2019 – 2020 Competitions


Picture credit: Harry Harrison, The Tale of Run Run Rat

Hooray! I’ve just finished judging all the entries in The Rascally Rat Tale Competition, and it’s been so much fun reading your fabulous stories! Now I know that primary school students around the world have had lots of school work to do for school online, even though most of you have been stuck at home! So it was great to get such fantastic entries in this competition, even though there were fewer entries than usual. Nonetheless, there were entries from students as young as 7 and as old as 11, from Hong Kong, Melbourne, Sydney, Shanghai and Singapore! All the entries were of a very high standard, so it was very hard to choose the winners in each category.

I thought it might be useful to remind you of the way that I do the judging, as this will help you to understand why I placed the stories in the order I did, or why some stories didn’t make the final list. You can use that knowledge to do even better in my next competition, or indeed any writing competition you care to enter in the future, as this judging method is common to most writing competitions.

The way I judge is, first of all, to cut and paste all your stories onto a single Word document, then anonymise them (ie remove your personal details). I then shuffle them, and then give each entry a letter eg A, B, C, D etc . I wait till the next day, so that by the time I start judging I have no idea who wrote what, which means that I can judge completely impartially.

I then create a spreadsheet, setting out down the side the list of entries, A, B, C, D etc, then along the top all the requirements for the story that I’ve listed on my Clever Competition page. This includes not just the special ingredients that I’ve asked for (eg the colour malachite, brainy princess, at least 3 Wicked Words etc) but also the quality factors I’ve mentioned, such as a great beginning, a detailed setting, originality and even X-factor. I give each requirement a points allocation and then, reading each story, I award marks under each heading. This means that it is VERY important to read the contest instructions carefully, and when you are editing your story before submitting it, to check that you have addressed every single requirement as well as you possibly can. Some of the entrants this time lost points when they forgot to include some of the characters I asked for, or didn’t describe them in any detail. Others did not pay enough attention to the setting. On the other hand, there were others who gave me lots of wicked words, excellent beginnings and endings, and sophisticatedvocabulary! Once the scores are added up, I sort the entries into First, Second, Third etc place. It is only after this that I go back to my original document to ascertain the name and school of each entrant.

Here are the top entries in each category. The First Place winners each receive a free signed copy of the Chinese Calendar Tale of their choice, PLUS a Boxed Set of the Chinese Calendar Tales for their school library! Correctly used Wicked Words are in bold type.


FIRST PLACE: Therese Li, Year 3, Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, Sydney, 7 years old

Congratulations to Therese, whose entry scored highly on so many fronts! Her story had an intriguing beginning with some fabulous imagery, which made me excited to read more! There was a great problem, an exciting climax and an ending which made me smile. I also thought her plot was very original, and her writing style was excellent, with hardly any grammatical errors. To top it off, Therese managed to use 8 Wicked Words correctly! A great achievement from a very promising writer at just 7 years of age!


A cold gust of wind blew outside the palace doors. The evil dumpling snatched the three magic tangerines from on top of their sumptuous, silky red cushion. Just as he was about to vanish, the great brown timber doors of the gargantuan treasure room burst open to reveal the king and a crowd of men. However, the king was too late and the evil dumpling cackled with glee before vanishing in a puff of green smoke.

A year later….

There had not been any rain for a year and the plants were slowly shrivelling up. There was no food in the whole of China because the farmers’ crops were dying. The rat was starving. He was creeping in the woods at noon and was about to slide under the great big doors of the palace to see if he could find something to eat when he heard a high-pitched shout.

‘’There is no more food in the fridge and I’m so hungry!”

The dirty grey rat was so surprised that he nearly stopped in his tracks. He had been looking forward to feasting on different kinds of cheeses and nuts and he almost fainted in disappointment. He couldn’t help letting out a sudden loud cry.

The illustrious princess turned around at the sound of the rat’s cry and caught sight of him. She screamed and got out a bowl to trap the rat under. Before the majestic princess had even begun to do anything, the rat gasped.

The princess had long silky hair that almost touched the ground and she wore splendiferous silk shoes and a beautiful dress decorated with frills and curls and patterns of beauty.

“Are you Princess Jenny of China?” the rat questioned.’’

“Of course, I am, but who are you?” the princess replied, “And why are you wandering in my father’s resplendent palace?”

“Oh princess, please do not hurt me, I am on your side.” The rat told the princess how there had not been rain in all of China for months, and that the food was running out. The princess gulped.

“Someone must have stolen the magic tangerines!” she exclaimed.

“What are the magic tangerines?” the rat asked.

“Well, the magic tangerines make sure that we all have food in China and nobody dies of hunger. Now that they have been stolen from their original place, the whole of China will experience a drought and we will all starve,” Princess Jenny explained.

“But who would steal the magic tangerines?” questioned the rat.

“I think it might be the evil dumpling.” she replied.

“Who is the evil dumpling? I’ve never heard of them.” he said, surprised.

“Hmm, let me think,” Princess Jenny answered, “Oh yes, I remember now. The evil dumpling is my father’s brother. He had always been jealous of my father because he got to be the emperor. When he tried to steal my father’s throne, my father cursed him into an evil dumpling.”

“Come on then. Let’s go find those magic tangerines!”

The rat and Princess Jenny decided to go on a hunt to find the magic tangerines. They both agreed that if the evil dumpling really had stolen the magic tangerines, they would be hidden in his secret lair.  However, before they could get there, the evil dumpling spied them coming over to his lair with his magic eye.

“Damn it, they’re coming for me!” he muttered.

He grabbed the magic tangerines and immediately fled to the palace. He was going to hypnotise the king.

Suddenly Princess Jenny noticed a green glow coming from her wrist. Her malachite bracelet was glowing a bright shade of green.

“Why is that glowing green?” the rat asked, “Does it glow in the dark?”

“No, it’s my magic malachite bracelet and it tells me when someone is in trouble!”

She tapped the malachite bracelet and saw a horrifying sight. The bracelet showed the worried face of her father, his eyes wonky and confused. His eyes were swirly and the princess recognised that it was her father that was hypnotized.

“What’s happening?” the rat questioned.

Princess Jenny immediately clarified to the rat what had happened to her father. They immediately fled back to the palace.

When the rat and the brainy princess got back to the palace, they decided to split up to look for the magic tangerines. The princess looked in the main rooms of the palace while the rat was not afraid and set off into the shadows of the palace. The rat found three tangerines sitting in a corner in the kitchen.

“Jenny will be so happy! We finally found some food to eat!” he exclaimed as he hugged the tangerines in his arms. The rat was so ecstatic that he made his way back to find the princess, juggling the three tangerines as he went.

When the two of them met up again, Jenny was disappointed.

“I didn’t find anything. Did you?” she asked.

The rat gave her a big grin and held out the tangerines in front of him. The princess gaped as the rat started to peel the skin of one of the tangerines.  The princess let out a loud cry.

“Wait! You found the magic tangerines! Don’t eat it!”

“I was just hungry,” he said, embarrassed.

“Well done,” the princess smiled, “that is simply copacetic,”

The rat ran into the dining room and saw a tantalising dumpling perched on the kitchen table. He looked around and noticed a man sitting on a chair next to the dumpling. He realised that he must be the king, and the dumpling must be the evil dumpling that had stolen the magic tangerines. He leapt onto the table and gobbled the dumpling up.

“Delicious!” he said, rubbing his tummy happily.

Immediately, it started to rain. They had a big festival that day to celebrate the rain and the end of the drought. That day, there was music, there was dancing and best of all, there was food again.


SECOND PLACE: Muyao Zhang, Year 2, Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, Sydney, 7 years old

Readers may remember Muyao from her entry in The Practically Perfect Pig Tale last year, where she came fourth in her category. Her writing is getting better and better, and here she treated us to a very interesting story involving the ancient Silk Road, with a wonderful beginning and some great vocabulary. In particular, Muyao had one of the highest scores in the competition for her details about the setting! Well done Muyao, keep up the excellent work!

First Place Comes as an Award

In the spring of 1274AD, the same year when Marco Polo, an Italian merchant, explorer and writer reached China, Billowy Hudson, an extraordinarily adventurous traveller from an exotic island came to Mongolia along the Silk Road. The Emperor Shizu of Yuan Dynasty welcomed him and his escort by hosting a scrumptious feast in his resplendent and gargantuan Mongolian yurt. The cheerful sunshine shone upon the borderless grasslands while the spring breeze gently patted those foreign guests on their backs.

All of a sudden, the table was turned — a friendly conversation turned into an aggressive brawl. Emperor Shizu roared as a volcano of anger was rumbling in his brain, “My ancestor said that the Silk Road was, is and will be toll-free. I will not allow anyone to charge the travellers for using the Silk Road!”

Bella, a brainy princess accompanied Mr Hudson, replied cunningly, “Your Majesty, once the toll booth is open for business, your people will have the opportunity to use the Silk Road before others. More importantly, we can share the bronze coins collected from the travellers.” An evil grin crossed her face as she fiddled with her abacus. However, Emperor Shizu shook his head sternly like rattles. On seeing this, Princess Bella hid away her smile and became as furious as a blazing fire.

To everyone’s astonishment, Princess Bella secretly kidnapped Huizong, the beloved son of Emperor Shizu, and fled back to her exotic island. Suddenly a thunderstorm drew near, and the wind started to wail as loud as a siren.

After calming down from panic, Emperor Shizu was so lugubrious that he had no mood to eat any dumpling even though it was time to celebrate Lunar New Year. Unexpectedly, an evil talking dumpling, which was named after its hometown of “Dungeon Pathway”, jumped into his bowl from nowhere.

“Go and find the tangerine tree in your orchard if you want your son back,” said the evil talking dumpling in a squeaky voice, “You will see three magic tangerines in that tree. Be careful! Only pick the one in malachite green, otherwise your son will turn into a hilarious beast.”

Without any hesitation, Emperor Shizu sent off his servants to find the malachite tangerine. As soon as they brought back that tangerine, it suddenly turned into a rascally Rat who was well-known for getting into mischief continuously.

“Happy Lunar New Year, my Majesty!” the rascally Rat greeted Emperor Shizu courteously with a bow.

“Please save my son!” begged Emperor Shizu, “I will pay whatever ransom asked by that evil princess.”

The rascally Rat nodded slightly and scuttled away. He rode on a red-crowned crane to have a bird’s eye view of the exotic island and cast a spell by giving a flick of his wand, “Battement Tendu Glissade!”

The next morning when Princess Bella stepped out of her palace, she gloomily found the crops in the field were all drooping down. A puzzled look swept across her face. She gasped when her fortuneteller predicted that a drought was approaching and would last for a decade. The fortuneteller said pusillanimously that it was a revenge from Emperor Shizu as she kidnapped his son. Princess Bella immediately ordered her soldiers to release Huizong.

As a reward for the rascally Rat’s courage and wittiness, Emperor Shizu decided to rank Rat as the first zodiac animal out of twelve.


THIRD PLACE: Bonnie Li, Year 3, Arden Anglican school, Beecroft, Sydney, 7 years old

Bonnie’s story of an exceptionally rascally rat and an extremely brainy princess earned her a well-deserved third place. In fact, it was Bonnie’s attention to the characters in her story, and especially her main character, that scored particularly well. I can’t wait to see more of her work!

The Rascally Rat’s Adventures

Long, long ago, in ancient China, lived a powerful emperor. In fact, he was so powerful that he could get anything that he wanted! Beautiful views…… heaps of jewellery…… lots of mansions…… truckloads of servants…… a pure gold chair…… roomfuls of resplendent silk and gold robes…… Just a LOT of amazing stuff. But apart from that, the emperor had a brainy daughter, three magic tangerines, and a gorgeous malachite. Boy, life is super easy!

But there was a slight problem. It was winter and the poor emperor could not keep warm even with his bundle of blankets…To make things worse, an icy rascally rat scrambled in through a hole in the wall, climbed onto the wonderful four-poster bed and bit the freezing king right on the leg…Poor thing! He had to run out into the cold dining room. The terrified emperor called out to his servants to catch the rat. They succeeded in doing that. Now it seemed to the servants and the king that there was no more annoying rascally rat stuff going on.

But the furious rat did not stop messing around. Instead, he did more damage than ever! First, he jumped out of the servants’ hands and knocked out pots and pans, food and waste from the table. After that, he knocked the emperor’s best malachite off the silver cupboard and smashed the wooden floor! Then the cheeky rat smashed the goldsmith’s newly made gold crown in a thousand pieces! Finally, that smug thing did the worst thing of all. He did a pee on the king’s grand marble staircase! Oh no! Nobody knew that except the rascally rat! Who will possibly save the king from slipping?

Luckily, a servant spotted the pond of pee and guessed that it might be the rat they captured a while ago. To make sure, she asked all of the people in the castle. No one said yes, so the good-hearted servant wiped up the pee and told the emperor about it. He was very cross and asked the three magic tangerines to throw the rascally rat out of the castle. They of course agreed to do it.

Now the sad rat was really ashamed of what he had done. There was no way that this poor little rascally rat could get back in the grand mansion that the good-hearted emperor owned. So he had to roam China to find a way to live and survive. Now for the exiting part! Let’s see what the rascally rat found and got in his adventures!

First, he arrived in China’s capital, Beijing. There was complete pandemonium! The dirty rat tried to calm the people down, but just got punched in the nose…… worse, when he attempted to leave the city, that rascally rat got blockaded by an evil dumpling and his colossal army of rice! What nonsense! But I tell you, that is true.

So when the injured rat tried again and again to leave, the dumpling ordered rice to stop and trip him so that he couldn’t leave…

But at last, the exhausted rat managed to beat the gang of angry rice. The rascally rat left Beijing and got away.

Then, he went to Shanghai. There, he thought, was much more peaceful than the bustling city of Beijing. But that rat was incorrect. In this miserable city, there was a huge drought and all of the farmer’s crops were dying. That poor rat! People were furious when they saw the rascally rat. He thought: “what if they think that I am going to eat their dying crops and eat me instead…” Oh no….. thought the scared mouse. What am I going to do now?

Just then, a good idea bounced into his head. He was going to leave the city. But when that silly rat tried to do so, he got bamboozled by the heat and all he could see was endless fog…so that rat called for help.

Instantly, he found himself in the grand castle that the emperor owned. A servant said: “Your Majesty, the time has come for you to tell the rat your brilliant trick.” So the emperor took a deep breath…and started talking.

After he’d finished, the rascally rat was begging him not to do that again. The wise emperor replied: “I will listen, but you have to be obedient in this very castle.”

Of course the rascally rat agreed. So the kind emperor told him that he will leave for a moment. Before the rat could say anything, the emperor was gone. Instead, there was a smiling Chinese princess. The shocked rascally rat stammered: “w….who… who ar….who are…y….you…?” the princess replied: “I am the king’s daughter and I am omniscient! Now I am going to teach you math!

So the clever princess started talking: “N=m+6b(n)d-d6y=rt6 4ffr6=ijnb7+y6r5th op09_0__ijb+uh= ghugc0976……

“STOP!! I have had enough!!! Boo hoo! That is worse than my adventures in Beijing and Shanghai!!” Cried the rascally rat. The princess just smiled and left. Finally, the obedient rat had learnt his lesson and lived happily ever after with the clever royal family.


FOURTH PLACE: Tanisha Mahapatra, Grade 2, Rosemount International School, Singapore, 7 years old

Congratulations to competition-newcomer Tanisha, whose attention to the Chinese setting and especially the characters scored high marks and led to an excellent fourth place! Keep on writing Tanisha, and make sure you enter my next competition!

 The Clever princess and Three Magic Tangerines

Once upon a time in china there was an emperor named Qin Chin Huang. He was a very rude and arrogant emperor. He had a reputation for atrocious cruelty towards his countrymen. He had a daughter named Mulan, who was a brainy princess with a golden heart. She was an illustrious person. It was Dongzhi festival time, it’s a time during the depths of winter to enjoy a hearty fortifying family meal that raises hopes for spring arrival. It celebrates the seasons turning point towards the warmer lighter days of spring. People celebrate it with hot dumplings and drinks.

Everyone was getting dressed up for the festival. The princess looked resplendent in the silk gown and malachite necklace. There was a feast in the castle. There were lovely dumplings on the table, it looked tantalising. Then a poor woman came by and asked for food and water she was thirsty. The rude emperor did not give her anything and asked her to get out. She cast a spell on the dumplings and one of the dumpling’s turned into an evil talking dumpling. When the emperor ate it there was a spell on him and turned him to a rascally rat. The rascally rat started stealing the food from the people. All the people were in terror of the rascally rat.

The old woman also cast a spell on the kingdom. There was a long drought in the country. All the crops died, there was no food and water for all the people, with the rascally rat stealing from all the people everyone started starving and got sick.

Then Mulan when to find the old woman who cursed the king for help. She found the old woman sitting by a well. She asked her for kindness and to forgive her father’s mistake. The old woman said if you answer my riddles then I will give you three magic tangerines which will grant you wishes.

The first riddle was, ‘impossible to touch but easy to feel?

Clever Mulan replied, ‘love’.

The second one she asked was ‘what is harder to earn than money, but once you have it, can’t be lost?’

Mulan replied the hardest thing to earn is Respect.

The third one she asked was, if I’m dropped, I’m sure to crack. But show me a smile, and I will always smile back?

Mulan answered, Mirror!

The old woman was very happy with Mulan and gave her the three magic tangerines and asked her to use them wisely. Mulan was very grateful to the old woman and she gifted her the beautiful malachite necklace.

With the first magic tangerine she asked to save her father so the rascally rat turned back to the emperor.

With the second one she asked for the drought to go away, suddenly heavy rain started.

The third magic tangerine she kept using later.

With the emperor changing back to himself, the evil talking dumpling returned. Everyone was surprised to see the talking dumpling, it pretended to be nice to all. Few days later the evil talking dumpling started poisoning the emperor’s mind. It started giving evil plans to rule the kingdom. Mulan was a threat to it because she was clever and smart so it had a bad plan for Mulan, so it can now get the throne. It started poisoning the emperor’s mind that Mulan was becoming more famous than him and he will never be remembered as a great emperor rather Mulan will take all the importance.

The emperor started listening to the dumpling and ordered to lock Mulan in her room so she can’t look after the kingdom affairs. Mulan came to know about the evil dumpling plans but couldn’t convinced her father. All the royal guards were under the spell of the evil dumpling and started following its orders. Finally, it ordered the guards to put the emperor in dungeon.

Then Mulan used the last magic tangerine and wished, ‘go back to the time from where it all started and make everything normal’. Then everything went back to the day when the royal feast was about to begin, so when the old lady came for food Mulan asked her father to offer her food and water. The emperor gave the old lady some food, water and clothes. The old lady was happy, she blessed them with luck and happiness. They all lived happily ever after.


FIFTH PLACE: Iris Yin, Year 2, Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, Sydney, 7 years old

I loved Iris’s fast-paced adventure about a cheeky rat, a ratty royal family and a ratnapping by an evil cat burglar! In fact, I thought it was one of the most exciting stories in the competition! A little more attention to setting and grammar, and you would have scored even higher Iris!

 Whisky’s race against time

It was an exciting day because it was Whisky’s race day! “I’m so going to win!” he told his family.

“Don’t be so boastful, Whiskers” said his older sister Whiskyana smugly.

“My name is Whisky! You are terrible at races, possibly the worst in Ratland ”he shouted back.

“Enough,” mum stopped them, “Whisky, Whiskyana , eat your breakfast properly!”

“Fine Mum, the pancake you are frying is absolutely tantalising, if you don’t serve it up right now I’m going to eat Whiskyana’s paws!”

“You are very impatient Whisky” said his sister.

Arriving at the racetrack, the rat emperor sat on the throne. Beside him was the empress and princess who was very brainy. “I declare the race to begin” shouted the emperor through a loudhailer.

It was just then that Whisky noticed a huge banner that read “MOST INPROTANT RACE OF YOUR LIFE”. Whisky wondered what that meant but there was no time to think. He sprinted off! He was so fast and passed the mice one by one!

Because Whisky was in the race he didn’t know his family being Ratnapped! “P – Please don’t eat m – me” pleaded Whiskyana.

“Shh” murmured her Dad Whiskerrat. They had been Ratnapped by Cat Burglar.

“Oh, I won’t, if you tell me the secret word to spread a long drought to Ratland.” He sneered before bursting into an evil laugh.

It was just then that Whisky crossed the finish line: – first! The prize for the winner was three magic tangerines. Everyone gasped. Even Whisky didn’t know this. The magic colour tangerines gave anybody who ate it magical powers. Not just magical powers, also good feelings. Whisky quickly ate up the tangerines and when he finished eating he was suddenly filled with great generosity and joy!

Just then, a guard came rushing in, “Whisky” he said, “your family has been ratnapped” he panted breathlessly, “By Cat Burglar!”

Suddenly, everywhere was complete pandemonium. Rats were so scared when they heard the name “Cat Burglar”. They rushed about trying to evacuate from the field.

The Rat Emperor had squeaked “SILENCE! Everybody please do not panic,” he said calmly, “I will escort you somewhere safe and most of my guards will go with you.”

He looked at Whisky “my wife and daughter will help you look for your family and Cat Burglar.” Whisky was sick with worry yet pulled himself together and calmly replied “Thank you.”

Whisky and the Royal family went to all suspicious places to search Cat Burglar but they didn’t find anything. “It looks like Cat Burglar was a bit smart this time” said the emperor.

“He still left us a clue” squeaked princess Ratlove excitedly. What she found was a red arrow sign that possibly Cat Burglar forgot to get rid of. They followed the arrow and walked cautiously to a little door. When they opened the door there was a tunnel! They quickly went through the tunnel, when they reached the end it came a big shock! Whisky’s entire family had all been tied to chairs.

“Give me my family back!” shouted Whisky angrily at Cat Burglar.

“Fine,” said Cat Burglar wickedly, “ask my assistant Evil Dumpling how you can get your family back.” Evil Dumpling looked at them sneakily and said “You have to pass three challenging tests, if you fail, your family will die and you have to tell us the secret word to spread the long drought.”

“Ok, what are the tasks?” asked Whisky.

“They are to cross the powerful lion you rats fear and, kill it! The second task is to tame the magical leopard. The final task is get the colour malachite from the magical unicorn Lunasun.”

That night Whisky tried hard to work out how on earth he and his companions are able to do all three tasks.

The next morning Whisky quickly dressed and ran down to have big breakfast. He knew he would need a lot of energy. Whisky and his companions went to the cave of the lion. The lion was awake so Princess Ratlove tried her world – illustrious singing and it worked! The lion was drowsy and fell into sleep! Whisky plunged the dagger he was holding into the lion’s chest. The lion gave a howl of pain but there was nothing he could do.

Next they headed to the cave of the magical leopard Liya. “I can speak a little bit of leopard language,” said Whisky, so he tried: “Fastie Dotie Falie”. Surprisingly the leopard Liya was frozen for a second and then she followed them. She was tamed, and they had achieved the second task!

Finally they reached unicorn Lunasun’s ice cave, where they saw the colour malachite that can create anything. Ratlove and Whisky tried to persuade Lunasun to give it to them by singing and by special language but it didn’t work! Finally, the Empress took off her tiara and placed it on Lunasun’s head. Lunasun immediately followed with the malachite.

They raced back to see Cat Burglar.

Whisky shouted “Now, give me back my family!”

But Cat Burglar did not look like he would follow his promise. Instead he murmured with Evil Dumpling, then said “Well, you have to finish another task that…”

Whisky and all his companions realized that Cat Burglar was a liar! Without hesitation Liya and Lunasun used the colour malachite which turned into a heart.

Thanks to the magic tangerines Whisky knew exactly what to do. He motioned for his friends to make a circle and suddenly a rainbow shot out of the heart, and dived towards Cat Burglar and Evil Dumpling. They both were turned to stone statues! Whisky leapt forward to untie his family but magically they were already untied! They all did a gigantic hug.

“Whisky, I’m sorry I called you Whiskers” said Whiskyana.

“That’s fine” said Whisky, “but next time if mum still serves the pancake too late I will eat your paws! I’m serious!” laughed Whisky.



 FIRST PLACE: James Bruser Zarin, Year 4, Shrewsbury International School, Hong Kong, 9 years old

Congratulations to James, another newcomer to this competition, who absolutely wowed me with his very original story of a perfidious emperor who betrays his people and a dumpling with a rather large stomach capacity! He scored particularly well with his gripping beginning, his excellent character details, a great plot, some fantastic vocabulary, and no less than 9 Wicked Words used correctly! Brilliant work James, and I hugely look forward to seeing more of your writing in my future competitions!

 A Tale of Betrayal

Her hand scrambled as the young Princess pulled herself up the rough stone wall of the palace. Stealthily slipping through the hidden hole with ease, she found herself with a clear view of the entire throne room. She grabbed the nearest chandelier and pulled herself onto it, gaining a bird’s eye view of her greedy father, the Emperor, in his resplendent throne. He was practising a speech. The Princess gritted her teeth. The Emperor should be magnanimous and care more about the devastating drought. He should take action to stop the bandits terrorising the people.

In a cottage away from the palace, Rascal Rat, also known as Twig, opened his eyes slowly. Then his eyes went wide. Chinese New Year! He sprang out of his bed ecstatic and scrambled to get his clothes on. He picked up a heap of stuff, including three tangerines, and jammed it into his bag. After hugging his mother goodbye, Twig headed toward Chung Mia Bei, the village where the Emperor lives. As he arrived in the village slums, two people were talking in the shadows.

“Next time, be more careful,” the first figure threatened.

“Come on, it’s fun just barging in and raiding the place,” the second figure replied.

“The last thing I need is word of bandits stretching across China,” scowled the first figure.

Heading toward the Emperor’s gargantuan palace, Twig heard the sounds of pain and found a whole family crying.

“What’s wrong?” Twig asked.

The mother wiped away tears and said, “These people, they robbed us!”

As soon as he heard the news, Twig swiftly ran to the palace. Every day, people lined up for hours, waiting for a chance to meet the Emperor.

When it was Twig’s turn, he knelt down and said, “Your highness, there are bandits in the village. They just robbed a poor family.”

The Emperor was a tall man with skinny arms and skinnier legs. He smiled and said, “I’ll think of what I can do.” Then he called out, “Next!”

Twig walked away smiling. He had helped out the village. He was a hero! Or so he thought.

Twig heard a murmur and followed the sound of the voice. Turning the corner, he nearly fainted when he found himself face-to-face with the Princess.

Without a word, the Princess led him deep into the palace until their path was blocked by a brick wall. The Princess pushed a loose stone and Twig was flabbergasted to see it open with ease. They heard two voices. Twig recognised the Emperor’s voice instantly.

“As leader of the bandits, I command you to be more careful!” the Emperor shouted.

Twig felt bamboozled, while the Princess led him away.

“Welcome to the Outcasts!” the Princess said once they arrived at the sewers. Turns out she had assembled a rag-tag team to stop the Emperor. There was a talking dumpling, a monk named Chen and Tien, a girl in tattered clothes who lived on the streets.

“We know the Emperor is evil,” the Princess said. “We just need to prove it.”

Twig covertly returned to the scene of the last robbery to search for clues. Serendipitously, he checked under the bed and found an odd looking coin. It was malachite green with a circle in the middle. One of the bandits must have dropped it! Twig looked at it very closely and he could see faint words on it. “The Emperor’s Money,” he read aloud. His eyes lit up with excitement! This was proof!

Twig returned to the palace. Sneaking past the guards, he made his way to the throne room. It was a vast chamber full of hardback chairs covered with gold carvings. Hiding behind the chairs, Twig observed the Emperor admiring himself in the mirror. The Rat ran straight at him grabbing his arms and pinning him to his throne.

“I’ve got you now, you evil beast!” Twig said.

But the Emperor was strong, much stronger than he looked. He grabbed Twig and threw him into the wall. Twig collapsed in a heap on the floor. His vision blurred and he began to feel dizzy. He knew this evil man must be stopped. Twig willed himself to stand back up.

“Ah, looks like you found out about my little secret,” the Emperor snarled. “But where is your proof?”

“Oh, I have proof of your egregious betrayal. And my friends are on their way.”

At that very second, the talking dumpling burst in. Twig’s relief faded away when he realised the dumpling wasn’t a friend after all.

Pointing at Twig, the Emperor ordered, “Eat him!”


Twig opened his eyes in confusion, thankful for rat vision. He could see his friends squished together in the dark.

“Where are we?” he asked.

“We are inside the dumpling’s belly,” Chen said.

“Wait, the dumpling is evil? Why is this place so soporific? Why do I have a voracious appetite?” Twig said. He had dozens of thoughts spinning around his head.

Twig took the tangerines out of his bag and they were glowing. In a flash of light, the mystical tangerines caused the dumpling to spit out the unlikely team.

“I’ll get ‘em, boss!” the dumpling shouted, and then pandemonium broke out.

Surveying the scene, Twig saw weapons scattered all over the place.

The Emperor cried out in pain.

“This is what you get for what you did to mother!” the Princess shouted as she kicked the Emperor under the chin. “The Royal Guards will be here any second,” the Princess added cheerfully. “And I’ve heard that Twig has evidence.”

Twig held up the coin to prove it.

“I’m the Emperor, fools. I control the Royal Guards. They would not arrest me,” the Emperor said smugly.

“Well, allow me to elucidate: the Royal Guards now follow me,” said the Princess as the Royal Guards snuck up behind the Emperor and dragged him away.

Twig beamed with pride. He really was a hero.


 SECOND PLACE: Hannah Thompson, Grade 5, Methodist Ladies’ College, Melbourne, 10 years old

Hannah is a very talented writer who has been excelling in my competitions for the past two years, with two first places and two second places in my last four competitions! This time she very nearly won again, with just a few points dividing her entry from James’ above! Her clever plotline, involving an imperial chef who diverts the kingdom’s water for his own greedy ends, thus causing a drought; her excellent vocabulary, and above all her beautiful writing style led to this stellar result. Looking forward to the next one Hannah!


Chao the rat stepped forward. He stared up at the intimidating malachite door. He couldn’t believe he was entering the Imperial Palace of the Village of the Golden Carp. He took a deep breath and knocked with a trembling fist.

The door swung open to reveal a young tall servant rat. “Hello there. Thank-you for coming on such short notice Mr Chao. The Emperor is expecting you. Follow me.” said the servant with a stutter.

Chao bowed his head and followed the servant down corridors lined with gold-embroidered tapestries. Eventually Chao was led to the Emperor.

“Greetings your Excellency.” said Chao nervously.

“Thank you for coming.” welcomed the Emperor. “You are here because there is a shocking drought causing pandemonium in the village, and we have reason to believe someone is deliberately orchestrating this. Chao, my faithful detective, it is your job to find out who and how they can be stopped. Here’s a little something to help you along the way,” said the Emperor, handing Chao three plump tangerines.

“Thank you Your Majesty.” Chao replied.

“You are most welcome my young rat. Unless there is anything further you need, start right away if you will.”

“It would be my pleasure.” Chao humbly bowed and walked out.

The next day, Chao was down in the bone-dry riverbed – the village’s main water source. Chao was startled by a voice from behind him.

“Here for the drought?” the voice asked. Chao swung around. Standing before him was Princess Li-Jing from the Imperial Palace. She was unmistakable.

“Don’t look so surprised.” she said. “I’m investigating the drought too. And believe me, this spot leads nowhere.”

“Well, what say we work on this case together?” Chao suggested.

“Excellent idea! Let’s have dinner at the Palace tonight and discuss more then.”

“I would be honoured.” said Chao, with a hint of nervousness.

That evening, Chao knocked again on the malachite door. After again being let in by a servant, Chao sat down to a delicious dinner of dumplings with the Emperor and Li-Jing.

Li-Jing started discussing the facts. “Despite recent mountain rains, our river remains dry.”

“So, there must be something blocking the river upstream!” finished Chao.

By dessert time they had figured out their plan of attack. After clearing away the leftover dumplings, the Chef set down a dessert of sumptuous black sesame rolls.

Back in the kitchen, Chef Bai pulled out one of the leftover dumplings and started talking to it.

“What did you hear out there?”

The dumpling proceeded to tell the Chef everything he had overheard at dinner.

“Excellent!” exclaimed the Chef exuberantly. “Those amateurs are clueless! They have no idea about our dam, orchard or market up on the mountain. At this rate, we will have our very own restaurant chain this time next year! It’s all just like we planned!” said the Chef contently to the dumpling, whose name was Yum-Mee.

Yum-Mee cackled gleefully. But Chef Bai silenced him. “In case the Emperor and detectives hear us!” But despite what the Chef told him, Yum-Mee knew that the real reason was Chef had missed his cackling cue.

The next day, Chao was greeted by Li-Jing at the malachite door. “Are you ready for this?” asked Chao. “I was born ready!” she replied enthusiastically.

“Before we journey up the mountain, let’s get our strength up.” Chao said handing the Li-Jing one of the tangerines the Emperor had given him.

But just as they were about to take a bite, the tangerines started yelling at them. “And just what do you think you’re doing?”

Both Chao and Li-Jing screamed, dropping all three tangerines. This was greeted by a chorus of complaints.

“What are you?” asked Li-Jing curiously.

“We are a rare species of magic tangerines!” said the first in a self-important tone. “Bo don’t talk to them, they could be dangerous!” said the second worriedly. “It’s fine Bi.” replied the third. “Now do you actually want something, or did you wake me up for nothing?” said the third in a rather impatient manner.

“We just wanted to get up the mountain.” said Chao rather taken aback.

“Oh well, that should be easy enough. By the way, I’m Bo, this is Bi and that is Billi” said the first tangerine.

“I know!” continued Bo. “Let’s transport them up the mountain.”

“Oh, would you?” said Li-Jing excitedly. With that, all the tangerines took formation, tracing an ancient Chinese symbol. They all began to levitate and then instantaneously all five of them were on the mountain, next to a massive dam.

“This explains the dry river.” said Chao gazing up at the dam.

“And I bet who ever owns that orchard built the dam to water their plants.” surmised Li-Jing looking around.

“Brilliant!” yelled Chao. “But just one problem… I can’t see anyone around here.” said Chao, disappointed.

“Yes, but I bet they are selling produce at that market.” said Li-Jing thinking fast.

“Genius strikes again!” Chao said, impressed.

“Well then, let’s go!” said Bo the tangerine. So they all set off towards the market place.

Upon arrival at the crowded market, someone caught Chao’s eye.

“Hey, isn’t that the Palace Chef? He has a cap and glasses, but I know it’s him. He is collecting money from that market stall.” said Chao excitedly.

“No, you don’t mean…. you can’t mean….” said Li-Jing.

“Yes, the owner of the market stall, dam and orchard is Chef Bai.” scowled Chao disgusted by his atrocious betrayal.

“My goodness you are right.” said Li-Jing shocked. Without wanting to draw attention to their discovery, they returned to tell the Emperor.

At the Palace, Chef eventually confessed to the crimes and was consequently banished from the village. But he still did go on to open a chain of restaurants, though by honest deeds. The three magical tangerines used their powers again to bring rainfall to the village. Princess Li-Jing and Chao even worked to solve other cases together. But that’s another story!


THIRD PLACE: Celina Wu, Grade 5, Epping West Public School, Sydney, 11 years old

A warm welcome to Celina to my Clever Competition! This story of a giant dumpling who plans to replace the Emperor of China was great fun, and in particular I enjoyed Celina’s wonderful imagery! Congratulations Celina, and I hope to see more of your work in the future!

Trapped in the Dungeon

The dancing embers from the candles leapt into the air as I scurried along the corridor, looking for something to quench my thirst. My whiskers twitched as the wind swept onto my small, furry, grey body. There had been a drought here in China and no water had been offered to me since I last saw the princess being dragged from her room by a big shadow, which looked rather like dumpling. She had been my only friend in this big palace and was the only one that ever fed me. I had no idea where she was and I hoped she would return soon. What’s more, the emperor had chucked me out of the palace the very next day! I knew he had never liked rats, but thanks to the princess’ frantic pleading I was allowed to stay. I guess that agreement ended as soon as the princess had left.

A familiar, sweet scent caught my sharp nose and for a moment I stood there, deciding whether or not to get closer. My curiosity got the better of me and I sneaked stealthily along the cold stone floor.

As I rounded the corner, my round ears heard a faint sobbing. A cold voice interrupted the cries.

‘‘Shut up!’’

The sobs immediately stopped and the voice started to cackle ecstatically.

“I shall only return you in exchange for your father’s throne! I will rule China and you and your silly father shall be hung.”

The voice laughed harder and guffawed with glee as I the source of the perfumed fragrance. No wonder it smelt so familiar! It was coming from the princess! Ecstatic, I was about to scamper over when I saw something that made me stop.

Standing over my owner was a gargantuan dumpling with an atrocious grin plastered on his face. He looked so plump that he was essentially an exact replica of a blown up balloon. His skinny arms were crooked and twisted and his legs were sticking out at odd angles. Just the sight of seeing him made me feel pusillanimous.

I knew I needed to help the princess but what could I do? My head throbbed painfully as I searched for a solution. Then it came to me – I could call on the Magic Tangerines to distract the evil dumpling!

The Magic Tangerines were made by the Emperor as a birthday present for the princess. They were some of my closest friends and I knew I could always count on them to do me a favour.

I let out a high pitched squeak in order to signal for them to join me. I was not disappointed. A minute later, three tangerines appeared out of thin air and hovered in front of me. They were small and orange with tiny golden crowns on top of their heads. I explained that the princess was in trouble and that they needed to help me distract the dumpling. Nodding obediently, they zoomed away.

A loud noise echoed across the dungeon.

“There’s a ghost!” the dumpling screamed as he ran.

I had to stuff my paw into my mouth to stop myself from laughing. I knew I could trust the magic tangerines. But I had more pressing matters to attend to. As I scampered out of my hiding spot, I crept towards the princess and leant my small head against her lap. Her eyes were streaked with tears and her body shook as she cried silently.

The softness of my fur seemed to bring her back to her senses. She wiped her puffy, dark eyes on the sleeves on her silky gown and brushed her long black hair out of the way and stared at me as though hardly daring to believe it.

“Hazel, what are you doing here?” the princess whispered.

I nibbled on the edge of her sleeve to grab her attention and then scrambled towards the exit. The princess followed at a pace or two behind me. Once we left the horrible dungeon, the princess picked me up and squeezed me gently.

“Thank you,” she murmured gratefully.

The princess quickly ran up the stairs with me held securely in her hands and then stopped suddenly. There was a door to her left ajar. Inside, a familiar looking person was sitting at a table weeping, his resplendent golden robes sodden with tears. He covered his face with his hands as his exuberant moustache quivered with grief. It was the Emperor!

The princess quickly stepped into the room and cleared her throat nervously.

“Father,” she whispered.

The trembling Emperor stood up and turned to face the princess. He removed his hands from his lugubrious face and took a few steps closer.

“ Is that you?” the emperor asked, his voice cracking.

The princess nodded. He threw his arms around her and started to break down. His voice was stricken with fear.

“Are you alright, sweetheart?” he asked.

The princess nodded one more and quickly explained what had happened. The Emperor ran down to the dungeon immediately. Within minutes he had captured the thrashing dumpling and stuffed him into a burlap sack. The dumpling screamed that he vowed to get revenge one day but no one paid any attention to him.

At last, the princess was once more reunited with her father. The emperor made a solemn promise to her that from now on, I would be treated as a member of the family. The princess smiled and ruffled my soft fur.

“Thank you father,” she said.


 FOURTH PLACE: Shiv Mohan, Year 4, Glenealy School, Hong Kong, 8 years old

Well done to competition regular Shiv, who readers will recall has been placing in my competitions since the age of 6! I loved the details of the Chinese setting, and thought that Shiv’s description of the drought was the most impressive in the competition! Great work again Shiv, and I can’t wait to read your next entry!


“We are starving!! Give us food and water!” The people cried. The peasants of China had no food because of the famine caused by the long drought. Over the last 6 years, there was not enough food and the people were weak, hungry and unhappy. To add to the frustration, every year they were forced to give any crops to the emperor as taxes.

It was the year 1911, during the Qing Dynasty, Shun Zhi was the illustrious emperor of China.

Shun Zhi was smart and fastidious. He spent most of his time in the Forbidden City in the capital Beijing. His wife Empress Mei Ri was infamous for her resplendent

beauty, brains, and love for jewels.

In the palace, there was a furry rat named Corona. He was gargantuan and had Snow White fur. He loved cheese and lived in a small hole in the Emperor’s bedroom.

He could hear people screaming outside for food and water and said ‘We can not continue like this, there must be a way to save these people!’ The empress agreed and called for her 3 magical tangerines, Fire, Light, Hope.

They agreed to help save the people of China. Hope lifted his peel and like a magical carpet Corona was magically transported to a mountain with plenty of food and water.

Delighted to see the lines of char siu baos, bowls of noodles and plenty of other delights, he brought the delicious food back home. The people cheered with delight! However, little did he know that he had brought back an evil dumpling.

When he reached home, the malicious dumpling hopped out of the steam basket and took over the palace. He locked up Corona, the emperor and the empress in a cell.

Luckily, Empress Mei Ri had grabbed her lucky malachite bracelet before being tied up. She had hidden a secret whistle that the emperor had gifted her in the bracelet. She quickly blew on it and all three tangerines came to her rescue. Fire and Hope quickly untied the prisoners and the cell vanished!

Luckily Corona was a black belt at taekwondo and defeated the dumpling with several might karate chops. Eventually the dumpling ran out of juice and was defeated.

The whole town cheered had the emperor organised a grand celebration with plenty of food from the mountains. All the villagers were so happy and had a feast to remember! Corona rat was given as much cheese as he wanted for a lifetime!


 FIFTH: Patrick Ye, Grade 5, Arden Anglican School, Sydney, 11 years old

Well done to Patrick for creating one of the best rascally rats in the competition! But Patrick you forgot to include five of the mandated ingredients (brainy princess, the colour malachite, drought, tangerines and dumpling) which lost a whole lot of points! I look forward to your next entry as it’s clear that you can write a great story!

The Rat and the Chinese Emperor

“Crash” The rat scurried into the wall, through the metal structures and out. He could still hear the cat screeching, “Come back you stupid rat”.

He climbed up a makeshift ladder (which he made himself. I don’t know how so don’t ask me) and out into the open with people bustling and pushing around until they got to their destination. The rat was already thinking of a way to prank and bring chaos to these innocent people. So, he walked up to a stall and slightly pushed. He waited for the stall to tumble but it didn’t.

“Oh, I thought I was stronger than that,” thought the rat. So, he pushed again, this time harder. The stall fell. Bits and pieces fell, shrapnel flew, people screamed. The tumbling of the stall caused a chain reaction and soon all the stalls in the market had fallen in a heap of wood and dust.

A pandemonium had started with people screaming and wailing. People were falling and receiving injuries. All Hell had broken loose.

The rat was more evil than any human and animal on the planet. His little legs were tiny and fast, good for escaping angry people and cats.

The rat looked around, trying to find a gap of some sort but he was surrounded by the Emperors soldiers and guards. One of the guards scooped the little rat up. They still couldn’t believe that this little rat was the problem to all these angry people and the poisoned water dams. They had to take the rat to the illustrious Emperor, for his judgement was best.

The rats jaw literally hit the floor. He was looking at the cleanest palace he had ever been to. It looked like most fastidious persons house, with crystal clear floors and walls that are clean that not even a speck of dust sticking onto it. Even the Emperors clothes were resplendent, with no crinkles or staining on it and just as smooth as the silkiest material ever found.

“I wonder what the dungeons would be like if the main hall is this amazing”.

Turns out that his hopes were too high because the room was covered in a blanket of dust and it was just as bare.

The guards came back to the rat’s cell every night to give him food and water, but the rat never ate or drank. Another day went by and then another until the rat couldn’t take it anymore, he had to escape, or he will wither away in the darkness of his gloomy cell.

The guards came back one day. They weren’t there to give the rat food but to take him back to the Emperor.

The Emperor was a shabby old man whose eyes glistened in the light. His hair was long and black, just like the night sky.

“Let me go you stupid bafoon,” shouted the rat

“Only if you complete a task for me,” replied the Emperor

“What do you want me to do,” said the rat

“I want you to retrieve the skin of the Nian monster, and then I will let you go,” said the Emperor

“Fine I will go,” said the rat

“And also, don’t think you can run away, I can see your every move”

The rat trudged on, through the forest, into the muddy grounds and into the country side. He had passed some villages nearby and was extremely tempted to steal from them but immediately recalled that the Emperor was watching over him, so he calmed his temptation and crawled on.

Had it been days, weeks or months or maybe years. It had been a very long time, he was sure about it. The rat had been wandering in one direction for maybe a year, outlasting his supplies so he stopped at one of the country villages. When he crawled in, there were people talking in hushed voices.

“The Nian monster is coming in a weeks’ time,” said one of the farmers

“It is because the total lunar eclipse in seven days’ time”

“This is a punishment from the gods!”

The week had passed quickly and the people were going about their business until the sky suddenly darkened. There was a deep roar of in the distance. The roar was rich and clear. The powerful roar had struck into the villagers’ hearts. The rat had seen a long scaly body thundering through the forests and other small villages that hadn’t stood a chance against the might beast. The people started going chaotic and started setting of fires and fireworks. The Nian noticed and halted. It wailed like a bird that has just been shot. The rat noticed and took out a pair of firecrackers.

He was planning of using them later, but he knew that now was the good time.

He aimed the firecrackers at the beast and threw it. It hit the beast in the head but had only little effect. He knew what to do know. He had to set of every firecracker and firework at the Nian.

He placed every firework he could find on the roof of the house and lighted a match. The explosions were tremendous. The Nian had looked bamboozled and out of place when then the fire crackers and fireworks hit but everyone was relieved when the Nian had exploded into a spectacular scene of red, orange and yellow.

The rat was praised and flattered by the people of China. Even the Emperor had appreciated the work of the mischievous rat. The rat also felt relieved of the high-tension adventure. He still managed to pickpocket on the way back to the Emperors palace.

If you ever hear a problem or a protest, that was probably the started by the rat, the rat who saved the world, the rat who slayed the Nian and the rat who probably pickpocketed you, so beware because he might be coming for you next.


SIXTH: Arjun Nagarajan, Grade 3, UWCSEA – Dover Campus, Singapore, 9 years old

Welcome to my Clever Competitions to Arjun from Singapore! I loved his fun story of a mischievous talking dumpling – and it made for an excellent title too! Make sure you enter my next competition!

 The Revenge of the Talking Dumpling

Once there was a drought in a village called Xion Sheng in China. Everyone in the village was fed up with the dry long drought. The news reached the Princess of China. The Princess skin was like porcelain, she had beautiful make up and was wearing a beautiful red and gold dress with ear-rings brown and shiny. She also had a golden hairclip and matching golden shoes.  The princess was a voracious eater and her idiosyncrasy was to throw things around. The princess told the Emperor about the drought. The Emperor wore a golden and red shirt and a triangular hat with 12 jade pearls dangling on each side.

They rushed to Xion Sheng and by the time they arrived the princess was famished. So, she went to buy dumplings. She found a good dumpling shop and she ordered 30 dumplings. After 10 minutes, the dumplings were ready. She took a bite and it was so dry but she did not care because she was so hungry. She walked to the tea house which the Emperor owned. They called it their little palace. The Emperor was there discussing the drought with the farmers.

Suddenly, a dumpling jumped out of the bowl from which the princess was eating and then it started running! But he was terribly slow.

“Father” cried the princess,

“not right now” said the emperor.

“Father” shouted the princess,

“I said not right now” shouted back the emperor.

“Father a dumpling jumped off my plate” shouted the princess.

He looked quickly towards the dumpling and got frightened. “Ha ha ha…you can’t get me!” said the dumpling. It was too late, the dumpling had gotten out and locked the door of the tea house.

The princess heard the dumpling say to someone “I wish to have magic powers”. Then the dumpling flew out of the window zapping the drought to make it bigger. The dumpling made it bigger and bigger. Every time he did that, he said “take that!”.

Meanwhile, the princess was thinking and thinking of how to get out. She finally thought of using her golden hair clip to pick the lock. It worked! When she went out, she saw three tangerines, just not any tangerines but magical tangerines.

Suddenly she heard a voice saying, “you are back, what is your next wish?”. The princess looked up, down, right, and left to see where the voice for coming from. She again heard a voice saying, “We are here”, the princess looked down and it was the tangerines talking.

“You have used one of your wishes, what do you wish for next” said the Tangerines.

“Looks like the dumpling has used one of the wishes” said the emperor who was watching from behind the princess. She had 2 more wishes.

She wished for the dumpling to be in her hand. then her idiosyncrasy got the better of her and she went near the drought and threw the dumpling with all her might.  The dumpling died and there was a Malachite crystal left behind.

“That was serendipitous” said the emperor. Then it started raining and every one of the villagers did a rain dance. They were exuberant. The heat before had made the princess’s skin turn yellow and dull. So, her last wish was to make her skin normal. Her skin was back to glowing. Soon she and the emperor went back to their palace in the carriage. The princess was happy to be back at her home and eat good food


SPECIAL MENTION: Sofia Graham, age 10, Grade 5, Hong Kong Academy, Mid-levels, Hong Kong

A very special mention to Sofia, who entered the competition as part of The Great Year of the Rat Challenge 2020! I really enjoyed reading her story! Sofia worked very hard on every single challenge in the Great Year of the Rat Challenge, which earned her a very special prize! You can see what she got, and link to some of her work, on my blogpost about the Challenge results posted last week! Here is Sofia’s story:

 Why Water Why

The sun was rising as Lexie, the dog, woke from her dreams of table scraps.

“Ruf, Ruf.” Lexie, the dog, yipped as she tried to awaken her owner princess Rachel.

“Oh, hello Lexie.” the princess sighed. “What is all this barking about?” Lexie ran over to the princess’ wall and signaled her head to the calendar.

“Is it a special day? Asked the princess as she slid out of her bed. She strode over to the bed and looked at the calendar.

“How could I have forgotten?  It’s the day of water.”

The Day of Water was a special day of celebrating.  For this annual event, every household would make their wells clean to welcome the water into them.

The princess’ kingdom had had a drought for centuries, with water only coming once a year, so the kingdom had to find ways to hold as much water as possible to for the next year’s needs.

The princess quickly slid into her most fashionable dress. It was red with a golden sash and looked sumptuous.  Princess rushed down the stairs to find her father the emperor sitting on his morning chair sipping his favorite tea.

“Father isn’t Water Day just splendid.”

“It is indeed.  I just wish I knew why it hardly ever rains.”

“Father, I keep telling you it’s due to where we are located.” Rachel was considered very omniscient

“I don’t quite agree, but think what you want. Due to that short lecture of our world, I almost forgot to give you this.” The Emporer laid 3 gifts that were wrapped with the prettiest wrapping paper ever.

The princess tore open the first present which held a necklace with a dog bone on it and a collar that had a crown on it.

“They are for you and Lexie, so you may always remember each other.” The emperor explained.

“Thank you father, but I must know what this lovely green stone is.”

“It is malachite.”

The princess admired the stones as she put one on herself and the other on her dog. The next present was a dumpling and the last was three mandarins.

“Ooh Lexie loves dumplings,” Rachel said and she threw it into the air for her dog to catch, only before her dog could bite it a face, as well as arms and legs, popped out of the dumpling. The dumpling used its arms to stop Lexie from chomping down on it, and then jumped from her mouth.

“You almost fed me to a dog! Mark my word I will get revenge on you princess.” At that, the dumpling vanished into thin air.

“I tried to tell you the dumpling as well as the mandarins were special. You must eat them at the right time or else that will happen.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” The princess was very truly sorry but not nearly as sorry as she would have been if she had known.

The princess skipped out of the castle with Lexie trailing behind. The rain had started but no one held umbrellas on this day.

“Hello, Mr. Wang,” Rachel said as she passed the farmer.

“Hi.” He said solemnly.

Rachel stopped skipping.  “What is the matter, it is Water Day. You should be happy.”

“I guess you haven’t heard. A little dumpling has broken the wells. We can’t catch the water without our wells intact.”

Rachel’s heart sank. She knew it was her fault that they wouldn’t have water.

“If I hadn’t thrown the dumpling to Lexie the wells wouldn’t be broken.” Rachel thought.

She hiked up to her favorite tree that looked over the kingdom. Rachel opened her bag that she had brought and took the mandarins from it.

“There’s no better time to eat these than now,” she told herself.  After she ate all three of them three more mandarins fell from the tree above her, but instead of hitting the ground, they fluttered in mid-air. Wings first popped from them then legs and arms.

“We are your mandarin fairy godmothers and will each grant you 1 wish.” The first one explained.

“Um, ok. My first wish would be to fix the wells.”

The one to the end of the line clapped his hands.

“My second wish would be to bring the dumpling here.” the second one clapped his hand.

“Now my last wish will be to vanish this dumpling from this kingdom.”

The last one clapped his hands together then the mandrins and the dumplings vanished.

The princess was still terribly upset since the rainstorm was ending and no water was collected. Rachel pulled lexie into her lap and held her so tight that the charms of their necklace and collar hit. There was a glowing light.

Next thing it was raining. Now it was all copacetic.




Photo credits: Summer – https://all-free-download.com/free-photos/download/sunflower-image-06-hd-pictures_167025.html; Winter – https://www.123rf.com/photo_11049126_beautiful-nature-winter-scenery-frosty-trees-in-forest.html; Spring – https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photography-of-pink-flowers-1045615/; Autumn – https://wallpapercave.com/w/8r8chAr

Hello my friends! I’ve just had a lovely time judging your haikus from all around the world! This time there were entries from Taiwan, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and even an entry from California! I was very surprised to find out that the favourite season of most competition entrants was winter! And after that came autumn (or Fall), then spring, then last of all summer! I wonder why? Maybe the extremes of winter weather lend themselves to descriptive poems more than gentler seasons – or maybe we just love snow!

It was great to see that everybody who entered stuck to the rules of traditional haikus, with the pattern of 3 lines, 17 syllables in all, with a structure of 5,7,5. I also appreciated that, even though many of your haikus were untitled, the words you chose made it very clear to which season you were referring!

I was looking for lyrical language, and words that evoked strong images and feelings. Remember that haikus are all about painting pictures and capturing feelings. For this reason, adjectives and adverbs reign supreme over nouns in haikus. The best haikus are very lyrical or poetic, using words in an unusual or creative way. Take a look at the winning entries in each section, and you’ll see that the writers have use words very imaginatively and poetically, with language that is powerfully descriptive. Haikus are a huge pleasure to write, especially when you’re feeling something very strongly. So try to write one whenever you see or feel something that moves you, and chose beautiful descriptive words in your work. Then you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great poet!

I enjoyed reading all of your poems, but there were some real standouts. Here are the results. First place winners will receive a signed hard cover copy of my multi-award- listed lyrical storybook Storm Whale, while Second and Third place winners in each category will receive a signed copy of one of my Chinese Calendar Tales of their choice.


FIRST PLACE: Alisha Stokes, Year 2, Arden Anglican Junior School, Sydney, 7 years old

Regular readers of my blog will remember Alisha’s name from my last story competition, where she placed second. Alisha has shown a lovely poetic sensibility in this haiku about spring. I could just smell the flowers and almost touch the butterflies as I read this haiku! I also loved her use of evocative vocabulary such as “graceful”, “flutter” and “exquisite”. Well done, Alisha!


Flowers are blooming,

Graceful butterflies flutter,

Fresh, exquisite scent.


SECOND PLACE: Isabel Huang, Grade 2, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 7 years old

Competition newcomer Isabel Huang impressed me with the contrasts in her poem. I loved the way the silence, ice and freezing temperatures of winter were opposed in the final line by the warm, crackling fire. This is a classic technique in haiku, known as “cutting” and I was really pleased to see it in Isabel’s haiku!

White, silent winter,

Icy, freezing vacation,

Warm fire crackling.


THIRD PLACE: Alyssa Lin, Grade 2, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 7 years old

Another impressive effort, where Alyssa’s description brought autumn straight to my eyes and ears! I especially loved the “whistling breeze” and her rather unexpected last line. Excellent work Alyssa!

Hear the whistling breeze,

Dry crunching leaves fall off trees.

It makes me feel peace.


RUNNER UP: Christopher Huang, Grade 2, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 7 years old

Well done Christopher for this autumn haiku, with its whispering breeze. A lovely description!

The forest with wind,

Pretty orange and red leaves

With whispering breeze.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Max, Kate and Wilson are all new to my competitions, and I thought that their efforts were excellent for 7 year olds! I look forward to getting regular entries from them in my next competitions!

Max Lee, Grade 2, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 7 years old

Wearing sunglasses

Sweating on a vacation

Sitting on the beach

Kate Lee, Grade 2, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 7 years old

Birds chirp all morning

Many tiny, red blossoms

Lots of babies hatch

Wilson Cheng, Grade 2, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 7 years old

Wind whisper and dry

Leaves become orange and red

Forest gets pretty



This category drew some fantastic entries! Here are the winning entries, in order of merit:

FIRST PLACE: Eleanor Meyer, Grade 6, San Diego French American School, California, 11 years old

Readers will remember Eleanor from her 2nd placing in my Perfect Pet Poem Competition. In this competition, Eleanor’s entry was a real standout, with its lyrical riddle, with gorgeous similes in the first two lines, and the solution in the final line! A very original and beautiful poem, which thoroughly deserves first place. Congratulations Eleanor!

Ruby and black skirts,

Delicate maidens dancing,

A sea of poppies.


SECOND PLACE: Hannah Thompson, Grade 4, MLC, 10 years old

Hannah has been a regular entrant in my competition over the last few years, and her work keeps getting better and better. This haiku about Australia’s iconic wattle blossom in winter was a real winner, and was only narrowly beaten to first place! I especially loved the description of the frost-covered blossom as an “iced jewel”. Beautiful work Hannah!


Blooming gold wattle,

Covered in frost, caught my eye,

Nature’s iced jewel.


THIRD PLACE: Shiv Mohan, Year 4, Glenealy School, Hong Kong, 8 years old

Shiv is another writer whose constant practice entering my competitions is really paying off with his rapid development as a writer. I loved the last line of his haiku especially, as it leaves the reader with the puzzling question – is it the snowflakes shivering, or the unknown kid awaiting the presents by the tree? This haiku really invokes the excitement of Christmas with its careful choice of words and images. Excellent work again Shiv!

Winter Heaven

Presents by the tree!

Snowflakes sparkle like diamonds…

Shivering with glee!



Tong Alice Sum Yuet, Grade 6, Christian Alliance International School, Hong Kong, 11 years old

Well done to Alice, whose haiku neatly contrasts the chill outside with the warmth inside. I look forward to seeing more of her work in future competitions!


Crisp, fresh air outside

Toasty with cocoa inside

The perfect winter


Vandita Chugani, Year 4, Kowloon Junior School, Hong Kong, 8 years old Lovely work here from Vandita, whose flying leaves and dancing trees are a lyrical presage to Halloween.

Yellow leaves flying

Flowers and strong trees dancing

Time for Halloween!



Well done to all the writers below, whose haikus are listed in order of merit. I look forward to seeing more of your work!

 Yolanda, Grade 4, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 9 years old


Summer is over

Fall is here with orange leaves

Reddish leaves fall down


Blythe Osborne, Year 4, MLC, Melbourne, 9 years old


Snow falling lightly

Up in the mountains skiing

Nearly Christmas time


Yoyo, Grade 4, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 9 years old


Winter vacation

I go to Japan to play

Play snow in Japan!


Janae, Grade 4, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 9 years old

Summer Is Over

Summer is over

Fall comes, red yellow leaves fall.

Then winter comes next


Lucas, Grade 4, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 9 years old


Summer is awesome

You can do a lot of stuff.

Do you like summer?


Briana, Grade 4, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 9 years old


Winter happiness

Snowman, snowflakes, Christmas, too

Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow!


Jessie, Grade 4, Hsinchu International School, Taiwan, 9 years old


Sunshine shine brightly

Spring, summer, winter, autumn

Snow snow everywhere.

A big THANK YOU to everyone who entered this competition! And if you want to take part in the next one, just click the subscribe button on my blog so that you will automatically receive all the news about my competitions the minute they’re posted!  But don’t forget to ask Mum or Dad first!

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