2021 – 2022 Competitions


From The Tale of Temujin, illustrated by Harry Harrison

The results are out!

A big CONGRATULATIONS to everybody who entered into my Terrific Tiger Tale writing competition! I’ve had a fabulous time judging your entries!

Now I know that a lot of students – especially in Hong Kong – have still been suffering restrictions due to the Covid pandemic, with many of you STILL doing online classes from home. It’s been such a strange two years, and like just about everything it seems, my Clever Competition has been affected, with just 25 entries this time, from Hong Kong, Sydney and Hobart. But on the other hand, the quality has been high, which is always a pleasure for a writing judge! I’ve been so impressed by all your stories, and the obvious hard work you put into them! I wish I could have given every single one of you an award! It was especially fascinating to see so many different stories emerging from my compulsory ingredients…especially the ferocious tiger! There were horribly nasty and cruel tigers of course… but also some tigers who despite being fierce had very good hearts and were able to solve problems!

I thought your story plots were fabulous, but the thing that really marked the winners out was their attention to detail, not just in describing the characters but especially in describing the SETTING! Regular followers of my writing competitions will know that I am the SETTING DRAGON when it comes to judging stories!! It’s just SO important to pay attention to setting when you’re writing your stories, not least because it immediately enables me, the reader, to paint a picture in my head of where the action is taking place. Setting also can add so much atmosphere to your story, and can even drive your plot. That’s why I always include a weather event in my list of ingredients for my stories, and I’m always looking to see how you describe it and how you use it to develop your story. If you want to see more hints about how to score high marks in my competitions, make sure you check out this link!

As ever, it was a difficult job to narrow down to the final five in each age category. I would like to stress again that I mark all entries completely anonymously so that I have no idea whose entry I am judging at the time of marking – which means that I am as curious and excited as you are, when I put the names back in, to find out who placed where in the two age categories! So here at last are the results! Wicked Words are highlighted in bold.


The top 5 entrants in each age group win a copy of The Tale of Temujin, my Chinese Calendar Tale for the Year of the Tiger, sent to their schools for presentation.

IN ADDITION, the first-place winner in each category will receive a copy of the Chinese Calendar Tale for their sign of the Chinese Zodiac PLUS, for the winner of Years One to Three, a copy of The Tale of Chester Choi, and for the winner of Years Four to Six, a copy of my latest book The Marvellous Adventures of Maggie and Methuselah!

All winners will receive signed book plates for printing out and pasting into their books.


FIRST PLACE: Charles Bruser Zarin, Grade 2, Hong Kong International School, 7 years old

Readers will be familiar with Charles’ surname from previous Clever Competitions where his big brother James has been a frequent winner! So it’s great to know that writing talent definitely runs in the Bruser Zarin family! At just 7 years of age, Charles was one of the two youngest entrants in the competition! Charles’ very original story of an omniscient silkworm who weaves a silk trap for a man-eating tiger with the aid of a clever hawfinch was a real standout. At the same time, he managed to use 11 Wicked Words correctly! Congratulations Charles, I can’t wait to follow your progress in my future competitions!

The Aureolin Trap

“Roar!” Zack, the gargantuan tiger, ran and ran and ran, voraciously eating villagers. It was pandemonium! The peasants tried to dash away from Zack’s hungry jaws. But Zack’s four legs were very strong, and he was too fast. Sadly, 56 people were eaten.

Suddenly he saw a ferocious storm coming and Zack sprinted all the way to his cave. His mouth dripped with blood as he went deep into his den. He did this every single day. 

In the rock shelter he used his claws to mark the wall. Keeping score, he made 56 more claw marks on his side, and zero on the human’s side because they had not killed a tiger today. He let out a roar of triumph!

Meanwhile, Princess Ju was busy eating her small lunch. When she heard Zack’s loud roar, she climbed the stairs to her sumptuous bedroom. Hastily, Princess Ju looked out the window and saw the people’s lugubrious faces – terrified, defeated and many in tears. They were afraid of the tiger, and hungry because of the terrible famine. The storms and floods had started at the Lunar New Year when they welcomed in the Year of the Tiger, and they hadn’t stopped. 

Now the city had no food. The plants couldn’t grow because the water washed the seeds away. All of the food in the stores got wet and they had eaten everything they could. The only one who wasn’t hungry was Zack!

A hawfinch flew through the Princess’ window and landed on the table. He stretched out his splendiferous wings and flapped them to get rid of the raindrops. He turned to Princess Ju and said with his mellifluous voice, “Good afternoon, Princess Ju. I’ve brought someone that can help with your tiger problem.”

“Good afternoon to you too, Yan. Who is this person that can help?” said Princess Ju, looking around.

Yan stepped to the side of the table, and lying there was Master Qiang, an omniscient silkworm. 

Surprised, and a bit curious, Princess Ju asked, “Who are you?”

Master Qiang bowed deeply and answered, “I am Master Qiang, Princess Ju. I have come to defeat the evil tiger, Zack! I will use my powerful aureolin silk to trap the tiger and save your people.”

Princess Ju questioned, “But how?”

“Try to rip some of my silk.” Master Qiang wiggled his body and made some silk which the Princess picked up. She tried with all of her strength, but the Princess could not rip the silk.

“Impressive,” said Princess Ju.

Then a roar came.

“Can you carry me to Zack’s cave?” Master Qiang asked Yan.

“Yes, Shifu,” said Yan and he picked him up in his claws and flew away into the distance toward Zack’s cave.

They saw Zack’s cave and heard the tiger’s loud snoring from deep inside the rock shelter. Immediately Master Qiang had a new idea. He was going to wrap the entrance of Zack’s den with his aureolin silk, meaning he couldn’t get out so the people would be saved. Master Qiang attached the end of his silk to the top of the cave, then Yan flew slowly, carrying him in his claws, zig-zagging across the entrance while Master Qiang spun his super-strong aureolin silk. This was hard work and took them about 30 minutes. When it was finished, the cave entrance looked like a bright, yellow light in the mountains.

Princess Ju and the peasants were walking toward Master Qiang while he worked and they felt hopeful about their future. They didn’t need to live in fear anymore. The Princess had never seen such a tiny animal do such a thing. When the silk wall was finished, everyone cheered ecstatically and then ran back to the village to stop getting wet.

When they were back in the palace, Yan said “Princess Ju, a member of my family has a magical pepper grinder that stops natural phenomenon. Maybe we could use it to stop our floods and storms?”

“Great idea, Yan,” said Princess Ju. 

Yan flew to the forest where his family was living and asked his brother to give him the magical pepper grinder. Five hours later, Yan returned and landed on Princess Ju’s window ledge. Princess Ju heard the thud as the magical pepper grinder was dropped on her floor. She ran over and picked it up. Strangely, it felt very light, as light as a strand of hair. 

Princess Ju asked Yan, “How does this work?”

Yan answered, “You have to say, ‘Pepper grinder, pepper grinder, stop these floods, stop these storms’ while twisting it five times.”

Then Princess Ju went outside to stop the floods and storms in her kingdom. 

She said, “Pepper grinder, pepper grinder, stop these floods.” And the Earth was dry.

She said again, “Pepper grinder, pepper grinder, stop these storms.” And the rain stopped, the lightening was cut short and the clear sky was sunny.

The people cheered! Princess Ju was effervescent and jumped up and down with delight! Her country was saved. Her people would not be eaten by the atrocious tiger, the pepper grinder had stopped the storms and floods so the plants could grow. The famine would be over! 

But not everyone was happy. Back at the cave, Zack was waking up to a surprise. He tried to tear throw the silk wall with his sharp claws. He tried to bite through with his razor-sharp teeth. He tried to smash through using his strong leaping legs. It did not work. He was caught in the aureolin trap!

I was delighted to receive entries from two of my students in my Camp Asia Story Planning classes in March – and even more delighted to see how they applied all the lessons I taught! Here they both are:

SECOND PLACE: Edward Huang, Year 3, Stamford American School Hong Kong, 8 years old

Congratulations to Edward on a beautifully-written tale! I am very happy to tell you that you achieved the highest marks in the entire competition for SETTING! I felt like I was right there in the village and the forest, thanks to the detailed word-pictures you painted. (In fact you would have scored even higher if you’d remembered to include that colour aureolin and a third Wicked Word, so remember in future – always, always check the required ingredients!) I was so impressed by your writing and hope very much that you continue to enter my Clever Competitions in the future. Well done!

The Terrible Famine of Lin Cun

During the Eastern Wu Dynasty, in Shu Han, the village of Lin Cun was preparing for summer. The blazing sun shone down. In the rich fields, farmers planted corn and lettuce. Inside little pens were healthy pigs rolling in manure, sheep chomping on the grass, and oxen chewing on luscious plants. The sturdy little homes in the village were made of wood and painted white. The roofs were made of black and blue polished clay. People traded in the lively market for livestock, food, and clothes. They had straw hats and wore blue, yellow, or turquoise tunics. It was always pandemonium in the morning. 

In the surrounding forest, children played hide and seek for hours and hours, until it was dusk. Trees roofed the forest, blocking out much daylight. There, butterflies, birds, and lizards moved in the shadows. The forest engulfed the village like a blanket. A thick, stuffy blanket. Nobody knew what was lurking behind the bushes in the deep jungle where it was darker. People never dared to go there, no matter what the circumstances. 

One night, when everyone was sleeping, a tiger quietly entered the town. It sneakily broke through the fences and ate juicy sheep, cows, chicken, and pigs. It took almost a quarter of the livestock. The people woke up and started screaming when they looked at their pens. Searching high and low, they found nothing except blood and shattered wood, however, they didn’t go to the forest. They spent the day tirelessly fixing the fences.

Night after night, the tiger continued coming. To make matters worse, it was raining for 20 whole days. There were severe flooding and people started drowning. Finally on day 30, the rain stopped. All the crops were gone by then, but luckily, the houses barely withstood. People were starving so much, that they even started picking up crumbs of bread from the floor every day. People were starving.

One day, a black hawfinch sent by the emperor flew over Lin Cun. It saw the villagers suffering in famine and studied them until it thought the problem was worthy of being reported back to him. He sent an illustrious princess to investigate. She rode a horse through the tall mountains, thick swamps, and a desert. She hunted bears, rabbits, and fish using a bow and arrow for food. The journey was extremely tough, as the environments were hard to travel, and the heat was unbearable. Finally, in the deep forest, she saw Lin Cun.

First, she asked the leader what happened. She found out a tiger had killed all their livestock. Then, she talked with the leader to find out more about the situation. She started thinking about ideas to save the villagers. One of her ideas was to kill the tiger but she went against it. She surveyed the villagers to see what it was like for them during this terrible time. Then, more meetings with the leader were held, about ideas. Finally, she produced a promising idea that the leader agreed with. To trick the tiger then capture it.

She first told the healthy villagers to dig a trench surrounding the whole village. It was going to be deep and wide, so the tiger can’t escape. Then, she placed a piece of meat she hunted into the trench. The villagers had no idea what was going on, so they asked the princess. They quickly realized this was a mission to end the famine. They waited until night and finally, the tiger showed up. People were gasping, hoping not to be eaten by the ferocious beast. Soon enough, the tiger found the piece of meat and started heading towards it. It fell in the trench and the princess got into action. Carefully, she tied the tiger’s paws with silk and put it on a carriage. 

She got back to the palace and presented the tiger to the emperor. He said, “What a marvelous creature, I would like it to help the villagers.” As soon as the servants heard that, they got a magical pepper grinder also known as the obedience spray. The emperor shook it, and the tiger became obedient. He told the tiger to go to his habitat, then help the villagers plow the fields. The villagers not only got a diligent tiger, but they also got a fresh supply of food.

THIRD PLACE: Jolie Ho, Year 3, Stamford American School Hong Kong, 8 years old

Jolie’s story of a mischievous, sprinting pepper grinder, a brave princess and an evil tiger with the fabulous name of Power Claw made me smile! Jolie, I thought that your tiger was one of the most scary in the whole competition! But like Edward you forgot an ingredient :(, and that was the famine! Remember, when you enter my next Clever Competition, the extra marks are in the details! I can’t wait to see your next story Jolie!

Terrific Tiger Tale

Once upon a time, a princess named Tress was making soup. She had the hands of the best cook, mind of an omniscient owl, and eyes of an eagle hunting ants.  She was about to add pepper in the soup when the pepper grinder shook. She thought it was an accident, but before she could move to pick it up again, the cap threw itself off and pepper sprayed the princess. She coughed and coughed and coughed. The pepper ran away. A few minutes later, it erupted into pandemonium, with the whole palace coughing. In time, as the pepper grinder sprinted the whole kingdom, everyone coughed. Finally, the pepper grinder turned towards the princess and asked” Do you want a cure for the coughs?” The princess replied” I really do. Honestly.” The pepper grinder chanted” Seek the only object in the green forest with the color aureolin. Good luck!” And the princess set off on her quest to the green forest.

Bonk! As she entered the forest, which felt like the estival vacation last year, that sound repeated. “Helloo! I’m Hawfinch!” The princess smiled” Hi, do you seem to know something the color aureolin?” The hawfinch replied” Sorry. I don’t know, but I’m sure Silkworm the Wise will at least know a bit about this aureolin color thing.” The princess laughed. “I hope so. Bye, and thanks for all the help!” 

As she continued to walk, the sun was setting, so it was getting late. She was going to build a tent. She was going to need some sticks. Since the princess was in the forest, there were plenty of sticks. She found the right material under the trees. Then she found a lot of leaves, perfect for the cloth (She didn’t bring any. Who would think to bring that in a quest!??). When she finished, she crawled inside to add a comfortable layer of squishy fruit. As the night came, she desperately wanted to find the cure. The princess pondered where Silkworm the Wise could live. She should have asked that when she met Hawfinch! Now she could only find it tomorrow. “Calm, calm.” She told herself. As she drifted into a peaceful sleep, a sound rumbled. The princess woke up and looked out. A tiger pounced on her, but she fought bravely. She was not the kind who would be scared of some random tiger attack. She found a stick and whacked it on the tiger’s head” Nooooooo!” The tiger sprinted out of sight.  

“Phew” The princess looked down to see a chipmunk eating forest chips, which were dry leaves and bug shells in a mix of fruits.  “Yum. oh, and by the way, thanks for scaring that tiger away!” The princess smiled.” Your welcome, little chipmunk. However, I do have a question. Where does Silkworm the Wise live?” Chipmunk bounced “Silkworm the Wise lives at the cottage at the end of the Evergreen Road, 56 Sparrow Avenue. It’s just right you came, because I need to ask silkworm about where to find more materials for the forest chips!” The princess smiled “Let’s go!” They went off, and not before long they reached Silkworm’s cottage. Chipmunk knocked the door” Silkworm the Wise, me, Chipmunk, and newcomer here to consult your help.” Silkworm opened the door “Hi. How may I help you, newcomer and Chipmunk?” Chipmunk went first” Silkworm the wise, I respect you for all the help, and I need one more. Can you tell me where to find more materials for the forest chips?” Silkworm replied” On Lake Road, 36 Starling Avenue, there is plenty of which you truly need. Good luck, Chipmunk. Next up is you, newcomer.” The princess asked” Silkworm the Wise, I came here to ask where the only thing the color aureolin in the forest is.” Silkworm answered” It is owned by the strong tiger named Power Claw. It is very dangerous, so I’m bringing Stripe the Tiger to help you get it. I do wish to tell you more, so listen carefully. Power Claw is a strong tiger who can stay aloft while jumping. He can run in a stunning speed. He can change color, which helps him do surprise attacks. He even has a dungeon where he keeps the attackers in if, of course, if it’s prey. Go to Fruit Road, 24 Bulbul Avenue to find Stripe. Go to Rock Road, 64 Heron Avenue to find Power Claw. I wish you good luck, and bye!”

The princess and chipmunk went off to find Stripe at Fruit Road, 24 Bulbul Avenue. When they got there, Stripe was waiting at the door.” Good morning, chipmunk, and I think, newcomer. I heard that Silkworm the Wise sent me to help you. I will come and help you. But before we go, I want to tell you about some warnings. I think Silkworm the Wise might have told you, but on battlefield, there’s a bit more warning. Never go too close, it may result in dangerous attacks. Even though I may be able to battle him, we still need to beware.” The three of them went off to Rock Road, 64 Heron Avenue to find Power Claw. As they walked on the road, the ground rumbled. When they reached Power Claw’s castle, he opened the door instantly” Who dares to enter my power castle?” He was not very welcome. The princess spoke” I have come to find your aureolin color item. And I am not scared of you if what you do is all the same.” And as if Power Claw was so predictable, he attacked. The princess was again, not afraid. She found a strong stick from the tiger attack before and swung it. Stripe jumped and sliced his one claw on Power Claw.”Surrender! I’ll give you the aureolin item!” A mushroom floated over.

As the princess thanked everyone who had helped her, she came back to the palace illustrious with nobody coughing, and the pepper grinder a fighter.

FOURTH PLACE: Joshua Eric Bainbridge, Year 3, Shrewsbury International School, 8 years old

Well done Joshua, whose fast-moving story of a deadly tiger, a weak king and a magical pepper grinder was a very exciting romp of a tale! I loved reading your story and can’t wait to see your next entry!

The Wonderful Tiger

A long time ago in Southern China there was an enchanted forest. In the enchanted forest there was romantic, humongous castle. A princess lived in the castle, the Princess’ name was Emma. Close to the Castle was a village but deep in the forest a deadly tiger lived.

Princess Emma wore a long purple dress, it was sumptuous and resplendent. She had a silkworm and an inquisitive hawfinch. King Aldrich 2nd, Princess Emma’s father, did not like the inquisitive hawfinch but Princess Emma loved it because the inquisitive hawfinch could talk to them. In the kitchen she also had a magical pepper grinder that a kind witch had given to her.

King Aldrich 2nd was probably the weakest King in the world had ever known. King Aldrich 2nd did not allow the villagers to enter the enchanted forest because of the deadly tiger. King Aldrich 2nd was scared of the deadly tiger. This stopped the villagers getting food, because he didn’t want anyone to die due to the tiger. However, King Aldrich 2nd was hated by all of them because of the food and water situation and he had created a terrible famine.

Princess Emma’s maids were hungry and didn’t do their chores properly. Most of them died because they did not get enough food. King Aldrich 2nd sent many of them to the dungeon for not doing the chores. Princess Emma felt sad about her maids and tried to give them food and water wherever possible.

The deadly tiger that lived in the enchanted forest was called Amber, but most people called him the Fierce One. He would hunt huge animals in the forest and his favourite food was elephants. He sometime would sneak into the castle and would kill a maid or take one away that was held in the dungeon. 

Amber had two cubs named Cuddles and Dave. Amber was 4 years old and his cubs were 1 year old, though they were very strong and fierce, no matter their ages. Dave’s favourite game was to chase Cuddles but unfortunately for Dave, Cuddles did not like to be chased and kept near their den. Cuddles liked to play in the long grass, and nothing that hurt her or damaged her body. Amber loved how they played.

When Amber was a child, he would always play with his brother, Jackson. Jackson loved to run and so did Amber. They also loved to chase silkworms, but there was one silkworm that they were afraid of. A particular silkworm called the wise silkworm, and they did not chase him because he was so smart.

One hot sunny day Princess Emma was going to see her father, but King Aldrich the 2nd was busy. Instead Emma went to see the kind witch. The kind witch told her to get the magic pepper grinder and if she saw a deadly animal, turn the pepper grinder to protect her.

On her way back to the castle, Princess Emma bumped into Amber, she screamed, and immediately turned the pepper grinder and magically an aureolin and red tiger appeared. The magic tiger was bigger and had sharper teeth than Amber and attacked him. Amber was hurt and ran away to the enchanted forest.

Hearing the screams the inquisitive hawfinch told the king, the King quickly sent soldiers. The soldiers went to attack the magic tiger but Princess Emma stopped them. The magic tiger had protected Princess Emma from Amber and she wanted to do the same for the tiger.

Instead Princess Emma, asked the magic tiger, the King and the soldiers to chase Amber out of the enchanted forest. They were in the forest but Amber was right behind the King and his soldiers, all of a sudden Amber jumped on the King’s head and killed him. The soldiers were scared so they started to back down, but the magic tiger chased Amber out of the enchanted forest. Amber was never seen again. Amber’s cub became nice tiger and help the solider guard the castle.

The good thing for Princess Emma was that she became Queen Emma 1nd and she could make her own rules. The first thing she said everyone could go into the enchanted forest and get as much food as you want. She let all of the people out of the dark, creepy dungeon and told the villagers the horrid tiger Amber is gone. They all cheered, shouted horary and all lived happily ever after. 

FIFTH PLACE: Ishan Saraf, Year 3, French International School Hong Kong, 7 years old

Congratulations Ishan for your fun story of a very naughty pepper grinder and a rather spoiled princess who loved the colour aureolin – and who reminded me a bit of Princess Precious in The Tale of Temujin!  It’s wonderful to see an entry from a 7-year-old, and I can’t wait to watch as your writing gets better and better in my future Clever Competitions!

The Chinese Princess

Once upon a time there was a Chinese Princess who loved the colour Aureolin. She lived in a castle that was in a village called Mountain Side Village. Mountain Side Village was enemies with another village called Tropical Village. All the Chinese Princess wanted to do was look at the colour Aureolin. If anyone gave her clothes that were not Aureolin she would scream like this AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH THEY ARE CRAZY, THE ONLY COLOUR THAT IS ACTUALLY SOMETHING OTHER THAN A PIECE OF RUBBISH IS AUREOLIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If her mom (The Queen) told her to stop screaming she would scream even louder. I’m quite sure that you’d understand why no one wanted to be friends with her. Because if they gave her anything that was not Aureolin you know what she would do… scream as loud as a person who has just been bitten by an Anaconda. So, they would have to buy her something Aureolin which was quite hard as all the Aureolin stuff had been bought by the queen who was forced to do so by the greedy Chinese Princess.  

The weather in mountain side village was quite hot, generally around 35°C – 42°C. That was why Mountain Side Village had quite less food. The trees were burning down and then the food which grew on trees were being burnt. So, people over there didn’t have a lot of food. In fact, they didn’t have much food at all. They had to skip lunch every day. They had two loaves of bread for breakfast and for dinner they had eggs. Every day they ate the same things (except very few days when they managed to trick the people of Tropical Village into giving them food). One day the Chinese Princess was walking around the forest with no trees, when she saw a ferocious tiger. AARGH she screamed there’s a tiger there’s a tiger. She ran home and told her mother, her mother couldn’t believe it, “bring me to the tiger this instant,” she demanded. So, the Chinese Princess brought her mom to the place where the tiger was to find that the tiger had disappeared. The queen raged, “you lied to me,” the queen shouted.

“No, I didn’t,” said the Chinese Princess angrily, “I saw it before it must have run away.”

“That’s strange,” said the queen, “I guess I shouldn’t have gotten so angry at you, sorry”

 “It’s fine,” said the Chinese Princess, “as long as someone understands that they were wrong then it’s fine.” When they went home the Chinese Princess had a cheeky plan. So, she put it in to action right away “mum,” said the Chinese Princess cheekily, “because I understood that if you make a mistake but you didn’t mean it and you say sorry then it’s fine, you have to change the whole world to Aureolin, to be exonerate to that you have to make me Tacos for dinner tomorrow. Both of them were hard because to make Tacos she had to dress up like a person in Tropical Village, go to Tropical Village’s Taco shop, buy the ingredients and get back home and the other one was to paint the whole world Aureolin which as you find is a lot harder so although both of them were hard it was an easy decision, she was going to make Tacos. The next day, when it was time for dinner the Chinese Princess shouted out, “Mom the Tacos are so tantalising if you don’t serve them right this instant, I am going to make you turn the whole world Aureolin and serve Tacos for dinner.” So as quickly as possible the Queen rushed it in the end, she managed to bring it outside on time but when she put it down the Chinese Princess wasn’t very satisfied because she found an Inquisitive Hawfinch asking questions like mad to a Wise Silkworm who was answering all the questions. Another thing that made the Chinese Princess dissatisfied was that she could taste pepper in her Tacos. “Mum, “she said, “I can taste pepper in my Tacos.”

“What,” said the queen, “I didn’t put pepper.”

“Well, you did, I can taste it.”

“Actually, you didn’t,” said a Magical Pepper Grinder appearing from nowhere, “I did.”

“What,” said the queen, “since when do we have a Magical Pepper Grinder?”

“Since today,” replied the Magical Pepper Grinder.

“Oh, and by the way you are Idiosyncratic Chinese princess,” said the Magical Pepper Grinder. 

Suddenly 5 people came rushing inside the castle to talk to the queen. “You need to do something!” they said loudly, “a Magical Pepper Grinder was putting pepper in our food!” 

“Yes, I know,” said the queen, “it has been troubling us as well. It has put pepper in our food like your food. It is very annoying because we get so little food and then all the food we get gets filled with pepper. I am going to call everybody in town to our castle garden tomorrow morning. Please go and inform everyone.” The next morning everybody came to the palace and sat down for the meeting. “Hello everybody, today we are going to talk about the naughty Magical Pepper Grinder. The first thing I would like to clarify is if anyone has no idea about The Magical Pepper Grinder, raise up your hand if you do,” said the queen. “Nobody okay then that is good. Now if anybody has a plan on how to get rid of The Magical Pepper Grinder, please tell me immediately. “Yes, what do you think young lady?” “I think we should take it to the maze,” said the young lady.

 “Good idea,” said the queen, “we should try it. Tomorrow, I will take it to the maze.” The next day the queen took The Magical Pepper Grinder to the maze. It was quite difficult because The Magical Pepper Grinder was magic so it kept running off. In the end she managed to get The Magical Pepper Grinder to the maze.


FIRST PLACE: Therese Li, Year 5, Arden Anglican School, Sydney, NSW, 9 years old

Therese has been entering my competition for the last 3 years and is a talented young writer who has won a place every time! This time I was blown away by Therese’s story, from outstanding start to memorable finish. I loved her attention-grabbing beginning with its wonderful verse, which was echoed in its stylish ending. I loved her attention to detail with her complex characters and great settings. And I especially loved her wide-ranging vocabulary and her excellent writing style. On top of all that, Therese managed to incorporate 24 Wicked Words correctly in her story! Congratulations Therese, on an outstanding effort which won you a clear first place. Your writing just gets better and better and I can’t wait to see your next entry in my Clever Competition!

The Final Hour

Emperor Tan’s smile stretched into a snarl as he reached for his pepper grinder.

Carefully, he tipped a speck of aureolin powder, unaware that Qi the hawfinch was watching his every move. He licked the speck of powder and chanted under his breath: 

“With a turn of this grinder

With a touch of this powder

Your rivers will dry

And your crops will sour

And grow another flower

Should you wish to see the sun

This spell can only be undone

At the final hour.”

Qi, overhearing the Emperor’s malicious plans, took off as fast as he could, warning the villagers who were ready to fight the moment they heard of what the emperor had done.

As the emperor was snuggling into his sumptuous duvet, his mahogany doors burst open. In the dim lamplight, he could see the villagers, armed with an assortment of weapons, marching into his boudoir. Knocking over his prized antiques, they snatched the Emperor from his feathery cocoon and amidst the pandemonium threw him onto the floor, pinning him with their boots. 

The bravest villager of all, Zayn, pressing a sharp sword to the Emperor’s throat, said “You evil man! We work hard for you. We provide inordinate food for you. And as payment, you give us barren land?” 

The Emperor, shaking his head, said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

Zayn yelled over the intransigent chanting of the villagers, “Do not you lie. We know what you did, and we are here for revenge. Send him away.” 

The emperor was screaming at the top of his lungs, to no avail. The villagers carrying him high above their heads threw him in the darkest dungeon, and there he died. The only thing left was his will, written for his daughter.

As Igor the Tiger entered the Imperial Palace for his weekly visits with Summer, he saw her sitting on the resplendent Emperor’s Throne. Jumping up to greet Igor, she ushered him into her royal sitting room. Filling him in with the details of her father’s death, Igor was shocked by the brutality of the villagers and pledged to Summer that he would help her with her plan.

Ding Dong! Ding Dong! Akiro the silkworm opened his door to find Qi the hawfinch and Igor the Tiger standing in the doorway. The fastidious Akiro ushered Qi and Igor into the library. High bookshelves loomed over them, almost reaching the illustrious ceiling, from which iridescent chandeliers dangled. Tall ladders leaned against the shelves which housed a copacetic assortment of splendiferous leather-bound books, many of them tightly squeezed together. Plush armchairs and cushions were arranged haphazardly around the room on a large ruby red rug. 

Akiro asked Igor, “What do you wish to find today?” 

Igor replied, “We wish to read the secrets of the late Emperor.” Akiro, climbing up a ladder and retrieving a gargantuan leather-bound book, sat down on his chair, and spread the pages out for the hawfinch and the tiger to see. In scrawling ink, the Emperor’s ineffable secrets were scribbled across the dried paper. Qi and Igor, reading the page, were shocked that the Emperor’s egregious plans were so blatantly exposed. Feeling bamboozled, Igor suddenly had a thought. What if Summer was wrong? Eventually, Igor knew that he had to do something to stop Summer from destroying China. Akiro spotted, within the lines, hints as to what a counter spell might involve. When he finally got it, he jumped up with joy, telling them, “We can save China and the Empress! I have had this in my library for a year!”

Assigning each person, a different job, Igor the Tiger bounded out Akiro’s house planning to reveal the Emperor’s secrets to Summer, bringing the leather-bound book for evidence. Igor, under the pretence of telling Summer of a suspicious villager, entered the Empress’s royal sitting room carrying the heavy leather-bound book. Summer, sitting down and using ink to draw a painting, inadvertently greeted Igor with a welcoming simper. 

Putting her paintbrush down, she asked “What has happened now?” 

Igor replied in a strong and clear voice, “I wanted to show you this book.” 

Summer flicked open to the first page and stared at the words, slowly turning a pale colour. “Wh-wha-what is this?” Summer asked. 

Igor, taking a deep sigh, replied to Summer. “I know it is the indubitable truth.” 

Summer burst into tears and sobbed lugubriously, “What has my atrocious father done to those piteous villagers.” 

Igor said in a consoling voice, “I have some magnanimous friends that can help to exonerate you.” 

Summer, drying her tears, said beseechingly to Igor, “Please take me to your friends.” 

Igor, leading the way to Akiro’s house, explained more about what Summer’s father had done and how Summer could change the barren land. Arriving at Akiro’s house, Igor, Qi, and Akiro prepared Summer on what she was going to do to change China’s famine.

It was night and the sky was dark, with the only light source being the dim glow of yellow candlelight. Summer, nervously shaking the aureolin pepper grinder tipped a speck of powder and licked it. Singing softly, 

“With a turn of this grinder

With a touch of this powder

Your rivers will flow

And your crops will grow

With the shine of the sun

And my unbending power

This spell is now undone

At this final hour.”

Just as Summer was finishing the spell, the Earth began to respond. Lush grass and bright flowers started to blossom around them. Wheat and fruit flourished across the lands. Voracious sheep and cattle were furiously munching upon their long-awaited feast. The ecstatic villagers, jumping up with joy, immediately began to prepare food for Chinese New Year. Then, as the sky dimmed and the moon came out, the exuberant villagers, Summer and Igor were treated to an effervescent display of fireworks – red, green, and gold in every shape possible, all going off with a loud bang. All was well in China.

SECOND PLACE: James Bruser Zarin, Year 6, Hong Kong International School, 11 years old

Coming a close second was another regular competition place-winner, James Bruser Zarin, big brother to our winner in the Years 1 to 3 category! I loved James’ exciting story of a fierce yet noble tiger who goes on a quest to find the perpetrator of an evil plan to destroy China. James has a strong, fluid writing style with great descriptive powers. His plot structure was solid and he wrote the best climax in the competition! If anyone wants to know how to write a climax, just read this action-packed story! James also scored high for his excellent vocabulary, on top of which he managed to incorporate 22 Wicked Words correctly! Well done James on another fantastic entry! I only regret that you will be moving on to high school after the summer break so that I won’t have a chance to read your stories again in my Clever Competition . Do make sure that you keep on writing. You have great talent and I look forward to seeing your name as a published author on bookshelves in the future!

A Tale of Sacrifice

The estival sun was high against the pale sky. Lugubriously, Ang, a ferocious tiger, made his way home to the dojo, clutching medical supplies. Nowadays, food was scarce. An atrocious drought had hold of China, and it wasn’t loosening its grip. Crops were dying, people were starving, and, like Ang’s brother, were inordinately sick. Also, Xiu, the illustrious princess, and her pets had disappeared!

Ang unlocked his front door and ducked to get in. Gargantuan and muscular, he had a black belt in most fighting methods and had served in the army. Entering the main room, Ang winced as he saw his brother, normally strong and proud, but now weak and soporific.

Suddenly, two Royal Guards barged into the room announcing, “Your Highness requests your presence.”

Ang was taken directly to the King. He bowed and waited.
Fastidiously dressed in resplendent robes, the King said, “Ang, I’m sure you know there is a terrible drought plaguing China. What you don’t know is that the drought is unnatural. Have you ever heard of the Legend of Xing?”

“No, your Highness,” Ang said, confused.

“Allow me to elucidate. Years ago, sorcerers created a pepper grinder which they named Xing, whose magical seasonings command the elements. Someone is using Xing to keep this egregious drought going.”

“If so,” Ang asked, “why have you not sent the Royal Guard to seize it?”

“Unfortunately, the perpetrator has captured my daughter and her beloved pets. If I send any Royal Guards, he’ll kill them all. Few know of your experience in the military, and you are an expert in many martial arts.”

“Where can I find Xing?” Ang questioned.

“A few miles north. Ang, please help us. You alone can do this!”

Ang left immediately. Sprinting, he heard a metallic clang on the lid of the sewer system. Ang heaved the lid open. Staring back at him was Princess Xiu, who, despite being covered with dirt and iridescent grease, was as splendiferous as ever.

“I was in my chambers when a huge shadow loomed behind me. Then I woke up here!” Xiu explained.

“You must have been knocked out!” Ang remarked, a grim expression on his face. “The perpetrator also stole your pets. He’s probably keeping them in a separate room. Better to split up his hostages. The culprit behind the drought must be using the sewers for his diabolical plan.”

Glancing down at the ground and continuing at a fast pace, Ang found another manhole cover and pulled it aside. Immediately, an aureolin hawfinch flew out, holding a small silkworm in its claws.  

“Lok! Keung!” Princess Xiu exclaimed ecstatically, “How are you?”

Keung, the omniscient silkworm, smiled slowly and knowingly. 

Lok, the hawfinch, squawked, “We’re alright, aside from a few cuts and bruises. I was curious and I stuck my head through the cell bars. An evil lion is behind all of this, and he’s even bigger than your tiger friend!”

“That’s fine,” Ang said, “I can deal with him.”

“Beware,” Keung said, “I saw a military tattoo on the shoulder of the lion.” 

That stopped Ang. Indubitably, the upcoming fight would be intense. Ang reached down and armed himself with the manhole cover. It was the only weapon available, and he intended to use it. 
Ang jumped into the hole. Landing, he observed that the ground around him was flooded with mellifluous sewage. Lackadaisically breaking the bars and leaving the makeshift cell, Ang looked down the long passageway ahead. 

Before he was even halfway along, something smashed into him from behind, sending him sprawling to the floor and soaking him through. Standing up, he looked back at his attacker.  He was a lion, alright. He was holding a huge hammer in one hand, wearing a satchel around his waist. 

“Let me guess, the King sent you,” the lion growled. 

“Gang …” Ang gasped, bamboozled at the sight of a familiar face. They had served honorably together in the military and Ang had seen Gang perish during a bloody battle years ago. 

“Yes, it’s me, Ang. After you and all our fighting brothers left me for dead, I nursed myself back to health and decided I was going to get revenge on the King. That’s exactly what I’m doing now. I’m going to make sure that all his precious subjects are sick and weakened. Then, I will swoop in and take control. I will build a greater country, something that the King could never do!”

With that, Gang lunged forward, the hammer raised high, prepared to strike. Narrowly rolling out of the way, Ang felt the crack of the hammer strike against the concrete floor. Looking around, Ang saw the manhole cover which he had inadvertently dropped when he was thrown forward. He grabbed it, lifting it just in time, as the second blow struck. The monstrous impact jarred Ang’s bones.

Gang continued his relentless attack, swinging a third time. However, Ang swiftly ducked, and the hammer glanced by. In his fury, Gang threw the hammer aside, and grabbing Ang’s neck, he forced him under water, choking him at the same time. 

Ang couldn’t breathe. His vision was starting to turn black. In desperation his hands reached around him and serendipitously found the manhole cover again. Using the last reserves of his strength, he smashed the cover against Gang’s head, knocking the lion out cold.

Getting to his feet, Ang reached into Gang’s satchel, and pulled out the pepper grinder. Looking down at the lion, Ang magnanimously pulled Gang from the water and slowly limped out of the sewer. 

Escorting Princess Xiu and her pet’s home, Ang selflessly gave the pepper grinder to the King, who used its magical properties to end the drought. Effervescent festivities broke out across the kingdom, as everyone was exuberant with celebrated food supplies.

Ang’s brother recovered and lessons at the dojo resumed. However, unbeknownst to Ang, two corrupted eyes watched him practice at the dojo. Gang was back, with an unquenched thirst for revenge.

THIRD PLACE: Shiv Mohan, Year 6, Glenealy School Hong Kong, 10 years old

Proving yet again that practice makes perfect, Shiv won a well-deserved third place in this age category. Shiv is one of the longest-running entrants in my Clever Competition, having first entered at the age of 6 in Year 2 back in 2018! Even then he was a good writer, placing a creditable 5th in his category. Shiv has entered almost every Clever Competition since, gradually working his way up the placings until he was a regular in the top three! This year, once again, Shiv has excelled with an imaginative, beautifully written story about a silkworm that inadvertently activates a magical pepper grinder to save China from a terrible famine! Shiv’s writing has always stood out for its lyrical quality, and here in particular I found many of Shiv’s descriptions of setting quite enchanting. Shiv you have a lovely poetic sensibility and I urge you to continue to enter writing competitions in your upcoming high school years. I think you have a great future as a writer my friend!

Lu Ling and the Magical Tiger

Dad are you OK? Lu Ling shrieked as she ran to her father and hugged him. Xiao Chen had suffered a heatstroke on his way back from Mongolia. The strong palace guards carried him up to his room upon his return and Lu Ling had gone running after them. Lu Ling was the enchanting daughter of the emperor of China, Xiao Chen. The emperor was a very fastidious and powerful king who was well respected. Lu Ling and her father lived in a Palace that was far more sumptuous than Queen Victoria’s Buckingham Palace. Lu Ling was the apple of Xiao Chen’s eye, and he would bear gifts for her from all over the world. As the emperor rose, he immediately pulled up a gift for his darling Lu Ling. The emperor lifted the beautiful red scarf that covered the cage of the handsome hawfinch. His daughter’s eyes lit the whole room as she admired the beautiful bird with its orange-brown crown and sandy beak. “Thank you, daddy! I love it! I will name him Harry!” she squealed with delight. The emperor signalled to the empress to help Luling with the bird so he could get some rest.

However, this year in Peking, the new year festivities were not as splendiferous as usual. The weather was normally quite cool at this time, but this month it was blazing hot as a fire dragon’s breath. While the emperor was visiting his many esteemed officials, a terrible heatwave took place, destroying all the crops, causing Peking to go into a terrible famine. It was complete pandemonium at the markets, people shoving and pushing each other for the last scraps of food. The people were suffering and praying to the Gods to shower the city with wealth and prosperity once again. The normally green rice patties all looked like sands of the Gobi Desert.

Meanwhile, the well-maintained palace gardens were still magical and lush. The delicate peach blossoms danced row upon row. The plum orchids played hide-and-seek with the blushing pink hibiscus flowers. There was even a section of mulberry trees where the palace would harvest its own silk. Lovely Lu Ling had come out to the gardens with Harry to gather some mulberry leaves to make her father some tea.

Harry the hawfinch was curiously flying from branch to branch and pecking around looking for some delicious snacks. Harry was handsome and very inquisitive, and he examined the leaves carefully. Then he noticed a fat creature crawling along one of the leaves. “Hello there!”, with a thick British accent, “I’m Harry, what’s your name?”. The silkworm larva looked at him for a moment and then quickly hid under the leaf he was munching on. Kego was a chubby white silkworm who always looked worried. He knew very well that birds were not friends. At that moment, Harry realized that this little silkworm was a tasty treat. As he jumped closer to snap up his tasty treat, Kego the stealth silkworm quickly dove into Lu Ling’s straw basket like a ninja and hid under the leaves she had collected. Confused, the hawfinch continued searching from branch to branch.

When Lu Ling had collected enough leaves, she decided to head back to the house with Harry. As she was walking back, she found a pepper grinder on the floor. She thought that she might have accidentally knocked it over earlier on her way out, so she picked it up and went into the kitchen. She grabbed a porcelain teapot and filled it with water and tea leaves and took the tea up to her father. She poured her father a cup of tea and swimming for dear life was Kego! Harry immediately caught sight of the giant white bubble and rocketed directly for him! The teacup crashed to the floor giving everyone a huge fright. Then suddenly, the pepper grinder rolled across the room and KABOOM! A tiger with soft aureolin fur and malachite eyes appeared! Xiao Chen and Lu Ling looked up in shock. “Who are you fat cat?”, Lu Ling finally managed to let out. “FAT? I am Miguel the Magical Tiger!” he beamed. Then, he looked at himself in shock and said, “You don’t get much exercise stuck inside a pepper grinder, thank you for releasing me, for this I grant you ONE wish”.

Lu Ling and her father looked at each other and thought very carefully until the emperor said, “I wish for the famine to be over so that my people can be happy once again”. Miguel purred softly and suddenly it started raining. The overweight tiger pounced out of the window and vanished in the rain just as quickly as he had appeared. All the people of Peking danced in the rain and soon all the fields were filled with crops! Peking enjoyed more crops than ever before! At the Chinese New Year festivities, the priest thanked the rain Gods for their abundant offerings in the year of the Tiger. The emperor smiled and winked at Lu Ling and beamed “It will indeed be a prosperous New Year of the Water Tiger! Xin Nian Kwai Le!”

This year I was delighted to receive 5 entries from the boys of Year 6 at Hutchins School in Hobart in Tasmania, my childhood home! I was a regular visiting author at Hutchins during my frequent Australian school tours  (before Covid reared its ugly head) and was always impressed by the enthusiasm of the boys – and their teachers – for reading books and for their beloved library! This year I think you will agree that this has forged some fantastic writing talent! The following three place-winners all wrote excellent stories which were literally only one point apart when I collated all the results.  Well done boys – and a shout out to their teacher Dean Eddington who encouraged them to enter!

FOURTH PLACE: Luka Schramm, Year 6, Hutchins School, Hobart, Tasmania, 11 years old

Luka took as inspiration for his story the ancient Chinese legend of how the Tiger became a Chinese Zodiac animal. I loved his intriguing introduction, and I really enjoyed reading about the tiger cub’s martial arts lessons from the mysterious silkworm! Luka won extra points for his huge effort with his characters’ names, which as you can see are Chinese names, written in Putonghua, with an explanation in brackets for their meaning. Well done Luka on a well-earned fourth place!

The Zodiac Realms


The Zodiac Realms

Once, long ago, before the years of the zodiac were even thought of, the era of the realms began in a deep void with a small sun and swirling clouds.

In the era of the Realms, Humans and animals lived in a realm that was too small for all of them.

The Jade Emperor discovered other realms around his own. Each animal now had their own.

The 12 largest realms were gifted to the most numerous animals.

The rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit. The dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. These were named the Zodiac Realms.

Every other animal lived in a minor realm. They were all happy.

That was, until Yǒnggǎn ér qiángdà was born.

The battle for theTiger Realm

Yǒnggǎn ér qiángdà (Brave and Mighty) was a ferocious lion who loved causing pandemonium.

He was a stunning bright yellow and his mane glowed like another sun. He had fought his way through the ranks to lead the lion realm, but he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to lead a Zodiac realm, not this pathetic minor realm! His species should have been in the zodiac, until the stupid Jade Emperor decided to anhialate 100 lions, since a few of them were evil. He wanted to get revenge, so he snuck into the Human Realm and started attacking small villages on the edge of the realm. A solution popped into his head. Instead of trying to convince the Jade Emperor to give him a Zodiac Realm, why not just conquer one?

Yǒnggǎn ér qiángdà went and gathered his closest allies, the boars and the bears. With his allies, he drove out the tigers and banished them to his minor realm. Yǒnggǎn ér qiángdà put a curse on the Tiger Leader Qiángdà ér kuàisù (Mighty and Quick) in which he gets a day older every hour. Qiángdà ér kuàisù suddenly had an idea. He could send his cub to fight the Lion!

The Jade emperor heard of the lion´s takeover, so he and his daughter gave a gift each to the tiger cub Xiǎo ér cōngmíng (Small and Clever). The Jade Emperor gifted the cub a magical Pepper Grinder, which could either restore or destroy anything. The Jade Emperor advised the cub to not allow Yǒnggǎn ér qiángdà get his paws on it. The Jade Princess gifted the cub her pet hawfinch, Cōngmíng hé gǔwàn (Smart and Curious), who was curious and clever because he liked to eavesdrop on conversations, so he heard all sorts of things. He was a muddy brown with a long spotty tail with a red breast. Meanwhile, the lion and his allies started gargantuan famines across the realms. The rabbit realm, the ox realm and the human realm now suffered terrible famines.

 Xiǎo ér cōngmíng had landed on the rainy tiger/lion realm and found a cave to ractice his battle skills. Cōngmíng hé gǔwàn was too frightened to enter the cave so he stayed outside. In the cave, he found a wise, old, dull pink silkworm. ¨I am Lǎo ér cōngmíng (Old and Wise) ¨ It said. ¨I am here to train you. ¨ ¨You? Train me? Ha! ¨ The cub laughed. A hint of anger glinted in the silkworm´s deep brown eyes. ¨Do not anger me. ¨ It said. ¨You do not wish to fight me. ¨ Suddenly, he whipped out his tail and shot a blast of silk, ripping the pepper grinder out of his pack and slamming the cub into a wall. The cub growled at the sudden aggression. ¨Expect the unexpected¨ Lǎo ér cōngmíng whispered in an eerie voice while spinning around, swinging the pepper grinder. Xiǎo ér cōngmíng leaped for the silkworm, his claws out, teeth bared. Lǎo ér cōngmíng nimbly leaped out of the way and the cub cut his paw on a sharp rock. He whimpered in pain and leaped onto a ledge, licking his paw. Suddenly, the old silkworm was behind him, dark eyes shining iridescently in the dark.

 ¨Be calm in the heat of battle. Anger is a weakness and calmness is power, ¨ Lǎo ér cōngmíng whispered in the eerie voice again, swinging the grinder and knocking the tiger cub unconscious. 

                            *                       *                      *

 Xiǎo ér cōngmíng gasped as he opened his eyes as to see the blurred shape of the silkworm above him. Lǎo ér cōngmíng was grinding pepper on him, healing his sores.

¨You must be calm. That is a rule¨ Lǎo ér cōngmíng told the cub. He showed the cub how to be calm during anything enraging or atrocious. Xiǎo ér cōngmíng felt a twinge in his skin. He looked down to his pelt and discovered he was a blazing aurelion with fine black stripes instead of the pale yellow with no stripes he was before. He also discovered he was a bit bigger than before by checking his reflection in a puddle outside the cave entrance. Cōngmíng hé gǔwàn tweeted in surprise as he appeared. He looked splendiferous. He was ready to fight! 

Yǒnggǎn ér qiángdà stood outside his lair glaring at the approaching tiger cub with a fluttering hawfinch trekking through the hills towards him. 

¨Surely THAT scrawny thing doesn’t mean to challenge me.¨ He growled to himself. The lion was feeling ravenous for a fight because he was a voracious fighter.  Xiǎo ér cōngmíng could see the lion looking at him so he roared.

¨ I am Xiǎo ér cōngmíng and I am here to defeat you to claim this land back for the tigers!¨

He leaped at the lion, teeth bared and sent it flying backwards. Yǒnggǎn ér qiángdà was bamboozled that a CUB of all things could be this powerful. The cub pulled the pepper grinder from his pack as the hawfinch tweeted:

¨ Aim for his feet! The cub shot destruction pepper at the lion and it faded into dust. That is how the fatal battle ended.

The Jade Emperor decided to knit together the realms into a planet to prevent a problem like this from happening again. That is how the earth was formed.

FIFTH PLACE: Oliver Duttin, Year 6, Hutchins School, Hobart, Tasmania, 11 years old

Oliver also took his inspiration from the Chinese legend about the tiger and the lion. I particularly enjoyed reading about the encounter between the tiger cub and the silkworm, especially the silkworm’s wise advice about the strength of softness. I thought the story plot was great, and just a little more attention to tenses would have given this great effort an even higher mark! Great work Oliver!

The Battle for the Zodiac

Chinese tradition goes that once there was a war between the Tiger and the Lion.

The Lion had held its place in the zodiac but had started to work with the Pig and the Bear and become evil.

The Tiger trained with the Black Cat in the forest, finessing his martial arts skills. He challenged the Lion and won.  He was summoned to heaven to protect the Jade Emperor. 

The Lion has never been able to forget the humiliation.

The battle for Earth

 For so long the Lion had stayed quiet. The Jade Emperor with the Tiger as his guardian believed the human world was thriving.

He was wrong.

The Lion wanted revenge for being beaten and the Tiger being elevated to such glory.

Together with his friends, the Pig and the Bear, the Lion had begun ravaging the human world of food and a terrible famine had taken over. The forest was bare. The human’s had next to nothing. Sea life was dying. It was crazy it was pandemonium

There was a wise and curious hawfinch named Hector. He was the smartest and most inquisitive animal in the land. He was spying on the Lion because he suspected the lion’s team of buddies were behind the famine. One day he saw the trio of bad animals attacking the human land. His hunch had been right.

He warned the Chinese Princess, Hui An, who was the Jade Emperor’s daughter who lived on earth. She spoke to her Father in Heaven, and he decided he must send a protector. The Tiger was prepared to go but he had not fought in so long. Instead, he offered the Jade Emperor the smallest of his cubs. 

The smallest, Jiba, who was milky cream in colour, had something the others did not. He was quick and moved a step ahead, but he was prepared to listen. It would be Jiba that would go to end this. 

The Jade Emperor sent the cub to Earth.

Jiba arrived at a cave ready to train. He was poised ready for action.

¨Hello? ¨ he called. There was no answer. He saw a small silkworm hanging from the roof. ¨Who are you? ¨asked the cub. 

 ¨I am Sichou and I am your trainer for the battle here on Earth. ¨ 

 Jiba stared at the silkworm and began to laugh. ¨I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but this is crazy. I am here to take on one of the greatest fighters. You are too small to train me. I will not survive, and we will fail.”

¨You must be right, so show me what you can do. ¨

With that Jiba went crazy and started bouncing, high-kicking, air punching and swiping his tail. Fastidious Sichou watched on. After a few minutes Jiba falls to the ground, tired and panting.  

¨How good was that? ¨

 ¨Impressive young one, but you are missing one thing. Softness. ¨

 ¨Softness? But that is a sign of weakness. ¨

While Sichou had been watching on he had been weaving a splendiferous aureolin silk sheet. He asked Jiba to slowly move to the back of the cave and bring him back the small container. Jiba was becoming frustrated, but he did what he was asked. 

 Moments later he returned with the container and dropped it.

 ¨This is stupid! This is a pepper grinder. I just want to fight. ¨

¨ Speak with respect. Using respect and kindness brings a needed softness to any battle. Trust me. Lie down under this sheet, slow your breathing, imagine yourself face-to-face with the Lion. He is fierce and wants to fight but you are calm. ¨

Jiba moved under the sheet. It slid over him, falling gently around him. He heard something crackling and what felt like rain fell over the silk. Jiba stood and looked. He was now a strikingly bright aurelion-coloured Tiger, but there is something else. He was also streaked in the blackest stripes. He looked closely. The stripes appeared to be made up of the tiniest dots of … pepper?

¨But, how? ¨ Just as Jiba asked the question he noticed the container was actually a pepper grinder and was hovering over him. ¨Is it…is it magic? ¨

 Sichou smiled, ¨You are learning, young one. Tell me, how do you feel? ¨

 ¨I feel calm. I feel soft. I am ready. ¨

 ¨Place the pepper grinder in your mouth, close your eyes and breathe deeply. See yourself winning and order being restored to earth. ¨

 With that Jiba took the magical pepper grinder and closed his eyes.

 When he reopened them, he was standing in a clearing in the forest and ahead of him was the opening to a lair. He saw the Lion standing at the entrance and behind him were the Pig and the Bear. The lion walked closer.

 ¨Soon all the food you have taken from the humans will run out and the famine you have created will destroy you.  The hungry humans will not be able to produce anymore. ¨

The Lion stepped forward and let out a mighty roar. 

 Jiba stayed calm and in a soft mellifluous voice said, ¨ You do not want to do this, think of your family and of Pigś and Bear´s. They will starve too. 

 ¨I am just so angry at you all for kicking me out of the zodiac. ¨

Just then the magic pepper grinder moved over the Lion and sprinkled pepper. The Lion shook and sneezed and when he stopped he looked at Jiba. Jiba noticed a softness in the Lion’s eyes. They held each other´s stare. Around them the forest started to become lush and green, the sea in the distance shimmered blue and iridescent once again and from where they stood they could hear cheers from both humans and animals.

 ¨Thank you¨, said Jiba . The Lion nodded and strolled to his lair. 

 The terrible famine is finally over and that is why 2022 is the Year of the Tiger.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Archie Coquhuon, Year 6, Hutchins School, Hobart, Tasmania, 11 years old

I loved Archie’s very imaginative story which includes a giant pepper grinder containing a spiral staircase! I also appreciated Archie’s inclusion of NINE Wicked Words! So I thought Archie deserved an Honourable Mention. Well done Archie on a fantastic effort!

The Tiger Tales

“NO! WHY? PLEASE DON’T LEAVE AGAIN!” cried Princess Mimi as she fell to the floor sobbing with tears rolling down her face.


It was too late, Mimi’s parents had slammed the door right in her face as they left the big, white, shiny, splendiferous palace to travel to Beijing.

Mimi collapsed down falling on the floor wondering why her parents kept leaving her in China

“Why?” she bellowed

She was starting to get hungry so Mimi got up, stretching her limbs and trotted to the kitchen. She opened the pantry doors trying to find something to eat, but there was nothing in sight. She sighed and called for the maids to bring her some food, but there was no reply.

She called again except this time louder, then louder again. She was fuming red at this point.

She burst through the front door looking around the sumptuous gardens looking for the maids. She turned around and saw a wise old silkworm hanging down from a cobweb looking very grey and old.

“Hello princess Mimi, My name is Socrates but you can call me Soco. If you rescue me, I will share my knowledge of your kingdom” Said the omniscientsilkworm.

As Mimi gently freed Soco from the web, he told Mimi of an atrociousfamine affecting the village.

“For freeing me, my friend Horris will deliver you a gift that will help you save your village.”

Mimi caught a glimpse of the land outside the palace walls and noticed they were bare and dry. Rain hadn’t fallen in many moons.

Princess Mimi strode down to the village where she found utterpandemoniumThe skinny villagers looked like they hadn’t eaten in days and were running around like they didn’t have heads on. They were fighting with each other over food and water.

When the villagers saw their illustrious Princess, they stopped in their tracks and pointed to the cliffs at the edge of the village. Mimi looked up at the colossal cliffs and was shocked to see a gargantuan, ferocious looking tiger pacing on the highest cliff edge staring down over the village. There were strings of saliva dripping from its mouth and its eyes had a voracious glint that was frightening.

“It’s the tiger who cursed the village! Kill the tiger!” cried the villagers as the raised there fists in the air.

Suddenly, the most magnificent creature with iridescent wings flew down from the skies above. The extraordinary hawfinch landed on the dead tree beside her and stared into Mimi’s Soul.

“My name is Horris. Soco sent me here. Why do the villagers want to kill the tiger?” Horris asked inquiringly.

Mimi stayed silent for a moment but then replied, “Because they think the tiger cursed the village.”

“Why do you believe them?” asked Horris curiously.

Mimi rethought the idea and wondered how the tiger could have cursed the land. She thought about it for a while but before she could answer, Horris stretched his sharp talon from under his sparkling wing and passed Mimi a small, brown pepper grinder.

“Here is a gift from Soco. He told me to give it to you.”

Mimi looked at it and then took it slowly out of Horris grasp

“What does it do?” said Mimi as she looked at the brown pepper grinder

“You’ll see” Said Horris and after that Horris flew up to the tallest dead tree where he landed and watched Mimi.

Mimi looked up at the cliff and looked at the pepper grinder. What could it possibly do Mimi thought to herself. She held the pepper grinder in her soft hands and twisted it slowly.

Suddenly the pepper grinder grew and grew in her hands until it was bigger than her. She looked at Horris, totally confused. She had no idea what was happening.

Horris smiled and flew away. The pepper grinder had become as big as the tree beside her. There was a big circular opening that seemed to beckon her. She crawled, slowly ducking down into the hole and found herself facing an enormous spiral staircase inside the gigantic wooden pepper grinder.

Up and up she went, filled with fear and trepidation not knowing where she was going. It felt like she had climbed forever. Finally she clawed her way through the narrow opening only to find herself face to face with the tiger.

The villagers were shouting “Kill the tiger!”

She looked the tiger in the eye and saw a great sadness and did not feel afraid. Just at that moment she took a step forward and slipped and fell towards the cliff edge. Her life flashed before her eyes, and she felt the cold breeze on her face for the last time.

Suddenly, she felt a wrench from her back as the tiger gripped her shirt in his sharp teeth and hauled her to safety. She collapsed in a heap, not believing what just happened. There was a roar of disbelief and relief from the villagers below. They could not believe what they had just witnessed.

Princess Mimi sat serenely with the tiger stroking its back slowly in awe of what had happened. The villagers below were cheering and celebrating the saviour of their precious princess. All seemed well in the village at this moment but it was like a calm before the storm and sure enough lighting struck with aureolin colour.

The villagers at first were frightened but their fear was quickly replaced with joy as they danced, laughed and sang in the downpour of rain. Mimi was overwhelmed by what had happened she was very happy to see the rain and know that the famine would be over.

There was still a sadness in Mimi’s heart because her parents had not returned, and she felt abandoned. However, since then Mimi and the Tiger have ruled the land and lived in peace and harmony…

HONOURABLE MENTION: Wong Kang Ching, Ken, Year 4, Australian International School Hong Kong, 9 years old

I was charmed by Ken’s very different story about 3 bored pets who decide to escape life in a luxurious palace but end up in the clutches of cannibals, before they are saved by a magic pepper grinder! It made me smile a lot, earning Ken an Honourable Mention! At 9 years old, Ken has real writing talent, and I look forward to receiving his entries in my future competitions!

The Great Escape

It was an extraordinarily cold winter 2000 years ago in China. There was a terrible famine. The people were starving but the princess who lived in her luxurious palace was not at all worried about food.  She lived with her 3 pets: a big ferocious tiger, an intelligent silkworm and an inquisitive hawfinch.

The tiger had a pair of hanging eyes and a white forehead. When he roared, all the porcelain in the palace would break. The hawfinch had a big and powerful bill like being made of steel. He liked asking questions all the time. Among the three pets of the princess, the silkworm was the most inconspicuous. But he was the wisest of them all.

They all felt terribly bored because they did exactly the same thing again and again every day. So they all decided to team up and escape.

The following day, when they were waiting for dinner outside their cages, they saw the princess putting back her pepper grinder into her beautiful aureolin chest resplendent with all kinds of jewels just as she had done after every meal before. Then she locked up the chest and put the key into her pocket. They winked at each other and started blasting out the door and headed towards the dark forest. The guards chased after them but finally were out of sight. They were safe but they all felt hungry.

“Let’s go back to the palace to steal the magical pepper grinder that can make all kinds of food,” said the silkworm in an omniscient manner.

“How do you know the pepper grinder can make all kinds of food?” asked the inquisitive hawfinch.

“After every meal, I saw the princess carefully put the pepper grinder into her beautiful aureolin chest resplendent with jewels. So I thought that pepper grinder is not a common pepper grinder. It must be very important. I wanted to know its secret because it might be useful for our escape. Therefore, one day, before dinner, I requested the princess to put me on the balcony outside the dining room for some sunshine. She accepted my request. I peeked from the balcony and saw the princess using her pepper grinder to make our dinner,” replied the silkworm.

The tiger rejoiced as he anticipated a sumptuous dinner like all the dinners he had had before. But the sceptical hawfinch showed an expression of doubt.

“I think you should go,” said the worm, staring at the hawfinch. “Yeah!” echoed the tiger. So the bird flew towards the palace.

The hawfinch decided to steal the key in the princess’ pocket while she was asleep. He flew into the princess’ bedroom through the window and waited until the princess was fast asleep. Then he quickly grabbed the key and flew back to the forest.

The hawfinch returned with the magical pepper grinder in his claws.

“Here is the pepper grinder,” said the hawfinch, “but is it really magical?”

“I am not an ordinary pepper grinder. I used to be a wizard,” uttered the magical pepper grinder suddenly, catching everybody by surprise.

“A long time ago, when I was mixing some chemicals to make potions in my castle, a big explosion happened, turning me into a pepper grinder. One day, the princess saw me and she picked me up and brought me to her palace. The only way that can turn me back to a wizard is to steal the magical berries in the berry tree behind a hut that was guarded by some cannibals and to put that berry inside me and grind it up. Then, I will turn back into a wizard, and then I will use my spells to help all of you,” explained the magical pepper grinder.

“Deal!” said them all. “We will help you, but can you make our dinner?” they asked.

“Sure!” replied the pepper grinder.

In the next minute, they saw the pepper grinder turning by itself. The pepper powder that came out from it suddenly turned into a big lump of pork, dozens of worms and a large heap of mulberry leaves.

 The following day they headed for the hut. They walked and walked and finally, they saw a big hut. Behind was the magical berry tree. They all ran towards the tree but found that they were surrounded by hundreds of cannibals!

 “Hawfinch, fly to the magical berry tree and get one berry fast,” ordered the silkworm.

The bird flew towards the tree and grabbed a berry. Meanwhile, the silkworm, the tiger and the pepper grinder fell into a trap set by the cannibals and were captured. The hawfinch darted to the hut as one cannibal spotted the bird and aimed an arrow at him. He dodged the arrows and zoomed towards the hut as fast as he could. He heard one of those cannibals say that they would eat them all.

“That’s egregious!’ cried the hawfinch.

The silkworm, the tiger, and the pepper grinder were tied up to a pole. But the bird broke the rope with his steel-like beak, and they started to escape.

The cannibals chased after them. Just when they were about to reach them, the tiger suddenly turned back and roared ferociously. Frightened, the cannibals halted and turned back.

Once they were safe, the bird put the berry into the pepper grinder which started grinding it immediately. The pepper grinder turned back gradually into an old wizard and said, “Thank you! What would you like me to do for you?”

“To build a big treehouse for us to live in,” suggested the silkworm.

“Great idea!” echoed them all.

The wizard started mumbling some spells and from the ground started growing a little plant. It grew bigger and bigger until it was big enough to build a large house on. Then, a house large enough for a tiger, a bird, a silkworm, and a wizard to live in popped up suddenly on the canopy of the tree.

They all lived happily in the treehouse thereafter.

I hope that you enjoyed reading all these fantastic stories, and that it has inspired you to enter my next Clever Competition! If you want to be alerted when it’s posted, just subscribe to my blog by clicking the link on the landing page, or subscribe to my Funny and Fabulous Newsletter! I look forward to hearing from you!

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