Clever Competitions



What a whale of a time I’ve had judging your Wonderful Whale Haikus! Whales are such extraordinary animals, and they seem to hold a special place in the hearts of people living all over the world! And this competition was no exception, with a grand total of 104 entries coming from 16 different schools in 6 different countries around the world as well! There were entries from Chicago and San Diego in the United States of America, from three cities and three country towns across four different states in Australia, from two big cities in China, and from Hong Kong, Singapore and Kolkata in India! It was great to see a large number of newcomers entering this time – welcome my friends, and please make sure that you follow my blog – or subscribe to my Newsletter – so that you can find out all about my next Clever Competition!

 Now it seems that we all LOVE whales – there wasn’t a single killer/nasty whale amongst the entries, though there was a narwhal – and the majesty, playfulness and mystery of whales were what appealed most to you all! A huge THANK YOU to all the young writers – and teachers – who supported this competition.

 A quick note about the two categories: because entries come from around the world in my competitions, and because kids start school at different ages in different countries, or speak English as a second language, the categories are set by the number of years a student has spent at school, rather than by age. So you’ll find older kids in earlier grades, and younger kids in later grades, depending on where they go to school. I’ve found this is the fairest way to split the categories, and indeed often the younger kids outperform the older kids! Further, where I set a competition before the end of the school year, but judge it at the beginning of the next school year (eg, in the Northern Hemisphere where the school year extends from September to June instead of February to December as in the Southern Hemisphere) I take the student’s grade as at the date of the start of the competition.

 And now to the results! You will remember that I was looking for haikus in the traditional 17 syllable haiku form (five beats in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third) with beautiful imagery and wonderful vocabulary. Above all, I was looking for haikus that really made me FEEL something. I loved reading ALL your poems…but winners there must be, and here they are!

The First Place winners in each category win a free signed copy of one of my books!


It was wonderful to receive entries from the younger set in this competition – I suspect that many of them had not yet studied haikus in class, which makes their entries even more impressive!

FIRST PLACE: Sophie Zhai, Year 3, Victoria Shanghai Academy Hong Kong, 9 years old

Big congratulations to Sophie Zhai of Hong Kong on coming first in this category! I loved the strong imagery in Sophie’s haiku, and especially the spiraling of the whale’s water spouts. This was a sophisticated entry, and a well-deserved first placing.

On the sea’s surface,

Magnificently, they leap,

Whale spouts spiraling.


SECOND PLACE: Layla Newbey, Year 1, Parklands Primary School, Lockyer, Western Australia, 6 years old

Layla’s entry proves my point about high-performing younger writers! At the tender age of 6, she has written a very impressive haiku, full of movement. I could just hear her whale jumping, then diving to the silent depths. Well done Layla!

She jumps from the sea

Whoosh, splash, down she goes again

Silently swimming.



Lucia Old, Year 2, Peter Carnley Anglican Community School (Wellard Campus), Perth, Western Australia, 7 years old

Lucia’s entry was a little out of the ordinary; here instead of focusing on the whale itself, she wrote about how the whale made her feel. I loved it!

Black, leathery skin,

Peaceful and relaxed I feel,

Calm, soothing my heart.



 Bella Dowd, Grade 3, Quality Schools International, Zhuhai, China

A Whale Haiku

The glorious whale

It is a dark shade of blue

They are beautiful.


Emerson Zhou, Grade 3, Quality Schools International, Zhuhai, China

The whale dived down deep

Wow! What a fantastic whale!

Then the whale flipped up.



Ashlyn Paul, Grade 2, Milgate Primary School, East Doncaster, Victoria, Australia, 7 years old

Whales like to sing songs

Their bodies are large and long

Hunting whales is wrong


Ricky Lin, Grade 3, Quality Schools International, Zhuhai, China

Great Whales

Hello Mr. Whale

I’m the biggest animal

Bye bye Mr. Whale


Santiago Mosquera, Grade 3, Quality Schools International, Zhuhai, China

I like the turtles!

Whales are cute and beautiful!

Whales are very cool!


Francesca Zobrist, Grade 1, United World College of South East Asia, East Campus, Singapore, 6 years old

Whale swims happily.

Splashing the other whales too.

Whales had lots of fun.




With 94 entries in this category, judging was extremely difficult and I’m afraid I couldn’t stick to the usual ten finalists! I know you’re going to love the 13 fabulous haikus below!

 FIRST: Madeline Painter, Grade 5, Dryden Elementary School, Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA, 10 years old

Readers will recall that Madeline has been entering my competitions for the last 3 years, and each time her entry gains a well-deserved place! Madeline is an exceptional writer with a highly-developed imagination, a clever wit, and a sophisticated style. This very original entry made me laugh out loud! (And if you’re not sure what a watusi is, look it up! Congratulations Madeline!

Whale Prom

Purple disco suits

Sequins covering blubber

The whale watusi.


SECOND: Nayonika Biswas, Grade 6, Delhi Public School Newtown, Kolkata, 11 yers old

I was bowled over by Nayonika’s excellent haiku, especially the sudden shift between lightness (the bright night, the water spout) and darkness (the fishermen prowling). This sort of shift in mood is a classic haiku technique, and earns Nayonika a very close second place. Keep up the excellent work Nayonika!

In the bright night she

Spews water from her blowhole

As the anglers prowl.


THIRD: Sebastian Rodriguez, Year 4, Anglican Church Grammar School, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 9 years old

Sebastian’s haiku was both lyrical and original – and I loved its poetic final line. Remember when reading it that “choir” can be spoken in two syllables (kw-ya).


The song of whales deep

Choir in the deep blue sea

Hymns of ocean blue.



Fletcher Austin, Grade 4, Anglican Church Grammar School, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 9 years old

The flips and the tricks

What an incredible sight

Oh, so splendorous!


Sofia Kerr, Grade 5, Quality Schools International—Zhuhai, China

The Nobility

Turquoise majesty

The musicians of the sea

Swimming wild and free


Elke Chaplin, Grade 6, Australian International School Hong Kong, 12 years old

Diving in the deep

Slow, graceful and majestic

Wonder of the world



 Amanda Li, Grade 5, Independent Schools Foundation Academy Hong Kong, 10 years old

A majestic whale

He glides through the dark ocean

A faint murky shape


Madeline McFarlane, Year 4, Macclesfield Primary School, Macclesfield, South Australia, 9 years old


Sing out loud my whale

Live in the sea and be free

My beautiful friend


Ema Poposka, Year 5, Japanese International School, Hong Kong, 9 years old

The humongous mouth

Devouring small crabs and krill

Is no threat to me.


Maddison Mulhbach, Year 4, Macclesfield Primary School, Macclesfield, South Australia, 9 years old


Whales are wise creatures

Much to share, swim up for air

Creatures of the deep.


Eleanor Meyer, Grade 4, San Diego French American School, San Diego, California, USA, 9 years old

Whale Acrobatics

Jumping left and right

Having fun while doing flips

Aerial backbends


Isaiah Presley, Grade 4, Anglican Church Grammar School, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 9 years old


Krill small, delicious.

Red white yellow, nutritious

A whale’s favourite


Freyja Moring, Year 4, Macclesfield Primary School, Macclesfield, South Australia, 9 years old


Graceful swimming whale

Monarchs of the sea to me

Amazing creatures

Once again, a big thank you to everyone who entered, and I look forward to reading your writing again in my next Clever Competition!

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