2017 – 2018 Competitions


Desmond holding child.jpg

At long last I’ve finished the judging of my Dashing Dog Story Competition! I had some important family matters to attend to over the last month, and as we all know, family comes first – even when there’s an exciting competition to be judged! So thank you all so much for your patience over the last month! There were a very impressive 66 entries in all, from students in 17 different schools in 7 cities around the world: Beijing, Changzhou, Chicago, Doha, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Shanghai. The overall standard of the stories was very high, making it extremely difficult to pick the order of the winners!

Special congratulations to the first place winners in each category:

FIRST PLACE in GRADE ONE TO THREE CATEGORY: Hannah Thompson, Grade 3 Methodist Ladies College, Kew, Melbourne, 8 years old

FIRST PLACE in GRADE FOUR TO SIX CATEGORY: Aoife Mary Walshe, 4th grade, SUIS HongQiao Campus, Shanghai, 9 years old

Before I set out the results, it might be helpful to explain how I do my judging:

  • first, I list all the names of the stories and their writers’ details on a spreadsheet which I keep for future reference;
  • then I create a second spreadsheet with only the story titles, so that the entries are all anonymous;
  • on that second spreadsheet, I list across the top all the special ingredients I’ve asked for in your stories, eg the word limit, a title, the identity of the main character, the setting, other details I’ve stipulated in the rules (eg a special colour, further characters, Wicked Words), then the basic elements of a good story, including an attention-grabbing beginning, an interesting challenge or problem, a well- constructed storyline, a good cliff-hanger and resolution, and a great ending.
  • After that I list important things like grammar, punctuation, spelling, general vocabulary, originality, and finally, that all-important X-Factor.
  • Each of my headings has a value in points between 3 and 10, and as I judge each entry, I decide how many points to award the entry under each head.
  • Just for your information, I allocate 10 whole points to vocabulary, to setting, to character details and to X-Factor!
  • After the judging is finished, I calculate the total score for each story, then put them in descending order to determine the winners of each place! This is how you’ll sometimes find that I’ve awarded equal place to two very different stories!
  • Finally, I rematch the story title with the writer, so that I know the winners’ names, ages, grades, schools and cities!

 Lessons to be learned from this:

  • No matter how good your story, if you go over the allotted word count, you will be marked down – lightly or even heavily, depending on how bad the over-count is in your story – so always, always, stick to the allotted word limit!
  • Make sure, during your editing, that you have included every single ingredient that I have asked for! There were a number of wonderful stories which would have placed highly if essential ingredients had not been left out (and easy points lost accordingly) – so always, always, read the instructions!
  • Remember that I am a Setting and Character Fiend! The more detail you include in your story about the place, era, season and weather, and the more information you give me about the characters’ appearance, background and personality, the higher you will score!
  • And I really appreciate unusual and interesting vocabulary!
  • Endings are just as important as beginnings! So don’t end your story with a sigh of relief – until you’ve made sure that your ending has as much impact or beauty as the beginning!
  • Finally, X-Factor marks depend on the overall impact of the story, and especially your writing style. So make an extra effort to describe things in a lyrical or clever way, and to make your dialogue and your story funny or clever. Or both! There’s nothing more attractive to a judge than a story that puts a big smile on her face!

 So, my friends, I hope you understand how many long hours I spend on the judging, and how careful I am to be fair to everybody! It’s a huge job, but I love it, because I simply LOVE reading your ideas and your own special interpretation of my instructions!

Thank you again, EVERYONE who entered! Make sure that you enter my next writing competition, to be posted shortly – I can’t wait to hear from you again! And winners there must be: here they all are: happy reading! Wicked Words are highlighted in bold.



Since this competition was quite a difficult one, with many ingredients to be included and many rules to be followed, I was delighted to receive 13 stories from young students in Grades 1 to 3, from 7 different schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Melbourne. Here are the results:

FIRST PLACE: Hannah Thompson, Grade 3 Methodist Ladies College, Kew, Melbourne, 8 years old

I loved Hannah’s witty story of a truly evil cat and a brave dog that does not know his lefts from his rights! She used some wonderful vocabulary, including five of my Wicked Words, the dialogue was great fun and her grammar was faultless! And while I do not normally like stories that end in “it was all a dream”, in this case Hannah saved hers with a neat twist! Congratulations Hannah on a very entertaining story which had me grinning throughout!

Wangcai’s Adventure

“Hello! My name is Wangcai. I live in China. My owner’s names are By-lin and Rui-tong. And have you guessed? I am a dog. This is the story of how…of how…well, it’s just easier if I show you.”

There was an atrocious typhoon, it stormed through the village, destroying my home and the people I loved. It soon stopped and I came out of hiding.

Suddenly a slender black cat was slinking towards me. He looked strangely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place my paw on it.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Not who am I, what am I?” responded the cat. “My name is Lee-How Chang and I am your new best friend. I can help you with your problems. For example, I see you are homeless, just like me. If you wish for a home, go to the Town Square, turn left down an alleyway and you will find the Golden Fish of Fortunes.”

I turned around to check that no-one was watching, but when I turned back, Lee-How was gone. The only thing that was there, was a note saying ‘P.S. I can’t wait for T.W.D. Day’. Well, I was just dumbfounded, but in the end I decided to follow the cat’s advice.

I went to the Town Square but I didn’t know my lefts and rights yet. So instead of turning left, I unknowingly turned right. But it still led me to the Golden Fish of Fortunes. Being a flying fish, she flew out of the fountain to welcome me, her scales iridescent in the midday light. She told me about the wise philosopher who was looking for a pet dog. “You will find him meditating at the top of Mount Badaling”.

So off I set in search of the wise philosopher.

I eventually reached the top of Mount Badaling and there I saw the old man resplendent in a Mikado coloured gown.

“Time to work the gift” I thought. So I slowly crept up to him. When he looked down at me, I struck my cutest puppy laser eyes at him.

“Your cute eyes will not soften me, however I am seeking the companionship of such a creature as you. Are you up to the test?”

“Yes” I answered to indicate my acceptance.

“Here is what I need you to do. In the middle of town there is a devious cat called Lee-How Chang. I need you to destroy him before he destroys us.”

“Sir, what do you mean?”

“Ah yes, of course, you do not know. Remember the cat you met in the alley a little while ago? He tried to trick you into entering his Dooms Day Machine. Luckily you haven’t mastered your lefts and right yet, so you turned right which serendipitously lead to the Golden Fish of Fortunes and avoided the Dooms Day Machine. However if you had turned left, you would have walked into his evil clutches. That is why I need you to destroy him. And remember the note he left you said ‘I can’t wait for T.W.D. Day’. T.W.D. stands for Total World Domination. That is when he will put his evil plan into action.”

“Now, before you go on your mission, we must feast!” said the wise Philosopher to me holding out his hand with a single grain of rice.

“What is it?” I asked. “A grain of rice.” Said the Philosopher.

I tilted my head in confusion, “That will not satisfy my voracious appetite!” I protested.

“That is too much chit-chat!” The Philosopher scolded. “Eat up and go on your mission. We do not have much time to spare.”

“Yes Master” I replied.

So once again, I set off on my journey. I returned to the dark alleyway where I’d previously met Lee-How Chang. The streetlight at the other end flickered out. I saw a dark figure appear. It opened its mouth and uttered “So we meet again Chancai”.

“It’s Wangcai” I corrected.

“I do not care for such detail” said Lee-How.

“You are up to something no good” I stated.

“You are too!” replied Lee-How.

“On the contrary, I am up to something good, unlike you” I stated.

“Ah…but I am evil, therefore I am allowed to be up to no good. I have a licence to prove it”.

“Ahh hah! You just said it yourself…you ARE evil!”

“Well it’s just a pity that you won’t live to tell the tale” Lee-How threatened. Lee-How started to walk towards me. I dreaded what was about to happen.

Suddenly I opened my eyes. I could hear my owners calling me. I suddenly realised it had all been a dream….a bad dream. I sighed out loud in relief.

I can just remember dozing off in my comfy bed, but the one thing I did not realise was the black cat from next door was hanging over me, …extending his claws.


 SECOND PLACE: Maria Hussain, Year 3, French International School, Hong Kong, 8 years old

I was hugely impressed by the extensive research Maria must have undertaken before she wrote this story of a Xiasi Quan dog (which is a real breed which originates from Guizhou, the setting in her story). She painted a wonderful picture of her Chinese setting and of her characters, wrote a terrific description of the typhoon and also managed to incorporate 6 Wicked Words among other great vocabulary. She came an extremely close second and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the months to come! Well done Maria!

 Dog to the rescue!

A hundred years ago in the village of Xiasi in Guizhou province by the Qingshiu river there was an 8-year old boy named Jing. Jing had a problem. He really wanted a pet but he couldn’t get one because his parents said that he wasn’t responsible enough.

One hot, sunny day he saw a cute little puppy with pointed ears, brown eyes and a wide mouth and decided to ask his parents if he could have a pet just one more time. But before he did that, he decided to consult an illustrious philosopher who everyone said was omniscient and ask if taking the puppy home was right or wrong.

The philosopher answered “This puppy is a baby and it has no home. If you are sure you can look after it, then you must find a way to convince your parents “

Jing tried to be clever about convincing his parents this time. He told them “This is a Xiasi Quan dog, which is respected by our people because it brings wealth to the family it belongs to. Also, we can train her to guard our house because they are very loyal and brave. I know she is fast and agile, we can take her to hunt animals so we can eat more meat”.

His parents said, “are you sure you are responsible enough?” Jing answered, “Yes. I promise”! His parents finally agreed. Jing was ecstatic!

There also lived a mikado-coloured cat in the village. One day, she saw Jing with the Xiasi Quan dog. The cat heard Jing call the dog Xue De because of her resplendent white fur and became very jealous because nobody wanted her to be their pet. Instead, people often called the cat rude names like savaging or mean keen.

The cat was quite evil and had a voracious appetite for the auspicious golden flying fish from the Qingshiu river. The cat chased the fish until they were very tired and got slower so that she could catch them easily and eat them up. But what she didn’t know is that the fish had magical powers so the more fish the cat ate the less evil it became and also found the fish to be less tasty each time.

One day the philosopher told the villagers that a typhoon was coming their way. The villagers were very worried and decided to escape to a nearby safe place in the forest. Jing and his family packed a few belongings and some food. Just as Jing and Xue De left their home the evil cat suddenly jumped out in front of them so they couldn’t escape!

Jing thought they were doomed but Xue De was ready to fight with this cat and save Jing but secretly Xue De was terrified of fighting.

Xue De was badly scratched in the fight with the cat but all of a sudden, the cat lost her grip and fell down. Xue De quickly caught the cat but she struggled to get out of Xue De’s paws but couldn’t because Xue De was very strong.

The cat then begged Xue De and Jing to not hurt her and promised to stop attacking them if they took her as a pet and gave her a nice name too. Jing was very kind hearted and readily agreed to take her in.

Just then a huge blast of wind hit all of them. The sky had turned an angry grey colour, the wind was crashing all the trees and houses down and it was starting to rain! It was utter pandemonium as all villagers started screaming and running! The village started flooding, Jing shouted “We better get out of here quickly!’ “Follow me, I’ll lead you to safety!”

They followed him into the forest where his parents were already waiting. Jing’s mother was very relieved to see all of them because they were very worried.

Jing and his family ate the food they had packed. Jing had some of his favourite Miao style sour fish soup, which is the traditional food of Xiasi village. Xue De ate some bones and the cat ate fish bones and also kept trying to eat some of Jing’s soup!

Jing thought that was really funny and asked his mum “what’s a cat’s favourite soup?” His mum said “I don’t know, tell me”. Jing answered “Miao (meow) Soup”. Everyone burst out laughing, and after that they named the cat Miao Miao.

The villagers were very happy to see that Jing and Xue De had managed to make friends with the evil cat and made her good. Jing’s parents said they were very sorry that they said that Jing was not responsible enough to have pets.

It was many hours until the typhoon passed after which all the villagers returned to their homes. But they were horrified to see that their house was completely destroyed. But Jing’s father assured Jing that he could rebuild their home. They worked hard and also helped other villagers repair and build their homes.

Xue De and Miao Miao became best friends and helped keep Jing and his family safe from robbers and mice. And they all lived happily ever after.


THIRD PLACE: Kaitlyn McIntyre, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School, Hongqiao Campus, 8 years old

Kaitlyn wrote a clever sci-fi story set in a futuristic China, on the beautiful Mooncake Planet. I loved her “Li Feng” typhoon and the unusual resolution, using all the zodiac animals! Kaitlyn forgot to use my Wicked Words, which resulted in the loss of 8 points, but nonetheless her story won a comfortable third place. Well done on a highly imaginative story Kaitlyn!

Hey there EV from the past! We will forget you.

On the beautiful Mooncake Planet, there lived some peaceful and happy people together with all the zodiac animals. There stood a very high mountain named Mt. Astro, and on the top of the mountain, there was a jewel named Astro-Diamond. It was the guardian stone of the planet, and it was surrounded by Oily Fire so that no one could get close to it. At the foot of Mt. Astro, there was a Chinese-styled village. All the houses have crown-shaped roofs, red eaves, and colorful walls.

Two warriors were guarding the Astro-Diamond, Sectoria and EV. Sectoria was a brave dog with silvery black eyes. She was a fearless warrior, but normally kind and peaceful. EV the black cat was her best friend. They had an old philosopher who had been on the planet since it was formed as an advisor for them to seek advice from whenever they have questions.

Around 100 years ago, Kye, the dark lord of the universe started a Shadowy War trying to steal Astro-Diamond from Mooncake Planet. He trained a Black Army to take up the whole planet and the village at the foot of Mt. Astro was the last free place from his power.

EV and Sectoria fought the dark lord to their very last strength and defeated him finally. Kye lost all his power and EV was badly injured too during the fight. Kye grabbed her and took her with him when he fled into the darkness with the rest of his Black Army.

After they were gone, Sectoria trained herself to become the strongest warrior ever on Mooncake Planet. At the same time, Kye hid on a nearby gloomy planet and turned EV into his own fighter, making her stronger by the day so that she could lead the Black Army and revenge on his failure.

One day Kye told EV that she was ready to fight against Sectoria and get the Astro-Diamond back for him. He asked her to lead the Black Army and attack Mooncake Planet. Kye gave EV a Golden Armor which will help her get through the Oily Fire on Mt. Astro.

On the night when EV and his army marching towards Mooncake Planet, EV said “Prepare for defeating the last free village!” in a deep and whispery voice, “leave none alive and fall in darkness one by one!”

The King of Wind of the universe heard the whisper and wanted to warn the residence. Since he was quite far away, he used all his power to blow a “Lifeng”, the strongest wind ever towards Mooncake Planet carrying the warning message.

The yearly moon cake festival was the biggest festival on Mooncake Planet, and it was around the corner, everybody was so excited and preparing for the biggest celebration unaware of EV’s coming.

As the “Lifeng” wind hit Mooncake Planet, it became a terrifying typhoon darkening the sky, tearing down trees and houses, and blowing away all the decorations of the moon cake festival.

The only one who understood the message coming with the typhoon was the wise philosopher. He told the villagers about EV’s coming. The villagers were all terrified and everybody was panicking. So they gathered together and went up the mountain to see Sectoria. The wise philosopher told Sectoria that EV was no longer her friend, and that she had been turned into an evil cat and had become stronger than ever. He also told the villagers and the zodiac animals to get ready for the big war.

Sectoria was not afraid at all and she was ready to fight with her people.

On the day of the moon cake festival, EV and her Black Army reached Mooncake Planet and were marching towards the last village. The villagers and the zodiac animals could not stop them although they tried their very best.

EV was running up Mt. Astro while her Black Army defeating the villagers. She knew where the Astro-Diamond located, so she went directly up towards it. Sectoria was waiting by the side of the Oily Fire, and they got into a deadly fight with each other. Their strength and skills were so close and it was hard to tell who was going to win.

Suddenly, when EV had Sectoria’s throat on her sword tip, a golden scaled fish with eagle wings instead of fins came out from the sky, and down it went breaking EV’s sword.

The flying fish was formed by all the zodiac animals on the planet with the magic spell the wise philosopher drew from the Astro-Diamond. It then scooped up the Black Army and dropped them all from high above the ground into the Oily Fire.

Sectoria was now back on her feet, with her sword, she tore apart EV’s Golden Armor and grabbed EV’s tail throwing her into the Oily Fire.

Everybody was cheering, and continued to celebrate the most wonderful moon cake festival ever.


FOURTH PLACE: Yifeng Wei, Grade 2, International School of Beijing, Beijing, 8 years old

Yi Feng’s exciting story of a brave, kind dog that raises an army to fight an evil cat wins fourth place in this category. I thought that the writing style was excellent – well done Yifeng!

The Adventures of Timmy

Once upon a time there was a beautiful and kind dog called Timmy. He lived in an old farmhouse near Mount Tai with the Rogal family. Mount Tai is known as one of the five great mountains of China. The Rogal family loved Timmy. Every day Mrs. Rogal fed Timmy more and more food until Timmy was full. Timmy has lived happily with Mr. and Mrs. Rogal for fourteen years.

Now Mr. and Mrs. Rogal were getting very old and had bad mood. They never seemed to smile. They began treating Timmy badly. Timmy had noticed that Mrs. Rogal started to give him very little food when he was very hungry. “Just one biscuit today and no arguing!” Mrs. Rogal shouted at Timmy one morning. “But…” Timmy began: “No buts!” Mrs. Rogal shouted at poor Timmy.
First Timmy thought it was all a game, but then day after day, it did not get any better. Timmy hated this, but he knew he had no choice but ran away.
Timmy ran all night. By morning he just figured out that he woke up next to a cat in Mount Tai.

“I will give you my castle as a place for you to stay.” said the evil cat Fitpiece. “W…w…where am I?” Timmy said. “You are in Mount Tai.” said Fitpiece in a sly voice. “I am very hungry.” said Timmy. “Do you have any food?” “Yes.” said Fitpiece and she gave Timmy two pieces of bread. “Thank you so much!” said Timmy.

“If you want to have a feast every day,” Fitpiece said, “Then you should come to my castle. It isn’t very far. Do you see that big castle over there? That’s my castle. By the way my name is Fitpiece.”

Timmy said, “Thank you for the bread and my name is Timmy. And for the castle, hmmm… let me think about it.”

Timmy was not so sure if that was a safe place to go. So he decided to ask Scarlet, the flying fish with golden scales. Mrs. Rogal had told Timmy about Scarlet and how Scarlet knew everything in the world.

Timmy asked Scarlet “who is that cat?” Scarlet replied “That cat is not good. Actually she is atrocious. If you go to her castle, she will snap her fingers and her guards will put you in jail. Do you understand me? No matter how good it sounds, you must never go to her castle!”

Timmy was terrified when he heard that Fitpiece was very bad. “But she seemed so nice to me.” Timmy always said to himself.

Then Timmy found a cave in Mount Tai and decided to live there. One day while Timmy was walking to his cave, he suddenly heard a very loud sound KAZAM. Timmy jumped and raced home.

When he got home, he saw a little house and some terrified people. He also saw something making him very scared – A tornado! It was coming closer to the little house. There was pandemonium among the people. “Oh, those poor people,” he thought, “I must rescue them.” Timmy ran over to the people and carried them one by one to his cave and put them on a pile of leaves and stayed with them.

Timmy waited a long time and then at last the tornado died away. Timmy breathed a sigh of relief, and then he carried the people back to their house. “Thank you!” they said. Then Timmy went back to his cave to rest.

When Timmy woke up the next morning, he went outside. He found one army waiting for him there. “We want to be your army.” they said. “We will help you fight the evil cat Fitpiece.” said the army.

First, Timmy was a bit scared, but then he was delighted to have his first army. Soon lots of armies came to Timmy’s cave to join him.

Every day Timmy got stronger and stronger, but he was busy, too. He had to make lots of leaf piles for the armies to stay. The armies enjoyed staying with Timmy in his cave and Timmy was very kind to them.

One day Timmy said to his army, “I think we can beat Fitpiece already.” All his army agreed. So they set off to Fitpiece’s castle. On the way to Fitpiece’s castle, Timmy met a powerful king called Spades. “Looking for more army?” Spades said. “Yes sir.” said Timmy. Spades had much more army than Timmy had, so he followed Timmy.

Then a wise and omniscient philosopher came to Timmy and Spades. “Are you heading towards Fitpiece’s castle?” he asked.

“Yes.” said Timmy. “Did you know that only the color Mikado can defeat Fitpiece?” “No.” said Timmy. “Then here is a Mikado cloth. Take it!”

Timmy took the Mikado cloth and kept heading towards Fitpiece’s castle. At last they reached Fitpiece’s castle. They stormed inside and killed all Fitpiece’s army. When Fitpiece saw the Mikado cloth, she grabbed her sword and ran towards Timmy. Spades grabbed his sword and ran towards Fitpiece. Both swords clashed and clanged. At last Spades stabbed Fitpiece and killed her.

Timmy cheered to see Fitpiece dead. Spades said to Timmy: “Do you want to be my pet?” “Off course.” said Timmy. He was ecstatic at the news. At last they returned to Spade’s castle. Timmy was happy to be in a place with lots of food and Spades was very proud to have Timmy as his protector dog.


FIFTH PLACE: Shiv Mohan, Grade 2, Glenealy School, Hong Kong, 6 years old

Shiv was one of the youngest contestants in the competition, and his short story proves that length doesn’t matter when it comes to writing a story, provided that it is written well and contains all the right ingredients! Congratulations Shiv on a beautifully-written story with an exciting plot, excellent story arc, 4 Wicked Words used correctly, and almost perfect grammar – an outstanding achievement for a six year old. Keep entering my competitions!

 Dog Vs Cat wars

The two were enemies, they hated each other so much that they each threw darts at pictures of the other’s face for fun. Gou-man, was a kind, strong, brave Dog. He was Chinese, gou means dog in in Chinese. He was a bit silly sometimes, as he was always trying to cheer people up. Bob was a gargantuan evil cat. That loved to trick people in his town. Bob was also very strong and brave.

They all lived on the moon. The moon was divided in half, one side was white where Gou-man lived. The other side was dark where Bob lived. It looked just like a Yin and Yang.

One day, Bob’s army crossed the line and entered the light side. Immediately pandemonium struck, thunder lit up the sky and a typhoon 10 with black rainstorm warning began. Magical fish with Golden scales went flying through the clouds as water poured through like a flood.

Then began the famous battle. Cat and the dog were about to fight, when an army of aliens came, but the dog quickly killed the aliens.

Then started the battle between Bob and Gou-man. Crowds of people appeared to cheer for the well-respected Gou-man.

The omniscient philosopher, Confucius was wearing a Mikado coloured shirt and was filming the battle calmly, as if he was recording history.

The battle started. At first, Gou-man was losing the battle, but after 100 kung fu blows and 100 kung fu chops, Gou-man finally won the battle!

Everyone cheered for Gou-man and the moon village people organised a sumptuous feast of xiao long baos and noodles to celebrate the victory.

Confucius congratulated Gou-man and said, Good will always win.


SIXTH PLACE: Ysabelle HU, Grade 1, Shanghai United International School Hongqiao Campus, Shanghai, 7 years old

Ysabelle’s original and interesting story about a brave dog’s quest to find water when a village’s water supply becomes endangered was full of interesting references, especially to the village’s ethnic minority population, and a stand of dead Chinese trees called Populus Euphratica. I was very impressed by her vocabulary and general knowledge at such a young age, though there were a few grammatical and spelling mistakes and she forgot to use those 4 Wicked Words! Overall a remarkable effort for a Grade One student – keep up the good work Ysabelle!

 A Dashing Dog In The Desert

1000 years ago…

In the north west of China, there was a small and quiet village in a big desert. A small lake called Moon Bay was around the village. The lake was rather big in the past and as clam as a pearl. There were quite some fishes in the lake, sometimes a few flying fishes with gold scales had been seen there. But it turned smaller and smaller in the later years as the desert expanded. It was so small that the villagers really worried it would be dried up soon.

In the village, there lived around 100 people there. They were all dressed in their colorful ethnic minority’s costume and wore their traditional caps. Women had gauze kerchiefs on their heads. Several dogs lived together with the villagers. A dog called Jasper was remarkable. It was brave, clever and kind. Above all, dashing! It led other dogs to safeguard the small village and people. It was honorable in the village because it repelled wolves, saved a few kids from the lake and lent a hand to the blind men and so forth.

Although the living condition was hard, the villagers lived happily as the village was their hometown. The only deep worry of them was the fast shrinkage of the lake. They could not live without water in the desert. Many times villagers came together and discussed about this. They tried to find a solution. Jasper, the leader of the dogs, always listened to their talk quietly.

The villagers tried several times to find the water in the other place of the desert, but all failed. An old villager reminded all it was said there was a wise philosopher who had been living in a small hill in the desert where there were 50 died populus euphratica at the foot of a hill. He might know where the water was. People decided to send a small team to have an adventure. It was the last chance for them. Jasper, barking at once, wagged its tail, readily agreed.

The small team start their adventure soon together with Jasper. They brought enough water and food with them, but no one dared waste any of them. The desert was so big. They rode over on camels and searched almost everywhere of the desert. Meanwhile they needed to guard against desert wolves’ attack. Jasper played a great role to alert and protect the team. 6 months later, finally they found 50 died populus euphratica at the foot of a hill, and then they really encountered the wise philosopher in the hill. The team was so happy. They extended their greetings and begged the philosopher to give them some clues to find the water.

‘There is a place in the desert, probably you can find water there’, all the people were so excited, however the philosopher looked so serious, stopped them with a low voice, ‘firstly you need to find a cave on a slope in the desert, the entrance is covered by thick quicksands. The only way to find the entrance is to wait for the huge wind. Indeed it is a scary typhoon that will even impact the desert. The wind will blow off sands at the entrance of the cave. The cave is very deep, at the bottom of the cave, you need to dig a deep well’. Then the philosopher scattered some colorful mikado sticks over a table. The main stick lay east-west orientation. ‘Go to the east, the cave is at that direction’, the philosopher told the team clearly.

The villagers were so thankful to the philosopher. They rode on camels, day and night, 6 months later, they returned to their small village. The lake was much smaller than before. The team told all the villagers what the philosopher had said. They start immediately to prepare and looked forward to the huge wind every day, and it really came 3 months later.

The small team and Jasper start their adventure again to find the cave. It was absolutely not easy, they suffered so much and finally they found the entrance of the cave on a slope. They sent two men, two camels and Jasper back to their village.  More strong men came with Jasper to the cave to dig a well. The rest people of the small team start to dig in the cave already.

After a half year’s hard digging, finally the underground water popped up. People were so excited. They celebrated this very happy moment together with Jasper and its mate dogs. People moved their village in the big cave. Every day people took their turns to safeguard the well.

In the village, there was an evil cat, it was not willing to share the well with all of the others as the water from the well could not supply so many people for a long time. Owning the water itself could let it survive for a longer time. She needed to drive away all the villagers. So she planned an attack and looked for some hatchet men. A few desert wolves entered in her view a short time later.

The cat promised wolves that they could share the well and water with her if the plan had been carried out. Ten wolves agreed with her idea. They hid in the daytime and rushed towards the people in a midnight. The people safeguarding the well were very tired. Fortunately Jasper was awake, relying on its sensitive nose, it felt the danger was coming, it barked sharply to alert the people and tore down the head wolf fiercely at the critical moment. In the melee, the villagers repelled the wolves together with Jasper and its mate dogs. The cat was also died. People found Jasper, badly wounded. Jasper was honorable. It saved the villagers again.

They lived in the cave, happily together.



  • Agnes Tang, Grade 3, Tsinghua University High School International – Chaoyang, Beijing, 9 years old, who placed 7th in this category
  • the following Grade 1 students who were brave enough to enter: Isabelle Ng and Reese Simo Kwuissu, both from Shanghai United International School Hongqiao Campus.
  • Thank you also to Yu Tung Shan from Year 3 at Beacon Hill School Hong Kong and Leo Lyu from Grade 3 Shanghai United International School Hongqiao Campus  for your terrific efforts.

 AND AN EXTRA SPECIAL MENTION to the youngest contestant of all, a little girl called Alina from Pre-Reception 3, at SUIS Hongqiao who sent me a delightful short story entry, complete with beautiful crayon illustrations!



In this category there was a monster 53 entries from 13 different schools in Beijing, Changzhou, Chicago, Doha, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Shanghai! The standard was excellent, making my job very difficult indeed, thank you! I’d like to say a special hello to the following newcomers to my competition: Grade 5 students of Tsinghua University High School International – Chaoyang, Beijing (July Wen, Angela Jin, Charles Meng, Luna Zhang, Leo Liu); Grade 4 and 5 students from Wycombe Abbey International School, Changzhou (Ashley Lam, Lei Wang, Caden Rensburg, Candice Sun, Eric Li, Kevin Zhang); and to my very first Qatari entrant, from Doha College, Al Waab Campus, Doha, Zoha Siddiqui of Grade 5.

Here are the results:

FIRST PLACE: Aoife Mary Walshe, 4th grade, SUIS HongQiao Campus, Shanghai, 9 years old

Congratulations to Aoife, a gifted young writer whose work has appeared in previous competitions of mine! Now just because the main character’s favourite author just happened to be Sarah Brennan is NOT why I awarded this story First Place! This story had all the right ingredients for a great read: wonderful descriptions of setting, detailed description of characters, excellent vocabulary (including 7 Wicked Words), and a very original plot! It also made me laugh out loud! It scored a high 9 out of 10 for X-Factor, that special ingredient which makes stories stand out. Well done Aoife – at your young age, you have a very bright writing future ahead of you!

 Friendship and Forgiveness in the Year of the Dog

In far outer space, further than you can imagine, there was a speeding red-gold planet. This planed was called, ‘Chinatopia’. It was really just a Bigger, Better and Happier version of China!

I, Rontu, lived next to Baoten Lake II, in Xingjiang II. In Xingjiang II we didn’t have factories or 24-hour shops. We were eco-friendly. The grass was greener than possible and the sky was forget-me-not-blue. Wildlife was ubiquitous. The Baoten River was clear and light crystal blue and at night time it was so quiet you could hear the water flowing gently.

Oh, I’m sorry I haven’t introduced myself. I am China’s most expensive dog, a Tibetan Mastiff! I am a big, fluffy, fat, red dog. I have jet blue eyes, a red lion-like mane, which makes me look like a gigantic red dahlia and a long pink tongue. My tail is like a rabbit’s tail but it’s as fluffy as a cloud and as red as a hot dog. I am a very peculiar dog because I can speak five languages, including English. I can read, write and draw and don’t get me started on books! I love books. My favorite author is Sarah Brennan.

I have many friends on this planet but my best friend is the Flying Fish of Good Fortune (a.k.a. Goldy). Goldy has golden scales and iridescent silver wings. His tail shines like gold and he has glazed emerald green jade eyes. Sadly, he does not speak English. But he does speak Dog language, Tiger language (weird) and of course, Fish language.

One day Goldy and I were reading The Tale of Temujin, when this warning came from the TV. “Everyone, be alert! A scary typhoon is approaching.”

Goldy looked up from the book and barked, in Dog language, “Not to worry, that’s probably old news anyway.”

We continued reading. All of a sudden Goldy’s fish bowl started to shake, swift grey clouds gathered overhead and dust flew in the open window.

“Uh, oh”. I murmured. “This does not look good.”

I rushed to lock the windows but I was too late, Goldy and I flew out the window.

“Aiee!” We screeched.

Suddenly, everything went dark. I woke up in an eerie landscape. It looked like the ruins of a Chinese palace. Blocks of grey and gold were scattered here and there, some still standing on top of each other and some fallen. There was no cheery laughter or chatting, just silence. Goldy, I thought, where’s Goldy?

Bam! Goldy’s fishbowl landed upside down beside me. “Goldy!” I yelled, “There you are. Oh, I was so worried for you.”

“Shuush!” Whispered Goldy earnestly. But it was too late. We heard a big snore, then an unfamiliar voice.

“Who comes unseen in Temujin’s lair?” A Mikado colored tiger leaped out from behind a pillar.

“Temujin”, gurgled Goldy, “Temujin Oh great and mighty Temujin! I am the Fish of Great Fortune”.

Temujin snarled, “You shall not pass!” Everything went quiet. The tiger’s eye’s lit up, and its gargantuan mouth, filled with dagger-like teeth, began to open wider and wider.

That was it, I thought, goodbye world, goodbye dumplings, goodbye books… But then, the Mikado Temujin started bawling at the top of his lungs,

“N-nobody likes me, everybody hates me. I just want to make some friends. I have all the bad luck. Why?” He cried.

Goldy flew up to the Tiger and patted him on the head. “Aaww, it’s okay, somebody must like you.”

“You, you said you were the Fish of Good Fortune.” Temjuin said.

He snatched Goldy and held her above his mouth. “I like flying fish and I could do with some good fortune!” He yelled.

Unnoticed, an old man had shuffled into the room. He wore small round spectacles, unkempt snow-white hair hung out from a tall crooked grey hat and his long wispy beard hung from his face like icicles. Wise brown eyes stared out from a rough wrinkled face marked with a bulbous nose.

“Eating a friend, O Mighty Temujin, someone who is showing you kindness, is not the best way to make a friend.” He said in a low mellifluous voice.

“Temujin, freeze” commanded the wise old man. He turned to us, “I must apologize for Temjuin’s egregious behavior.” He said, gesturing to the frozen Temujin.

“He’s just lonely, because he has eaten everyone in the palace, except me of course. Now how can I help you?”

“Well, we come from Chinatopia and we accidently teleported into one of Sarah Brennan’s books. We would very much like to go home.” I explained.

The old man stroked his beard and pondered silently, giving off aura of an omniscient philosopher. After what seemed like an eternity he said:

“If you teleported, you must have entered through a large doorway and the only large doorway in this palace, is the doorway to the Grand Imperial Hall.”

Tears flowed down Temujin’s face and he blubbered, “Could one of you please stay here with me and be my friend. I am so lonely and I want to make up for my past misdeeds.”

Goldy, turned to me and said, “This is the year of the dog, you must return to Chinatopia to protect your year. I do not have a year, so I will stay here with Temujin.”

Goldy then looked at poor Temujin, “I exonerate you for past deeds. I will stay here and be your friend.”

We all went to the door of the Grand Imperial Hall and before I teleported back to Chinatopia Goldy magnanimously gave me five of her precious golden fish scales and said, “Goodbye my friend these are for good luck and fortune in the Year of the Dog.”

Temujin purred and slowly and gently brushed his face against mine.

The wise philosopher said, “Temujin is truly rich now,” as he waved goodbye.

With mixed emotions I stepped through the door and teleported back to Chinatopia.


SECOND PLACE: Ema Poposka, P5, Japanese International School, Hong Kong 9 years old

The beginning of Ema’s story was outstanding. I was immediately entranced by her description of the setting and the poignant history of the village. And in spite of a few small errors in tense and spelling, I really enjoyed reading about Mushu’s adventures sailing to a distant island and the very original way that he finally found his way home! Followers of my blog may remember that Ema came equal first in my March Madness Minibus Photograph Competition last year – this story shows that she is a talented writer as well as a photographer – well done Ema!

 Mushu’s Great Sea Adventure

In the village of Houtouwan on Shengshan Island no children’s voices can be heard any more. All that is left of the once thriving fishing community on the eastern coast of China are the lianas and ferns covered shells of once beautiful, now fading mikado-colored houses. Everyone has gone in search for a better life in the big, resplendent city adorned with skyscrapers. They have forgotten all about the sea and the happy life they had. The twinkling of Shanghai, just out of reach on the other side of the water, has been all too attractive.

But, at night, when the children of their children get ready for bed, they still tell them stories of the once happy place where men went fishing during the day, and visited strange places and saw beautiful flying fish with golden scales.

One of their favourites is the story of Liu Yang and her best friend, brave and honorable Mushu the dog. Liu Yang and Mushu were inseparable spending their days near the sea, while Liu Yang’s father was gone fishing.

One day, as they were so immersed in playing on the beach sailing a small toy boat, the wind started to whistle and the sea started to ripple. A scary typhoon closed on them and the speeding wind started whirling everything up in the air. It caught the toy boat and pulled it towards the open sea. Liu Yang screamed and brave Mushu sprang to catch it. He leaped on a boat, which was right next to him and followed the toy boat. Before you know it, he was in the open waters of the sea.

Days passed and Mushu was hungry and thirsty, but did not know how to get back home. He drifted away, the sun scorching his skin. He was almost going to give up when he saw a flying fish with golden scales jump over his boat.

“Stop!” barely whispered Mushu. “Tell me where I am and how to get back home.”

The fish heard his cry and said, “I can grant you one wish. Tell me what you want”.

“I want to get to land”, cried Mushu.

“I will grant your wish”, said the fish.

However, since Mushu forgot to say what land, he ended up at a completely unknown island, but happy to be alive. Walking around he soon reached a village, very different from his own village. There were people wearing strange clothes, and flowers in their hair and hanging over their necks, dancing in a beautiful way. He had never seen anything more beautiful.

“What brought you here”? They asked. “I got lost in the sea” Mushu answered.

Serendipitously, the people were so friendly and offered him food and a comfortable bed. He spent several days in the village and got his strength back. He loved this place, but he also missed Liu Yang so much.

“How do I get home”, he asked the villagers. They took him to the wisest man on the island. “Follow the stars”, he said. He gave him a map of the sky and the stars showing him how to find the way back to China.

But the wise man had an atrocious black cat who hated dogs. The cat heard evey single word they said and made an evil plan. When everyone was asleep, the cat found the map and added a few dots with her own paw. The map was ruined.

The next day, the unsuspecting Mushu took the map and set off for home. Little did he know that he had a wrong map that will take him ever further from Liu Yang.

Mushu was at sea again but instead of finding the way to Shengshan Island, he was lost again. He drifted into the open sea with little food and water. There was no sound and nothing else except his little canoo that the vilagers gave him.

And then the water erupted and a blue head came out, the size of a small island. Two round bloody eyes stared at him. The whale lunged for him. It opened its mouth as wide and as dark as a cave.

Mushu screamed and covered his eyes in horror. “This must be the end, and I will never see Liu Yang again”, went through his head.

But nothing happened, and he opened his eyes again. The baleen still had his jaw opened and now in the slight light Mushu could see a white bone jammed in the back of the whale’s throat. Suddenly, he knew what he must do. He went slowly inside the big jaws and started gently removing the bone.

The whale gave a deep moan and Mushu was afraid the terrible jaws may snap closed any time if he makes a wrong move. At last, it was free and Mushu came safely out. The huge creature closed its mouth and gently pushed the canoo. Looking at the baleen’s kind thankful eyes, Mushu knew this was the direction to get home.

Pushed by the whale, Mushu went faster. He was so tired that he soon fell asleep. When he opened his eyes he found himself lying on the beach he knew so well. Liu Yang came down to the beach as she did every day for the past month still hoping to see Mushu return. Before her eyes was her best friend. Liu Yang was ecstatic to see Mushu again. Liu Yang and Mushu were together and there was no end to their hugs and happiness.


THIRD PLACE: Zoha Siddiqui, Grade 5, Doha College, Al Waab Campus, Doha, Qatar, 10 years old

A warm welcome to my Clever Competition to Zoha from Qatar, who found out about my competitions from a friend of hers in Pakistan who had previously entered! The world is indeed a small place! I loved Zoha’s descriptions: “unfortunate beige”; the river stretching “like a snake”; the “azure sky”; the “chaotic breakfast room”. Despite a couple of errors in tense (be careful with editing!) and word use, Zoha’s story was skillfully written and I loved the ominous ending! Well done Zoha – and do make sure you keep entering my competitions!

 Little Charlie, Big Adventures

Once upon a time there lived a – hold on…this is not a fairytale, this is an adventurous story starting here. It’s about Charlie. Who? He was a coffee-colored sweet miniature puppy with floppy ears that droop down into his furry neck. His eyeballs bulged out like a guinea pig when he desperately wanted something. His tail wagged rapidly when he became furious.

He lived in an unfortunate beige orphanage for young dogs in the small village of Fangchuan in China. The Tumen River stretched like a snake next to the orphanage. High above the orphanage in the azure sky hung crimson lanterns. The orphanage had very strict rules and the most important one was: no going outside without permission! Now who would you think would break that rule? Certainly not Charlie!

One delightful, sunny day Charlie was in the chaotic breakfast room waiting impatiently

for his bones to arrive. He had been silent for the last few weeks as he was going through a range of emotions. His owner had abandoned him, and Charlie didn’t remember much about him. Charlie just stared at his measly amount of bones that didn’t look very tantalizing. He felt like someone was staring at him which made his back shiver and his throat go dry. Nonchalantly, he rotated his head and peered at the bloodthirsty charcoal dogs staring into his eyes, ready to pounce on him. Fortunately, one of the dog councillors came trotting in.

“What do you guys think you’re doing?” questioning the black dogs. They didn’t answer and then in a snap of a finger they were gone. The councillor gave a blank look at Charlie and then walked away. Charlie continued staring at his food. Now you know that Charlie has no orphanage friends at all!

Later that evening, Charlie decided to break one of the orphanage rules. He wanted to take a stroll through the village to see how it looked at night. He could see the lanterns with their shades of crimson and mikado, shining brightly above him. The fascinating lights distracted Charlie. He started to get a little drowsy and sleepy, so he stopped. He didn’t know where he was. It was pitch black except for the lanterns above him. His legs were trembling with fear and his nose was turning pink because of the cold weather. It was a crisp chilly night, and nobody was there to help him. He looked around and suddenly, out of the corner of his eye he could see an orange speck of dust flying around him. He stopped and admired how this dust was hovering.

“Hello there, my name is Bubbles and I’m a fish that can read people’s mind, especially dogs. What are you doing at this time of the night?”

“I’m just hanging out. I live in an orphanage for dogs.” Charlie knew he wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but he couldn’t help himself. “This might sound weird but aren’t you supposed to be in the water?” asked Charlie, trying not to be rude.

“No, I’m a flying fish. Do you want to walk with me up to the hill?”

Bubbles had golden scales right down her back which had an iridescence shimmer, and her eyeballs swelled out just like Charlie’s.

Charlie and Bubbles took a stroll through the village and up a lush leafy hill that was more than two-hundred meters high. “Shouldn’t we start heading back, I’m getting a little sleepy?” Charlie complained.

But Bubbles didn’t care, and they carried on up the steep hill. Charlie froze like ice. Bubbles stopped chattering. The world stopped revolving around them. There sat a nefarious cat, teeth growling and ready to pounce! Her eyes shone a brilliant green and her body was clouded black. Casually, they started to turn around but in a flash the cat had raced around them with claws ready to slice! Suddenly, out of nowhere a gargantuan typhoon came washing in, drenching them wet.

The cat attacked Charlie and Bubbles, but they fought back, especially Charlie with his short paws. And Bubbles splashed her fins in the cat’s face. They spun around and rolled down the slippery hill. As they stood up, they didn’t know where they were. The typhoon had ended. Surprisingly, out of nowhere came an old, affectionate, magnanimous philosopher staring at them in an odd manner. Slowly and carefully they headed towards the philosopher. Charlie wanted desperately to go home.

The philosopher pointed towards the Tumen river and the nearby village. Bubbles dived into the river, guiding Charlie and the philosopher through the sparkling water. Bubbles saw large rocks in the water and she knew just what to do! She called Charlie and the philosopher to hop from one rock to the other, so they wouldn’t have to swim! Charlie found this quite challenging as he was a tiny dog with short paws. Bubbles pushed every rock closer to Charlie, so he could jump easily. They all finally had made their way across the river and into the village.

The next morning, they all sat for breakfast in the philosopher’s little hut in the village. Charlie had awoken knowing that he would never return to the orphanage. The philosopher was talking to Bubbles about his relationship with Charlie. A few minutes later, Charlie came downstairs for breakfast. “You know when I was around five years old I lost both my parents. I had no brothers or sisters. So, I decided to buy a dog to keep me company. So, I found you, Charlie. I took you home and I had you for a few years till I decided to send you away. Well, now you’re back I guess.”

Charlie had tears of happiness running down his face but in the corner of his eye he saw someone preparing breakfast in the kitchen. It was the atrocious cat. “Your pancakes are ready,” she exclaimed with an evil smile…


FOURTH PLACE: Nicholas Ng, 12 years old, Grade 6, SUIS GUBEI Shanghai, China

Nicholas’s story came a very close fourth to Zoha’s story above. His beginning was superb– I loved the prophesy in verse, which was original, intriguing and powerful, and the storyline was so exciting it was hard to put down! Nicholas uses an excellent range of vocabulary and his strong entry could only have been improved by more description of the Chinese setting and a stronger ending. An excellent entry overall Nicholas – well done!

 The Zodiac Prophecy

12 animals origins unknown,

Shall rise from deep in stone

A mouse, tiny, yet wise and brave

An ox and tiger, difficult to stave

A rabbit, dragon, a powerful serpent

A horse, a ram, the friends of merchants

A monkey, a rooster whose cry we hate

But the dog and boar shall seal our fate

These were the words a large Chinese Chongqing dog named Wise had found meticulously carved onto the side of a cave wall.

Struggling to keep up with the Chongqing was a short, skinny boy in a loose fitting, cotton shirt, named Jing. He stopped behind Wise, and took notice of this insignificant, inconspicuous detail, then moved on like it was nothing. He whistled and signaled for his dog. Wise obediently bounded after him.

They continued through this network of caves, leaving a trail of gunpowder. The cave was dark and damp, with stalactites hanging from the ceiling, threatening to hit them lest they lose focus.

Suddenly, there was an audible squelch from below. Jing stared in horror as he realized that his foot was caught in a pool of slimy, green, and extremely thick liquid. He realized that his foot was slowly being sucked in like quicksand, and before he knew it, the peculiar substance had gone up to his waist. He cried out, and Wise, who was sniffing for food, heard it.

Wise dashed towards Jing as fast as he could. Jing reached out his hand, but couldn’t get a solid grip on anything, not even Wise’s snout, which was a tantalizing few centimeters away from his fingers. The last thing he saw was Wise jumping in after him moments before his head went under, and he blacked out. He sank to the bottom and lay there.

Hundreds of years later, he floated to the top of the pool. He appeared to be somewhere between comatose and dead. The mellifluous green liquid flowed off of his body, and he was shortly discovered and taken away by an anonymous person.

Wise remained below, and it was only months later that he finally broke the surface. He sniffed the air and took a look at his surroundings. He was in a cave. Suddenly, hundreds of memories came flooding back. One thing was missing, however, and it was his companion, Jing. He recalled a trail of gunpowder, and searched for its stinging scent. It was not long before he found it and began to follow the trail.

Soon, he found his way to the mouth of the cave. The first thing he noticed was that all of the farming area had disappeared. All of the bamboo, straw buildings he knew were gone, replaced by gargantuan rock buildings, strange tall yellow clawed objects, and people dressed in orange clothing. It made him very uncomfortable, and he raced out as fast as his miniscule paws could carry him.

Soon, he found himself wandering the streets. He saw street vendors and restaurants, with delicious scents drifting through the air at every corner. Wise was hungry, but he had to control himself.

A vendor saw him and offered him a plate of meat dumplings. He was hesitant at first, but his hunger took over. He lunged at the fresh meal.

“You must be hungry,” the man’s eyes glowed a faint Mikado yellow for a second, then returned to their dark brown color.

He glimpsed a typhoon, ravaging the entire world. He glimpsed a boy, bound to a pole and surrounded by cats. He glimpsed the prophecy, carved onto the wall that he had seen so long ago.

Then he was brought back to the real world. The man had disappeared, but in his place was a strange symbol, resembling a fish. The symbol glowed, and a translucent golden fish with a dove’s wings rose. It flew at Wise, and pushed itself into Wise’s mind and thought.

Suddenly, Wise’s senses sharpened, and he could see AND smell Jing. He was far away, hidden in a warehouse. Wise now had a goal.

After several hours of tireless running, Wise had found the warehouse. The fence surrounding the complex was an unfixable mess with large holes ubiquitous on it. Wise crawled through one of them, and soon he was inside the complex. A couple hundred meters off, he saw his entry point. A crack between two seemingly gargantuan doors.

He bounded forward and squeezed through the crack. The inside of the warehouse was dark with only a few light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. In front of him, slept thousands upon thousands of feral cats.

Wise yelped in fear, and every single cat awoke from their slumber. The glowing fish jumped out of him and flew out pusillanimously. The cats perked up, jumping at Wise, who retreated in fear. However, the cats were actually chasing the fish. With the cats gone, he could now see Jing at the other end. Ecstatic, Wise dashed towards Jing. A paw swiped out at him, and he yelped in pain.

“You think I would let you get back your owner that easily? He has the most powerful weapon in the entire world, knowledge, and I intend to use it!” hissed the cat, “He can avert the worst disaster to come. He is a scientist, a philosopher, a teacher, all in one! He is invaluable! When the disaster comes, he can save us. Who are you to tell me to let him go?”

Wise lay on the ground, helpless, a fresh wound on his front leg. He whimpered.

Then there was a SNAP! The bonds that had held Jing broke. He had been using his intellect all this time to destroy the bonds. He rose from his cramped position, shaking. Then, he ran for Wise and muttered some strange words. Immediately, the wounds healed. He muttered more words, and the cat hissed, arching it’s back. It scrambled away in fear.

Now that they had found each other, they were ready for their quest: to find the boar before the storm.


FIFTH PLACE: Isabella Kristen Umansky, Year 6, German Swiss International School, 11 years old

I thoroughly enjoyed Isabella’s exciting and original story of a ‘Fish of Wish’, which grants wishes to those who eat it! She used some beautiful vocabulary eg ”mesmerized”, “maliciously”, and memorable turns of phrase: Ai Bao’s “mikado coloured fur that reminded…of the mustard coloured fields” . While there were some errors in punctuation and grammar, her story was well-structured and full of atmosphere. Well done, Isabella!

 Ai Bao’s Second Wish

A long time ago, there was a small village that sat at the foot of the Yellow Mountains. In Hung Village, there lived a courageous dog. The villagers believed she was sent down from the God of Wealth, Caishen.  Her name was Ai Bao. She was a splendiferous golden retriever with eye-catching mikado-colored fur that reminded the villagers of the mustard colored fields nearby.

Ai Bao lived with her master, Mei Li, in a cherry wood cottage near Nanhu Lake.  Mei Li was an intelligent beautiful lady who enjoyed playing with all the pets in the village.

On the other side of Nanhu Lake, lived Huai Pang, a wicked and voracious charcoal-colored cat. Huai Pang had a grudge against all the villagers because they expelled him. One day, he slinked out to the lake to catch his breakfast when something in the water caught his eye. Beneath the cerulean waters, was a gold-scaled fish. Mesmerized, Huai Pang eyed the iridescent fish and pounced on it. He widened his jaw and snapped it shut around the fish’s neck as it tried to leap away. He swallowed the fish whole.

Moments later, he saw some village children frolicking with their pets in the water. Huai Pang narrowed his fierce, golden eyes right at them. He said, “I just wish a monstrous typhoon could come and terrorize the village!”

Suddenly, a red light shone from his mouth, reflecting up into the sky above the village. In the blink of an eye, cumulonimbus clouds gathered. A howling gale swept through the land, destroying crops and blowing tiles off the roofs. Sheets of rain flooded the land as people shrieked, getting swept away by the ferocious current. There was complete pandemonium with everyone panicking.

Huai Pang’s jaw dropped as he realized that the glimmering fish he swallowed was the legendary Fish of Wish. This gold-scaled flying fish only appears in the Year of the Dog, granting one wish.  Huai Pang was thrilled, but that was quickly interrupted when lightning nearly struck him. He flinched and ran back to his shed, which had already blown away.

Meanwhile, Ai Bao and Mei Li went to the Village Hall for a meeting.  All the farmers were furious because the storm ruined all their crops.

“I know who did it!” said a young girl. “It was the cat, Huai Pang! I saw him eating the Fish of Wish. He must have wished this horrible typhoon on us.”

An old farmer with a long white beard slammed his fist on the table, “That evil cat is probably taking revenge on us for kicking him out after he ate all our chicks!”

Mei Li suggested, “I saw an ancient artwork with an inscription that stated once one Fish of Wish is consumed, another one can be found…”

Everyone let out a sigh of relief as Mei Li continued, “…but there’s a catch. The only other Fish of Wish is at the summit of the Yellow Mountains and only the bravest can find it.”

All the villagers looked around while Ai Bao started barking like there was no tomorrow. Mei Lei smiled, opened the door and whispered to Ai Bao, “Good luck!”

Ai Bao sprinted toward the mountains. The wind howled and the rain battled against Ai Bao. Nevertheless, she fought against the elements and made her way to the foot of the mountain. Little did Ai Bao know, Huai Pang followed her close behind.

The typhoon made the soil muddy, so to move faster up the mountain, Ai Bao leaped onto any firm surface she could find.  It was impossible for her to see the path, but she labored on to find the legendary fish.

“Where could it be?” Lost in thought, Ai Bao stepped into a puddle of mud.  The mud was so thick that it clung onto her front paws.  The more she tried to wiggle free, the more she became stuck.

Huai Pang saw this as opportunity to stop Ai Bao.  He noticed a long branch with spiky thorns right above Ai Bao.  He leaped up onto the tree. Huai Pang began gnawing on the branch to break it off on top of Ai Bao.

Oblivious of what was happening above her, Ai Bao was struggling to free herself from the mud while Huai Pang maliciously chewed away at the branch.  Suddenly, the branch snapped with Huai Pang still on it. A strong gust of wind swept the branch towards the raging river. Huai Pang was thrown into the rapids. He wailed for help.

Ai Bao heard the screeches and knew someone needed help.  Without thinking, she used all her might to break free from the mud and raced toward Huai Pang.  She ran ahead of the rapids and jumped into the water in front of him. She caught him by the neck swimming him safely back to shore.

Huai Pang was so frightened that he ran back to the village without saying a word to Ai Bao.  At that moment, she noticed a glow up in the mountains.  Ecstatic, she followed it and found an old man bathing in a hot spring.

“Ni hao, Ai Bao! You’re one brave dog!”

Ai Bao was confused, “How did you know my name?”

“I’m a philosopher, so I know everything! I have been watching you for a while now. Your bravery has brought me here, so now I should give you something special in return.”

The philosopher levitated into the air and turned into a gold and silver glimmering fish.  Ai Bao ate the fish with alacrity and she was granted two wishes!

Her first wish was to stop the atrocious typhoon.  As soon as she made this wish, the dark looming clouds dissipated and the clear azure sky was visible once again.

However, for her second wish she had two ideas. She looked at the village with a smirk, “I wish for…”.


SIXTH PLACE: Annika Faye Eisenmajer, Grade 6, Methodist Ladies College, Melbourne, 11 years old

Annika’s story started with a real punch, and the action that followed was very exciting. I very much enjoyed some of her descriptions (“mikado, like a squirt of mustard on a sizzling hot dog”) and her cheeky fish Genji and its role in the clever resolution towards the end of the story! But beware Annika of some errors in tense and punctuation, and of using nouns as adjectives eg “pandemonium village”. A great effort overall – I look forward to seeing more of your writing!

 Jin and the Mustard Wind


“Oh no!” exclaimed Jin’s owner, Wang Zu. “It’s here. We knew it was coming, but not like this! Oh my, I must be seeing things. It cannot be! How could nature send an immense storm that is, no, it can’t be, YELLOW!”

Li Wei burst into the room. “Wang Zu! Are you seeing this! It’s … it’s… Yellow! Ming Zhi was right! The dreaded disaster is here.”

A swirling storm raged outside of their small but cosy home. The wind and rain were suspiciously the colour mikado, like a squirt of mustard on a sizzling hot dog.

Jin was a brown and kind dog, and he would do anything for the people he loved. He lived in the small village of Ānjìng, a sunny place surrounded by mountains. It was Jin’s favourite place in the whole world, and he knew and loved every single person who lived there.

Ming Zhi is an illustrious philosopher, his name meaning ‘wise’. He had predicted this terrible typhoon, and stated that he was the only one who could stop it. Jin was determined to save his now pandemonium village in South-Eastern China. He had no clue on how it would be done, but it would happen and nothing could stop a determined dog, especially Jin.

Jin crept through the slightly open door and set off on his journey to find the omniscient Ming Zhi. Although he was very determined, he forgot a couple of things.

  • He had absolutely no idea where Ming Zhi was.
  • The terrible typhoon was still raging. Rain was pounding on roofs, and wind was gusting like a hairdryer on full blast. The wind was strangely yellow, and that was confusing to the whole of Ānjìng.

A small river flowed close to Jin’s home. Out of the corner of his eye, Jin spied a shimmering gold flash. He bounded over in curiosity, thinking that his mind was playing tricks on him. A fish with resplendent golden scales leaped out of the water and stayed there, flying in mid-air, and that made Jin think that he was really going crazy.

“Hello Jin.” Greeted the sparkling fish. “My name is Genji, and I have been expecting you. I am here to help you on your quest! I know exactly where Ming Zhi is, for he is an old friend of mine. Follow me. Come on!”

Jin was simply dumbfounded! He tried to comprehend what had just happened to him, but he barely could. He followed his only instinct – Follow the fish.

Genji soared in the air, seeming to not be bothered at all by the horrendous mikado wind. “Come on! We don’t have all day- soon the whole village will be destroyed!”

That made Jin start moving right away.

“Up the hill, down the hill, and around the corner, and bingo! There he is!” explained Genji.

“Really?” Asked Jin, surprised. “Nope.” said Genji and carried on.

They trekked up a tall mountain for hours. Hours turned in to days and days turned into nights. Jin was starting to wonder if they were really getting anywhere, as they seemed to not move at all.

“Genji, when will we arrive at Ming Zhi’s home?” asked Jin. “Right now.” They passed a turn and standing in front of them was a red house. However – there, right in front of it, stood Neko.

Legend tells it that ‘Neko’ is an evil black cat, who possesses great powers. You could turn into stone if you stare right into her mean, mikado eyes.

“Looking for someone?” Neko snarled. “Someone who could put a stop to that typhoon down in your stupid little village? Well, you will have to get past me, first. Did you ever wonder who sent that horrendous wind and that pounding rain? It was ME. So DO YOU REALLY THINK in that tiny little brain of yours that you could defeat the sender of such a marvellous storm? Well, think again. For today, I will DESTROY YOU!”

“You’ll be fine!” Genji assured Jin. “But whatever you do, just don’t look down!”

Immediately Jin looked down, and got a tremendous shock. They were so high up the mountain, that his beloved Ānjìng looked like a toy town, and the yellow wind looked like a mere sprinkle of pepper.

Jin went boldly up to the waiting Neko and declared “I am Jin. I am brave, noble and kind, but most of all, I am not afraid of you! Now, let’s battle, for I will not wait any longer for my village to be saved!”

“Very well.” Muttered Neko, with a secretive smile on her face.

Neko was winning by far, and Jin was on the ground, barely conscious, when a cheery voice hit the air.

“Yoo-Hoo! Neko! Don’t I look just delicious?

It was Genji! Jin had almost forgotten that she was there! Genji was hovering over the edge of a steep cliff- a cliff that dropped miles and miles down to a valley, and to a victorious, hungry cat, she did look quite tasty.

Neko was off the edge of the cliff in an instant, clawing for Genji and definitely forgetting the giant drop. You didn’t even see her hit the ground.

Genji and Jin knocked on the door of the red house and spoke to Ming Zhi. He soon fulfilled their wishes, and the toy town of Ānjìng was yellow no more.

The brave Jin was so happy and relieved to be back to his loving family, that he completely forgot the other part of the legend – where Neko is immortal and has incredible climbing skills…


SPECIAL MENTIONS: The overall standard of the entries was excellent and a very special mention must go to the following students who placed 7th to 12th in the competition:

7th: Samantha Ong, Grade 5, Methodist Ladies’ College, Melbourne, 10 years

8th: Audrey Kwok, Year 6, Australian International School Hong Kong, 11 years

9th: Audrey Yeung, Year 5, Renaissance College Hong Kong, 9 years

10th: JIANG Zaixin (Kitty), Grade 5, Shanghai United International School Hongqiao Campus, Shanghai, 10 years

11th: Daisy Joan Palmer, Primary 5, Japanese International School Hong Kong, 9 years

12th: Kaitlyn Yeung. Year 6, Beacon Hill School Hong Kong, 11 years

 Finally, a special mention to three further writers:

Emma Davies, Year 5, Renaissance College Hong Kong, 10 years  who wrote a fantastic story “What Happened While Desmond Dog was Away” and Zhou Pei Jin of Grade 5, Shanghai United International School, 11 years, with her very entertaining story “The Boy Who Cried Woof”. I loved both stories, and they both scored highly in many respects, BUT unfortunately both contained well over the requested word count of no more than 1,000 words, so were heavily marked down. While I would have loved to give them places for their excellent writing, this would have been unfair to the many other contestants who had worked very hard to edit their stories down to the required limit. So – Emma and Pei Jin – please keep on writing as you have real talent – but remember always to pay heed to the requested word limit!

Finally, Bridget Lam, Year 6, Renaissance College Hong Kong, 11 years old, with her story “Loyal” about a dog working in the Court of the Emperor Taizong of Tang, who wrote to me about the extensive research she had done into that great Emperor’s reign in order to write her story. I was thrilled by her interest in Chinese history, and fascinated to read all the fascinating detail of the period. But unfortunately Bridget did not include an evil cat, a flying fish or a typhoon which lost her significant points. Be careful always to follow instructions in competitions, as judges use these as a basis for their judging!

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