2016 – 2017 Competitions

COMPETITION NO. 30: THE REALLY RIVETING ROOSTER TALE COMPETITION!

rooster-posterl

Cockadoodle doo! I’m just about roostered out!!

I’ve had enormous fun judging all the fantastic entries in my Really Riveting Rooster Tale writing competition, but I’ll be quite happy not to see another rooster for a while! Rickshaw Rooster had better watch out – I might just put him in a cooking pot!! Once again, the competition was truly international, with entries coming from 6 major cities around the world: Calcutta, Chicago, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney! This time there were just 24 entries, but what they lacked in quantity they more than made up for in quality! I was thrilled to see some of our previous competitors return, with even better writing, and to see entries from some new competitors who are clearly ESL learners just starting on their English writing journey. It was a great privilege to read all of your stories, and I only regret that I could not give places to you all! Many thanks to all the teachers, librarians, mums and dads who encouraged their students/children to enter – it’s only with repeated practice that truly great writing can be achieved. I strongly encourage anyone who didn’t manage a place this time to make sure they enter my future competitions and see how their writing improves!

And if you didn’t place, or didn’t enter this time, and you want to improve your writing skills, I highly recommend that you read and really take on board my Story Writing Hints at https://sarahbrennanblog.com/story-writing-hints-for-my-clever-competitions/ – then see how you get on next time!

It’s hard to judge competitions, so like all judges I use judging criteria on a spreadsheet to find out who scores what – and the criteria are exactly what I put in my instructions for the competition. This is why, when you enter a competition, it is essential to ensure that you put every single ingredient you are asked for in your story!

In this case I asked for the following:

 You had to write a story of no more than 1000 words;

 The main character had to be a Rooster;

 Your Rooster had to display the characteristics of people born in the Year of the Rooster;

 Your story HAD TO be set in China somewhere – with a really detailed description of the setting, not forgetting the season and the weather;

 You had to include an inquisitive bulbul, a ball of string, the colour coquelicot and a fire;

 I asked for lots of detail about your characters – not just what they looked like, but a bit about their personality, their history and why they were like they were.

 I wanted a great story structure: a great beginning, an interesting problem or conflict or challenge, the development of that problem or conflict or challenge, a thrilling cliff-hanger or climax, a great resolution which made sense, and a  memorable ending;

 You had to use at least 5 of my Wicked Words;

 Lastly, you had to have a TITLE.

Needless to say, I was also looking for great vocabulary, great style and good grammar and punctuation.

If you didn’t place this time, and you really want to do better next time, then it would be a great exercise to go through the criteria listed above to see how your story measures up!

Congratulations to ALL the contestants on their hard work and wonderful entries, and special congratulations to our finalists, whose stories are printed below. And at the end, there’s a special story treat for you all, from past winner Hillary Lo and her friend Winter Lau from Shatin College, who decided to write a fabulous story for the competition just for fun, even though they were too old to enter! Now that’s what I call dedication, and the mark of two future authors! I encourage you all to read their story – it’s very funny, very well-written, and an example of how great your writing can be if you keep on practicing!

YEARS ONE TO THREE CATEGORY

This was a difficult writing competition, with lots of tricky ingredients to include, so I was delighted that some brave younger writers took up the challenge! In this category there were just 5 entries, all from Shanghai United International School, Hongqiao Campus, Shanghai. None of the entrants speak English as a first language, so their entries were truly impressive, and I can only encourage them to keep up the good work! Understandably, there were problems with verb tense and other grammar in all of the stories, but these are very new writers, and there is no doubt that their story-telling skills, imagination and vocabulary are outstanding. My big hint for these writers: read, and read, and read, lots and lots of English language fiction books, in your spare time. English is fiendishly difficult, and reading constantly, and omnivorously, is the only way to absorb its tricky rules and nuances. But at the same time, try to keep your authentic Chinese voice – which makes your writing unique and special. Wicked words are all in bold italics.

FIRST PLACE:         Daniel Song, Grade 3, SUIS Hongqiao, Shanghai

Daniel’s adventure story about a brave warrior rooster, his inquisitive bulbul friend and a spider, who lead a rebel band against an evil Chinese emperor, is packed with action and exciting detail. Daniel included all my special ingredients, used four of my Wicked Words correctly, and some impressive further vocabulary – I sense that Daniel is a bit of a military specialist with words like “deployed” and “morale problems” being used so effectively! I especially liked the way he used the spider as a device to include constant references to that ball of string, as well as the satisfying ending. Well done Daniel, and keep on reading and writing a lot – you’re on your way to being a great writer!

The True Emperor

Once upon a time in China there was a brave, omniscient rooster warrior and a bulbul that flew from U.S.A. and knew nothing about China. One day, while the rooster was stopping thieves from stealing gold, he met that bulbul, which has no food and was fainting. He baked a rabbit for the bulbul to eat and cooked many other delicious meals for the bulbul. When the bulbul woke up, he asked 10 questions about the rooster, 5 about China, 7 about the food after he ate it, and the rooster answered them one by one.

This rooster was once a general of the rooster anti-thief army of China. The thieves have defeated all of the army, but he still bravely battled and won respect all over China. He was currently an independent anti-thief unit, and often was invited to parties.

When he saw the bulbul and heard he was from the U.S.A. he decided to care for him and train him to fight thieves. They gradually became friends. The bulbul has a white belly, black head and feathers, and a little yellow at his tail. The rooster has a red head, dark brown feathers, and black feet. They soon met a new challenge.

One day in China, there was an illustrious evil emperor that got all the gold and silver in the world, only cared about being richer and created rebellious areas all over China.

The rebels were led by the rooster, a spider, and the bulbul. One day, the rooster thought of how to get away all the gold and silver from the emperor. As the other rebels (humans) gathered with knives and axes and swords, the invasion was ready. The emperor had 20 million troops, but they all hate the emperor, so they often have morale problems. All the rebels, as the emperor was deploying troops, were charging to the emperor’s palace walls. Inside the capital came a burst of Chinese troops. The spider immediately launched some balls of string and captured them. The force’s remnants exonerated and joined the attack on the palace. Rebels continued the invasion and fire burned the richly-colored coquelicot walls to nothing and started to kill.

By that time, the leaders said, “Stop killing! Take the gold and run!” So they, together, pulled away a house of gold.

The invasion gave total pandemonium to the palace. By that time, he can finally see from the palace to the outside world. He saw whole cities of broken buildings (the money that originally could be used on fixing them became taxes!). He, under more pain that he had ever glimpsing at this broken country, decided to surrender to the rooster.

As he walked to the rebels’ camp, the rooster ordered not to attack him. Soon, they personally met. The rooster said, “As long as you make China a better place, you can join us, which represents justice in China.” The emperor said, “OK, I will be a magnanimous person towards everyone and everything.”

To fix China, the spider, under the roosters’ command, fixed all of China with the balls of string. Since then, China became peaceful and everyone was rich, not just the emperor.

SECOND PLACE: Abigail Cai, Grade 3, SUIS Hongqiao, Shanghai

Abigail’s story is an endearing tale of friendship, and was very well-written, containing  few grammatical errors, with just a couple of issues with tense and spelling. I loved the idea of the ball of string being used to deconstruct the evil queen! She used her 5 Wicked Words well, and her story was well-constructed. But one BIG issue was that her rooster was a girl…and roosters are, by definition, male birds! Be careful Abigail, and make sure you do your research if you are at all in doubt about your subject! And I did want more description of your characters and especially the setting so I could paint a picture in my head of the backdrop to the action! Overall, though, it was a fantastic effort and a well-deserved second place!

Only Because of A Ball of String

On one estival day of 2017, a rooster was born. The idiosyncratic thing was, the rooster was borne inside a ball of string. And the ball of string was inside a magical cave so it has a lot of magical power. And the magical cave was in Shanghai.

The rooster grew very fast. Within 3 years, she was as tall as a mailbox! But I have some bad news. This rooster called Katrina was cruel, selfish, rude and mean.

She was Queen of all roosters in Shanghai. No rooster in Shanghai ever dared to look at Katrina right in the eye. There were a million rooster soldiers and they were all Katrina’s slaves. Needless to say, the slaves hated their Queen.

The only way to fight their Queen was to pull string away from the ball of string that gave birth to her, because it was the center of her power.

If the ball of string was gone forever, then Katrina would be gone forever and turned into dust. Even if one string was pulled, one piece of Katrina would turn into dust.

They tried. But no one could ever take away all of the strings at once, because Katrina was so strong and never left the ball alone for more than an hour.

One day, Katrina rushed into Shanghai for some quick shopping of sumptuous rooster jewelry.

Crash! She accidentally tripped over a thing; it turned out it’s a bulbul bird.

Usually Katrina would give the thing an evil eye and put up a fight. But as the bulbul called Lily said sorry, like magic, a force forced Katrina to smile and say “it’s Okay”. And so she did.

Lily stood up and said, “Are you Okay? I am truly sorry. Hey, I am going to the bubble tea store. You can come too and I can buy you one tea as my sorry gift. I mean, if it was okay with you.”

Again the magical force forced Katrina again to say: Sure. So Katrina did what the force told her to do.

After that, they became best friends and Katrina forgot about the magical cave and stayed in Lily’s house in Shanghai.

One day, Katrina saw a piece on her tantalizing dress turned into dust. Then another.

That’s when she realized that she had forgotten the ball of string. She dashed back into the cave. When she finally got there, she saw a soldier standing in front of the ball of string and pulling.

“Hey, what do you think you are doing?” shouted Katrina. The soldier ran away. Katrina ran towards the ball of string. It was smaller. Katrina felt like crying.

Then, Katrina’s phone rang. “Katrina, where are you?” Asked Lily.

“ Lily, I need to tell you something. You know the magical cave? Go in and follow the coquelicot dust. You’ll find me. OK?”

Because Lily is a very clever Bulbul, she knew right away where it is.

It was a foggy day. The wind was howling like a crazy wolf in Shanghai. Lily knew something was wrong. She dashed into the cave in what felt like mere seconds.

She saw Katrina at the cave’s gate. Lily was grateful to see Katrina again. Inside, she felt more worrying than happy.

“Is it okay if I tell you something you didn’t know about me?” Asked Katrina.

“I was borne here in this cave and they called me Queen Katrina and lived here all the time before you met me.”

“So you were the mean Queen everybody hated? Why didn’t you tell me?” Lily burst into tears.

Before Katrina could say a word, Lily ran away. Then, Katrina felt some pain on the shoulders. She turned around and could not believe her eyes. There were a million of her soldiers shooting arrows at her.

She still had the ball of string but she didn’t want to hurt the soldiers any more! The only way she could think of is calling for Lily’s help. But after their misunderstanding, she didn’t think it was a good choice. She knew there was no more time for her to think.

She touched the ball of string and used the function that could only be used twice: the magic friendship function. She held on tight to the ball and yelled: “I wish I might the first wish I made tonight; I wish my friend was by my side. “

Then Lily felt the magical force forced her to walk back and help Katrina. So she did.

When she was almost there, some other Katrina’s soldiers came attacking Lily. Just then Lily saw a stone like a secret passage just by her side.

Lily jumped into the hole underneath the stone. “Ah!” It was indeed a secret passage!

Within mere seconds, Lily was right beside Katrina!

Katrina said to Lily: “My dearest friend, I don’t want to be the mean Queen any more. I realize that the force that made me befriend you came from the ball of string that was the center of my powers. Please forgive me. Let us be friends forever.”

Surely Lily exonerated her.

Together, they used the last chance of the magic friendship function.

“I wish I might, the first star I see tonight; to make the ball of string whole again and bring us in front of the soldiers!” They shouted together. Within one second, they were above in the air in front of all soldiers.

And Katrina shouted: “Soldiers and friends, I want to be a good Queen from now on. Please forgive what I did in the past. Feel free to call me Katrina if you like and exonerate me from my wrongdoings.”

From then on, the soldiers started calling her Katrina the Queen We Love. All of them lived happily ever after.

THIRD PLACE: Siyuan (Mia) Wang, Grade 3, SUIS Hongqiao, Shanghai, 9 Years Old

I really enjoyed reading Siyuan’s mythical tale of a rooster with the magical power to spin gold, who is sent by the gods to alleviate the suffering of the poor. His perilous mission, from serving a greedy peasant family, to training as a soldier, to learning about the beauty of the world, with its wonderful conclusion as he is granted immortality in Chinese folklore, had a truly Chinese character, while meeting the definition of a Really Riveting Rooster Tale very handsomely. The beginning was alluring, and this story contained the best character and setting descriptions in this category! But…the story was way above the maximum word count, and did not include many of the compulsory ingredients (string/bulbul/coquelicot/fire/5 Wicked Words). Please be more careful next time Siyuan to read the directions! And you can work on that English grammar by reading lots and lots of English language fiction books – while never losing your authentic Chinese voice, which is truly captivating!

 The Golden Rooster

Prologue: Long time ago, the gods ruled the ancient China, they were looking for poor ones those deserved better. They gave the poorest family an unknown gift, also took away something from the proudest, richest families. They discussed during travels high up in the sky. It dawned on gods when they saw the poorest family ever, they were on the lawn in rags, rooftops with holes, scarcely food in kitchen and their only treasure-a hen. At once, they knew what would be gave to the family to make their wishes come true and have better life.

A golden flash,

It hits the hen.

The hen faints,

Sudden quietness.

Once upon a time, at the central ancient China there was a poor farmer family lived by the Yellow River. Most of harvest was collected by army to support war against intruder. They had scarcely food, the only treasure was a hen.

One day, something rather peculiar happened with coincidence. All food’s gone, in the meanwhile the hen laid seven eggs! Even more amazing one of them was a giant golden egg!

Right on that day, the golden egg hatched! A little creature came out the eggshell. It looked very much like a hen, but it had a red dangly thing at chin and a red crown on head. The family thought it’s a male hen, so the oldest sister – Qiaoqiao Li, gave a name to the new life: Rooster.

Rooster had an incredible ability, he could spin gold! Every day Rooster spun some gold that made the family rich very soon, like other fortunate families. They even bought a new house in a month! But they became very ungrateful little by little. The Li family made him spin gold as much as he could every day, but they were not thankful of it. Among with more and more gold rolling into the ‘pocket’, the family went to be more greedy and selfish.

Finally, at a Friday night, Rooster could not bear it anymore. When the family was sleeping, he escaped and leaped out from a window.

Rooster landed on threshold of the house. He stopped and started sobbing, gold tears slid into the house, broken into fist-sized pieces. After a while, he felt angry and sad, sang and shrieked at the top of his lungs. Not long after, the house’s bedroom window lit up by red candles, and innocent poor Rooster knew what they were up to. The rooster took one last look at Li family’s new plush house, and ran down the wide, golden stairs.

As he ran, all his decrepit feelings flowed out of mind. After all, he knew something new was going to happen, he knew it.

Rooster ran through the little town, fields and sand hills to a plain where he spent last ounce of strength, lied down and instantly fell into sleep …

Rooster woke up from chock, chattering and talking all around. He found it was in a red valley with countless tens, it obviously wasn’t the same place he slept under the starry sky.

“Well, well, well,” a red face general spoke, scooping up curious, nervous Rooster. He showed it to soldiers in front of him. “Our golden baby has woken up.”

“Serve it some food! It deserves when we take its gold.” Rooster struggled to free himself, but it was helplessness, the general was holding him on the neck tightly.

“Is this food okay, General?” A soldier ran close by, with little grains in a cup.

“Fine. It shall be okay for it.” Couldn’t wait the general finished off his sentence, Rooster began pecking tiny grains in the cup. Delicious! He ate every single grain, until nothing left in the cup with few golden saliva.

“Well, it seems to like that.” The general couldn’t help laughing.

“It is pretty easy, we have plenty provisions. em… I do think this rooster may fight with us and talk human language if we train it… do you agree with me?”

“Yes!” A chorus of soldiers’ voice echoed through the empty clearing.

“Very well, then. We shall decide how in 3 days and start to train it right away. Let’s get to work.” As so, some soldier chimed in with the general.

Just in a few days, a tribe had completed their mission. They had thought of ways to teach Rooster Chinese characters, how to fight and things a soldier was supposed to know. And pardon you, they even had plan to teach fortunetelling and cooking.

Rooster studied very hard and quickly, became a smart brave soldier to join many battles after couple weeks. He was not only a rooster, he grew up a ‘roodier’.

Rooster never got injured magically, and not got older, the gods granted him an immortal soul. He led a tribe and his soldiers respected him very much, as they thought Rooster had very much courage and power.

One night, a battle was nearly over. The tribe and Rooster were sleeping in their tents, snoring loudly. It has been a hard day, some wagons broken pieces in the battlefield, nearly all the soldiers were wounded. Some even got killed! Nothing could wake even just one of them up. Nothing.

Another tribe of tired soldiers passed their tents and got an evil idea to grab Rooster. A soldier took a dagger out and sliced down a square from each tent. They saw the exhausted sleeping soundly soldiers, and Rooster was in his private tent. They recognized him immediately.

As soon as they were done with this, one of the soldiers scooped Rooster up like a doll, others pressed dagger into each of the poor asleep soldiers’ chest. Instantly, every Rooster’s soldier was as dead as a piece of torn up paper.

After a few days, the soldier who discovered Rooster was going to quit the army. Nobody wanted him to go, as he was such a good fighter. They all pleaded him to tell all of them his reasons to leave, but he refused.

He left every belonging to the tribe, but only took the golden egg rooster with him. Why? Other soldiers wondered. Why did he want to leave but only take Rooster with him? Has he turned greedy throughout the days? Well, that soldier had his own reasons.

The soldier Tianying had no choice to be a soldier before, he was forced by his Dad. Last month, he got news that both his father and mother had died, his father lung disease, and his mother from influenza.

Tianying’s Dad was a formal leader of the tribe that the soldier was in, but as soon as he got lung disease, he had to discharge and try to let his son to replace him, however Tianying wasn’t a very good warrior back then, therefore he chose someone else to take the leader position.

Although Tianying never wanted to be a soldier, but he also didn’t want to leave his father heartbroken, because the old man already got serious disease.

Tianying knew he couldn’t mess this up and let his father down, but he couldn’t bear these anymore, fighting and killing, too bloody for him. His father kept on telling him this quote: “Someday it will stop, this is how life comes to be. Now my Tianying goes back to work.” But Tianying never understood. He had a own plan.

This plan wasn’t really Tianying’s. The gods had given it to his wife – Lingmei who was a young old-style private school teacher.

Just the night Tianying had decided to quit the tribe, Lingmei was sent a dream from the gods. The gods told her that Tianying would quit the tribe with Rooster. The god gave her the heads-up because of her faith and belief in gods, so the gods wanted Lingmei to change Rooster. To teach him the beauties of this world, to teach him about nature and music, being a good living being. And let him forget all about the bloody fighting time.

Every day, after Tianying went to work at his new soup shop, the couple spent half day time with Rooster, on teaching him new things.

After a year, Rooster was back to its real self again. Lingmei told Rooster to share his experience with the livings of this world – human, animals, plants… And she let Rooster leave to accomplish the mission.

Rooster did what he’s supposed to do very well, he shared his stores to people calling for peace, gave gold to help poor families. He became a famous icon and everybody loved him.

God granted Lingmei and Tianying a wish to thank them for what they did for Rooster. They made a wish to have a child who looks just like Rooster. And so, after 9 months, Lingmei gave birth to a pretty little girl with curly hair. They named her Jier, a similar name named of Rooster.

People believed that Rooster always bring good fortune, happiness and good sign and to the world, as time passes Rooster became one of mascot animals in Chinese folk.

FOURTH PLACE: Ivy Wang, Grade 1, SUIS Hongqiao, Shanghai 8 years old

At just 8 years old, and in Grade 1 with English as her second language, Ivy’s entry was truly impressive! I very much enjoyed her exciting tale of the rescue of a bulbul from a greedy woman by a brave rooster and his animal team – but remember Ivy to describe your setting in detail, and give a bit more information about your characters! As a beginner writer, I was hugely impressed that Ivy was able to use 3 of the 5 Wicked Words she chose correctly! Well done Ivy and keep on writing and reading lots and lots of books!

Rooster, the Hero

One sunny day, a very very fat woman caught a bulbul in Jing An Park because the bulbul could sing mellifluous songs and it could make any unhappy people happy in the world. The woman did not have a baby and her husband was very lazy. The man did not catch fishes. Then she gave bulbul a name that is “Barbie”.

Barbie had many friends in the Ivy forest. There was a very proud brave rooster and he volunteered to be the leader. Then he gave every animal a codename because they all wanted to save the bulbul. The rooster named himself number 1 and he said to the other animals “you the rabbit you are number 2, you, the squirrel, you are number 3, you, the sheep, you are number 4 and the cat is number 5.” The rooster thought the codename would be more secret. They spent all day to plan how to save Barbie.

They set out to save Barbie the next day. The first time the rooster brought a huge candle to the woman’s house. The woman’s house was beside Jing An Park and the rooster thought he would put the candle down by a fishing pool inside the house. The rooster insisted the window behind the woman’s chair was a good start. But the woman carelessly dropped the ball of string and she stood up to pick it up and knocked down the candle. Then the woman sat back to her seat and kicked the candle by her ankle. The candle flew out of the window. The woman’s house was not on fire so that they did not save Barbie.

Everyone was sad that the plan did not succeed. In fact, the rooster was a little fastidious and thought that his idea was the best. So the rooster did not take other animals’ ideas the first time. The rooster apologized to others and he thought that the group was sure to do it next time.

They all thought the woman was very voracious about foods and money. They wanted to make huge pandemonium so they brought some watermelons and a fake copacetic egg-like diamond and a bag of boiled potatoes. The rooster asked number 3 (the squirrel) to put the diamond at the steps outside the front door then the squirrel rapidly hid himself in the backyard. The woman picked the diamond out of expectation and quickly got back into her chair. The rooster said: “all of you go and take the potatoes and threw to the woman.” They all said ok. The rooster shouted: “One Two Three! Go!” The fight began. The boiled potatoes got on the woman’s face like heavy raindrops. The woman just wiped it. They also used the watermelons and the woman felt hurt so that she went to the bathroom hurriedly. Number 2 (the rabbit) and the rooster slid into the room and the rabbit jumped on the table and opened the cage. The rooster asked: “are you okay?”

The bulbul nodded her head and flew outside. Finally, they met together.

The woman realized people should not catch the living things. So they have an ecstatic party! And the woman said sorry to Barbie. Everyone thought the rooster was very kind and was proud of him.

FIFTH PLACE: Sandra Zhao, Grade 3, SUIS Hongqiao, Shanghai

Sandra made a great attempt with her fun story about a talkative Rooster and his bulbul friend who battle a wicked witch. She correctly included not just 5 but 6 Wicked Words which was excellent! But as the title of her story makes clear, she has based it on the Broadway musical Wicked, with the same green witch called Elpha who dissolves in water! Sandra please remember – in story competitions, the judges are looking for original ideas, characters and storyline! You also need to work on your setting,  your tenses and your grammar (see my comments above about reading lots and lots of books) and your story ending – NEVER end a story “to be continued”! But a big well done for entering, and make sure you enter the next competition so you can get lots of story writing practice!

Wicked and Rooster

Once upon a time in Shanghai , a estival summer, 2 friends were on a road to see their new school . A illustrious talkative selfish ROOSTER! He was illustrious for throwing the wildest party in his old school or being on CCTV in school. And his friend (only because his friend for acting like a slave) But how rude of me my name is Sandra Zhao. And his friend the splendiferous bulbul, “Tita” (which is a girl).They met when they were in kindergarten, but they also had problems. Once Tita’s favorite comb got lost and Andy stole one of its large diamonds. But that was just a tiny problem…

So where were we? Ohh, yes! They were on their trip to their school. Something peculiar happened, very idiosyncratic … There was a witch at their school. A wicked witch, she is GREEN. She is called “Elpha”. She had a wand that can curse animals. She wanted to trick everyone.

She was the one who tantelise the coquelicot flowers. Why did Andy want to come here…YOU KNOW WHY? So, as they went on…they saw a thick forest on their way there. But Elpha was making a fire on it, so Tita said “What should we do?” “Let’s use our irridescent coquelicot flowers to unlock the spell!” Andy said.

“Ohh why didn’t I think of it?” They said the magic word and the fire was gone.

They were in Shanghai chasing Elpha, but just then Tita asked “We will never catch her!”“Ohh, there she is!” Andy shouted. They use the biggest power and made all the animals come here and FIGHT!

All the animals were running toward her and chasing her. She wasn’t scared at all. She said “BUDAMMATLALA!” All the animals were thrown away. She started running away, She crossed over the pond. Andy said “She crossed over the pond, she’s afraid of WATER!” Elephant used water to spray her! They went chasing her, all the animals pour water on her and she slowly disappear. “HOORAY! HOORAY!” Everyone shouted.

A ball of string appeared…

To be continued…

YEARS FOUR TO SIX CATEGORY

 In this Category there were 19 contestants, including a large number of excellent writers. Congratulations to everyone who entered this challenging competition – I very much enjoyed reading all your stories! The top six stories were all very well-written, with close attention to all the requirements of the competition. They also all scored very highly for that mysterious X-Factor – a combination of style, easy flow and that certain something which marks a story out as special. So you can imagine how difficult it was to work out the placings; in the end I had to be extremely picky! I’ve given an indication in each case of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the 6 finalists, which I hope will help them in future competitions, and I’ve also added on two well-deserved Special Mentions for reasons I’ll explain later! Wicked Words in bold italics as before.

 

FIRST PLACE: Arjya Kanjilal, Grade 6, DPS Newtown, Kolkata, India, 10 years old

Readers will remember Arjya’s wonderful 3rd place-winning entry last year in my Mischievous Monkey Story Competition; this time, she has come a well-deserved First Place! I loved Arjya’s exciting adventure story about the adventures of a garrulous rooster and cheerful bulbul who get caught in the clutches of an evil fox-magician. What especially made Arjya’s story stand apart for me were her lyrical descriptions of setting – not just at the beginning, to set the scene, but throughout her story. Anyone who knows me will know that I am a Setting Fiend! Writing is all about painting pictures for the reader, and the more detail you paint about the story setting, the deeper the reader’s engagement in the story. Just look at Arjya’s opening paragraph to see what I mean! Other strengths were her alluring title, her use of exceptional vocabulary throughout, her well-drawn characters, her fast-paced plot with a great cliff-hanger, and the strong resolution and ending. Congratulations Aria – your writing just keeps getting better and better, and I look forward to seeing more of it!

 The Fire of Memories

The sky turned a beautiful coquelicot as the fluorescent red spring sun peeked out of its billowing cloak of clouds, spreading its golden hue over Bird Island in Qiandao Lake in China. Over the lush green meadows, lilies and violets nodded their heads in the gentle breeze as their tightly closed petals slowly unfolded and the hills came alive with the music of the birds. The iridescent feathers of a rooster shimmered in the soft light of the glowing red orb.

“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” A loud sound broke the roaring silence.

“Oh, Hi Ronnie! Are you awake already?” a sweet chirping voice came from behind him. It was a cheerful-looking red whiskered bulbul.

“You know that I wake along with the sun, Billie! You needn’t say that every morning”, replied Ronnie in his usual garrulous tone.

Billie suddenly shot off towards the sky shouting “Catch me if you can!” Ronnie started off after her, cursing under his breath for the millionth time about how he couldn’t fly.

Billie flew towards the Zhejiang waterfall darting behind a tree now and then. A ball of thread tangled in the branches got caught on her feet. It kept unravelling as she flew further and further but she failed to notice. Soon, she was in a different part of the island, completely uninhabited. Willows, alders and rhododendrons sprang up here and there and poppies dotted the green meadows. Behind the meadows and trees, there was a steep mountain. The rocks jutted out dangerously at right angles from its surface. And halfway up, there was a cave entrance, almost entirely concealed by some hanging ivy.

The dim glow emanating from the cave attracted Billie. Naturally curious about everything, she completely forgot about the game she had started playing and flew into the cave at lightning speed. The thread trailing all the way behind her snapped off when it got caught in the ivy, but she remained blissfully ignorant about it. Little did she realize that her inquisitiveness had led her straight into a trap. Her eyes fell on the magnificent coquelicot fire at the centre of the cave. Her eyes were transfixed on it but she missed the figure lurking in the shadows. The fire was showing her past, the memories dancing in the flames – her parents, herself as a baby, the first time she met Ronnie, all the years passing in minutes.

Suddenly, she heard a cackle from the shadows. Xi-Wang, the illustrious fox-magician said “The fire is connected to my life force. When the fire is fed, so am I, and my powers get enhanced. Now, you will cease to exist as anything but a memory trapped inside the fire whilst I take over the world. Ha!”

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, Ronnie was trudging up to the Zhejiang waterfall, but had completely lost sight of Billie. The mountain loomed in front of him. The strange light of the cave drew him near. Then suddenly, he saw a bright pink thread leading up the slope towards the cave. His instincts told him that Billie might be in trouble and the thread had something to do with it. After all, this wasn’t the first time her curiosity had got her into trouble.

“Billie? Are you here?” he shouted into the silence. He didn’t get any reply but he was positive that he was on the right track. “It is just serendipitous that Billie decided to leave this yarn!” he exclaimed.

He then looked up and saw the cave entrance, and how it was glowing with red light. He started to climb up the cliff. It wasn’t easy, but he egged himself on with a “just a little further!” Finally, he reached the cave entrance.

He saw Xi-Wang, the fox grinning from ear to ear, and Billie, helpless in one corner, standing centimetres away from the fire, her face frozen with fear. Xi-Wang pushed Billie forward and her wing seemed to be drawn to the strange fire. Ronnie flew in and let out the most piercing “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” He attacked Xi-Wang with a blind rage that momentarily threw Xi-Wang off balance. He lost control over the fire and Billie suddenly found herself free. Before he could regain his footing, Ronnie pushed him towards the enchanted fire and the magician got caught in his own trap. The fire did not burn him down but rather danced around him as if trapping him and turning him into a memory.

Meanwhile Billie flew back to Bird Island and informed the police about Xi-Wang’s atrocious behaviour. The bird police wasted no time and flew to the Zhejiang waterfall. They wrenched Xi-Wang out of the clutches of the fire and carried him off to the jail on Lock Island.

“Where havw you been all this time, Billie? I have been waiting for ages! Now, enough of adventure in one day, let’s get back”, rattled off Ronnie.

“Thanks so much for saving me my friend, I’ll try not to get into trouble any more”, replied Billie.

Ronnie & Billie went back to Bird Village, their home, where they were greeted by all the others. Ronnie chattered nineteen to dozen with all the other birds. It didn’t take long for the reporters to come too. He was ecstatic that he would be on television. He spoke about his ineffable joy at having saved Billie, and repeated his story at least thrice to every little bird.

Billie flew towards Ronnie and gave him a splendiferous trophy. “It’s a bravery award of the highest honour from the police.” Ronnie’s chest swelled with pride and he hopped off to brag about it to everyone, his coxcomb swaying as he marched.

Suddenly, Billie came up with a great idea.

“Let’s celebrate the victory of Ronnie the Rooster by celebrating the Year of the Rooster every twelve years, starting this year, 1921. Three cheers for Ronnie, Hip Hip Hurray!”

SECOND PLACE: Vedang Deshpande, Grade 6, Canadian International School, Tanjong Katong Campus, Singapore, 12 years old

Congratulations to competition newcomer Vedang on his superb entry. His story of a proud and cocky Rooster King who learns humility, wisdom and the true meaning of heroism with the help of a Himalayan bulbul was highly imaginative and witty! I especially loved the reference to the Maharaja, and the explanation about that colour, coquelicot! His story was a strong contender for first place, but was let down by a somewhat weak climax and a slightly abrupt ending. Overall it was a fantastic effort and I can’t wait to see more of Vedang’s writing!

Yong – The Proud Rooster

In the serene, peaceful village of Tuvas in southern China, “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!” the King of the birds screeched as soon as the sun broke, interrupting the beautiful silence. Everyone came groggily out of their houses to hear what the King had to say.

Kuai the sparrow squeaked, “Why did you wake us up so early your majesty?”

“I called you here to tell you about how amazing I am!” Yong, the rooster King of the village boasted.

“During the war of ‘Niao’ (birds), I was crowned ‘The Best Warrior’!”

Yong truly was brave but nowadays he had stopped caring about the residents of his village. Yong wasn’t a modest ruler – he was a noisy, conceited, self-centered King.

As the loud rooster ranted on about his ‘real’ adventures, the other birds stealthily crept back into their nests trying not to get noticed by Yong. The only creature left listening to Yong’s far-fetched tales was Xiaoxue, the young myna who was in awe of Yong’s bravery.

As Yong continued to boast, a large silhouette appeared over the village. The birds chirped in panic and gathered their chicks into their nests. There was pandemonium everywhere. A massive human hand reached down and grabbed Xiaoxue. Yong watched helplessly as the human put Xiaoxue into a cage and briskly walked away.

All the birds angrily came from their nests and glared at the King. “This is entirely your fault, instead of just telling your stories of bravery you should have protected the kingdom and my baby would still be here!” Mama Xue sobbed.

“You go get Xiaoxue or you’ll be exiled from the village!!” Kuai shouted.

“But you.. You c-c-can’t do this.. I’m your leader!!” Yong protested as a group of birds dragged him out of the village. “Bring Xiaoxue home or never come back!” Mama Xue hollered.

As the rooster trudged away from the village he heard a squeaky, chirping sound. As he turned around he was hit with a blur of grey and black! Yong had never seen this bird in the village before. “Who are you?” Yong asked the bulbul.

“I-I-I’m Aragon, messenger of the Himalayan maharaja. I’ve come to inform you that some birds from our tribe have also been captured by the people, who keep them in a cage as their pets. My maharaja sent me to alert the bird villages about the same but I guess I was too late in Tuvas,” Aragon sighed.

“Birds should be free!” Yong bellowed, “Do you know where the humans live?”

“Sir, my investigation concludes that they live in the north-eastern parts of this land,” Aragon said, “Maharaja Aditya told me to help anybody who wants to free the birds.”

“COCKA-DOODLE DOOO!!” the rooster crowed, “Sorry Aragon, I always crow when I get too excited, crowing also helps me think!”

“Hehe.. That’s a peculiar idiosyncrasy sir!” Aragon chuckled.

In the pleasant weather Yong and Aragon made their way to the north, the cherry blossom trees with their bright pink flowers made the otherwise dull forest colorful. Yong noticed that there were fewer birds in the trees.

“Hmm, how odd eh Aragon, there are hardly any birds in this forest!” Yong said. “I’m certain that humans captured some of the birds here, and the rest of them moved south to be safe” Aragon squawked.

After a treacherous and tiring ten-days walk, Yong found an appetizing meal. “L-L-look Aragon!! A bucket of worms! I’ve never seen such mouthwatering worms in my life,” Yong drooled.

“SIR! DON’T FALL FOR THE TRAP! THE HUMANS ARE TRYING TO TANTALISE US, SO THEY CAN TRAP US!!” Aragon screeched at the top of his lungs.

“How silly of me,” The King realized, “Aragon, look there’s a string tied to the handle of the bucket, it is reddish in color!”

“Actually it’s more of the shade of coquelicot,” Aragon pointed out.

“What’s coquelicot?” The King asked.

“Coquelicot is a unique shade of red – your comb is also coquelicot, I know this because I have read about every kind of bird species that there is, I used to borrow books from the library!” Aragon told Yong about his learnings as they followed the string.

All of a sudden, the atrocious smell of waste filled the air which made the King nauseous. He heard the shouts of the market and the unmistakable call of a myna nearby!

Yong noticed a ball of the same coquelicot string left outside a hut. Yong craned his neck up and saw some drawings which looked unfamiliar.

“Aragon, what does that say?” Yong asked, pointing towards the drawing.

“If I’m not mistaken that says ‘“Live Birds – For Sale’!” Aragon said excitedly.

They saw a man who was sitting by the birds.

“Do you know how to set a fire?” Yong asked.

“Yes, I know! I’ll start a fire as a distraction and meanwhile you can free the birds!” Aragon squeaked excitedly.

Aragon gathered materials to start a fire.

“Chnk-Chnk-Chnk” Aragon hurriedly struck the stones against each other to start a fire. Finally, he was able to light a fire which quickly spread out.

The man sitting by the birds rushed out to see what was happening and Yong swiftly entered the hut, unlocked all the cages and the birds, thanking him, happily flew back to their own villages!

Yong scooped Xiaoxue, who was scared and couldn’t fly and bolted into the forest. Aragon followed him and they went back to Tuvas.

“Yes! We did it! Thank you Aragon! If we hadn’t saved Xiaoxue then I would’ve broken my promise and I would’ve failed Mama Xue,” Yong said.

After Yong returned the bird village had a sumptuous celebratory feast with Aragon as the guest of honor. Now the King listened to the residents more often and instead of telling preposterous tales, ruled Tuvas very wisely which made him popular and well respected.

THIRD PLACE: Emily Davis, Year 4, Arden Anglican School Beecroft, Sydney, Australia, 10 years old

Emily has become a regular entrant in my competitions, and readers may recall that she placed first in the Grade 1 to 3 Category of my Mischievous Monkey Story Competition last year! Now, in just Year 4, she is becoming a strong competitor among the Big Guys! I loved Emily’s highly original story of an annoying rooster who finally found respect in his village when he outwitted the Red Guards of Chairman Mao’s army! I especially enjoyed her descriptions of setting, her strongly-drawn characters, her use of vocabulary, the fast-moving plot and her use of historical fact to add drama to her story. But the slightly abrupt ending and some mistakes with punctuation were weak points – sometimes a semi-colon should replace a comma, Emily! In conclusion, though, watch out other contestants! Emily is a young writer to be reckoned with, and I can’t wait to see more of her writing!

 The Rooster who saw Red

The morning light stuck its shining head up over the rooftops of Zengchong village. It roused the birds who began their morning chatter among the trees. On hearing their song the sun spilled over into the streets searching all through the village for its one recruit, Hong-Hi. After covering every nook and cranny of Zengchong the sun finally found Hong-Hi curled up under a bench.

Like every rooster Hong-Hi was extremely annoying to anyone but himself. His job, as is true for all roosters, was to rise each morning at dawn to awaken all in earshot of his screeching cry. Hong-Hi was fed up; he felt unappreciated and disrespected. He was the rooster of Zengchong and yet all people did was batter him with their brooms. It was atrocious. Hong-Hi rolled over and let out a loud and lazy yawn. He decided not to wake those ungrateful humans today but instead have a well-deserved sleep in. Hong-Hi yawned again, this time even louder causing his coquelicot wattle to wobble.

Hong-Hi slept for several hours before stirring to find the village deadly silent. No carts squeaked along the narrow streets filled with hay and market goods. No sellers called out to hungry travellers or town’s folk. There was no busy chatter from the workmen as they lugged heavy loads of wood and stone. No horse’s hooves clattered down the cobbled winding streets of Zengchong. All was covered in a hazy fog of impenetrable silence, there was not a rustle or twitch from anything in Zengchong village.

Hong-Hi felt extremely unsettled. He fluffed out his feathers and cowered behind the leg of the bench. Guilt crept over Hong-Hi’s heart, maybe sleeping in hadn’t been such a good idea.

Hong-Hi let out a piercing cry and waited … nothing. He tried again, the village remained stubbornly quiet. Hong-Hi stamped his foot with impatience, what was wrong with this village? Why did no one listen to him? Sulking, he plonked his bottom firmly down on the dusty cobblestones.

Hong-Hi stared mournfully up at the wooden drum tower, its triangular turrets stacked one on top of the other reaching up to the sky. The old tower was splendiferously decorated with swaying straw knots to welcome in the New Year. Tomorrow there would be fireworks and music.

“Chakolee, chakolee” a bulbul bird called down from his perch on a pile of multi-coloured fireworks.

Hong-Hi leapt up, his beating wings causing clouds of dust to swirl like a tornado around him. Scuttling towards the tower Hong-Hi gathered wingfuls of fireworks and hopped up onto the first roof tier. He looked down, all was still. Hong-Hi continued to climb, haphazardly throwing his body up to each new tier, gasping for breath at this unaccustomed exercise. Flopping onto the final tier, Hong-Hi scratched ferociously at the wooden roof panels willing a spark to appear. Placing his claw onto the firework, waiting…nothing. Hong-Hi slumped, his comb drooping across his eye.

“Chakolee, chakolee,” the bulbul bird swept down, a ball of string held in its beak. Spreading his wings Hong-Hi crowed with delight. The bulbul inadvertently dropped the string, diving for the ground to escape the harsh call. Quickly Hong-Hi snatched up the string, tied it to a firework, and scratching with his claw he achieved another spark! As he had expected, the string caught alight!

The firework exploded with a deafening boom, a million fiery stars shot up into the sky.   Hong-Hi peered out from behind a pillar. A crowd of villagers were gathering in the town square, all eyes were fixed on Hong-Hi. Hong-Hi lifted a wing and wiggled it in the air.

A man shouted out from the crowd “Catch the rooster! Get a catapult, he will burn our village down!”

Hong-Hi slowly dropped his wing down to his side. He stared out at the crowd in horror. Some of the crowd had already left to collect their weapons, a boy threw a stick. This was not the recognition he deserved, this was dishonour. Shame flooded through him.

Hong-Hi stared sadly away from the pandemonium of the crowd towards the rolling hills, his attention drawn to a moving patch of red. He squinted, shading his eyes with his wing. The patch broke into smaller patches of red becoming flags as they got closer. These people weren’t villagers or travellers, they wore red armbands and came with sticks of burning wood. The Red Guards!

Hong-Hi cried out and dashed inside the drum tower. He threw himself down the inner stairs. He had to warn the villagers and bang the drum. He had to make them listen. Racing towards the drum Hong-Hi heaved the wooden drum stick up and thwacked himself against the skin of the drum.

“Gooooooooonnnnggggggg’

Hong-Hi shook up and down as the sound reverberated around the room.

Again he threw himself forward.

‘ Goooooooooonnngggg”

His head throbbed, he kept going until all six beats had been sounded. Hong-Hi collapsed onto his back, his legs in the air.

“Intruders! The gong has sounded six times.” The crowd outside began to panic.

A woman screamed “Red guards! Circle the drum tower, we must protect it”. Racing over to the tower the villagers formed a circle around it, their weapons held aloft.

The Red Guards’ faces were filled with shock, they had not expected that the crowd would be armed and waiting for them.

“Step aside, the tower must go. You must honour Chairman Mao. Move away from the old traditions and embrace the new. Step aside!”

The villagers held fast.

“We will never surrender our tower to you” they cried. Outnumbered, the Red Guards turned and fled.

The villagers cheered and dashed into the tower to praise the person who had beat the warning drum but instead found only Hong-Hi unconscious, his claw clasped around the stick.

From that day on an exonerated Hong-Hi was treated as an illustrious god. He was noticed everywhere he went and never again felt unappreciated.

FOURTH PLACE: Madeline Painter, Grade 4, Dryden Elementary School, Arlington Heights, Chicago, USA, 10 years old

Madeleine first burst onto the scene of my Clever Competitions two years ago, when she won 1st place in the Grade 1 to 3 Category of my Hair-Raising Halloween Poem competition, then followed that up with a 4th place in my Mischievous Monkey Story Competition and another 1st place in my Sunny Summer Poem, all in the younger age category! Now she’s in Grade 4, and her writing continues apace! Madeline has a distinctive, clear and witty writing style, and I smiled a lot as I read her fun story of a proud and clever Rooster who outwits an evil white cat at the Harbin Ice Festival in far north China. I loved the title, and I thought the story started brilliantly and flowed extremely well until the somewhat weak climax, and a resolution and ending which felt hurried. And a bit of a problem with that fire which burned the statue of the gargantuan rooster! Ice does not burn, my friend!! Madeleine used a grand total of 16 Wicked Words in her entry correctly! Well done Madeleine, and keep those entries coming in!

Treading on Thin Ice

Randy Rooster was having a perfectly splendiferous, wintry night in his hometown of Harbin, China.  Why shouldn’t the night be happy?  He was in the best city in the world, and the best place in the city; the illustrious Harbin ice festival.

It was a brisk, dark night, perfect for the bright, colorful light reflecting off his favorite sculpture. The gargantuan rooster was lit up in a bright coquelicot color.  The whole thing was tantalisingly iridescent. Randy was yearning to touch it, run his feathery wing across its cold surface.

Suddenly, he saw an egregious cat sneaking around from the corner of his eye.  He suspected the cat wanted to cause pandemonium, but he knew that wouldn’t happen.

Watch out.

Randy was confused.  He could have sworn he heard someone talking to him, but when he glanced around, no one was paying any attention. They were too busy marveling at the resplendent statue.  Abruptly, a gasp arose from the crowd.

“What’s going on?” an inquisitive bulbul shouted. “I demand someone fix this!”

“Wait what?” Randy cried out. “What’s wrong? Tell me and I promise I’ll fix it!”

Nobody answered poor Randy.  Instead, his mother tried to cover Randy’s eyes and hurry him through a nearby ice tunnel, but it was too late.  Randy watched as the intricately carved ice rooster in all its glory, was engulfed in flames.

“Mom, I know it’s ridiculous, but I saw the arsonist, and I promised, if I knew what was going on I’d fix it.  Like it or not, a promise is a promise.  A true rooster never breaks his promise,” a loquacious Randy pouted.  “I have very good eyesight you know.  I saw the arsonist.  And get this Mom, it was a cat!”

Randy’s mother sighed, “There is something you must know sweetie.  Your great, great grandfather, your grandfather’s grandfather, was the rooster.  The original rooster who raced for our place in the zodiac.  Ever since the race, the descendants of the cat have been wanting revenge on the other racers.  My guess is, who you saw, was an atrocious descendent of the cat.”

“Then I must find the cat and defend our honor!  I promised Mom!  Does this look like a face that would break a promise?”

“Uhhhhh…”

“Exactly my point!  This face is too innocent-and stunningly handsome-to break a promise!”

“I guess you can find the cat.  You do have a point.  I may not like it, but you did promise.  And a true rooster never breaks his promise.  Although do promise me one thing.  Randy Raleigh Rooster, you will come home safely.”

“I promise Mom.”

“Okay then, run along now.  Good luck and stay safe.”

“Cats. Hmmm.  They live in airports, right?  Or was it rock-climbing places?  I’d better ask around,” Randy muttered to himself.  He walked up to a rhino and asked him where cats live, but the rhino just turned away, spraying slobber on Randy.  Randy repeated this questioning process (slobber included) until he came to his best friend Jacob, who was, surprisingly, a cat. Jacob was fastidiously playing with a ball of string and didn’t look up when Randy asked his question.

“Well, I live here, but most cats live in the technology area.  You know, the computer stores, i-pad stores, those places,” Jacob explained, not looking up.

“Got it. Thanks!” Randy said over his shoulder as he rushed off.  “That cat I saw.  He was… white!  I remember now!  Bright white all over!” Randy stopped talking when he saw the back of what looked like a white cat.  He approached the figure.  “Hey you!” he shouted.

The figure turned around revealing pale white, floppy ears in front of his face. “Huh?”

The white figure was a bunny.  “Oh, I uhh… I thought you were someone else. I…. actually, do you know of any cat who is entirely white?”

“Well there is one who lives on 1210 Kitty Lane, if that helps any.”

“It does!  Thanks a lot!  Bye!” Randy clucked over his shoulder as he ran off. “1210… found it!” Randy exclaimed as he ran up the front steps and rang the doorbell.

“Hello?” a hazel cat asked in a lackadaisical tone.  “May I help you?”

“I was told a pure white cat lives at this house.  May I, uhh… see this cat?”

“Patrick!” the cat called over her shoulder.

“Coming!” a new voice squeaked.

What came out the door bamboozled Randy greatly. “He’s-he’s,”  Randy stuttered. “He’s a kitten!”

“Are you surprised?” the hazel cat questioned.

“I um… wait, have you seen another pure white cat that is not a kitten?”

“Oh, well there’s one who lives across the street.  It’s a dangerous cat though.  A real sourpuss.  I wouldn’t approach it head on if I were you. Good luck,” she said as she promptly closed the door in his face.

Randy was standing outside the door of the house pondering how to confront the cat when he thought of Jacob’s ball of string.  He could use string to lure the cat out!  He ecstatically rushed back across the street and explained his dilemma.  The hazel cat readily agreed to lend Randy a ball of string and call the police.

Once the police arrived, Randy set his sagacious plan into action.  He carefully tucked most of the ball of string underneath the door crack, leaving only a small portion of string to clasp in his wings.  Randy then rang the doorbell and stepped aside.

Before opening the door, the cat saw the string and tugged, but Randy kept a secure hold.  The cat didn’t see the rooster through the closed door and peeked outside to see what the string was caught on.  As soon as paws came into view, handcuffs were slapped around them.  The figure of a white cat in a dress was screaming and confessing her crimes as she was dragged into the police car.

FIFTH PLACE: Kairavi Sivasankar, Grade 6, UWCSEA Dover, Singapore, 12 years old

A warm welcome back to my Clever Competition to Kairavi, a past 1st and 2nd place getter in the Grade 1 to 3 Category some years ago when she lived in Hong Kong! Karaivi now lives in Singapore, and continues to excel with her writing. I loved the way her story of an obnoxiously cocky rooster who falls foul of the farmer’s cooking pot started – the dialogue was enormous fun and I loved her detailed description of Peking the Rooster! But there was scant description of the setting, and I felt that the ending was a little bit predictable. But remember, I’m being picky! It was a great story, Kairavi, in a very strong field, and I look forward hugely to seeing more of your writing in the future!

Cocky Chicken

It was an idyllic start to a warm summer morning on a farm near the outskirts of Beijing. The clouds drifted lazily across the sky and all was peaceful. Until…

Cocka-doodle-doo!

“Wake up, everyone! It’s a neeewww day!” Peking the rooster crowed.

Ugay the cow grunted. “I’ve been here for ages and never seen a rooster as obnoxious as Peking!”

Bowai the sheep sighed. “Peking is not his ancestors. They could keep the worms away.”

“Look at you animals, ugly and shaggy,” Peking continued. “Look at me, with my resplendent coquelicot feathers and canary beak!”

The farmer came to get the animals ready for work. They worked, except one… Peking. He fluttered and boasted, taking long naps and eating whenever he wanted. He teased the animals while staying out of the farmer’s view. When the farmer saw that work was unfinished, she punished the bullocks, the cows, and the sheep. Everyone was tired of Peking, but only the farmer could do anything.

That night, the animals overheard the farmer and her husband talking in the house.

“The emperor is coming to the village, and we have nothing to offer him.”

Her husband calmed her. “Should we give him the cow?”

Ugay gulped.

The farmer scowled. “No! Ugay is very special to me.”

Ugay sighed in relief.

Her husband asked, “What about the lamb?”

Bowai gasped.

The farmer disagreed. “Bowai would be devastated!”

Bowai nuzzled her lamb thankfully.

Her husband sighed. “What, then?”

In the distance, a rooster crowed. The farmer smiled. “How about… Peking?”

The next day, Ugay and the other animals voted not to tell Peking, but kind Bowai pitied him and told him. Peking was shocked and horrified. He rushed to the stables where the animals were resting and implored them to help.

Ugay harrumphed. “And why should we do that?”

Peking looked around desperately. “Please… please?”

All the animals murmured and shook their heads shiftily. Peking was devastated. Without a word, he fluttered out of the stables and started to hop out of the farm. He lamented how atrocious the other animals were. Peking refused to accept the fault was his.

As nightfall came, however, he grew anxious and longed for a friend. Then he heard a cheep and a small brown bulbul landed in front of him.

“Hello!” he chirped. “What’s your name? What are you doing here? Where are you going?”

Peking drew himself up and fluffed his feathers. “I am Peking with the coquelicot feathers and canary beak, I am on a journey, and… well, I’m heading somewhere safe. Same questions to you.”

“Well, I don’t have a name. I don’t have a home, either, so I’m just wandering around here.”

“Well, everyone has to have a name, so how about Bulbul?”

Bulbul the bulbul nodded happily. “Very imaginative! I like it! Can I accompany you on your journey?”

“It is imaginative, isn’t it?” Peking said, preening himself. “Sure. Come along.”

As they were walking, Peking told Bulbul about his plight. Then they searched for a sleeping place. As they were, Peking heard the farmer’s voice. “Peking! Where are you? I need you!”

Peking gasped. “Uh oh. That’s the farmer.”

Unfortunately, roosters are not fast animals. Bulbul flew away. Peking tried to follow but couldn’t. He was too heavy. Bulbul watched helplessly as the farmer lifted Peking into a pot. Peking locked eyes with Bulbul. “Get me out of here.” Bulbul nodded.

The farmer heaved the metal pot over the sizzling fire. Bulbul flew in from the window. The farmer told her husband to fetch the herbs and spices because the dish was for the emperor. He told her not to be so fastidious.

Meanwhile, Peking was slowly roasting in the pot. He saw Bulbul and looked pleadingly at him. Bulbul nodded and while the farmer was arguing, soared in and pecked her hard on the ear. She yelled and dropped the pot into the flames. Peking squawked and leaped out of the pot.

“Bulbul!” he hollered, avoiding the farmer’s stick. “Follow me!” He ran for the next room, where an open window awaited.

Bulbul tore for the window… to see a gargantuan cat! She yowled and scratched at Bulbul, who panicked and flew away, but the cat scratched at him again. Peking grabbed a ball of wool, tantalizing the cat. Her attention shifted and Peking flung the wool out of the room, just as the farmer and her husband bounded in. They were distracted by the missile of their cat and had to scatter. Peking and Bulbul shot through the window, just in time, and landed on a bullock cart.

“Phew!” Peking puffed. “Thanks, Bulbul. You saved my life.”

Bulbul frowned thoughtfully. “You know, that’s the first time I’ve heard you use manners,” he said. “That’s why the other animals didn’t help you. You kept boasting about your coquelicot feathers and canary beak. No one likes a cocky chicken. But you have hope yet.”

Peking scratched his chin. “I suppose I did act a bit stuck up… I’m glad my temperament is better now. Thanks.”

Bulbul laughed and shook his head at Peking’s newfound manners.

Eventually, the cart stopped at a little orange orchard, where oranges, tangerines, and clementines were in full bloom. The birds looked at each other, nodded, and hopped out of the cart.

“This is splendiferous!” Peking exclaimed. “Come, Bulbul. Let’s find a nice tree.”

As they walked in, another bulbul fluttered out of the trees. “Hello,” she said. “I’m Bulbette. What are your names?”

Bulbul smiled. “I’m Bulbul, and this is Peking. May I share your home?”

“Of course,” Bulbette chirped. “This is Peka.” A pretty hen came out of the trees. Peka smiled at Peking. “You can share my home if you like.” Peking nodded eagerly.

So that was how it ended. Peking and Peka raised their own little family, as did Bulbul and Bulbette. They lived in the orange orchard for the rest of their lives in peace –

Cocka-doodle-doo!

Oh, yes… except for that.

 

SIXTH PLACE: Nayonika Biswas, Grade 6, Delhi Public School Newtown, Kolkata, India, 11 years old

Nayonika’s story was beautifully written, with a very original story line about a Rooster who learns to love his croaky voice, and some great vocabulary. But it needed more detail about the setting, a stronger climax and a more developed ending! Overall it was a fantastic effort, and I look forward to watching Nayonika’s writing go from strength to strength this year!

 Mǔjī’s Voice

Once upon a time in China, before the invention of clocks, there lived a rooster called Mǔjī. He was very proud of himself and he loved to be the centre of attraction. He was both good-looking and smart with huge coquelicot manes and a draping wattle. The blood-red comb also added to his good looks. But only one thing bothered him – his voice. He was really ashamed of his croaky voice. Whenever he tried to speak, he would always end up making a laugh out of himself.

He longed for the mellifluous voice of Niǎo the bulbul. Niǎo was extremely inquisitive. She would never take ‘no’ for an answer to any of her questions. She was always hopping around, annoying everyone but she did have a melodious voice.

Every morning she would sing a beautiful tune while Mǔjī would only crow and wake the villagers up.

Niǎo was always teasing Mǔjī about his voice; “I am truly serendipitous to have got a voice like this rather than such an egregious voice like yours!” she would say.

What could Mǔjī do? he would try his best to ignore her tantalising voice. “What was God thinking when he made me? Was he in a really bad mood to have made my voice so croaky?” he thought.

One day, unable to bear the constant teasing of Niǎo, Mǔjī prayed to God, “Please make my voice melodic like Niǎo’s; I want to sing in the morning like her”. That night he slept peacefully thinking about his new voice.

Next morning Mǔjī was surprised to find his voice not like its usual croaking self but melodic like Niǎo’s! He was effervescent and was extremely happy. He decided not to crow that day as his voice may get ruined. So he did not crow, nor did anyone wake up. He waited and waited for Niǎo to come and then he would brag about his new voice, but she never came. He walked to her nest and saw that she was asleep and it was already afternoon! The entire town was pin-drop silent and no one made the slightest of noise except perhaps Mǔjī. He pranced and skipped about singing with his new voice.

As soon as it was evening he suddenly began to wonder, why was the entire town sleeping till now? Was it because of him? Was it because he did not crow like usual in the morning? The animals, the villagers, the king and the courtiers were all asleep; nobody had woken up except him.

Then it struck him; he crowed every morning and that was when the entire town woke up. It was only he who woke up without hearing the crowing. So because of his new voice he could not crow and the town could not wake up.

Realizing this he begged God, “God, please make my voice like it was before, I promise I would not be ashamed of it”.

Suddenly a thundering voice spoke up from the sky, a huge ball of fire with gleaming fiery eyes. “A wish graanted by the greeat fire God of the roosters cannot beee reveeersed!” it said atrociously.

“Oh Lord, please do something, I cannot forgive myself for this,” Mǔjī said but as soon as he said this, the ball of fire disappeared. Mǔjī began crying. He did not want to live alone in a town that would never wake up.

He began walking towards his house when suddenly he saw a ball of string. He looked closely at it and nudged it with his wings. It did not move. Then he mistook it for an edible thing and swallowed it whole. Little did he know what was going to happen after this? It was soon stuck in his throat unable to go in or come out.

Mǔjī began gasping for breath and was croaking loudly. He then fell on the ground and the ball of string flew out. Mǔjī breathed heavily as a sign of relief and kicked the ball away. He then opened his mouth to check his voice which instead of coming out as a melodious tune, came out as a loud croak! Mǔjī could not believe his ears! He croaked and croaked to verify this voice. Soon he was jumping with delight realizing his old voice had come back.

Next morning he crowed out loud as usual to wake the town up. Everyone woke up and carried on with their daily lives. Mǔjī was not ashamed of his voice anymore and began crowing loudly. Niǎo came and looked at him suspiciously, “Weren’t you ashamed of your voice Mǔjī?” she asked. “Not anymore,” was the reply from Mǔjī.

From then onwards, every morning the rooster used to crow and the bulbul used to sing in the little town of China.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Two further entries deserved a very special mention in this Category.

Ashling Walshe, grade 5, Shanghai United International School, Shanghai, 11 years old

Huge congratulations to Ashling, a regular entrant in my Clever Competitions who has placed in previous years! Ashling was the only contestant who bravely attempted the enormous challenge of writing her story entirely in rhyming couplets. And the result was fantastic, coming within a pip and a squeak of the first six places! She even managed to include four Wicked Words! Here is what Ashling wrote in her covering email: “In the slip attached to this e-mail, I have written a little story about the rooster’s curse. In the rooster’s curse, I have tried to use your style of writing – having the words rhyme like a song. I hope you find this story as ridiculously funny and splendiferously interesting as I find your books!”And here is Ashling’s fabulous poem!

 The Rooster’s Curse

In the wetlands of Chongming,

Lived a wily farmer called Ling.

Ling and his wife had plenty of rice

And a secret really quite nice …

The secret no one knew,

Not even Ling’s brother Lew.

Now this secret was good,

Good as good would.

There was nothing Ling was lacking,

He really was cracking,

To boast his luck

And kick up the muck.

“You mustn’t!” cried Ling’s wife,

Waving a knife,

“Arrogance never mends!”

Really, she wanted also to tell her friends.

Oh, what glory,

To tell a good story.

But, she shouldn’t,

She couldn’t …

One night in the wetlands of Chongming,

Sat on a rock was Ling.

The tall reeds swayed in the breeze,

Ling let out a little sneeze.

The coquelicot autumn sun was setting,

Ling’s wife was fretting.

Get some sticks,

Give me no tricks!

We must make a fire,

Or the consequences will be dire!”

Ling’s wife cried.

Ling got up and sighed.

The fire soon was lit,

Everything was fit.

Ling’s wife sprinkled the fire with an unknown thing,

The air seemed to ring.

Then, as if on a booster,

Out leaped a full-grown rooster.

It started to sing a song,

“I am a being to admire,

I leapt out of a fire!

I bring the Lings’ gold,

As much as they can hold,

Every 10th night!

Yes, this is right!

That’s why I say in this rhyme,

I am so fine!”

The rooster struck a pose,

The astonished Lings rose,

Gold! Gold! Give us gold!”

The Lings pleaded.

The rooster gave them much more than they needed…

Tra-la-la-lee!

Bring this gold to me!”

The rooster sang.

In the Lings’ ears, gold rang.

Ka-bam, Ka-bling, Ka-poof!

Gold came tumbling from the roof.

The Lings cackled in ecstatic glee,

Gold, gold for me!”

The rooster bowed,

Then he crowed.

He swished his splendiferous feathers,

The air exploded with heathers.

The night was still,

A creak came from the mill.

In the wetlands of Chongming,

The chink of gold came as a ring.

In the wetlands of Chongming,

There was a rumour about the Lings.

They had been suddenly covered in gold,

Much more than they could hold.

They were wealthy at the least.

Everyday they had a king’s scrumptious feast.

Ling’s wife dressed in illustrious gowns made of gold silk.

They drank fat white cow’s mellifluous milk.

Ling wore velvet suits

And gold-lined leather boots.

The townsfolk watched the Lings’ good health,

And wondered what was the source of their wealth.

But soon among the townsfolk, a sick lie bubbled up.

While the Lings were eating sup,

In the townsfolk came crashing.

Sticks they were lashing,

Bloodthirsty and ready,

The townspeople’s rage was steady.

Thief! Your riches aren’t earned by you!

Not even your homemade stew!

Give us back our riches,

Give us back your wife’s gown’s golden stitches!”

Ling’s wife screamed,

The townsfolk’s eyes gleamed,

They wanted gold,

As much as they could hold …

Blip! Ca-petey tip!”, water dripped,

Ling’s wife’s dress was ripped.

The Lings were shut in a dark cell,

They could hear the ring of their golden bell.

The townsfolk poured over the Lings’ gold,

And took much more than they could hold.

Gold, gold for me!”

The townsfolk gurgled with glee.

Ling’s wife cried,

Her freshly picked flowers died.

Pit, pat, pipitty, splat.”

Came the noise far from where Ling sat.

A ball of string rolled past Ling’s feet,

Did that come from the street?

Suddenly, the Lings heard a sound,

That sounded ever so round.

Rul, rul, rul, rul!”

Came the sound of a bulbul,

Rul, rul! Rul, rul!”

There on the windowsill, indeed was a bulbul.

Rul, rul! Pssst! Hey! Rul, rul!”

Sang the red-whiskered bulbul,

Rul, rul, rul!

I am a very, very, normal bulbul!

Don’t mind me!

I’m just singing, you see!

What’s your name?

It couldn’t be the same,

As my master’s, Ling!

A name through the villages, they ring!

Now my master has everything he wants,

No one he taunts!

He gives to the needy,

Feeds the weedy!

Even though he has some curves,

He has as much gold as he deserves!

After I give him wealth,

He wishes me good health

And best of all, he thanks me so!

But alas, I have no master like that, lo!”

The bulbul swished its dull feathers,

The air exploded with heathers

And a rooster lay dead.

The room filled with dread.

In the wetlands of Chongming,

You could hear a rooster sing …

 

Erik Lawton, Grade 6, Excelsior Public School, Castle Hill, 11 years old

A warm welcome to Erik, a newcomer to my Clever Competitions! Erik’s story was such fun, it made me laugh out loud. It had real panache and a laconic wit that reminded me of a young Raymond Chandler. But your tenses kept changing Erik!! Remember to choose one tense and stick with it – for your clever, witty style in this story, I’d go with the present tense!

 Are You Chicken?

I’m on the very brink of insanity. I’ve been stuck in this oh so tiny stone room for a week where the walls have learnt to speak Chinese. I mean all I did was “accidentally” turn my owner’s kitchen into a fiery inferno just like that human spy what’s his name? Oh yeah I might’ve overlooked one fact: I’m a rooster.

“Hello” echoed a high-pitched voice from the other side of the window towering about 20 feet above me. “Anyone in there?” I tilted my head upwards and stared straight into the face of a coquelicot Bulbul. Yeah you heard me, coquelicot. “How in Shanghai did you end up like that?”

“I flew into a dye factory” he murmured.

“Say what?”

“I flew into a DYE FACTORY!” The Bulbul remains silent after that.

“So, you happy with the colour?”.

He gives me one of the frostiest glares I’ve ever seen and yeah, I turned on the gas stove, but how was I supposed to know that the Shanghai terrors would light a cigarette?

“The view is breath taking, too bad you can’t see, hey I didn’t ask, what’s your name?” the Bulbul wonders aloud.

“Katchatori, and yours?”

” Al’orange”

” Might want to rethink that, now can you please exonerate me?!”

With Al’orange’s feet digging into my shoulders we’re flying over rural China towards Shanghai. The humidity making his and my feathers damp, the rain pelting us, stinging my eyes. The rice fields and crops passing by underneath us becoming more detailed. Wait, where’s the feeling of feet on my shoulders? Uh Oh. ” Al’orange I’m FALLING!”

I always thought I’d end up as a platter of dumplings but at least this is dignified. Suddenly I feel the reassuring pressure of Al’orange’s feet on my shoulder blades. “Cutting it real close man!”

“Sorry I’m a little rusty”

“Understatement! ,wait Al’orange, Building straight in front of you, 12 o’clock!”

He doesn’t have time to respond but he does manage to swerve into an open window before we come to a sprawling heap on the cold, concrete floor.

“Great thing I pointed that out or we’d be a pile of unrecognisable stuff!”. I glance down at my plumes. My perfectly groomed plumes! Now, they’re sticking out at totally unnatural angles. “Why, why I ask you?”

I didn’t really examine the room during our ‘landing’ but it looks like we’re in a warehouse. Shelves lining the concrete walls, and a reinforced steel door that was graffiti tagged. Security cameras recording every move we make.

” Stop sulking I can hear something!” He murmurs. Wait a sec, he’s right. The faint sound of whispering is reaching us from the other side of the reinforced steel door.

Ca-chunk! “Somebody’s unlocking it’

“Man you are fastidious!” I wheeze.

The door creaks open and a bunch of people walk in, all sporting ski masks and American accents “What’re we going to do with the money?”

A guy with the word Mark tagged on the front of his T-shirt answers “I’m going buy a penthouse in NYC baby, those diamonds are worth millions!”

” Cool it hotshot” Interrupts the third guy “We have to get out of the country first!”

” As the leader, if you follow me to the briefing room, I’ll show you our next move” announced the last person.

They leave, not caring to close the door.

“They were the guys that robbed the Bank of Shanghai, they stole about 35 million dollars worth of diamonds, hello, Khatchatori?”

I don’t care, I’m just staring at a bag of seeds, seething as it tantalises me.

“Sorry, you say something?”

” If we post the security footage online we’ll unmask them!”

” Genius but how are we going to do that?”

” I know how to use a computer”

” I don’t want to know”

The CCTV room is just up the hall and so far we haven’t run into any form of trouble. Al’orange finally makes it to the door, pecks it open with his beak and we’re in.

The room is lit up by the glare of the monitors and a swivel chair is parked in front of a woven bamboo desk. Al’orange flaps up onto the desk and starts tapping the keyboard until the footage comes up of the thieves hauling the diamonds into the ware house.

“And done!” Al’orange exclaims ” All I need is five minutes and this will be all over the internet”

I wander out into the hall, but the moment I step out, Mark and the leader emerge from around the corner. I mean what are the odds.

“Hey look Spike, it’s a chicken!” cheers Mark. I need to buy Al’orange time. I charge at them, flapping my arms. “What’s it going to do, peck our eyes out?” chuckles Spike.

“Great idea guys” I squawk. I flap my wings, giving me enough lift to get up to Mark’s head and then it’s complete pandemonium. The force of the strikes are so hard his skin starts to break. To try and relieve himself of the pain he dives through a window and lands in a sprawling heap on the pavement.

Spike’s hand lands on my throat and he hurls me into the CCTV room. Feathers go flying when I land, and Spike steps into the room, armed with a crowbar. Spike starts trying to pound my face in, landing the blows on my chest, breaking skin and drawing blood. I flap onto the desk and collapse in time to see Al’orange fly at Spike,trying to make him forget about me.

I scramble towards the keyboard frantically tapping keys.

“Cut it out you stupid bird, I really hate chickens!”” roars Spike, as I finally find the right key and tap it with my beak. The footage sends! I turn in time to witness Al’orange wrapping a ball of string around his neck before Spike dives out the window.

” Khatchatori you are resplendent!”

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

Below is the link to a fabulous story by my old friend Hillary Lo and her friend Winter Lau (now 12 and 13 years old and in Year 8 at Shatin College in Hong Kong). Readers will remember Hillary from a long string of winning entries right through her primary years at Shatin Junior School. Hillary has always been a gifted writer, and the great news is that she hasn’t let her elevation to upper school stop her writing in her spare time! When I last caught up with Hillary, she told me that she and her friends had started a writing club, and spend many hours each week meeting up to write stories together and entering as many competitions as possible. She and her friend Winter couldn’t resist having a crack at my Really Riveting Rooster Story Competition – even though they knew there were no longer eligible to enter. And here is the result! It’s a long story, but a fantastic read which I know you’re going to enjoy, and admire! And they’ve used EVERY ONE of my Wicked Words! How clever is that?? This is the kind of writing YOU could do when you’re older, if you keep practicing hard! Their story is based on my Tale of Rickshaw Rooster, but is a sort of prequel…this time Tommy Tan, the fastest Rickshaw Runner in Shanghai, is auditioning for an assistant…will it be Rickshaw Rooster or the evil bulbul Plague…click the link below, read on and find out!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fIN5x3P03B0lWfT7tEcF8WACWxN_Vmy2ErJP8SKwp9g/edit?usp=sharing

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