2012 – 2013 Competitions







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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  1. How could I let my child join the competition?

    • Hi Qidman, It’s lovely to hear from you. I will be publishing details of my next competition in a couple of weeks. If you sign up for my newsletter or sign up for this blog you can be notified. Otherwise do keep visiting the blog and I’ll let you know soon!

  2. How do i write an snake poem do i write on a pieace of paper or do i type it on the computer and where do i write my poem.

    • Hi Ellis – all you have to do is type it up on a word document and attach it to your email sent to me at enquiries@auspicioustimes.com. OR you can just send me an email to the same address with your poem typed in the body of the email. Please make sure to include your name, school, grade and age. Happy writing!

  3. im going to do it and im from C.D.N.I.S

  4. The entries are so cool!
    Wish I could write that good… 😦 😉

    Jeffrey P.

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