asked the star “where is the clue?”

The star said wisely, “you will find a book that says Mystery under your bed, good luck!” after the star finished its sentence, the star grew dimmer and dimmer and finally disappeared.

Katy went under her bed like a fire ball and got the book!!! She flipped to the first page, and there it was, the key to the present. She bolted to the present like a flying dragon, she tried to open it but it didn’t work. When she pulled out the key there came out a little stamp, it had a picture of a present. Katy was a very curious girl so the first thing she did was to put it on her hand and opened the present again, this time it worked!!! Inside the box was a letter! It said “from AMY, your mom” When Katy saw that letter she was surprised and thrilled. Her mom has been in New Zealand for quite some time already and couldn’t come back until a year after.

The letter said “My dear darling, I know you really missed me, and I’m very glad that you opened this present. I think you are so omniscient. I want to tell you that you are always in my heart, especially in this Christmas.” And Katy led out an illustrious smile and a tear crawled down her face and she whispered “Mom you are also in my heart too.”


There were 21 excellent entries in this section, from seven schools in Hong Kong (German Swiss International and Shatin Junior School), Shanghai (Shanghai United International, Shanghai American School Puxi and Western International School Shanghai), Singapore (UWC Sea East Campus) and Taiwan (Morrison Academy Kaohsiung).


Valerie Ang, Year 5, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong, 10 years old

Congratulations to Valerie on the standout entry in this section! Valerie’s descriptive essay is not only very detailed and highly imaginative, but also very funny! I also enjoyed Valerie’s analytical and sometimes confessional style. My only observation is that the ending could have been a little stronger. Overall this is an original and excellent effort which thoroughly deserves first place. Well done Valerie!

Christmas On Mars


The people of Mars do not celebrate Christmas but celebrate a similar festival called Marsmas. No one knows its origins (except of course the Martians) but what we do know is it is related to a festival in honor of the illustrious Martian god called Spindallo. . He is often pictured in a little blue business suit with a red baseball cap, eating tinned rhubarb crumble.

Spindallo is the god of taking away.  Instead of him giving Martians presents, like Santa, the Martians have to give him presents to keep him happy. If a Martian does not give him a gift, he will stop rhubarb growing on that Martian’s property.

How Spindallo takes the Martians gift away

Spindallo owns a flying Ferrari from the year 2999. He uses this to zoom around Mars at 66666 miles per hour, collecting presents that everybody has left on their rooftops.

The Note

If Spindallo likes the Martians’ gift he will leave them a note in a random place in their house. These notes can be sold for up to 500 Vatarsa, the currency of Mars (currently 1 Vatarsa =20000 HKD).

Days leading up to Marsmas

In the days leading up to Marsmas, Martians have to get their houses ready.  Here is what Martians would do.

  1. Strip all colorful wallpaper of the walls. Replace with beige wallpaper
  2. Put up bundles of rhubarb leaves on their front door.
  1. Lastly, put up      the largest portrait of Spindallo that they could find on their wall

Spindallo likes everything that is not related to fun. This is because he is a very old god and gets cranky very often. Spindallo also thinks fun is only related to noise

Here is a list of top five presents for Spindallo:

1. A new business suit

2. Earmuffs (to keep out the noise)

3. A new baseball cap

4. Classical music (Methoven, the Martian equivalent of Beethoven)

5. A new Ferrari

Atmosphere during Marsmas

The atmosphere is very solemn and there are no decorative items around. Some Martians try to cheer it up by walking around with big radios that are playing this song:

(To the tune of away in a manger)

Away on a mountain top,

No more rhubarb pie,

And li-ttle baby Spindallo

Sits down to have a cry.

Vendors give out free liquidized rhubarb crumble and rhubarbed pies (Martian substitute of minced pies).

A typical Marsmas day schedule

Marsmas days are tiring and long- here is what a typical family would do.

5am-7am: Wake up. Do not brush teeth or have shower, as you might accidentally wash away the note from Spindallo.

8am: Breakfast. Usually rhubarb crumble flattened into a pancake or pressed into a waffle.

9am-11:45am: Look for the note

12pm-2pm: Large lunch. This is the main meal of the day. Usually rhubarb crumble molded into a turkey shape and rhubarb instead of Brussels sprouts.

2:10pm-3pm: Go to Murch (Mars equivalent of church) and sing carols to Spindallo

This is the most famous carol about Spindallo:

Spindallo is the greatest one of all our race.(clap 3x)

He fights stu-pen-dously with a mace.

That is why, we are here to–day,

to cel-er-bra-ate Mars-mas.(Clap 3x)

(repeat 3x)

3pm: Go to town hall to see the mayor put up a 30 feet tall statue of Spindallo.

3:30pm-5:30pm: Free time. Do whatever you want

5:30pm-6:30pm: Prepare for dinner

6:45pm: Eat dinner- the most splendiferous meal of the day as everyone in the family is allowed to choose one product that has been imported from earth to have for dessert.(for example chocolate)

7:15pm: Early bed time- you will need it!

11pm: Wake up- have a GARGANTUAN and by that I mean GARGANTUAN supper. (again rhubarb crumble)

12am: Back to bed.

What Martians Eat to celebrate Marsmas

Like I said, Spindallo is often pictured eating rhubarb crumble. So of course that is what everyone eats. Well, I’m sorry if you don’t like it, you will have to put up with it. In case you didn’t know, rhubarbs are the only fruit or vegetable that could adapt to Mars’s harsh conditions. It might also explain why Martians are green- because they eat too many rhubarb leaves.

The morning after

The morning after Marsmas is very hectic and chaotic because trust me, with everyone running around trying to put up their colorful wallpaper at the same time its absolute chaos. Martians who have sold their notes get huge sums of money and are grinning with joy and wondering where to spend it.


So maybe now I have told you all the facts, you are wondering why Martians celebrate Marsmas. I honestly don’t know why, but Marsmas is maybe totally opposite from Christmas on Earth.


I confess that I simply could not choose between the next two very entertaining stories, which therefore come an equal second and third! I thought the ideas were original, the dialogue strong, and the beginnings and endings were very well-executed. My only suggestion is that there could have been a more detailed description of the Martian setting in each case. Two wonderful stories overall – well done girls!

Gabrielle Liu, Grade 5, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, 11 years old

Martian Night, Martian Night. Mars is calm, stars are bright. Yonder virgin, Martianette and child-” the music stopped at a strict voice.

“NO! What pain to my ears! Ugh! Melanie! What on Mars is wrong with you?! That voice of yours is a disgrace. Those notes were completely flat and off key!” Ms. Comet shouted.

I felt my antennas burn and I hung my head. I wish she wasn’t so fastidious about the concert.

“Lilly, on the other hand- what a mellifluous voice you’ve been given! Wonderful!” Lilly flashed me a smug look.

“OK class, time to go!” I dashed outside, avoiding contact with anyone’s eyes. A group of Martianettes and Martians were arguing outside.

“NO! It’s not possible!” a Martianette shouted. “We are out of ingredients! How are we supposed to make dessert at the gathering? Impossible!” She yelled again.

“I don’t know, but let’s do what we can,” a Martian said.

“Uh, excuse me,” I interrupted. “But I think I may be able to help.

“We are not in a mood for your pranks, kid,” another Martian grumbled.

“No, really, you can take red dust sugar”, I scooped some off the ground. The dust could be easily manufactured into sugar.

“Then bake some cornbread with it so it tastes like cake.”

The Martianette who was complaining before shook her head. “It’s so plain, no decoration! We have no icing or sprinkles.”

“You could use rock candy for sprinkles, “I suggested.

A Martian looked at me and said, “Come with me.”

We started walking to Mar’s dessert factory when I saw a rover with carolers in it roll past us. “We wish you a merry Christmas! We wish you-“they sang.

I hung my head down again. Why couldn’t I sing? It’s not fair! The rovers were sent here from some mythical creatures called “humans” from the planet “earth,” according to Santa Clauka.

The thought amused me and we walked in to the factory. Inside were thousands of workers. Cooking, baking, and decorating like mad. The Martian led me to an empty table.

Gathering red dust, rock candy, and cornbread ingredients, he told me “I would like you to show me your recipe.”

Moving my eight fingers quickly, I mixed, beat and poured different ingredients in to a huge pan. When the oven beeped, the Martian pulled the handle. A sweet and warm aroma filled the air. Cutting the cake with a knife, he took a bite, chewing slowly. “My,” he whispered, “I may have underestimated you.”

The Plaza was packed with Martians and Martianettes. I quickly grabbed a treat before heading toward the risers. Taking a bite, I paused- what was this? It was sweet and warm. Tastier than any other dessert I’ve had. I glanced down and gasped, it was the cornbread I bake!

“Hurry, hurry!” Ms. Comet said before I could think any further. She pushed me toward the risers.

“Before we begin,” The mayor began, “Lets thank our Christmas Committee for their work on the resplendent display!” He gestured toward the snack table.

“And the chefs who prepared all these finger-licking treats!”

A round of clicks and growls came from the crowd as they applauded.

“But this year we lacked ingredients because of that terrible sandstorm- Hurricane Sandy,” he said solemnly. “So we had to find new recipes that only used what we had. We were able to bake a treat that a fellow Martianette came up with, Melanie Grrkn.”

A moment of shock and surprise passed through me. They actually used my idea!

It was only then I realized that I didn’t need to be the best at anything, whether it was singing or cooking. As long as I’m happy, that all that matters, because that is what Christmas really is. Happiness.

Grace Hsu, Grade 5, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, 10 years old

How Love came to Mars (An old Christmas legend)

A skinny finger pokes me in the side. I roll over and press myself against my comfortable bed. “Minky, stop it.” I say, and open my eyes to glare at my younger brother.

Minky jumps back. “Um, hi, Merdia, I’d better go.” He runs out the door to work.

I grin and get off my bed. The rest of my family is absent. I hurry off to my work at the botanical gardens.

Along the way I stop at the science lab. My dad is the head scientist there. Looking in, I see the lab is empty. He is probably at the gardens, checking our Christmas tree.

At the gardens, I notice our exuberant harvest of sour berries has finished. I scan the Martian-filled place for my mom, finding her beside my dad.

I run towards her. “Hi, Mom!” As soon as the words escape my mouth I know something is wrong. My jaw drops open at the sight of our once gorgeous Christmas tree, lying on the ground, shriveling into what looks like a twisted thorn bush. “What’s wrong with it?” I manage to say.

My father looks at me with eyes that brim with sorrow. “Old age.”

The two words stun me. Old age? From what I heard, this Christmas tree sprouted just 10 years ago. Surely a decade can’t be enough to kill this beautiful tree!

“Yes, 10 years.” My dad seems to read my thoughts. “It died in 10 years because it did not sprout here.” My father spreads his hand around him. “The only plant in this garden that is native to Mars is the sour berry.”


He motioned for me to follow him. “There are some secrets that only scientists share.”

I step once again into the dusty science lab. Around me, shelves are lined with notebooks. My dad takes one and shows me a picture. “This is Earth.” he says.

“So?” I peer at the blue circle with patches of green.

“It’s where all our roses, poinsettias, buttercups, and of course, our Christmas tree, come from.”

“So, will we get a new Christmas tree from there?” I ask.

“Yes, of course.” My father replies. “Christmas is the only time of the year when we celebrate. It is a time when we are magnanimous. We will need a Christmas tree, so we will get a Christmas tree!”

“Yay!” the group of scientists chorus.

“We will leave tomorrow on an UFO.” My dad says. “And you can go too.” He adds to me.

I know I should be happy, but for some reason, I’m not. I have a bad feeling about this, but I shut it out.

The next morning, I step into the UFO and take my place. It is very squishy, but the mechanisms look absolutely splendiferous.

As we take off, the bad feeling comes back and grows worse. I feel so bad that I don’t even want to look outside at all the stars, or listen to the other scientist’s chatter.

Once we land, I look outside at this new white world. And it’s so cold!

My father frowns. “This isn’t the right place.” He tries to start the engine again, but it fails. “We’re stuck.”

“Don’t mind that.” A scientist gets up.

“Let’s go find that Christmas tree.” The scientists dance out the door, not even waiting for me. I don’t want to go out anyway. It’s so cold!

Instead I search around the UFO and find out that a wire was unplugged. I plug it back in just as the scientists stumble back in, white with cold. I close the door behind them and think.

I remember my weird feeling. Now I know what it was. A small voice was speaking inside me. It was trying to tell me something, but I wasn’t listening.

“What?” I whisper, close my eyes, and concentrate. What was that my dad said? Christmas is a time to be magnanimous

My eyes snap open. That’s it! “I’m going back to Mars.” I say to no one in particular.

My dad opens his eyes and stares at me. “But we didn’t get a Christmas tree.”

I smile at him. “Christmas isn’t about the Christmas tree. Christmas is actually about…” I ponder, and finally the new word comes out: “… love.”

And that is how love came to Mars. If you ever come here, you will not regret it.  


Joseph Hsu, Grade 5, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, 10 years old

Well done Joseph on coming a very close fourth place, with your exciting story about interplanetary war! The action was fast and furious, as well as good fun! Perhaps next time a more detailed description of the setting and a slightly stronger ending would make your story even better!

Christmas Terror on Mars

Chapter 1: Mercury

Fire sparks exploded. The scientist Merclan de Arlson lifted the new laser gun and smiled. Then officer Gorl boomed in the laboratory.

“Is the new laser gun finished?” he demanded.

“Yes, sir”, replied Merclan,” I have added the unknown element to the laser so that it will overheat whenever it touches Martian skin.

“Good. We will pay them revenge because they angered us in Galactic War I (World War in space). They killed 9,542 solider injured more than 15,000. They will pay for it. I swear they will.”

When they arrived at the military base, Gorl made the announcement.

“We will attack them while they’re drunk in laughter and entertainment”, he explained,” we will attack with the new guns, so that the laser will overheat and burn when making contact, causing them to burn into thin air. This happens with the help of the unknown element.”

“Um”, said one of the soldiers,” how will they be drunk in entertainment?”

“Easy”, replied Gorl, “We strike… on Christmas.”

Chapter 2: Mars

“I can’t wait to join the Christmas party”, exclaimed Karix as he and his mother rushed to the mall. They entered the guarded mall after showing their passports, greeting friends on the way. Karix gazed at the shiny blue skin of his friends and smiled. Who knows what’ll happen on such an exciting day?

Then he looked at the Christmas tree, watching the little flame dance on top of it. How foolish humans were to put stars, he thought as he was tantalized from lighting the whole tree. The iridescence of the tree shimmered with bright light. Then the orchestra began to play Santa Claus, which humans changed to Deck the Halls.

Santa Claus is coming to town Fa la la la la la la la la He will never let us down Fa la la la la la la la la …”

Then…Boom!!! The little flame grew and shined even brighter! Santa, in his green suit, jumped out and waved his hands. But before anybody cheered, alarms blared and red flashing lights flooded the room.

Chapter 3: Battle

A second after the sirens, before the crowd could make a giant pandemonium, the sound of gunfire rang out and unlucky Martians started getting hit. Because the laser was special, the bodies of the poor inhabitants evaporated the instant they were shot. Suddenly, a laser shot Santa’s skinny belly and the laser reflected, destroying one of the troops.

“What! What happened?” demanded Gorl. Santa hesitated then pulled his green coat off. Everybody gasped.      Santa didn’t have blue Martian skin. His body was a mix of gold and copper. He grew silent.

“I’m a Saturan from Saturn”, he said at last. I was old friends with Santa of Mars. We decided to prank each other’s planet. Now your Santa is on Saturn. Then some other soldiers fired at Santa, but the laser reflected with a flash and destroyed the soldiers.

“My skin reflects the unknown element”, Santa explained,” I will fend them off.” And he picked up the laser.

“Here it goes”, he muttered, and he fired rapidly.

Chapter 4: Victory

Karix thought of this as the best Christmas ever. One of the great pleasures was watching Santa beating up the soldiers. Santa fired the laser at the soldiers from Mercury, making them collapse one after another. Sometimes, Santa would slide tackle a soldier or kick them hard. Once he even jump-kicked a soldier, causing it to fly hard onto the wall.

Although it was so awesome to Karix, he still hid behind a pole. All the others had already fled out of the mall. Karix suddenly heard a BOOM!

When the dust cleared, Santa was on the ground with a soldier trying to choke him. Santa tried to gasp for air, but the grip was very tight. Karix finally couldn’t bare it.

“NOOOO!” he cried. The soldier turned, loosening his grip on Santa’s neck. And a second was all Santa needed. He kicked upwards and the soldier flew backwards. He pointed the laser and shot the soldier. Now only Gorl was left.

But before Gorl could do anything, a bright blue streak of laser hit his head and he collapsed. Both Santa and Karix were shocked.          Then another Santa landed on the ground with a parachute, followed by a whole parade of Saturans. It was Santa from Mars!

The Santas shook hands. Then they said

“We will award Karix for his bravery. Do you want to celebrate on Saturn or Mars?”

“I want to see Saturn!” Karix cried

And so the first Christmas they celebrated Christmas together, making it a tradition.

And just FYI (For your information) that is how Mercury decided to plan another greater attack.


Pranali Joshi, Grade 6, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong, 10 years old

Another terrific story, this time from Pranali Joshi. There were some great details here of life on Mars, including lava baths and weird Martian party food, though the story line about a coffee-stained dress perhaps could have been a little more Martian in nature and the ending could have been a little stronger! Overall a great effort though!

Christmas on Mars – Tincinian Day

Once upon a golden goo on Mars lived the SLIMEY family. The family consisted of Mum, Dad, Mica and Mid. Mum was a kind and nurturing person and Dad always followed her orders. Dad was very obedient and kind. Mica and Mid were twins at the age of 9. Mica being a girl was more organized than Mid as he was a boy.

At their pudding-shaped home they went through the same routine everyday: getting up, bathing their bumpy bodies in lava from Mt Melly, followed by a hearty breakfast. Mica and Mid then went to school which they absolutely hated, while Dad went to work at the Local Bank and Mum went to socialize. After arriving back home at night they had a pleasant, warm dinner. Such simple lives they had, but today was different. Today was the day before Tincinian day.

Tincinian day was the most widely celebrated and most important festival of all Minion (Million) years. Today was different because Mica and Mid stayed home from school (which they were really excited about) and spent the whole day doing preparations and being allocated a wide range of tasks.

Mum was allocated all the household duties except one, bringing hot coal from Mt Melly, which Dad did. Mica was allocated the job of helping the government to get the Quintuplet hall ready for the next days’ functions. On the other hand Mid was told to fold and take out all clothes and ornaments for Tincinian day. These jobs took up the whole day.

Finally the day had come and The Quintuplet hall would be resplendent and so would they. After their super hot lava bath they spent what they called in Martian a hone (a hour) to get ready with all their decorations and special Tincinian accessories. But suddenly…

“Oh no!” came mother’s horrendous cry from across the corridor. Hearing the cry of horror Mica flung herself across the corridor into mother’s room only to be further astonished. On mother’s perfect, baby pink dress was a dark stain across her stomach. Suddenly father and Mid came running over. As soon as they saw the stain they were frozen in their tracks.

“How did that happen?” Mica inquired.

“Mmmy ccoffeee sssspilllt ffromm ttthe dddresssing tttable,” my mother stuttered.

“Oh no. We’ll be late for the party if we don’t go soon. The quickest time to clean up a stain like that is a hone. What should we do?” said Mica. After a while of thought…

“Ah ha,” said Mica turning to mum, “You could check in your drawers and closet and see if there is anything else to wear.” She was answered by a satisfied nod from mum. Mum then rushed over to her cupboard flinging her clothes onto her bed.

“Nothing will work,” she said with a quivering lower lip. While mother was looking through her cupboard father had left the room.

Suddenly he entered holding a beautiful baby blue dress, which flowed mellifluously to the ground.

“This is your wedding dress if you don’t remember. It will do won’t it?” asked dad. With gaping mouths the family nodded. Mum suddenly grabbed the beautiful dress and hurriedly got dressed. She looked gorgeous in it. Sitting on their little scooter they finally arrived at the Quintuplet hall. Where they celebrated Tincinian day with all other families from across the state.

People were dressed up as animals as well as witches and ghosts with fangs and what not. On top of that there were huge platters of purple and blue cookies, blue cakes, blue kachoris and endless sweets and junk food. Mother has always been fastidious to never drop or spill any food or drink and to always use a spark and knave to eat. You see this was the joy of Tincinian day as during the year a government rule was the Martians were strictly not allowed to eat any of the above as they were considered as junk food. It was the best party ever. They also had a disco, which was the best as they had all the best, rock, rock bands songs playing!

After the looong party the Smileys went home and had an extra long lava shower followed by a well-deserved hoo (sleep). Their dreams were about their lovely party and thinking that they should host such a great party at their home. That was not an unique idea as every single soul on Mars was thinking the exact same thing….

Their life was the same and dull as before only lighting up during the honored festival of Tincinian.


Natasha Diederen, Grade 5, UWCSea East Campus, Singapore, 10 years old

I couldn’t end this section without a special mention for Natasha’s story. Natasha has been entering my Clever Competitions for several years now and her writing is going from strength to strength. Her story, set in Ancient Greece, is very well-written and includes a large amount of excellent rhyming verse, but sadly, while it ends on Mars in the last sentence, it isn’t set on Mars which was an important requirement in this competition! So although the story is of place-winning quality, unfortunately I couldn’t award Natasha a place this time. I thought you all would enjoy her wonderful story though, so I’ve included it below:

In Greece there lived a very old man called Taras who had an old but beautiful wife called Rheia,  a daughter called Doris and a son called Pelagios.

Pelagios, Doris and their parents lived in a small cottage near the sea because they all worshiped Poseidon – Greek God of the sea.

One day Poseidon burst out of the sea and went to the small cottage. “I have watched your family grow,” Poseidon said, “and it has never stopped believing in me. As a reward, you are invited to come to Olympianus. The road is hard, but not if you have these,” he pulled out an ancient map, a large golden key decorated with rocks and shells and other things from the sea, and three magic pearls.

Use the map for the way,

Use the key for the door,

Use the pearls in dismay,

For you won’t be on shore

said Poseidon, and like he came, he went.

Taras hid the pearls, and the family got ready to leave the next day.

Now Taras and Rheia were very old so they forgot things and Doris and Pelagios were quite young and weren’t really bothered by things. So they all forgot about the pearls.

The next day they set off with the map and the key. The map read: TO OLYMPIANUS VIA THE OCEAN. Underneath there was a way through the ocean. The door to Olympianus lay inside the island, at the other side of the ocean that a few leagues away from the cottage.  Written on the back of the map was a poem:

“Go to the deep depths of the sea,

Seek the right path, not one to me.

Do not go back, do not stray,

Or else you will not find the way.”

The family entered the water and searched for their path. On each path there was a sign. The sign for Olympianus read:

“To Olympianus this path will go,

Do not tarry or be slow.

Chose one gift to be a token,

But let not your heart be broken.

You will not get your token back,

So one gift you will lack.

Pearl, map, or key,

Which one will it be?

Put it in the box’s center,

And now, I bid you enter.”

Taras looked at the map for a while, then he folded it and slowly inserted it into the center of the box.

“What did you do that for papa?” asked Pelagios.

“The pearls we left,

Our luck is bereft.

The key is for the final door,

Not any ones before.

 The route is simple as things don’t cross it,

So we don’t need the map one bit.”

said Taras as they continued into the underwater world.

The journey was finished before the day was over. Partly because they left very early, and partly because nothing attacked them (Poseidon wanted the family urgently).

The ocean doors to Olympianus were resplendent, decorated with items from the sea. The pearls were iridescent, the shells were splendiferous, and the draped seaweed was such a lovely shade of dark green.

Taras turned the key in the keyhole slowly and with shaking hands, the door creaked open, but instead of Poseidon greeting them as they had expected, Ares[5] greeted them. “Welcome Euaristos-”

“There must be some mistake,” interrupted Taras, “I have come on the orders of Poseidon.”

Just then Poseidon arrived, “Ah, here are my little helpers,” he said, “There is a bit of trouble here due to Christianity. We banish Christians to the Planet Mars, but there are probably secret meetings because there are odd things happening here. Your job is to report the Christians to Zeus and I and we’ll banish them.”

“We will do that,” replied Taras, “Now, can we go to section of the city?”

The city of Poseidon was of ineffable beauty. The family was exuberant, never had they seen such splendour.  The next day they set to work and followed some people into a secret meeting. When they got back to the house they were inspired to become Christians. “I tell you,” said Taras, “Christians live greater lives than us. Tomorrow I am going to speak to them and convince them to come to Mars. Then we will tell Poseidon that we are Christians and where the secret meetings are, and all of us will be banished.”

After that talk they did just as Taras said. The next secret meeting, Taras asked the bishop leave to speak, then he said his voice ringing loud and clear through the hiding spot,

“My fellow citizens, of young and old,

To Poseidon or Zeus this must be told.

When we are banished we need not hide,

Who will stand by my side?

If we are banished together,

Leave each other we will never.

So who will come? And who will stay?

Now we must go without delay”

After this was said, Taras and his family left, and following came most of the Christians.

Into Zeus’s room he and his faithful Christians came. “Well,” thundered Zeus, “What do you have to say?”

“I have come to say that all people in this room are Christians including me and my family,” replied Taras.

“Never in my life have I been so angry as today!” Zeus thundered, “I trusted you! I put all faith into you! And now? And now? You stop believing in us! Be off!”  The whole city shook with his anger.

Just as Zeus finished, there was a puff of smoke and all the Christians disappeared to Mars. They arrived on Mars on Christmas Day and Taras sang

“On Christmas Day we came to stay,

When Jesus in his cradle lay.

We are free! We are free!

The stars shine for us to see.

We are free! We are free!”

Even today this song can be heard during Christmas on Mars.


It was a real treat to hear from Andrea Phillips and Whitney Yu, who you may remember were regular competitors (and sometimes winners) in my competitions in the past two years. Now that they are both in high school, they are no longer eligible to enter my Clever Competitions, but they still sent me some poems about a Martian Christmas! I thought they were so good that you all might want to read them! Here they are:

Andrea Phillips, Year 7, South Island School, 11 years old

Christmas on Mars

What would Christmas on Mars be,

What would Christmas taste, let’s see.

Turkey on an open fire,

An old tailor’s used attire.

What would Christmas on Mars be,

What would Christmas smell, let’s see.

The sumptuous smell of scented red flags,

Or old and copied Cinderella rags.

What would Christmas on Mars be,

What would Christmas look like, let’s see,

People laid with idiosyncrasies or,

Swarms of red and green bumble bees.

What would Christmas on Mars be,

What would Christmas sound like, let’s see.

A pandemonium of beeping cars,

Or the gentle sound of slimy spas.

What would Christmas on Mars be,

What would Christmas feel like, let’s see.

Velvet rolls of soft white tissue, or

The shiny feel of a new alien issue.

In the end I think you should know,

Christmas isn’t about the snow.

It doesn’t matter if it’s on Mars,

It matters that it’s in our hearts.

Whitney Yu, Grade 7, Canadian International School, Hong Kong,  11 years old

It’s Christmas on Mars!

Christmas has come to the planet of Mars.

We’ll be dancing amongst all the dust and the stars!

The Christmas-Stone Rolling Race may seem bizarre,

But we also have crackers that drop Earthling cars!

Oh Martians love Christmas, the highlight-of-the-year,

With toys that play music and song-pods for the ear.

We sing carols with names like ‘Mar-Christmas Cheer!’

It’s sung by young boys after gallons of beer.

Christmas on Mars is a biannual event,

It’s the time with most good cheer we’ll care to invent!


Sybil neck up_lowresWhat a fabulousssss time I’ve had reading all your wonderful Snake Poems! There have been all kinds of snakes: King Cobras and rattlesnakes, pythons, Black Taipans and green snakes; there have been pet snakes and wild snakes, magical snakes who do your homework and even snake buddies! There have been snakes named Sybil, snakes named Jake, and even a couple of snakes named Ssssarah (though I’m not too sure if I’m flattered about that!). Most of all though, your snakes were the usual slimy, slithering, sneaky, evil, deadly, dangerous, nasty and sometimes downright spooky legless reptiles that we all know and don’t love!

There was also a wide variation in poetic styles this time: lots of acrostics, a few haikus, some great attempts at rhyming verse, some excellent free verse and even a couple of knock knock poems and limericks! Many of you put a lot of effort into presenting your poems in interesting shapes, like diamonds, pyramids and even a cobra shape. Unfortunately my blog doesn’t allow me to cut and paste these in in the same format, so I’ve had to justify all your poems to the left margin – I’m sorry that readers won’t be able to see the final effect!

And one last plea – some of you also added pictures and special fonts and colour in your entries, but as I mention in my rules, this only slows down the judging process as I have to take all that formatting out before I can add your entry to the list. Remember – I’m only interested in the words you use! So next time, please keep things plain and simple!

In this competition I was looking for terrific vocabulary, imagination and originality, and also I wanted you to make me feel something about snakes. Here are the winners in each category, and a silly joke to make you smile at the end!

Kindergarten and Grade 1

This is the first time we’ve had a category just for the little ones, and I was delighted to receive the following entries from two schools which are new to my Competition.

FIRST PLACE: Athena Yung, 6 years old, Grade 1, Harrow International School Hong Kong

This is quite a remarkable poem for a 6 year old. While the rhyming pattern did change throughout the poem, the rhymes were natural and unforced and the rhythm was pretty good too. A great effort – I hope to see more of Athena’s work in future! As first place winner, Athena receives a free signed copy of one of my books!

 A snake is long and shiny,

With patterns on its back.

The shapes are sometimes camouflage,

To help it catch its snack.

Flicking a forked tongue through a nasty grin,

Changing how it looks by shedding its skin.

It kills its dinner with poison from its fangs,

Watching, waiting, hungry while it hangs.

They look everywhere with black pearl eyes,

To hide from any danger.

I saw one once with a really big brain,

But some look even stranger!


SECOND PLACE: Diya Jalan, 7 years old, Grade 1 St Joseph’s Institution International Elementary School, Singapore

Well done Diya on this clever acrostic poem – which even included one of my Wicked Words, used correctly! I would definitely hide from this slithering snake!

The Slithering Snake

Sssssssss here comes tantalising  

Naughty slithering snake.

Aaaaaaaa slithering snake is slimy and smart.

Know that slithering snake can bite.



Grades 2 to 3

In this category there were 27 entries from 12 schools in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and the standard was very impressive for such young writers! A big welcome to competition newcomers Glenealy School and St Paul’s Co-Educational College Primary School in Hong Kong, and congratulations to Quarry Bay School which won three of the places! Here are the top ten entries:


FIRST PLACE:Elle McGuire, 7 years old, Grade 3, Glenealy School, Hong Kong

Congratulations to seven-year-old Elle for her outstanding poem – a great example of how only a few words, when chosen carefully, can have a stunning overall effect. I love the way this poem captures the ephemeral nature of snakes, their swiftness and magical quality. Well done Elle! As winner of this section, Elle will receive a free copy of one of my books – I wonder if she’ll choose The Tale of Sybil Snake?


A snake is

A slither

A whizz

A glimpse of green

Long and lean

So sly

Very shy

I whisper “Good bye”


SECOND PLACE: Emi Hasegawa, 8 years old, Grade 3, Christian Alliance International School, Hong Kong

Another great example of less being more! I thought this was a very skillful haiku from Emi, which put a chill straight up my spine!

Snake Haiku

Opens bulky jaw

Comes forward and says to me

Sss! Sss! I hate you!


THIRD PLACE: Joy Chi, 8 years old, Grade 3, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong

Well done Joy for this excellent poem in rhyming couplets! I was impressed that you used two of my Wicked Words correctly while maintaining the rhythm and rhyming pattern!

Slithering Snake

Slithering snake, slithering snake,

Thin as a handle of a rake.

Long as the river of Nile,

Reaching as far as a mile!

Slipping and sliding ubiquitously,

Wiggling inordinately.

Never ever being the last,

Traveling everywhere super-fast!

Snakes sleep anywhere,

Curled up in a hemisphere.

Sliding gracefully from tree to tree,

Just like an alive rope you see!

HONOURABLE MENTION: Magnus Harvey, 7 years old, Grade 2C, Canadian International School, Hong Kong

This poem really made me smile! I love the idea of snakes having friends. There was some very nice alliteration too! Well done Magnus!

Cedric & Friends

In a dark green forest lives Cedric, a snake

He slithers around slowly

Down to the lake

To meet. . . .

Simon, Sam and Simpson

They are his best friends

Slippery, sliding under rocks

And round bends

Then. . . .

Down at the lake

They look for their dinner

Lick up water with forked tongues that flicker

So . . .

Cedric finds spiders

Simon loves slugs

Sam eats centipedes

And Simpson likes bugs

At last . . .

After their dinner with tummies all fatter

They rest on warm rocks

And feel so much better



Oliver Tedja, 8 years old, Grade 2C, Canadian International School

Snake Poem

Wearing green scales in the night,

These super snakes are super tight.

Always trying to save themselves,

From things like people, lemurs and elves.


Helen Yim Man Huen, 8 years old, Grade 3, Quarry Bay School, Hong Kong

The Snake of Western China

The snake of western china

Is hissing through the trees

The snake of western china

Is as hungry as can be

Searching through the burrows

Slithering through the trees

The snake of western china

Can’t find a bite to eat

The snake of western china

Spots a wood pecker snoozing

The snake of western china

Isn’t hungry now.

Gauri Ranjan, 7 years old, Grade 2, French International School, Hong Kong

Sly Sybil

Sybil the sly snake, a very pretty snake.

Slithers around in her beautiful gown,

Hypnotizing all with her song, that is wrong.

Sybil the sly snake, a very angry snake.

Is in a happy mood – when she is in wood,

She sometimes frowns – when she is in town,

But is jolly – when she has a lolly.

Sybil the sly snake, a very fast snake.

Climbed up the rope and ate my cake,

And got a big tummy ache.

Poor Sybil.

Yiu Ally Hok Tsun, 8 years old, Grade 2, St. Paul’s Co-Educational College Primary School, Hong Kong

Scaly, Poisonous, Evil

Sandy deserts is where snakes live

Covered with grit, trying to camouflage themselves

Also ferocious, scary and wild

Like a tiger, definitely not mild,

Yes, they’re very sneaky snakes!

Pine trees, honey bees

Oh, what aren’t scared of snakes?

Incredible, amazing and colourful

Scary, secretive and sometimes snappy

Opals, bubbles and rainbow-like shimmer

Nothing can be as beautiful and iridescent as a snake’s skin

Of nothing can stop them attacking the others within

Us? We’re just afraid of them too

So just pack up your gear and let’s go!

Ever so mysterious, surreptitious snake

Voracious and bad, leaving nothing but pandemonium in their wake

Ill mannered, wild and scary

Let’s just say that darkness suits them best!

Eun Cho, 8 years old, Grade 3, Quarry Bay School

Sybil the snake is covered in shimmery

Emerald, ruby, and gold

They are glimmery with sparkles

As you can’t imagine to hold!

There she comes swinging all about.

Twist and twirling, moving all around

Slimey and glittering

Moving on the ground

As she says:

Look how I am dancing

Listen to my songs

Tip tap tap tip tap tap

Sticking out her tongue


Adrian Benjamin Chan, 7 years old, Grade 3, Quarry Bay School

The Tale of Sybil Snake poem

Breezy wind blowing the leaves,

Swivel clouds hanging in the sky,

Silvery snail crawling in the forest,

Greenery trees growing around,

Naughty monkeys swinging from here to there,

Squeaky birds tweeting at the branches,

Hungry lions growling for the food,

Sybil snake planning to be the King of China.

Greedy people taking skin of the snake for accessories,

Bravery Sybil snake preparing to fight for the battle and save the lives of the snakes,

Then he became the Kind of China.

Grades 4 to 6

In this category there were a whopping 122 entries from 16 schools in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brisbane and Melbourne.  A special welcome to students from Beacon Hill School, Glenealy School, Japanese International School and The Peak School in Hong Kong, Ashgrove State School in Brisbane, and Doncaster Gardens Primary School and Methodist Ladies College in Melbourne, who have joined the competition for the first time. And big congratulations to Glenealy School which scooped 6 out of the 10 best entries below!

FIRST PLACE: Emma Reed, 10 years old, 6M, Glenealy School, Hong Kong

Congratulations to Emma for her delicious poem in gold! I loved the imagery of river gold, golden scales and golden sun, and the last line is just a killer! As first prize winner, Emma wins a free signed copy of one of my books. Well done Emma!

Snake poem

Through warm sun rays

She slowly slithers

I watch her go

Patterns so bewitching

So sleek

As gold

Fresh from the river, washed off and clean.

The sun so bright

Gold scales a blur

I hardly know

Which is the sun and which is her.

SECOND PLACE: Weilyn Chong, Age: 10 years old, Class: 6M, Glenealy School, Hong Kong

This beautiful poem from Weilyn Chong about a snake dancing in the shade is a perfect contrast to Emma’s snake-in-the-sun. I particularly loved the “chalkboard sky”, and the life full of tears. Excellent work, Weilyn –you have a lovely poetic sensibility.

Snake In The Shadow

When the sky turns into a chalkboard,

Dust scattered across,

So shyly I dance,

My silent slither,

As the moon leads the way.


I feel the fear,

When the time comes for the first dewdrop

I will hiss my last hiss

For the night.

For I am the one,

The one who is never seen,

The one who is shadowed by others,

So shyly I dance

Among the trees.

If only I could cry,

My life would be full of tears

But when my inner beauty is shown,

Everyone will know my name.

So shyly I dance,

I know I am much more than just a snake.

THIRD PLACE: Zachary Ho, 11yrs old, 6M, Glenealy School, Hong Kong

Excellent work from Zachary with this very competent piece of rhyming verse, using some wonderful vocabulary. I particularly liked the snake’s “cavernous maw” and “dapples of turquoise”.



Through my amber looking-glass,

I spy a shadow flitting in the grass.

A lustrous sheen on curving scales,

Dapples of turquoise beneath its tail.

Gleaming fangs in a cavernous maw,

A devious creature that devours all.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Grace Hsu, 11 years old, Grade 5, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Grace is a regular entrant in my competitions, and her writing just gets better and better. This poem succeeded in scaring me thoroughly! I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same again either!

The snake in the alley

I walk into a dark alley 

Clouds cover the moon

Freezing gusts of wind chill me


Out of the darkness

Comes a




I feel the first tweak of nervousness

My heart pounds… 


My hands sweat… 


Amber eyes float out of darkness 

Fix me with their icy stare

That hardens into a terrorizing glare

I shiver…

I shudder…


The eyes float back from which they came…

And I have never been the same...


Daniel Kershaw, 10 years old, Grade 6, Glenealy School, Hong Kong

Snake on my Head

Snake in the garden

Snake on the stair

Snake in the hallway

How does he dare?

Snake in the room

Snake on the bed

Snake on my head

And now I am dead!

Aryan Mavalvala, 8 years old, Grade 4, Beacon Hill Primary School

Mr. Snake

Fast mover

Smooth Glider

Poisonous Biter

Super Sensor

Dangerous Reptile

Evil Eater

Wizard Killer

Marjorie Ngai, Grade 4, Renaissance College Hong Kong

Marjorie’s poem about a King Cobra was even shaped like a King Cobra! Sadly I can’t reproduce its shape here. But it was a clever piece of writing in any event!

King Cobra’s Charm

Hiss hiss hiss,

Have you heard

The cobra’s deadly chant                

It makes you shiver down to your liver.

Have you seen the cobra’s shiny smooth scales?

Earth brown, grass green, golden yellow, charcoal black                   

Don’t be lured, said the tales.         

Slithering slowly through the bushes,

Eyeing their prey with empty stomachs.

Careful! They attack when

You least expect it.

If you want to be a winner,

Don’t become their dinner!

Swaying elegantly from side to side,

Beady glass eyes as dark as the night.

Blood red tongue,

As bright as sun

Lies between venomous fangs

As sharp as knives.

Snakes are charming

Yet dangerous.

Beware of their                              

Poisonous touch.

One bite can kill you.

Watch but



Vedika Uttamchandani, 10 years old, Grade 6, Glenealy School Hong Kong


A ruffle in the grass

Lethal, deadly

She’s surrounding my feet

I freeze

As still as stone

She slithers away

I sit on a rock


She slowly passes

As silent as night

Between tall grasses

The hues of green are her skin

I lose her every now and then

Just a flicker of movement in the distance

“Good bye,” I whisper

She looks back at me


Lizzy Donowho, Age 10, Grade 6, Glenealy School, Hong Kong


One hundred and fifty million years ago

When dinosaurs roamed the earth

I hid in a rather peculiar place

I dug a hole in the sand with my legs

Down and down I went

And that’s where I slept

One hundred and fifty million years later

When Pangaea was no more

I emerged from my burrow

And found I had no legs

It was quite easy to move

I wiggled, I slithered, I jumped


On a moonless night

I sensed a mouse

With my flickering forked tongue

I lay stationary

For all I was worth

After all, I hadn’t had dinner for 150 million years

And when squeaker came near…

My fangs squirted transparent venom

The mouse kicked in the air

And was dead in a few seconds

I ate him for tea

That’s the last you’ll hear of me


Jesse Cheung, 10 years old, Grade 6, Lantau International School

I really liked the compassion in Jesse’s poem – his snake made a nice change from all the evil snakes so many of you wrote about! And as a Lantau Islander, Jesse will have more experience of snakes than most!

The Snakes’ Eyes

Into the snakes’ eyes I looked deeply within,

I saw no hate or evil or any deadly sin. 

I saw fear and terror from a creature that wanted to survive,

And all that it wanted to do was just stay alive.

It curled itself around my arm as though ready to fight,

But did it do it with fear or the fire of its anger that‘s so bright? 

As the snake has been cursed since the beginning of time,

Because of its relatives’ and father’s past crime.

Since that day the snake had been killed and cursed,

Evils and sins of the snake we all have been immersed.

So once again I looked in to the snakes’ deadly eyes,

I still couldn’t see sin or evil or even a devilish disguise.

So I released that snake on the ground and it slithered away,

I wished peace upon it and then for my judging I did pray!

And to finish off the results, I couldn’t resist this little joke from Ben Sweetman, also a student at Lantau International School, where the kids love snakes so much, there are even snake skins hanging from the classroom ceilings!

SPECIAL MENTION: Ben Sweetman, Grade 4, 8 years old, LIS
Joke About Snakes
Q – What’s a snake’s favorite food?
A – Sssssoup! 




(Photo credit: National Geographic)


What a busy and rewarding holiday writing competition this last Clever Competition one has been! While most of us relaxed in the sun, a small but talented handful of writers got busy with pen and paper, immersing themselves in the extraordinary world of Beijing’s famous Forbidden City to produce some truly exceptional original stories! There were 17 terrific entries (an unusually large number for the holiday season), including 12 from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore and 5 from as far afield as Melbourne in Australia!

 I was looking for excellent story structure, with an attention-grabbing beginning, a fascinating problem or challenge, the exciting development of the problem or challenge till you reached a gripping cliffhanger, followed by the resolution of the problem and a satisfying ending. I was also looking for original ideas, great vocabulary, and excellent grammar and spelling. I gave extra marks to those who put a good effort into describing their setting and characters well! And finally, extra marks were given for using 3 of my Wicked Words on the Wicked Words page correctly!

 The competition was tough, and it took me quite some time to make my decision! But winners there must be, and here they all are – I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I have! Wicked Words are highlighted.


 First place: Kairavi Sivasankar, 8 years old, Grade 3 UWCSEA Dover, Singapore

Congratulations to Kairavi on a remarkable entry for an eight year old! While there were only two entries from this age group, Kairavi’s entry was nonetheless exceptional and could have given the stories in the Grade 4 to 6 section of this competition a good run for their money! Kairavi has a wonderful poetic sensibility, using descriptions, vocabulary and turns of phrase that make her story sing. I look forward to reading more of her writing in future competitions!

 The secret of the Forbidden City

Emperor Shenzong was pacing in his favourite room, the garden terrace. He liked it because it overlooked a splendiferous garden where his pet bird, the nightingale, lived. He went there every morning to listen to its melodious singing. The garden was an exquisite paradise with fragrant peach blossoms and peony shrubs.  The terrace was more striking. It was adorned with jewels, diamonds and other precious stones. The room was bright and airy.

But today he didn’t notice his beautiful surroundings. He was wondering where the Purple Gem and the Secret Scroll had gone. He was certain Wa Fai had taken them. Wa Fai was the villain of villains, the thief of thieves. He was cunning, scheming and a smooth operator. He wanted to be more powerful than the Emperor and had his eye on the Secrets because they held the ancient key to becoming the supreme leader. Wa Fai had spent more than 20 years in prison and had sworn revenge.

Shenzong was distressed that the Secrets had fallen into the wrong hands. He must have them back! He trusted his secret associates to find Wa Fai. But where? Wa Fai could be in a foreign country by now! There was no limit to what that man could do.

Just then, Emperor Shenzong’s niece, Princess Shi Shi, came skipping in.

“Hello, Uncle,” she said. “Why are you looking so sad?”

“Well, my dear, the secrets were stolen by Wa Fai. He must have opened the Scroll by now, “ said the Emperor, with a lugubrious expression.

Shi Shi was wise. She whispered to him, “ Now listen, Uncle. This is what we’ll do.”

It was dark. The Emperor looked up at the sky. It looked like a shiny black table sprinkled with sugar. He had his niece with him and her friend Mao Mao. They had tracked Wa Fai down. He was at a friend, Dung La’s place. Dung La was a milk vendor. Dung La’s shop was in a busy market just outside the Forbidden City, with easy access to the Emperor’s palace. But nobody ever bought his milk, even if they were parched, because of the unpleasant rumours that he added ant poison to the milk.

One of Shenzong’s associates went to his house disguised as a famished beggar to distract the two devious friends. Dung La took pity on him and let him in. Meanwhile Shi Shi and Mao Mao had started digging their way into his house. It was hard work. After a few hours of intense digging, Mao Mao’s spade went bump.

“Shhhh” hissed Shi Shi. They had discovered a loose plank! They lifted the wooden board. Crrrreak. They waited for a few seconds with bated breath. Time ticked by slowly.

“Wait here,” Shi Shi finally whispered. She entered Dung La’s house and crept through the long dark hallways. She heard voices coming from the living room. Shi Shi recognised the harsh voice of Wa Fai. She went back to the tunnel.

“Hey, Mao Mao,” she whispered. “Come with me.”

“Why,” Mao Mao wondered, “does Shi Shi want me to go with her?” Mao Mao was reluctant to follow Shi Shi who kept dragging her through the hallways. Finally they reached the living room.

“What have they got-“

“Shhhh!” Shi Shi interrupted fiercely. Mao Mao was taken aback by her best friend’s rudeness. But Shi Shi was princess after all. Then Mao Mao heard it. Wa Fai’s voice. She was stunned.

“Well,” she said, pulling herself together quickly. “If that’s his voice, we’re in the right house!”

“But they won’t just leave the treasures lying around for us to find.” Shi Shi assumed. “Hey, remember the invisible cloak I got for my birthday. We can sneak in. I bet he is holding them.”  So they threw on the cloak and tiptoed wordlessly into the living room.

“Its funny,” Shi Shi thought, ”That the most exciting moments are when you are silent, not loud and noisy.”

The girls were nervous to be in the same room as the dangerous criminal Wa Fai. He had mean squinting eyes and coarse, hard skin. Mao Mao gently prodded her friend and motioned toward Wa Fai. He had the Gem strung around his neck and the Scroll tucked safely in his belt!

Shi Shi looked desperately at her friend. What could they do? Wa Fai guarded them so carefully that they could hardly touch them without his knowledge.

Out of the blue, Shi Shi had a brainwave. But how would she inform her friend? She poked Mao Mao. Mao Mao turned sharply and glared at her. Shi Shi beckoned and started toward the door. Mao Mao followed. Shi Shi told Mao Mao her idea.

Things happened really fast after that. Wa Fai came out and went to his room. He was extremely contented and tired. He fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Gently the courageous girls took the Scroll from his belt. But Shi Shi tugged the Gem too hard. Wa Fai awoke and turned red with rage.

“ARRRGHHH!” he roared as he noticed the Scroll was missing from his belt.

The invisible girls were losing hope of getting the Gem. Then, in swift colours, Shenzong’s nightingale swooped down and plucked the Gem, flying away with it.

Before Wa Fai could react, the girls raced to the tunnel and all the way back to the safety of the palace. They were ecstatic that they had helped save the precious secrets. The next day, Emperor Shenzong congratulated the victorious girls and told them that the Purple Gem protected the Scroll. He also shared the secret with them – ‘When choosing between being right and kind, choose kind.

Second place: Joseph Ang, 6 years old, Grade 1, Korean International School, Hong Kong

 It’s a real pleasure to welcome newcomer Joseph Ang to my Clever Competition. Joseph’s big sister Valerie is a regular contributor (and previous winner) in my competitions, and encouraged her little brother to write the following enchanting tale of a secret toy room in the Forbidden City. Well done Joseph: – keep up the good work!  

The Secret Toy Room

Once upon a time, there was an Emperor in China. His name was Ming. Emperor Ming was a kind and nice Emperor.  He was nice because he made toys for the children. He made drums, tops and rabbit dolls.

 Emperor Ming lived in the Forbidden City. In the Forbidden City, there is a secret room full of the toys he made. To open the door to the secret room, he needed a magic key. The key was magical because only children could open the door with it.

 Every summer during the holidays, the Emperor held a Toy Festival. All the children would come to play in the room and have lots of fun. The secret room was very big, bigger than Disneyland.

 One day, a bad man tried to steal all the toys. He took the magic key and tried to open the door but he could not. All the children were sad and bored because they could not play that summer. When the bad man saw that the children were unhappy, he gave the key back to the Emperor and said he was sorry.

 From then on, the children could play in the secret room every summer.



 In this section we had some very strong entries and it was extremely difficult to choose between the top three stories! In the end it was fluent style and a great ending which won the day. A special mention to Lillian Lee of Grade 4 Beacon Hill School Hong Kong and Shaan Mutreja of Grade 4 German Swiss International School Hong Kong whose entries almost made it to the winning list.


First place: Grace Hsu, 11 years old, Grade 6, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, Taiwan

 Grace has been entering my Clever Competition for the last 3 years, and her writing has been getting better and better (which tends to happen when people regularly enter writing challenges…other writers take note 🙂! Readers may remember that Grace placed in the top 3 in my last two competitions – and today I’m very happy to say that she has placed first!  Grace’s story was beautifully written, with an intriguing beginning and excellent ending. While not as long as most entries, it was well-paced and structured, with an engaging and fluent style and excellent use of the present tense. Well-deserved, Grace!


The Dragon of the Forbidden City

“Long-yang, it’s about time you knew about our family inheritance.”

 Long-yi, my older sister, pauses beside me as I admire the sunset.

 I turn my gaze away from the radiant colors. “What did you say?” Long-yi and I are just two orphans who clean the Forbidden City every day for a living.



 Long-yi leads me through the Hall of Preserved Harmony to the Gate of Heavenly Purity. Kneeling beside one of the golden lions, she quickly checks that no one is around, then whispers, “Our ancestor, hundreds of years ago, was one of the builders in the Forbidden City. He designed the Gate of Heavenly Purity, then made a secret compartment where his family, for years to come, could enjoy and take care of some special treasures.”

 She pauses. “Our inheritance.”

Pondering all this, I wonder aloud, “What kind of treasures?”

Long-yi smiles. “The most precious is an emerald dragon. That is why all in our family line have had a long, dragon, in our name.” She gives me a look that says, What are we waiting for?

I grin. “Let’s go!”

 Long-yi checks to see that no one is watching, and then removes a tile next to the golden lion. I watch in fascination as she reaches inside and pulls a dusty string. Another tile moves aside, revealing an emerald key. Long-yi grabs it and hurries over to the other lion. She removes another tile and pushes the key into the keyhole that is revealed. The lion lifts, revealing a dark tunnel. I slip in behind Long-yi as the door closes behind us.

 As Long-yi lights some lanterns in a pitch black room, I murmur doubtfully, “You left the keyhole outside. Exposed.”

“Don’t fret, Long-yang. No one comes around at this time of day.” Long-yi smiles confidently. I turn my attention to the rest of the room and gasp.

Two sides of this room are lined with cluttered shelves. One is filled with glittering gold dishes and iridescent cups set with jade and pearls. The other is filled with sumptuous stacks of silk patterns on colorful shawls, dresses and scarves.

 But what draws my attention the most is what stands in the middle of the room. On a platform about waist height, an emerald dragon shimmers in the dim lantern light. I can see each scale is intricately carved, from the rippling tail, then to the crouching legs, and finally to the face that is not fierce nor bloodthirsty but simply calm and happy.

 As I stare, breathless, Long-yi comes and stands behind me. After admiring it for a little while, she shakes herself and says, “We’ve got work to do.”

 We spend a while dusting and polishing the treasures, and as I move my rag to the dragon I suddenly stop.

 Tick, tick. Tick, tick.

 “What’s that?” I ask.

 Long-yi stops and listens, and her eyes widen in panic. “Someone is trying to pick the lock!” Frozen to the spot, I watch as she runs to the end of the room and pushes even more secret tiles. The shelves slide into the wall, which closes up behind them. The platform with the dragon likewise lowers into the ground, and I catch one last glimpse of its relaxed face before the ground closes up on it.

The lock clicks suddenly. Long-yi yanks on a rope I never noticed, and the lanterns go out. Almost at once she shoves me into space where there should be a wall. I sense a tightness of space and realize that we are not in the treasure room anymore. I hear heavy footsteps on the other side of the wall, and muffled voices I do not recognize.

 “Follow me.” Long-yi’s voice echoes in the dark. I follow her up through a dark tunnel, and as I stop to catch my breath, she pushes something above us. Dim light filters in, and we climb out on the other side of the Gate of Heavenly Purity as the last rays of sun disappear over the horizon.

 Long-yi replaces the tile and motions me to the shadows. As I look back at the Gate of Heavenly Purity, she follows my gaze, and for the first time today, we seem to understand each other.

Today we cut through the Hall of Mental Cultivation towards the west Flowery Gate, so as to avoid attention from whoever may be trying to rob our family inheritance. As I walk, I think about the emerald dragon, happy, calm, but dusty under layers of stone and dirt. I think about how I could have cleaned it better had I the chance. No matter what happens, I silently vow, I’ll come back again. Someday.

 The promise hangs in the air, a trace of hope that remains.


 Second place: Isabelle Pomfret, 11 years old, Grade 6, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong

Isabelle came a very close second indeed with her legendary tale of treachery, dragons, riddles and endless love. The beginning immediately set the legendary tone, and Isabelle clearly did some good research on the Forbidden City and China’s history before writing her story. I loved her descriptions in the latter part of her story, especially the “brilliant blue lighting” which “scythed” down from the sky, and the “glistening lick” of the dragon’s tongue. But I felt the ending let the story down a little, and I searched in vain for some of my Wicked Words. Overall, an excellent entry Isabelle!

 The Secrets of the Forbidden City

 Tao and Mei were two star-crossed lovers, but heaven and earth were tearing them apart. Mei was a concubine of the evil emperor Zhu Di, whom she didn’t love at all. She was forced to become his wife and live in the Forbidden City as a prisoner.

  Tao was a poor, humble worker who was forced to work day and night building the Forbidden City for no pay at all. He was often beaten and his back was marked with scars. Both of them loved each other with all their heart and soul, but Mei was promised to the emperor Zhu Di.

  They were both in the Imperial Garden when there came a tremendous blast of gunpowder and the Gate of Terrestrial Tranquility burst into a million pieces. Tao grabbed Mei and shielded her from the explosion and falling objects. They ran off in terror and almost bumped into a palace guard.

   “What are you doing?” he demanded gruffly, but before he could say another word Mei snatched the sword he was carrying and pressed it to his throat. Instantly, his unfriendliness disappeared “Whoa there miss, I didn’t mean to upset you!” he pleaded, “now be a good girl and let me go.” He paused for a second “Please?”

 Tao punched the guard and he crashed to the ground, knocked out with broken teeth and a bloody nose. Then, he took Mei’s hand and they ran to the Hall of Supreme Harmony where armed guards were searching for the intruder who blew up the palace gates and got in. Mei pushed Tao behind a marble pillar just as a guard turned his head towards them.

 To their surprise, there was another man hiding behind the pillar as well. The man was a monk, and looked strangely like the Emperor Zhu Di, except his eyes were sad and empty. Without thinking, Mei opened her mouth to say something but the monk put a hand over her mouth.

 The monk whispered, “Do you hate the Emperor Zhu Di?” Both of them were surprised. They knew that many people had been killed just because they hated the emperor and this monk might be a spy for Zhu Di.

 “How can we trust you” Mei hissed. “You could be a spy” However they both told the monk a truthful yes.

 “Then,” said the monk, “I am your friend, for I am Zhu Yunwen, the rightful heir to the dragon throne and I am here to take back my kingdom!”

 “Ten years ago, I was Emperor,” Zhu Yunwen began. “I was in the palace with my wife and son. Zhu Di’s men came, they burnt down the palace to kill me but I escaped dressed as a monk. My wife and son died in that fire, and he took my kingdom. I have now come to avenge them and reclaim the throne.”

   “I was told by my father, Zhu Yuan Zhang, that there is a secret treasure, hidden deep in the Forbidden City that will make me king once again!” said Zhu Yunwen. “My father gave me an ancient poem that will reveal the secret location of the treasure.”

 He unrolled a magnificent golden scroll and read the words:

 “The royal dragon rules all of China

His power lies in a secret treasure

Within its grasp

And within its soul

Beyond the flames, the secret holds

Once you hold the long lost answer

The mighty dragon will rule forever”

  Mei instantly solved the riddle.

 “It’s the Dragon Throne!” she exclaimed. “There must be something in his eyes because they’re the window to the soul.”

 “Yes!” said Zhu Yunwen “You’re right! Now we just have to get to the throne room without the guards seeing us”

  They ran to the imperial throne room where the Dragon Throne sat; majestic and threatening. Zhu Yunwen carefully inspected its jade green eyes and found a secret button beneath the eyelids. He pressed his wooden staff against the button and the fifth golden claw of the dragon slowly rose, revealing a perfect pink pearl. The long-lost Dragon Pearl of legend!

  “Stop right there!” screamed a voice. They turned and saw Zhu Di, flanked by imperial guards. His jaw dropped when he saw Zhu Yunwen.

 “But…but, I killed you,” he screeched. “You’re dead!”

“No uncle. You killed my wife and my son, but you didn’t kill me because I am the rightful heir to the Dragon Throne,” said Zhu Yunwen, “and now you will pay!”

 He raised the Dragon Pearl above his head and a bolt of brilliant blue lightning scythed down from the sky, and a mighty jade dragon burst through the ceiling, scattering gold leaf and wood everywhere. It snatched Zhu Di in its mighty jaws and carried him away.

 Instantly the imperial archers fired arrows into the beast’s hide, but the dragon brushed them away as if they were pesky fleas. A few brave warriors leaped onto the dragon’s back but it soon put an end to them. Zhu Di vanished into the distance, screaming and cursing.

 “ I’ll be back!” the evil emperor screeched “you just wait and s…” Before Zhu Di could finish his last words the dragon breathed blue fire out of its nostrils, roasting him like a suckling pig before tossing him into the air and swallowing him whole with a crunch and a glistening lick of his tongue.

 Four years later…

The Chinese accepted Zhu Yunwen as their new ruler and were very happy for Zhu Di had been a cruel tyrant. Zhu Yunwen also helped defeat the Mongolians and united China. Mei and Tao, the star crossed lovers, became Lady Mei and Lord Tao. They helped take care of the kingdom and became close advisors and friends of the new emperor. They had a son, Zhen, who would be next in line to the throne if Zhu Yunwen had no children.

Third place: Valerie Ang, 10 years, Grade 6, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong

 Valerie is another of my regular contestants, with a number of places to her credit in previous competitions. I really enjoyed her original take on the “secret” theme, with Australian didgeridoos and clapsticks evidencing ancient contact between the indigenous Australians and the Chinese (Valerie clearly has a great future as the next Gavin Menzies 🙂!). The beginning and ending were great and there was some excellent vocabulary; however I would have liked to see a little more description of the Forbidden Palace setting, not to mention a few Wicked Words. A terrific effort overall.


The Eighth Voyage

‘The Yongle emperor made 7 great voyages, to India, Arabia and various parts of Africa, going as far as the north east, near the coast of Sudan.’ From ‘The Yongle Emperor’ by Oscar Martini.

Herbert Chorely had now been working as an archeologist in Australia for 20 years, and was an expert in the field. He had been taking a lunch break when his PDA beeped. He fished it out from his messenger bag and saw ‘1 new message’ with the letter icon next to it. He clicked it with the pen as a message displayed on the screen.

 ‘Dear Dr. Chorely,

We have found something of concern in Beijing. It is highly classified, so

I couldn’t tell you in this email even if I wanted to, but you seem to be

the no. 1 expert in the item’s category. If you could come over here, that

would be great.

 Dr. Hawthorn’

Herbert wandered why he was being summoned to Beijing. He was no expert on Chinese artifacts, however he had always wanted to go and his chance was there! “I’ll be packing my bags!” he yelled to the site director as he drove out of the digging compound and out of sight.

 Once in Beijing, Herbert was led to the research centre, which was right in the heart of the city. He was greeted by Dr. Hawthorn, a somber faced man with thick brown hair which was combed neatly.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Arthur Hawthorn but you can just call me Arthur. Now, if you’d follow me, please.”

 He followed Arthur through a series of doors until they reached one with the number ‘312’ on it.

 “After you Herbert.” After walking in, he was greeted by a long leather case on the table. Arthur brushed past him and unfastened the clasp. Inside was a didgeridoo, with the wood slightly decomposed, but most of it was intact.

 Herbert reached forward and stroked the smooth wood. “Where did you find this?”

 Arthur shifted his weight from one foot to another: “In the Yongle emperor’s tomb.”

 Herbert frowned. “Were there any other Australian artifacts there?”


 “Can you show me the tomb?”

 Now it was Arthur’s turn to frown. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt” he sighed.

Later that day, Arthur showed the way to the far side of the Forbidden City, which they said was temporarily closed for renovation works. In reality, it was an archeologist site because they had found an emperor’s tomb there.

 After descending some steps, they found themselves in a dank, musty room. Herbert walked around, being careful not to touch anything.

 He noticed something in the corner. “What’s that?”

 Arthur looked confused. “Aren’t those just pieces of wood?” Herbert snorted.

 “Pieces of wood? Are you kidding me? Those are clapsticks.” He picked them up. They were slightly damp.

 “Do you have any idea why Aboriginal items are in this tomb?” Arthur shrugged, looking confused.

A month later, the two were still puzzling over the items in the tomb when a message arrived for them.

 “They’ve found a secret room?! What was in it?” Arthur’s eyes lit up. “We must go now!”

 Back in the room, they saw that a section of the wall had been knocked away, leaving a circular passage just big enough for them to crawl in. Herbert went first, dropping down on his hands and knees and bending his head.  It was an ineffective way of moving, but Herbert was too excited to be bothered to complain. After crawling several feet, they found themselves in a vaguely square room. Installed into the wall was a small chest. Arthur creased his eyebrows as he walked over to it. He unfastened the hook and flung open the lid. Inside were not more Australian instruments, but several manuscripts.

The first was about the rebellion which overthrew the Ming dynasty, and how they had made a secret room containing the greatest achievements of the emperor and the recount of the rebellion. The other manuscript told of an eighth voyage to spread Chinese influence all over the world and how the fleet had landed in Australia and exchanged gifts with the friendly natives, the Chinese gave silk and the Aboriginals gave instruments.

Both men, as used as they were to discovering strange things were astounded. They were no experts, but they were both pretty sure that the British had said that they were the FIRST ones to discover Australia in the 1700s.

But in reality the Ming dynasty were the first in the 1300s. Historians were going to have a field day.


 Honourable mention: Arushi Sivasankar, 10 years old, Grade 5, UWCSEA East, Singapore

 Arushi’s story deserves a special Honourable Mention in this section. With excellent vocabulary, an exciting plot, a wonderful resolution (I loved the idea of conquering one’s greatest fear) and the correct use of 3 Wicked Words, this story was a real contender, and given another year I am sure we’ll see Arushi’s writing going from strength to strength. Keep up the good work Arushi!


The Secret of the Forbidden City

“Keep this with you. ‘It’ has been passed down from generations. Use ‘it’ prudently and guard ‘it’ vigilantly.  Many who want ‘it’ have guessed ‘it’ is with us. Never accept favours or gifts, even in exchange for something.” Xuan Zong told his son Wen Zong.

Xuan Zong was old and frail and ready to move on. His son would take his place as emperor in Zi Jin, the Forbidden City. The purple gem would soon glow and he would meet his ancestors in heaven…

Years later, Emperor Wen Zong was in his chambers dressed in a resplendent silk robe. The intricate gold embroidery was breathtaking. A dirty old beggar had gifted it to him, in exchange for food. Wen Zong had forgotten his father’s warning. He favoured the beautiful robe even though it was missing the secret pocket. All his other robes had secret pockets to hide ‘it’ in. Now ‘it’ could be stolen. Wen Zong wondered where to hide ‘it’, under his pillow or up his sleeve.

“Too obvious,” Wen Zong thought, but he put ‘it’ up his sleeve for the time being. At bedtime, he did not hear the quiet rustle behind him.

In the middle of the witching hour, somebody cautiously tiptoed into the room and made the sound of a wild storm brewing. The emperor stirred and as he turned over, something slid out of his sleeve and fell with a soft clink. “He, he,” were the last words heard in the room that night.

The next morning the emperor sensed something was amiss. Dismissing the thought, the emperor went to breakfast.

“Emperor, the rice farmers need more ploughs,” his minister reported. He felt for the secret pocket and remembered he was wearing the gifted robe. He then shook his sleeve. That’s when he realised what was missing and he panicked.

A few months later, the people had given up going to the emperor for help. Without ‘it’ the emperor was helpless. Instead the new owner was having great successes and everyone was flocking to him. It was almost like he had taken over as the new emperor.  The imperial place was now called the ignoble palace and all his subjects had deserted him.  Wen Zong felt utterly desolate, blaming only himself for losing ‘it’. He decided to consult the wise one.

“Only the person who gave ‘it’ to you, your father, can help you” advised the wise one.

“How do I reach him?” asked Wen zong. “After all he is dead.”

“This will help you.” He quickly mixed a concoction of panda dung, cloud puff, a beam of sunlight and a piece of the first emperor’s bone.  “Drink this at the exact time he was born. Then pray to him.”

On the first full moon of summer, Wen Zong drank the potion, at midnight. It tasted sweet but sour, spicy but bland and pleasant but bitter, all at the same time! He then prayed for 12 days and 12 nights.

Finally a shimmery, ghostly figure appeared before him.

“Son,” the ghost’s voice boomed. It echoed eerily in the closed room. “What have you summoned me for?”

“I-I-I lost ‘it’ and n-eee-dd to get ‘it’ bb-ac-ck.”

“Take this map. When you get to the X you will encounter a terrible monster. Remember he is made up of your fears. Once you defeat him it will come to you.”

 Wen Zong was excited. “Thank you father.”

Without losing time, Wen Zong dressed up as a fisherman and left his palace in a little wooden boat. He spent several restless days sailing in and out of waterfalls, rapids, storms and many more troubles.

He was about to give up when the X on the map started glowing. “I am here!” Wen Zong shouted in relief. Suddenly the ground began to rumble and the water level around him dropped. Wen Zong was thrown out of his boat. Crash!

Wen Zong rubbed his eyes as he regained consciousness. He was sitting on a rock surrounded by effervescent hot lava. There was a deep rumble.

“Who is it?” a cruel voice emerged from the lava. A gargantuan, ferocious monster, fiery red, framed by flames, rose from the molten rock. Wen Zong shuddered. He then remembered why he was here.

“I am Emperor Wen Zong, come back to fight for my kingdom!” he shouted with great confidence.

“FIGHT!!!!” bellowed the monster.

Millions of little magma men grew from the ground and rushed toward Wen Zong. He was terrified and helpless, when suddenly a sword appeared in his hands.

Wen Zong fought. And how he fought! Slashing, slicing, stabbing and relentlessly swinging his sword. After defeating the men, Wen Zong was singed and cut, and ready to faint. The monster leaped at Wen Zong and Wen Zong ran. He ran and ran. Abruptly a huge wall arose before him and blocked his path. He was trapped!

He suddenly remembered his father’s words – “The monster is made up of your fears.”

“That means if I can conquer my fear I will beat him.”

As the monster neared, the sky darkened. There were only shadows and Wen Zong was terrified.

“I got you!” The monster’s voice shook the ground.

Wen Zong’s knees buckled and he fell. “Father, what is my fear?” begged the crying Wen Zong as the monster advanced on him.

Surprisingly, Wen Zong heard a voice in his head: “What scares you?”

“Shadows,” whispered Wen Zong. He stood up with determination and drove his sword into the monster’s shadow.

It was bright again. Wen Zong was in his boat drifting home. On his lap was the precious wand. The smooth pearly surface glistened as he tenderly picked it up.

Years later, Wen Zong handed the charge of his mighty empire to his son with this advice, “This family heirloom is made of ivory and can conjure up anything you like, so use it carefully and wisely. Remember, if you lose it, everything will go.”


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