2014 – 2015 Competitions
23. AN ODE TO MY FAVOURITE TREE
24. A SHAGGY SHEEP POEM
25. A TALE OF THREE CHINESE CHARACTERS
COMPETITION NO. 23: AN ODE TO MY FAVOURITE TREE
What a lovely time I’ve had judging this competition! You all obviously love trees just as much as I do, and it was such a treat to read about your favourites. There were so many different species: fruit trees like apple, mango, cherry and lemon; old classics like ash, oak, pine, willow and weeping birch; Asian species including palm, banyan and Bonsai trees; and my Aussie favourites, the Jacarandah, the gum and the ancient Wollombi Pine. There was even a family tree! And they were all such beautiful things, full of ancient wisdom and comfort. I feel like hugging a tree right now! The poems were very clever too and I was so impressed by the effort that all the writers made. There was everything from acrostics, rhyming couplets, diamond poems, and free verse; there was even a fun limerick!
The entries came from a whopping 20 schools in 7 different cities on 4 different continents! In Hong Kong SAR: American International School, Australian International School, Christian Alliance International School, Diocesan Girls Junior School, French International School, German Swiss International School, The Kellett School, Kennedy School, The Peak School, Shatin Junior School and Yew Chung International School; in Shanghai: British International School, Puxi and Shanghai United International School; in Singapore: St Joseph’s Institution International School; in Melbourne: Geelong Grammar Junior School, Methodist Ladies College and St Joseph’s Malvern; in Sydney: Kambala Girls School; in the UK: Great Missenden School, Buckinghamshire and in the United States: Greenlake Elementary School, Washington.
Remember I was looking for great vocabulary, a fantastic writing style, a vivid description, original ideas, real imagination and creativity. Above all I wanted your poem to make me FEEL something.
I loved reading all the entries, but there were some real standouts, and here they are:
YEAR 1 TO 3 CATEGORY
FIRST PLACE: Sonia Mei Husain, Year 3, British International School Shanghai (Puxi), 7 years old
Congratulations to Sonia for her beautiful poem about the Tree of Life. At just 7 years of age, I thought her poem was a fantastic effort. I loved the gentle reflectiveness of her verse, and she made an excellent effort to rhyme most of her couplets. As first place winner in her section, Sonia wins a free signed copy of one of my books!
My Tree of Life
My tree of life is an ancient tree
From living so many years before me
Lovely tree, mother tree
Better tree than other trees
Raising hatchlings, taking care
Giving shelter and spoiling me
My tree of life is what you see
From outer space, trees are free
And deep in ground you see the roots reaching deep
My tree of life is a look out tree
If I get lost, my tree is with me.
My tree of life never sleeps
It never tires while I weep
My tree of life loves me so
It watches out for me from head to toe
The tree of life is just like you and me
SECOND PLACE: Anjali Rungta, Grade 3, American International School, Hong Kong, 7 years old
Readers will remember that Anjali also came second in this section in my last Silk Road Story Competition! This time she has done it again, with her witty and very original rhyming verse, in which she cleverly managed to correctly use 8 of the Wicked Words from my Wicked Word page on my blog, just for fun!
The Apple Tree
There once was a magnanimous tree that stood out from a group of trees,
It swayed back and forth to the breeze.
Then came the voracious storm,
Which caused the land to reform.
Except that one tree, all the trees shivered with fear,
But all was calm when passed by a deer.
She had a mellifluous voice and her eyes were filled with warmth,
But out of the blue came riding past the resplendent King Edward the fourth.
His arrows were drawn upon the noble animal,
When suddenly the tree sheltered the animal with its arms, which was very radical.
The tree stood bold in front of the armed king,
Then suddenly the king felt a sting.
Then realized this was no ordinary tree,
This was the God’s Apple Tree with a big Queen Bee.
King Edward bowed and asked to be exonerated from the atrocious crime he had foolishly committed,
Edward’s pandemonium nature was graciously forgiven by the illustrious Apple Tree.
THIRD PLACE: Ashling Walshe, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School, Shanghai, 8 years old
Well done Ashling for this neat rhyming verse about a tree in winter. I especially loved the “radiating glow”:
My Winter Tree
My tree is cloaked with snow
I love its radiating glow
It looks at me
I smile with glee
It waves its arms
Like dangling crystal charms
It tells me a little story
Full of winter glory
I give it a huge hug in return
And have no worry for the ferns
Diya Jalan, Grade 3, St Joseph’s Institution International School, Singapore, 8 years old
Diya is a regular entrant in my Clever Competitions. Here is her entertaining poem about a most unusual Pandemonium Tree:
The Pandemonium Tree
Tree stands there waiting.
Days pass nothing,
But wait is that a squirrel scurrying up the tree.
Tree sways along happily,
But that¹s not all, no it isn’t.
SSSSSSS! Is that Mr. Snake slithering up tree?
Here comes toucan
But that¹s not all no it isn¹t!
Is that a monkey?
Ape and frog
Termite army and the army of ants
Is that a sparrow and a parrot there?
My favourite tree is a complete pandemonium.
Rose Lyden, Year 2, The Peak School, Hong Kong, 5 years old
Rose is only 5 years old, so I thought that her acrostic poem was very clever indeed for her age. Keep up the good work, Rose!
I Love Trees
I like climbing trees
Lovely and warm
Only trees are nice
Entertain you when you’re sad
They say ‘hello’ with their branches
Really happy when I see them
Excellent help when you are hot
Every day they are here
Sometimes I run around them
YEAR 4 TO 6 CATEGORY
FIRST PLACE: Jemma Julian, Grade 4 to 5, homeschooling, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 9 years old
Jemma is being home-schooled in Sydney, and I’m willing to bet from the lovely imagination, deeply poetic sensibility and evocative words in her poem that Jenna is a very BIG reader, and that she often reads under her favourite tree! I especially love the verb “loll” and her simile about the seed “fragile as spider’s web”. Well done Jenna – as First Place winner in this category, you win a free, signed copy of one of my books! Keep on writing!
My Jacarandah Tree
As I jump over your lilac flowers,
The bees loll, drunk on your nectar.
I feel your soft smooth bark
As I climb up to my favourite bough.
Leaves flow, gently down,
Onto the soft carpet of leaves and flowers.
I sense your breathing, through the leaves.
Your sigh when the wind comes.
So long ago you were a seed,
As fragile as spider’s web,
But now you’re as tough as steel.
Oh how I love you Jacarandah tree.
SECOND PLACE: Kristina Akova, Year 4, German-Swiss International School, Hong Kong, 9 years old
Kristina has written an outstanding acrostic poem here, which is a very mature effort for her age. Acrostic poems aren’t always easy or simple; look at the fantastic word pictures Kristina paints, with her “explosion of leaves”, “terrific root labyrinth” and “extensive shade”. I also loved her question to the birds. I look forward to seeing more of Kristina’s work in the future!
Emerald Ash Tree
Explosion of leaves
Aiming for expanse
Looking for company
Dreading the storm
Asking the birds
”Shall we sing?”
Humbly awaiting their answer
Terrific root labyrinth
Relying on rain to survive
THIRD PLACE: Lexy Gillies, Year 4, Kennedy School, Hong Kong, 8 years old
Lexy’s poem is just delightful. Short, sweet and so evocative of the long thin branches of the weeping birch. The “whippy twigs” are just right! Lexy’s entry was typed in a lovely sloping format, which reminded me of the swaying of a birch tree – I’ll try to reproduce that here. Well done Lexy!
The Weeping Birch
She is my summer tree,
her whippy twigs
where catkins stay,
her golden leaves
that dance and sway,
She rustles when
the wind blows
and every time
you hide in her
she seems to say ‘hello’.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Chelsea Parker-Burton, Grade 5, Kambala School, Sydney, 10 years old
Chelsea is a regular entrant in my competitions, and her poetry is getting better and better! I share her sense of wonder about Australia’s Wollemi Pines, discovered only in 1994, and thought to be long-extinct:
A Rare Discovery
I wonder about the Wollemi Pine, ‘Dinosaur tree’ or ‘living fossil’
Discovered not so long ago, growing high and wide, bark like bubbling chocolate
Leaves changing lime green to a deeper bluish-green, such a clever tree
Secrets kept and cannot be told, growing in sandstone ridges and canyon walls
Millions of years tall and proud, warm rainforest keeping you hidden and safe
Thought to be extinct, but growing still rugged and hard to reach
I want to visit you often to wonder at your knowledge.
Duncan Michael Gardiner, Year 5, St. Josephs Primary Malvern, Melbourne, 11 years old
I thought that Duncan’s poem about his family tree was just plain clever! It also made me smile – well done Duncan!
My Favourite Tree
Welcome to my family tree,
There’s Mum, there’s Dad, Sam, Eamon and Me.
The tree grows tall and branches out,
And this is where my Grandparents sprout.
On one side there’s Grammy and Pop,
But wait there’s more it doesn’t stop.
Pa Bob and Nana Di are on the other side,
And at the top the tree grows wide.
There’s Aunts, Uncles and Cousins there,
And we’ve even got some twigs to spare.
Of all the trees there are around,
This is the one I have found.
Olivia Cox, Grade 4, Geelong Grammar Toorak campus, Melbourne, 10 years old
A lovely free-verse poem from Olivia, which cleverly captures the feeling of comfort and safety we feel around trees:
The Tangled Tree
Let me tangle my branches around you
I’ll let you up high where you’re safe and sound
Make up codes and passwords to climb me
Climb into my fragile and old branches
Spy on neighbors
I’m old, I may not be able to hold a hammock
Rest your back against my long, thick branches
I have skinny branches so don’t pretend you are a circus person on a tight
Don’t ever stop climbing me when you think you’re too old
Stay with me
Video games are not fragile, old and safe and sound
I’ll never let you down
Let me tangle my branches around you.
Hillary Lo, Grade 6, Shatin Junior School, Hong Kong, 9 years old
Well done to Hillary on yet another winning entry! Her poem was the shortest in the competition, but proves that you don’t need to use a lot of words to paint a picture very sharply and effectively:
Tiny flakes of snow relax on my eyelids,
My breath slow and steady.
I watch as layers and layers of icy snow cover all the green,
The white leaves looming over me.
Clare Beaton-Wells, Grade 4, Methodist Ladies College, Melbourne, 10 years old
Clare’s poem about a Bonsai Tree is an excellent example of rhyming verse – I look forward to seeing more of your work, Clare!
Bonsai and Me
My favourite tree is a Bonsai tree,
It seems to have something in common with me,
A presence that seems wise and calm,
But also awake just like an alarm,
Bonsais are special as if they were art,
Twisting and turning never falling apart,
Each leaf so tiny as light as a feather,
Solid as one whole but working together,
These trees sure are a one-time experience,
Each is unique in its own special appearance!
Athene Fox, Grade 4, French International School Hong Kong, 8 years old
There are some beautiful images in Athene’s clever poem about a very regal pine tree with a rather regal name! I thought this poem was an excellent effort for an 8 year old!
Her Royal Highness
In the depths of my imagination I can perceive
A regal forest, on an island, full of trees
Where in the center stands a highland queen
A friend most dear to me
Scent of perfume the sweetest known
And a low voice heard with the breeze’s gentle moan
Her arms are clothed in glowing shades of green
She is tall and strong with dress of brilliant sheen.
They show her happiness in summer’s hue
She loves to give out cones to all her friends
Before she sees the glowing whites of winter
You may think she’s human but you’ll see
That Kate is really just a lone pine tree.
Claudia Wong, Year 5, Australian International School Hong Kong, 11 years old
I really enjoyed Claudia’s poem, with its great choice of vocabulary and some lovely imagery:
I Have a Tree
I have a tree,
One that grows like a rose in my backyard.
It tosses its head back proudly and shakes out its mane,
Standing dauntlessly with bark as rough as card.
I have a tree,
That I glance at wearing a look of pity when it loses its hair.
But Winter’s threats go as Summer’s warmth takes over,
Admiration’s the feeling when it grows back with flair.
I have a tree,
Where I scale its branches to my heart’s content.
It’ll be there after I fly to heaven,
A solid block of wood that even hammers can’t dent.
I have a tree…
Bianca Cretella, Grade 6, St Joseph’s Primary Malvern, Melbourne, 11 years old
A special mention to Bianca, for a poem that was just bursting with passion:
Cherry Blossom Trees
Cherry blossom trees how I love them,
Their colour is beautiful when I look at them
I feel like I am taken away of the loveliness in the colour,
That they have more beauty then anything in the world.
It is a world of beautiful.
Nothing is more pleasant when you are under a tree.
You feel in a world of happiness and joy and fun
Having one near you would make you feel amazing;
Relaxed like nothing else in the world,
If I had one I’d treasure it for the rest of my life.
For all of the gold and silver in the world I wouldn’t trade it for my blossom tree.
As the leaves fall and the days go by nothing is more romantic then to watch a blossom tree.
And to Georgia Lyden, Year 4, The Peak School, Hong Kong, 7 years old
Georgia was the youngest entrant in this Category, and deserves a special mention for her really sweet poem about the kindness of trees, which really touched me:
My tree will always be kind to all things
She will always be like a parasol shading me from the sun
She is as big as a giant
I like to sit under her green leaves and relax
When the wind blows through her leaves it sounds like a lullaby
Koalas love to climb in her broad branches and so do I
She is part of Mother Nature’s big family
She hugs me when I am sad
She is as alive as I am
I love my tree very much
She loves me back
I hope others will learn to love her as much as I do.
COMPETITION NO. 24: A SHAGGY SHEEP POEM!
Wow! That was hard work, but a whole lot of FUN! I’ve just judged a grand total of 175 fantastic entries and if I read about one more sheep or ram or goat. I’m going to start bleating VERY loudly! Your poems were excellent, and there was a great variety, with everything ranging from knock knock jokes to riddles to haikus to limericks to cinqains to rhyming couplets to some really good free verse! And I really loved all your sheep, rams and goats – they were a hairy, noisy lot on the whole but quite adorable, just like Rodney Ram!
And the competition keeps getting bigger and bigger! This time your entries came from a huge 32 schools in 9 cities on 3 different continents! In Beijing: Montessori School of Beijing; in Hong Kong: Australian International School, Christian Alliance International School, Discovery Bay International School, French International School, Glenealy School, German Swiss International School, The Kellett School, Kennedy School, Kowloon Junior School, Quarry Bay School, Renaissance College, Shatin Junior School, Singapore International School, St Paul’s Primary Catholic School; in Melbourne: Geelong Grammar Junior School, Ivanhoe Grammar Junior School, Melbourne Ladies College; in Shanghai: British International School Puxi Campus, Britannica International School Gubei Campus, Shanghai United International School, Western International School of Shanghai; in Shenzhen: Shen Wai International School; in Singapore: International School of Singapore, Stamford American International School; in Sydney: Kambala Girls School, Lindfield East Public School, Our Lady of Dolours School Chatswood, Robert Townson Public School, and one homeschool; in Taiwan: Morrison Academy Kaohsiung; and in Seattle USA: Greenlake Elementary School.
Remember I was looking for excellent vocabulary, great ideas, good spelling, and especially, something to make me smile! In addition I judged your poems on correct length (no more than 16 lines), correct subject matter (ram, sheep or goat), originality, style, whether it all made sense, and that crucial, hard-to-define X factor! It was soooo hard to choose the best ten in each category, but I made it in the end! And here are the results!
YEARS 1 TO 3 CATEGORY
There were a total of 75 entries from 20 schools in this section, as well as a wonderful contribution from a whole class of Grade 1s which you can read below in the Special Mention section.
FIRST PLACE: Nicholas Ng, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School, Hongqiao, 9 years old
Congratulations to Nicholas on winning this category with a wonderful, witty rhyming verse, which made me smile a lot! The rhyme was almost perfect, and I especially liked Nicholas’s main character, a feisty little lamb that simply wouldn’t give up! For his excellent effort, Nicholas wins a signed copy of one of my books. I wonder if he’ll choose The Tale of Rodney Ram?
The Tiny Lamb
Once there was a tiny lamb that thought he would become a ram,
He started acting big and strong, he bellowed like a banging gong,
But in fact it didn’t sound loud at all, the sound was really kind of small,
So he got a big trombone and rattled up his every bone,
He quickly used up all his air, but it wasn’t raising any hair.
He tried several ideas, he did; he hadn’t ever succeeded.
Then he became really sad, his head was down; he thought he was bad.
His father came, strong and horned; said to his son ”Don’t be forlorn,
When I was young I was also weak, I was so small I could only squeak,
But I became stronger as I grew, I know it will be the same for you.”
And with that they walked towards the sun,
And played and talked and had lots of fun.
Madeline Painter, Grade 2, Stamford American International School Singapore, 7 years old
Congratulations to 7 year old Madeline, whose free verse entry came a very close second. It was chock full of fabulous alliteration, using unusually sophisticated vocabulary for her age, and her teacher tells me that Madeline’s work is always like this – wow! She is clearly a talented writer, and I look forward to seeing more of her work in future competitions! But it wasn’t quite as much a poem as it could have been – Madeline’s entry only just falls inside the limits of free verse, so on this occasion, she was pipped to the post by Nicholas!
Ricky Ram’s Green Goats and Sarcastic Sheep
Ricky Ram read rare, rotten reviews about ridiculous, reluctant rascals.
Green goats gape, gawk, and gossip about gross, grizzly, gurgling, geeky geckoes.
I saw some shy, shifty, small, simply sooooooooo sarcastic, sneaky, sudoku solving sheep, shrugging their shoulders.
I think Ricky Ram would be very reluctant about sleeping with gossiping, green, goats and sneaky, sooooooooo sarcastic, sheep.
THIRD PLACE: Shiraz Palestrant Rothschild, Grade 2, Montessori School of Beijing, Grade 2, 8 years old
Shiraz’s delightful rhyming poem had an interesting rhyming pattern (AABBA) which was faithfully adhered to – a real achievement at her young age. I especially enjoyed her use of some unusual ingredients (boerwors sausage and rooibos tea) and her funny storyline. Well done Shiraz!
Rodney the Ram
Rodney – oh that shy little ram
He’s romantic and likes to eat jam
His friend Robert the rabbit
Noticed his habit
And made him a jelly from yam
Another friend Henry the horse
Brought South African sausage – boerewors!
Rodney gathered his charm
His smile lit up the farm
And together they drank rooibos – of course!
Now Peter the pig was his friend
But he criticized Rodney to no end
Afraid of confrontation
Rodney ran to the gas station
And Peter he did not offend.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Sera van der Vorm, Grade 3, Stamford American International School Singapore, 8 years old
Sera’s acrostic poem was skillfully written, and I particularly enjoyed her list of unusual names for Rodney’s flock.
Oh! He is dazzling and what a great leader!
Dumb isn’t it to dance on a hillside like him?
Never finds anything beautiful without flowers.
Emma, Luna, Anna, Amelia, and Orinoco love him!
Yes Rodney is the best!
Cadyn Lam, Year 2, Renaissance College Hong Kong, 6 years old
What a terrific effort for a 6 year old – well done Cadyn! I thought that your poem was not only clever, but also great fun with the rhyming words used in your middle section, and its’ great punch line!
Sheep Ram Goat
Sheep, ram, goat,
Where do you want to go?
Hong Kong! Hong Kong is the place we want to go!
Sheep went on a jeep,
Ram went on a tram,
Goat went on a boat,
And they all arrived in Hong Kong,
Making people confused,
Is it the Year of Sheep, Ram or Goat?
Erin Claire Muir, Britannica International School Shanghai, Year 3, 7 years old
Erin’s poem is an unusual and very effective free verse. Excellent work!
Who Was That?
Who was that?
You don’t know that sheep
Did you see him?
Yes but who is he?
You don’t know that sheep
No I don’t
Oh that sheep is brilliant
Oh yes, that sheep
But who is he?
You don’t know that sheep
No I don’t
Because he is a ram!
Sharni Rangaiya, Year 3, Robert Townson Primary School, Sydney, 8 years old
I loved Sharni’s riddle and thought she made a good attempt at rhyming many of the lines.
I am kept outdoors
But I can keep you warm
I make a great feast
At the very least
I’ve got mind-blowing horns
Every year I get sheared
I’ve got the best hooves in town
You might see me around
I am a full-grown male lamb
Can you guess what I am?
I’m a ram!
Nick Akov, Year 2, Kellett School Pokfulam, 6 years old
Another great effort from a 6 year old, which made me grin. Well done Nick!
Once there was a sheep who drove a car called “Beep”…
Woke up a bird who was deep asleep
Scared a frog who was trying to leap
Surprised a duck who was mending a jeep…
And landed in a hay heap!
Noe Godin, Year 3, Britannica Shanghai Internationals School, 8 years old
This poem was so much fun, and I really liked the way Noe tried to rhyme every line the same way, with a rather cute ending!
Rob the Ram
Rob is a very special ram
Red like a strawberry jam!
One day as he’s walking around the farm,
A bull goes out in a door’s slam.
He must be at least 500 kilograms!
Rob stays quiet like a very old clam…
He fears that this would end in a big wham,
And does not want to be the piece of ham!
Surprise! The bull does him no harm!
But welcomes Rob with open arms!
Cause no matter the color, they are best friends… yes Madam!
Octavia Guiomar Blanche, International School of Singapore, Singapore, 8 yoa, Grade 3
Knock knock jokes are hard to write well, but I thought that Octavia’s effort was well executed and very funny!
Knock Knock Joke
Ba-aa-aad time to enter!
Even though they didn’t win a place, the gorgeous Grade 1s who bravely entered the competition deserve a special mention! Well done to all of you – your poems were adorable!
Olivia: Grade 1, Stamford American International School, Singapore
Goats are extremely woolly and sleepy and say maaaa and eat everything and they are cute.
Organised goats listen well and they don’t maaaa too loud.
An extremely big hungry eater.
Jan Borwankar Visa, Grade 1, International School of Singapore, Singapore, 6 years old
Shy as a mouse
Happy as a baby
Claire Ziebart, Grade 1, International Montessori School of Beijing,
7 years old
Sheep has fur as soft as a pillow
When sheep jump over the moon they say hello
Fur as curly as messy as cloud
Mom said pet sheep is allowed
Back legs bend backwards, which creeps me out
When they walk away from me, I pout.
Minna J., Grade 1, Stamford American International School, Singapore
Goats Eat Everything
Goats eat everything like tables and cloths, boomerangs and plates but not buildings.
Goats jump and jump all day long but they never stop not even when the sun rises.
And finally, one last Special Mention for a group entry from a Grade 1 class in Shanghai!
Class 1B, Britannica International School Shanghai
Follow my leader
The curly, wurly sheep was feeling rather low,
So he sat on a log just like the Gruffalo.
Along came a mouse,
So the sheep said ‘Hello’
The sheep asked kindly ‘Can I follow you home?’
(Sheep like to follow, just in case you didn’t know)
The sheep and the mouse stopped by a stream.
Sheep was feeling hungry, (always it would seem)
And mouse, well he just fancied a clean!
Sheep had a thought so bleated to mouse,
‘Climb on my back and dry off in hair. There’s plenty of room because I’m hardly ever bare!’
Mouse feeling sleepy did just that,
So sheep followed dutifully and laid down for a long nap!
YEARS 4 TO 6 CATEGORY
In this section there were a mighty 100 entries from students in a total of 21 schools. The competition was fierce, with a longlist of 22 entries at a very high standard. In fact, using my judging criteria, the top three finalists all scored equally for different reasons, making the choice of overall winner extremely difficult! But this is where my instructions in the competition came strongly to the fore, in particular my special request that your poem made me SMILE!
FIRST PLACE: Ivana Wong , Year 5, Kowloon Junior School, 10 years old
Congratulations to Ivana on winning first place in the Year 4 to 6 Category! Her poem was very good indeed! It read very well, with excellent attention to rhythm and rhyme, and in particular, it was great fun! I laughed out loud at the image of Rodney soaring into a puddle at Shirley’s feet, and I thought the ending was brilliant! Keep on writing Ivana – you have real talent! And in the meantime, as first place winner, you can now choose a free copy of one of my books as your prize!
Romeo Ram fell in love one day,
With Shirley Sheep who lived not far away,
She walked past his field with her family flock,
And his beating heart clanged like a clock!
His eyes started spinning as he ran to the gate,
But in his great speed he stopped too late!
His head hit the bars with a dreadful bump,
And between his horns appeared a red lump!
Now Romeo wasn’t a ram who gave up,
So he charged at the gate ‘Giddy up, Giddy up’,
Over he soared right into the street,
Landing in a puddle at Shirley’s feet!
“Oh Romeo!” she baa-aad in a gentle voice,
“I don’t need heroics to make you my choice;
You’re a ram in a million, as all can see,
So Romeo Ram, will you please marry me?”
SECOND PLACE: Claudia Wong, Year 6, Australian International School HK, 11 years old
I loved Claudia’s rhyming verse, with its really striking imagery, vocabulary and clever use of metaphor. I especially loved the “turquoise meadow” and “shattered bones”. It came a very close second, only losing out by a whisker to Ivana’s poem due to having less of that “smile” factor!
(Note from Claudia: The sheep are the clouds, the wolves are the storm clouds and the bones are the rain)
Sheep of the Sky
Enchanting me is the flawless, azure sky,
It seems to go on forever from where I lie.
Swiftly a sheep trots into the turquoise meadow,
Hastily all of its fluffy, woolly family follows.
They prance and dance, sleep and graze,
Playing joyfully under the sun’s hot blaze.
Out of the blue, a pack of wolves attack the rams and ewes,
Their shattered bones fall to earth after being chewed.
There isn’t a glimpse of a single sheep, not even a trace,
For days the dark crowd stays in place.
But as the weeks pass, the grey mass shrinks to a crack,
And the snow-white flock comes happily galloping back.
THIRD PLACE: Hillary Lo, Year 6, Sha Tin Junior School, 10 years old
Competition regular Hillary has done it again, with this gorgeous free verse poem, full of original touches, like that lovely word “loll”, day and night “intertwining” and the superb last line, where the moon is a “dutiful aged soldier”. First class work from a real poet!
The Black Little Lamb
Clouds of cotton candy loll,
Grazing, nuzzling the tufts of grass.
A puff of black enters the stage,
All heads, all faces turned to him,
As he dances in the spotlight,
Glorious, confident and determined,
His little face ambitious and inspiring.
A thoughtful look illuminating his round face,
Audience watch, as silent as mice.
Day and Night intertwine,
As the sun wraps her comforting arms around him,
And the moon high up guards him,
A dutiful aged soldier.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Cheryl Lam, Year 6, Renaissance College HK, 10 years old
I thought that Cheryl’s Zodiac Poem was really clever and I really enjoyed some of her descriptions – especially the “pipsqueak elf”, the snake’s “penetrating stare”. I’m not a fan of the word “butt” as my regular entrants will know – but the rest of the poem was so good I’m prepared to overlook it this time!
The Best in the Zodiac
I’m far better than the other twelve,
Ox is gigantic, mouse, the pipsqueak elf.
Tiger has sharp claws that claw you to death,
Dragon has quite a temper with that fiery breath!
Horse is a show off; he tries to impress the mares,
And sneaky snake makes you dizzy with it’s penetrating stare!
Dog barks like crazy, and scares you off with a BOO,
And Rooster annoys everyone with his COCKLE-DOODLE-DOO!
See! No others like me, soft and sweet,
Monkey scratches his butt with his feet!
And here comes Pig, you know what I’ll say,
Everyone knows that he just pigs out and plays!
After all this, all of you MUST know,
Sheep is the best and is always on show!
I’ve got all the good features: Soft, cuddly, and I don’t crow,
You must know that I’m really the BEST in the Zodiac now!
Chelsea Parker-Burton, Year 6, Kambala School, Sydney, 11 years old
Chelsea has met the finalists list again in my Clever Competition with this beautiful free verse with its rather wistful ending. Lovely work Chelsea!
⽺羊 yáng (Sheep)
Sheep are among the animals that we like most.
Gentle and calm just like a ghost.
The white endearing creature often reminds people of beautiful things.
I look up the hill from my perch on the wall, smiling at the merriment at hand,
Lambs in lighthearted animation frolic in every step,
Daisies trampled down in the jollity,
Ram and ewe, standing patiently under the trees for the sun to ease,
Early morning and evening flocking from one field to the other,
Lighthearted, never complaining,
What do they do over the long night? I would like to see.
If I could raise my weary head and peek out into the black night.
Marissa Chow, Year 5, Kowloon Junior School , 10 years old
I really enjoyed Marissa’s take on the subject matter, with a rather unique style involving a series of rhetorical questions. Great work, Marissa!
Who wouldn’t like
These clever, shy creatures
Who helped all on Earth
When the great famine took place
By landing in the rice field
With gods riding on their back.
With white and fluffy wool
These animals keep you warm
By kindly agreeing
For you to shear and wear their fur.
Who wouldn’t appreciate
These hardworking, generous rams?
Diandra Paez, Year 6, Our Lady of Dolours, Chatswood, Sydney, 11 years old
This is an excellent haiku from first time entrant Diandra, with a great use of simile in the second line and a perfect follow-on punchline in the last line.
Haiku – Sheep
Grazing in the grass,
Their wool like cotton candy,
Hard to tell apart.
Athene Fox, Year 4, French International School HK, 8 years old
Snapping at Diandra’s heels is this haiku from Athene, another competition regular, with an outstanding alliterative opening. I loved her imagery of a “bumbling babe”!
Haiku – The Naïve Lamb
Bleating, bumbling babe
It skips along the green grass
Ready for a meal.
Emily Griffin, Year 5, Morrison Academy Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 10 years old
Emily’s free verse poem is wonderfully evocative, with some gorgeous imagery, though it did make me feel a little chilly!
A sheep runs down the field as its wool blows in the crisp wind,
He crunches on the grass as a rain drop lands on his shaggy body
He dashes toward cover soon to be safe under the tree’s leafy roof
He snuggles against his flock to watch the rain pour,
His eyelids droop and everything goes black.
Aashi Shah, Year 4, Glenealy School, 9 years old
Congratulations to Aashi for this very original take on the subject! It really made me stop and think, especially when I do love eating my lamb chops L!
The World Through a Sheep’s Eyes
The thin, green flaky bits growing from the earth,
The tall, brown manmade structure sitting still,
The small, yellow, stinging insects flying around,
And of course, the hot, sweaty animals tending to the farm,
This is all the world through a sheep’s eyes.
We take sheep for granted,
Not thinking a bit about them,
We take their wool, their milk and sometimes even kill them,
Their wool is for them and their milk is for their lambs,
Even though they have a right to, they don’t protest.
Let’s spare a thought for them, and remember how much they do for us
In this Year of the Sheep!
Jemma Julian, Grade 5, homeschool in Sydney, 10 years old
Alas, there was one entry in this section which was simply wonderful…but not a poem! Jemma’s entry fell just over that fine line between free verse and narrative prose. Remember the definition of free verse: verse without regular metre or rhyme which nonetheless retains a poetic form. Here Jemma has written a brilliant, funny story chock full of really superb vocabulary, originality and style. But…it’s not a poem! But it’s so good, I had to let you all read it! Enjoy! And Jemma – keep up the excellent work and make sure you enter my next competition!
The Long bearded Goat Clan
An emperor named Yaotang-shi. was renowned for his mustachios and his beard.
One day when he was preening his luxuriant beard, a messenger came from Japan.
Begging him to hear of the Exceptional Long Bearded Goat Clan.
Incensed, Yaotang-shi stamped and yelled for the Goat clan to appear.
In preparation Yaotang-shi groomed his moustache and beard into a maze of shiny ringlets.
Next he tried quadrilateral spikes with cherry blossoms divine.
The regal goat appeared at court, with a curled bouffant of impressive size.
His herd appeared behind him, holding suitcases packed with grooming accessories.
The emperor Yaotang-shi blushed; how could he be seen in his morning gown?
But still he keenly said, ‘Oh! Is that the latest style in Japan?’
‘Oh yes,’ replied the goat, ‘I like yours too, So … original!’
The emperor Yaotang-shi looked down at his simple beard and drooping moustache,
Saying, ‘why thank you sir…Would you care for a cumquat?’
‘Yes please’ replied the goat, swallowing it whole.
Would you care for some of my Japanese sushi? I made it my self.’
Soon it was time for the goat to leave and they both wept until their beards were soggy.
COMPETITION NO. 25: A TALE OF THREE CHINESE CHARACTERS STORY COMPETITION!
At last I’m done! And what a TERRIBLE time I had judging this competition –because your stories were all so good!
Your stories took me on the most exciting journeys through China, from the Forbidden City in Beijing to the Great Wall of China to the Silk Road to Dunhuang – and beyond to Mongolia, India and even Australia! I met famous historical characters such as the mighty Emperor Qin Shi Huang and the great maritime explorer Zheng He, as well as magical beings like witches, pirates, dragons, fairies and ghosts. There were princesses of every description, from kind and clever to greedy and cruel; from cheeky to moody to ugly to beautiful. Some were artists, others were scientists; there was even a princess rabbit! Your talking frogs were all wonderful characters: some wise and kind, others greedy and ambitious; some royal, some cursed, and all of them quite magical. Then there were the rams, which were usually clever and sensible and very wise, but on occasion very silly and sometimes even evil! As you can imagine, I had a lot of fun reading about them all!
This time, there were 36 entries from 16 different schools in 6 different cities in 4 different countries – an impressive number given that many schools have been on summer holiday during most of the writing period. The entries came from: Hong Kong SAR China (Chinese International School, German Swiss International School, Kowloon Junior School, Shatin Junior School); Melbourne, Australia (Loreto Mandeville Girls School); Seattle, USA (Hamilton International School); Shanghai, China (Shanghai United International School Hongqiao, Wellington College International School); Singapore (Avondale Grammar, Canadian International School Lakeside Campus, Stamford American International School, United World College Dover); and Sydney, Australia (Arden Anglican School, Rose Bay Public School, Turramurra Public School, one homeschool).
The standard was very high indeed, so that picking the finalists came down to a question of the finest details, including grammar and punctuation. Remember I was looking for:
- All the required ingredients (the ram, the Chinese Empress or Princess, the talking frog, the storm and the colour vermilion)
- A Chinese setting for at least part of the story
- A title
- The correct use of at least 3 of my Wicked Words
- No more than 1000 words long
And here’s what I was especially looking for to decide the winners:
- Original ideas
- Fabulous vocabulary
- Terrific style including excellent grammar
- Accurate spelling
- Proper punctuation
- Detailed descriptions of characters
- Detailed description of setting including season and weather
- An attention-grabbing start
- A great problem or challenge
- Interesting story development with some complexity
- A convincing climax or cliff-hanger
- A satisfying ending
- A good structure to the story overall (so the action in your story looked a bit like a Story Mountain)
- And that hard-to-define “X-factor”, which made the story memorable.
If you’re not a finalist this time, a great way to improve your writing is to re-read your story and see how it measures up to the list above J – this works even better if you do it with a trusted friend or teacher, or with mum or dad. And next time you enter, make sure your story ticks all those boxes!
A big tip to all you writers out there: characters and setting are VERY important! The more you tell me about a character – what they look like, what sort of person or animal they are inside – as well as the place where the story takes place – what it looks like, what season it is, what the weather is doing and so on – the more marks you’ll get!
Here are the top six entries in each Category – I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did! The first place-winners in each category will also receive a free signed copy of one of my books!
YEARS 1 TO 3 CATEGORY
In this section there were a fabulous 14 entries from schools in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney! I was so impressed with the overall quality of writing from such young students – and very excited to think that their journey as writers is only just starting out!
Congratulations to Trevor Yung of Kowloon Junior School in Hong Kong; Nicolette Ng of SUIS Shanghai and Emma Bower, Ryan Larkin, Lachlan Hong, Rachel Grant and Zachariah Clutterham of Turramurra Public School in Sydney for your wonderful entries. While you didn’t win a place this time, your stories were terrific! Do make sure you keep entering my competitions in the future, and I’ll look forward to seeing your writing get better and better!
FIRST PLACE: Emily Davis, Year 2, Arden Anglican School, Beecroft, New South Wales, 8 years old
Congratulations to competition newcomer Emily on winning First Place in this section, with her richly imaginative story about a village girl from Dunhuang on the Silk Road, who saves her city and its famous silk by finding the last mulberry seed. I was very impressed by Emily’s knowledge of China and silkworm cultivation, which indicated some serious research, and I thought her story idea was very original, with a neat twist at the end. Emily also managed to weave six of my Wicked Words into her story, alongside some impressive vocabulary and turns of speech. A superb job Emily; I hope to see much more of your writing in future.
The Silk Princess
This story starts when I was just known as Ling, before I became grand and important. At a time when my hair was long and black I lived with my family in Dunhuang, a city on the edge of the Gobi desert. Dunhuang is famous for the quality of its silk and the luscious mulberry trees which grow around Blue Crescent Lake. The Silk Road runs to Dunhuang bringing many traders exchanging sumptuous goods for our silk.
My job was looking after the rams and ewes; I knew nothing of silk. My mother and father worked for the Emperor, planting and caring for the mulberry trees. They were not rich but their jobs were important. Without this care the silkworms would have no leaves to eat and the city would have no silk.
One day while attending to the rams in the field I became aware that the wind had picked up. It started to strengthen, a loud whistling through the sand dunes. Looking up at the orange tinged sky, I noticed the rams running and wondered why. My eyes began to sting and water. SAND STORM!! A huge wave of sand came hurtling towards me as I ran towards the house. The sand whipped my legs making them sting. I heard a trumpet call in the far distance followed by the faint voice of the Emperor’s squire ordering us to shelter in the palace grounds. My family was ahead. Reaching my little sister I picked her up, holding her against my chest protecting her face from the sand.
We got to the palace gates and hid behind the huge stone walls. Choking back tears we huddled together hoping that the wall would not collapse. The sand storm hit, the walls shook with its power. My nose and mouth filled with dry sand, I felt like I was suffocating. The sky continued to darken. My thoughts turned to the nightlight that my mother always dimmed.
Finally it was over; the sky began to lighten. I could see the shadowy outline of the palace grounds. Everything was covered in layers and layers of sand. My family and I dragged ourselves out of the palace grounds. Before us lay the remains of our house. Nothing left, only ineffable despair.
My mother told me to search for the rams and ewes and call them by name. I went to look in the fields near the mulberry trees. The mulberry trees that once were so bright and beautiful lay bare, pitiful skeletons. The whole plantation was totally destroyed. Digging my hands around the base of a tree I found a few precious silkworms still clinging to a buried leaf. Poor little silkworms, how long would they last without the mulberry trees? No more cocoons would be made and so no more silk. Without the silk no more trade. It would result in pandemonium. Dunhuang would fall.
Just then I heard a groaning croaking noise. A small green frog lay on its side, a large lump in its stomach.
“Help me! Help me!” said the frog
Speechless, I looked closely at this old, plain frog. Did he really speak? The frog opened his slimy mouth and there was something there at the back of his throat. Trying not to gag I gently reached inside his gooey mouth and retrieved… the LAST MULBERRY SEED IN THE LAND!
“ You are welcome to it” croaked the frog
“ It gave me only pain, may it give you only happiness.”
Racing towards the palace gate with the mulberry seed clutched tightly in my hand, I felt exuberant. I imagined great cheers of joy at my return. But all that met my eyes was despair, horrible despair. As I approached the Emperor, he bowed his head.
“ What is it girl?” he said, sounding tired
“Emperor, I have found the last mulberry seed!” I said ecstatically.
“ Really!” yelled the Emperor. “May the Gods bless you!”
Soon the precious mulberry seed was planted and taken care of by my family and the other mulberry growers. The seed took and grew into a healthy seedling. Even though I knew that it was being looked after by experts, I still came tip-toeing in every morning to check the tree was safe. The silk worms had also survived, kept alive by the small number of leaves that we had. But it was many years before silk could be made again.
One night, I was walking up to my bedroom after visiting the tree when I heard a voice say, “So you’re the girl who brought us hope, who saved our population”.
There stood a handsome young man with a resplendent gold crown on his head. Gazing into his sparkling eyes, I fell… in love!
The tree and our love grew and grew. On a wondrous day I was dressed in a fine, vermillion silk gown. Perfect as red is the colour of hope and joy. In that moment I changed from a village shepherd girl into a Grand Royal Princess. No longer Ling, but the Silk Princess.
SECOND PLACE: Joel Allen, Year 3, Rose Bay Public School, Sydney, 8 years old
I absolutely loved Joel’s clever and highly entertaining story about a ram with super powers, an evil overlord frog and a famous princess scientist-inventor! It was very well written, with fluent expression and excellent grammar. It was fast-paced and funny, and the ending made me chuckle out loud! I especially loved Joel’s fabulous vocabulary, which was quite outstanding for an 8 year old. Well done Joel – your second place is richly deserved!
The Epic Tale of Ruben Ram
“That’s odd”, thought Reuben Ram, “I thought Princess Tabatha’s science laboratory had the best security in the world”. Reuben was reading a newspaper article about the Princess’s abduction from her lab. He was reading the article through his apartment wall and over his neighbour’s shoulder using his x-ray vision.
This was Reuben’s preferred method of reading the paper. He didn’t like to go out much for fear of his secret identity being discovered. You see, even though Reuben looked like any other ram on the outside, he was really quite different on the inside. With his x-ray vision, hyper speed, frost breath, mega strength, the ability to fly and of course his famous super baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa which was known to blast his enemies into oblivion, Reuben was a super ram! He even had a resplendent, vermillion cape to prove it.
When he was a little lamb, his mum had made him promise that all the special things that he could do would only be used secretly to help others. Reuben was torn. In order to keep his identity secret, he tried to keep the special work that he did out of the public eye, preferring to help ordinary people who faced trouble in their everyday lives.
Princess Tabatha definitely didn’t fit that description. She was one of the most illustrious scientists in China. She was famous for her state-of-the-art science laboratory and inventing the first biological teleporter. She was tiny with long, brown hair and big glasses and although she wasn’t particularly outgoing, her magnanimous nature meant she was always respectful and kind of those around her, despite her amazing intellect.
So it was particularly distressing to read that the Princess had been kidnapped by none other than evil overlord Timmy the Talking Frog. Somehow Timmy had broken into the Princess’s laboratory and grabbed her along with her teleporter’s blueprints. She had gone missed two days ago now and no one had any idea where Timmy had taken her. With the blueprints and Tabatha’s brilliant mind, two days was long enough for Timmy to recreate parts of the teleporter and use it for his evil ambition to rule the world. This was getting serious.
“I’ll just have to risk being discovered”, said Reuben as he leapt into the sky.
Reuben was flying at super speed using his x-ray vision to track down Timmy’s evil lair. “I finally found it,” he said to himself. He used his super baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa to blast his way down to the base.
When the dust had settled, he saw Princess Tabatha locked up behind bars. And they weren’t any old bars, they were electrified bars; if you touched them, they would zap you to smithereens. On the far side of the room, Timmy was tinkering away on a complicated looking machine. That must be the teleporter, thought Reuben, who knows what kind of havoc Timmy will wreck once he has finished building it.
“Stand down Timmy!” yelled Reuben. He ran towards the control panel for the bars, ripped open the cover and slammed the button to turn them off. Princess Tabatha was free! She ran for safety. Before Reuben could react, Timmy activated the special machine and Reuben suddenly found himself in the middle of a terrible sand storm in a desert.
“Oh no!” thought Reuben, “Timmy’s teleporter must already be functional!”
It was impossible to see far through the howling sand gusts and it was incredibly hot. Reuben however, was a super ram, so could put up with a bit of heat every now and then. He leapt high into the air above the storm. Reuben realised that he hadn’t been teleported far. He could see Timmy’s lair only a few kilometres away. Timmy must still need to perfect his machine, I had better get back to stop him and to help Princess Tabatha, thought Reuben.
Timmy had locked up the Princess again and was pressing her for the last bits of information he needed to complete his teleporter. Tabatha was bravely resisting giving him any information.
Reuben blasted back into the base and turned off Tabatha’s bars again. Tabatha took refuge while Timmy and Reuben faced off.
Timmy, who was armed with two fire rays, fired several shots in rapid succession towards Reuben who managed to dodge the rays. Reuben in turn, used his frost breath to fire at Timmy. But Timmy was too quick and always managed to jump out of the way… he was a frog after all.
Meanwhile, Princess Tabatha had crept around the back of the room to Timmy’s teleporter and she was hard at work rearranging some of the wires and adjusting the nobs.
Timmy leaped high over Reuben’s head and landed near the teleporter. He noticed what Tabatha was doing; she was fixing the machine! Before he could leap for her, one of Reuben’s frost breaths finally hit its mark and Timmy’s legs were frozen solid. Before he could break free, Tabatha slammed one of the buttons and Timmy disappeared before their eyes.
“Where did you send him?” asked Reuben.
“Let’s just say he won’t be bothering us again,” said Tabatha with a knowing smile. “Thank you for coming to help me”, she said, “I’ll make sure you are rewarded and that everyone knows how brave you have been.”
“Please don’t tell anyone who I am. I don’t want my enemies to know my identity”, said Reuben.
“I understand”, said Tabatha, “I promise to keep your secret. Perhaps instead you can come and work in my lab.”
“I’d love that”, said Reuben, “now let’s get you home.” Reuben carefully picked up the Princess and shot up into the sky to take her back to her Chinese kingdom.
As Timmy got the feeling back in his legs he slowly looked up. It seemed as though he had landed in the kitchen of a fancy restaurant. When he turned around, his gaze was met by several French chefs who were slowly licking their lips…
THIRD PLACE: Ashling Walshe, Grade 3, Shanghai United International School, 9 years old
Readers will recall Ashling’s third place win in the Ode to My Favourite Tree competition late last year. It seems that she’s a great story-teller too! Ashling’s story of an ugly princess with inner beauty, an observant pet ram and a village boy-turned-frog is a tour de force of imaginative story-telling! I love her fantastic choice of words, including a massive 11 Wicked Words, and especially the way the narrator in the tale changes.
Princess Lee Ying:
Long, long ago before your great grandparents were born my father ruled Imperial China. The rest of my illustrious family members were very popular except for me, Lee Ying, the youngest princess. I was very ugly. I had a bulbous wart-covered nose; dull eyes a long pointy chin and long, greasy, lifeless hair.
Nobody liked me but my father loved me dearly. Even the servants were inordinately lackadaisical around me, leaving dull clothes for me to wear instead of my resplendent gowns. Over time I became very shy. So shy that I only felt comfortable around animals. I especially loved my ram. He was the wisest and most sympathetic of my animals. He taught me to be considerate and to have an obliging heart no matter what happened.
Chen Wang the village boy:
My name is Chen Wang and I lived in a small village at the foot of the Himalayas. My family was very poor and my mother was very sick. We didn’t have enough money to buy medicine for my mother. As I was already 15 years old I decided to travel to Beijing to get a job to buy medicine for my mother.
After a long journey I arrived in Beijing at the gates of the Imperial palace and heard the gossip about princess, Lee Ying. I immediately began to hatch an egregious plan to tantalize the princess.
“Father, father, I have heard about a boy in the city named Chen Wang who claims that he can make a beauty potion. Please father, find him and bring him to me.”
The Emperor has called for me and two soldiers arrived to take me to the Imperial palace. When I arrived, the Emperor questioned me for a long time. Finally he asked what I wanted in return for making his daughter beautiful. Although I was terrified, I summoned the courage and asked for five coffers of gold and five bolts of the finest silk to be sent immediately to my family at the foot of the Himalayas. The Emperor agreed.
The Emperor asked what I needed to make the beauty potion. I really had to use my imagination. I asked for vermilion dye, special perfumes, almond oil, carrot cake and cacao milk. I slowly stirred the ingredients into a big cauldron until they came to a bubbling boil. Then I poured the vermilion potion into a glass and asked to be left alone to add the magic ingredient. Actually, there was no magic ingredient.
Finally, the Emperor returned with the princess and her ram. She really was ugly! I asked to be left alone with the Princess, but she insisted on the ram staying with her.
“Drink” I ordered. The princess raised the bubbly vermilion potion to her lips and eagerly poured the contents down her throat. I held my breath. Suddenly, the princess’s face began to change color. Her face was as vermilion as a ruby. A storm exploded in her stomach; thunder and lightning; Bim! Bam! Boom! It was deafening. Her nose began to shrink, her warts started disappearing, her chin shrank, her lips turned a beautiful blood red, her dull eyes sparkled, her greasy hair turned a shiny chestnut color and her skin became as smooth as ivory. Her whole face radiated beauty.
The princess was exuberant. I sighed a colossal sigh of relief. She rushed out of the room to show the emperor and her subjects her beauty. While the princess was busy displaying her newfound beauty, I was busy getting ready to sneak out of the palace.
The Princess’s Pet Ram:
Although I am just a ram and usually very trusting of people, this boy made me suspicious. I stayed behind and saw him packing hurriedly. “Stop!” I said. “Young wizard do not leave so hastily. We are thankful for what you have done. You must stay and be our guest for a while”
The boy looked scared, so I suspected that he was a fraud. I decided to watch him carefully. As the days passed the princess became more and more popular. Admirers came from far and near to attend sumptuous feasts and ask for her hand in marriage. A month passed. One day while I was sitting next to the princess in the throne room a storm erupted inside her. She started to change, her nose became immense and now her whole face became covered in warts, her eyes were even duller than before and her hair was incredibly greasy.
The Emperor rushed in. There was pandemonium in the throne room. The Emperor ordered his guards to torture and execute the boy. When Lee Ying heard this she ran to the prison. I followed close behind and when she got to the boy’s prison cell she touched the boy’s hand and asked, “Why did you play such an odious trick on me?” The boy went down on his knees and murmured, “I committed this atrocious crime for my mother. I’m terribly sorry.”
After we left Chen Wang I accompanied Lee Ying to see her father. Lee Ying explained the boy’s story to her father and pleaded with the Emperor to exonerate the boy. Although the Emperor was outraged, he didn’t have the heart to refuse his daughter especially after what had happened. Finally, he said, “I will agree not to execute him, but he must be severely punished and you must choose the punishment.”
As Lee Ying didn’t have a frog in her menagerie, she decided to have boy turned into a small green frog. After Chen Wang had been turned into a frog, he said, “Thank you for sparing my life. I will never forget your generosity.”
When people heard how magnanimous Lee Ying had been they adored her. Although she wasn’t beautiful, the people of the kingdom learned that true beauty is hidden deep within.
Lee Ying lived a long happy life and when her family passed away she ruled China wisely until the end of her days; with me, of course, the wisest ram in the world!
FOURTH PLACE: Sonia Mei Husain, Grade 3, United World College-Dover Campus, 8 years old
You may remember Sonia’s prize-winning poem in my Ode to my Favourite Tree competition last year. Here, her tale of a hard-working village girl who makes the Emperor face up to the poverty in her village and who helps to end foot-binding in China is very well written, and I especially appreciated her empathetic and imaginative depiction of Peiyi’s village and the hardships she suffered there. Well done again, Sonia!
Peiyi was one of two daughters born on a stormy night. Her twin Minli was fourteen minutes older and seemed five times more beautiful. If there were space for one more person on the donkey wagon the spot would go to Minli. Peiyi thought that she was never chosen because of her shockingly short height but in reality it was because Minli’s feet were bound in elaborate layers of cloths and she was relearning to walk while Peiyi’s feet were spared because she was needed to help out in the farm. China was growing as fast as weed. People were sprouting everywhere and so many more mouths to feed. Peiyi’s village was suffering from famine. Men were overworked. Women were house bound and Peiyi was the only one left with healthy feet to work. She felt any second she was going to collapse with exhaustion.
One morning that started like any other, Peiyi drew pails of water out of her village’s only well when she spotted a green yellowish frog that stared back at her intently. His beady black eyes blinked as if they were trying to say something. Peiyi reaches out to help the frog climb out of the well. Once safely out, she stroked his burly head and to her surprise the frog spoke in a croaky voice, asking to be taken back to Princess Mei.
“Princess Mei” Peiyi gasped. “That is the Empress’ daughter!” she cried. “The royal kingdom is in the City of Moon Rain”, she cried. “That must be at least 50 miles away!”
But Peiyi agreed to help. The very next morning at the crack of dawn, she left home with a blanket, a china bowl, a pair of chopsticks and some water. The talking frog was tucked safely in her jacket’s pocket.
After five long days of walking, Peiyi shouted ecstatically “I see it, it is right ahead. The gates to the City of Moon rain”.
The talking frog gave a happy croak. He guided her through an underground passage that led to the Princess’s vermillion pagoda. The princess had long curly eyelashes on her big dark eyes on her beautiful pale skin. Her dress was weaved from golden thread and had a design of red Chinese lanterns. Her jade and ruby brooch fitted perfectly on her round bun. She walked gracefully and confidently. Peiyi noticed immediately that her feet were not bound. Princess was delighted to be reunited with her frog and smiled kindly at Peiyi before breaking into a happy child-like dance. The commotion brought the Emperor to the princess’s pagoda. With one look of Peiyi, he was puzzled what a village girl is doing inside the palace’s gate but the princess soon explained.
The emperor thanked Peiyi profusely and offered her a pagoda to stay in and rest. But Peiyi thanked him politely and said that she must return home right away for she hadn’t left a message that she was going to be away. Her parents would be so worried about her absence and who would help distribute food to their people? “Very well”, said the Emperor, I will escort you myself and see the conditions of your little village myself”. He loaded his royal carriage with supplies to last him a fortnight. A grand procession of carriages pulled up behind the royal carriage and off they went the same path Peiyi came only a few days ago.
Upon arriving at the village, the Emperor gasped at ubiquitous display of poverty; the many leaking roofs and broken roads with flooded grounds everywere. He thought out loud “My servants live in better conditions” and at listening to this Peiyi tried to stifle her laugh at the Emperor arrogant outlook, but it was too late. The Emperor heard her full and thoroughly and understood that he had long ignored his people.
“Is this how people in my country live”, he cried.
Peiyi said “It is up to you to help the farmers, who are dying of famine and they can’t grow enough crops because the women are house bound. My father depends on me for everything, because I was the lucky one to not have my feet bound. I don’t know what would become of my family without my help”.
The Emperor understood immediately what had to be done. He called a meeting with his advisors, some who were very intransigent, and after a bit of argument from some of his advisors, he finally concluded that foot binding will become illegal in China.
A few days later, the Emperor fell ill. A messenger ram arrived with a note. The note read: Xie Xie (Thank You) from Peiyi village. He felt great joy to having done something to help and that made him feel much better. For the rest of his ruling, the emperor went on helping different villages.
This is a story about how one girl, born 14 minutes younger, and ignored because of her height went on to save her village.
FIFTH PLACE: Aoife Walshe , Grade 1, Shanghai United International School, 6 years old
Writing talent often runs in families…and Aoife’s wonderful entry, at just six years of age, competing with her older sister Ashling above, proves the point! Her story about an ugly frog with wicked ambitions is remarkably well written for her age, with excellent structure, some great descriptions and a strong ending. An outstanding effort for such a young writer – I can’t wait to see more of her work!
The Ghost Princess and The Wicked Frog
Long, long ago in ancient China an emperor and his daughter, Mei Ling, lived in the Imperial Palace. It was summer in Beijing and the Empress was away at her summer palace.
Mei Ling was a pretty, kindhearted little girl with long, shiny black hair. Her favorite color was vermilion so she always wore beautiful vermilion gowns. Mei Ling’s favorite animal was her ram because she had been born in the year of the ram.
One day a fat, ugly frog came to the Imperial Palace to ask the Emperor for a year for himself; The Year of The Frog. However, when the frog saw how sumptuous the palace was he changed his mind. Now he wanted to be Emperor! The Frog Emperor.
The frog hatched a plan to poison the Emperor. He had been watching the Emperor and discovered that the Emperor loved to eat cookies, so he secretly put a delicious poison cookie on the Emperor’s plate. Just before dinner the princess came into the big dining room and saw the yummy cookie. Mei Ling couldn’t resist it, so she ate the cookie. Mei Ling died and turned into a ghost in the shape of her shadow.
When the Emperor discovered that his daughter had been poisoned there was pandemonium in the Imperial palace. The Emperor demanded to know who had committed this atrocious crime. The wily frog immediately blamed the ram. The Emperor was so furious that he kicked the ram all around the Imperial Palace and finally kicked him over the palace walls.
Mei Ling had been watching all of this and she was so sad to see how her favorite ram was being wrongfully treated.
Because Mei Ling loved the ram so much and because she was born in the year of the ram Mei Ling’s shadow now changed into the shadow of a ram. Mei Ling decided to watch the frog carefully. She started following him around. The next day she saw the frog dressing up as the Emperor and admiring himself in the mirror. Mei Ling now knew what the frog wanted.
The frog tried to kill the Emperor many, many times but each time the ram’s shadow thwarted his plans. Finally, Mei Ling became so mad with the frog that she appeared in front of him as the ram. The frog was terrified and he begged for forgiveness. Mei Ling told him that he was the wickedest animal she had ever met. She butted him so hard that he went up, up into the air and was caught in a storm high up in the sky. The storm carried him for a long time, spinning him around and around until he finally came down with a splash into a slimy pond far, far away from the Imperial palace.
This is why frogs now live in slimy ponds.
SIXTH PLACE: Madeline Painter, Grade 2, Stamford American School, Singapore, 8 years old
Madeline is an up and coming writer to be watched! You may recall her excellent entry in my Shaggy Sheep Poem Competition, where she won an Honourable Mention in a very stiff field of competition. Here, her clever and witty story about a cheeky empress with a wardrobe problem has won her sixth place. Great effort Madeline!
Empress Shigashidoo and her Little Friend
Once upon an unknown galaxy, on a dinky little planet called earth, in a itsy-bitsy country called China, there was a cheeky, illustrious little empress and her name was Shigashidoo.
Her little problem was she awfully liked this sumptuous vermilion dress and wanted to keep it clean, but she loved rolling around in the mud more.
“You got your dress dirty!” was always the instant remark from her mother when she twirled through the door after a walk with that little vermilion dress of hers, which, in case you haven’t noticed, she was very fond of.
Now, little Shigashidoo loved animals, so much her room was filled up with a panda, a pig, a ram, and herself. Now that ram was tantalized about going on walks and rolling in the mud and often went on walks with little Shigashidoo.
One stormy day, coming back from a walk looking as muddy as ever, a little frog stopped her in the middle of the path. That frog wasn’t any frog stopping in the middle of the path. How do we know this? The frog spoke!
This is what he said and I quote, “Hey! Why don’t you come over here? I got somethin’ to show ya’!”
Somehow Shigashidoo, as an animal lover, trusted the frog. Although she knew trouble was brewing, she had a voice in her head saying, “Follow the frog, Shigashidoo, follow the frog,” and somehow, that voice belonged to her mother.
So Shigashidoo followed the frog, just as the voice had instructed. Behind her, her ram that she so dearly loved, trotted along. But what she did not know yet, was where fate was going to take her…
A bit later, the frog stopped short at the entrance to a small, narrow cave. “You want me to go in there?” she asked sounding surprised. “Sure do,” replied the frog. Shigashidoo shrugged and walked in the cave, her faithful ram following.
“First, something for that ram of yours.”
The ram stepped forward seeming like he trusted the frog as much as the little empress did. The frog presented a bubble blower to them.
Shigashidoo accepted the gift reluctantly. “Why do we need bubbles?” Although Shigashidoo thought the frog might be a few generations short of an emperor, (a.k.a. a few bricks short of a pyramid) she did what the frog said and to her amazement, a bubble grew the same size as the ram and went around him.
“Now your turn,” the frog blew a bubble on her and ordered them to roll around in the mud. They did and got no mud on them! This was exactly what little Shigashidoo wanted!
She pranced home with her ram and could hardly wait to tell her mother the good news.
YEARS 4 TO 6 CATEGORY
In this section there were 22 fantastic entries from schools in Hong Kong, Melbourne, Seattle, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney! The writing quality was very high indeed, and the task of choosing six finalists extremely difficult. Congratulations to Marissa Chow of Kowloon Junior School in Hong Kong; Lillian Lee of Hamilton International School in Seattle; Annette Shabana Dass and Ella Kappo of Canadian International School Lakeside in Singapore; Elise Willett of Wellington School in Shanghai; Lara Goodman of Rose Bay Public School and Annabelle Laughton, Lily Barnett, Charlotte Morris, Hannah Field, Taylor Collings and Amelia Hamer of Turramurra Public School in Sydney for your excellent entries – do make sure you enter my next competition!
Special congratulations to Kristina Akova of German Swiss International School in Hong Kong; Eleanor Martin of Loreto Mandeville in Melbourne and Nicholas Ng of Shanghai United International School Hongqiao, whose entries very nearly made the final cut!
And now for the six best entries, with a very Special Mention at the end!
FIRST PLACE: Warren Cheong, Year 5, German Swiss International School Hong Kong, 10 years old
Warren’s story of a moody Empress, a missing magical Ram, a warty frog and a brave nephew is action-packed, with a great story structure, plenty of sophisticated vocabulary (including six Wicked Words) and a fluent writing style. But it was his attention to small descriptive details – which set the action very firmly in China – which helped him to pip the post to secure First Place against some very tough competition. Well done Warren!
The Hunt for the Golden Ram
The palace guard shook with terror as precious plates, antique china and glittering jewels flew past his head and smashed to the floor. The Empress Zili was in an atrocious mood because her precious golden ram, which was studded with vermillion rubies, had vanished. The magical ram was the source of her omnipotence as it could grant endless wishes and immortality to whoever held it.
“Get me my golden ram! Heads will fly if nobody finds it!” the empress shrieked as her cruel eyes narrowed. “Whichever one of you flea-brained imbeciles retrieves it will be granted one wish. I need my ram back now!” she roared as her resplendent robes rustled with rage.
Hearing pandemonium echoing through the palace’s corridors, Yong Gan, Empress Zili’s nephew, raced to the scene of the crime.
“What’s happening, Aunt?” Yong Gan panted.
“My golden ram is missing. China will slip from my grasp without it,” the empress despaired.
“Don’t worry. I will take on your gargantuan challenge and get it back for you, even if it costs me my life,” Yong Gan assured her.
Yong Gan noticed that there was a hole in the safe where Empress Zili kept her treasures. He looked into the hole and spotted a dark, twisting tunnel that the thieves had hollowed out to get into the royal palace. In a flash, Yong Gan slipped into the hole to follow the criminals and retrieve the ram.
He reappeared several days later dirty and exhausted. To his surprise, he saw the Great Wall of China looming above him. The country he was in did not look like China though: there were no guards and no merchants travelling the Silk Road. Yong Gan sat down in the dust and despaired. How would he get his aunt’s golden ram back when he was in such unfamiliar territory?
Just as Yong Gan was about to give up, he heard someone croaking in Chinese. Puzzled, and thinking that perhaps the hot sun had gone to his head, he looked down and spotted a warty, brown frog with wise, bulging eyes. The frog introduced himself politely, not giving Yong Gan time to think about how strange it was to find himself talking to an amphibian.
“Good afternoon, Your Highness,” the frog croaked. “I can tell you are from the Forbidden City by your splendid clothes and the way you have styled your hair. I am Rui Zhi, former advisor to Empress Zili. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Rui Zhi! I cannot believe my eyes. It’s been years!”
“Are you Yong Gan all grown-up? Can it be true?”
“Yes, Rui Zhi, it is me. What happened to you?”
“I was exiled by your aunt all those years ago because she caught me trying to make a wish on her magical golden ram,” Rui Zhi explained. “I could see how unhappy China was, and how greedy your aunt was becoming. It was my greatest wish to give happiness back to the Chinese people. I was using the ram to wish for every citizen to make a wish of their own. Your aunt flew into a fury, banished me to Mongolia and turned me into a frog.”
“Your misfortune might be fortunate for me,” Yong Gan stated. I am on a mission to find the ram, which has been stolen by Mongolia’s emperor. He knows how weak China is and wants to seize power for himself. Can you be my guide? If we succeed, I know my aunt will exonerate you.”
“Let me show you the way!” Rui Zhi agreed excitedly. “I know this country inside out after thirty years in exile here.
The pair travelled through the hot, dusty Mongolian plains for hours, stopping briefly for food and water. Suddenly a castle appeared on the horizon, armed with terrifying looking weapons and defended by enormous walls lined with soldiers.
Before the travellers had time to reach the city walls the Mongolian emperor had used the ram to conjure up a malevolent monsoon that would keep them away. Winds as powerful as an army whistled and whooshed past them. Rain pounded the ground as loudly as a cavalry of horses. The ground flooded and fog shrouded them. The water was so deep that Yong Gan could not wade through it, so the frog boldly decided to swim to the castle and rescue the golden ram.
Rui Zhi swam silently towards the castle entrance. The sky was dark enough that the Mongolian soldiers did not notice him breaking through their fortifications. Rui Zhi worked his way stealthily through the castle and found the golden ram. He moved swiftly and made it out of the palace without being noticed.
Just as Rui Zhi and Yong Gan were about to escape, the Emperor of Mongolia stopped the storm from raging, and the pair became visible as they dashed to the Great Wall. Soldiers started shooting arrows at them, but they were no match for courageous Yong Gan and he easily defeated them all before escaping back through the tunnel into China.
When they got back to the empty safe in the Forbidden City they ran outside to where Empress Zili was sitting angrily on her throne.
“We found the golden ram, aunt!” Yong Gan cheered.
“My royal advisor, is that you?” Empress Zili asked the frog.
“Yes, I am Rui Zhi,” the frog informed her.
“You shall be exonerated and turned back into a man,” Zili exclaimed. “I am over-the-moon that you helped to find my treasured ram.”
The empress muttered some magic words to the golden ram and the talking frog disappeared, in his place stood a wizened man.
“As for you, Nephew, you shall be granted a wish,” the empress said. Yong Gan wished for the whole of China to be joyful.
From that day on China was peaceful and her people had easy lives thanks to the bravery and wisdom of Yong Gan and Rui Zhi.
SECOND PLACE: Jemma Julian, Grade 5, homeschooled in Sydney, 10 years old
Readers will remember that Jemma has placed in the last two previous competitions with her original and very sophisticated style. This time she has given Warren a very close run with her whimsical story of a magic paintbrush, an artist princess, and two very brave animal friends. Jemma’s vocabulary is simply outstanding, on top of which she managed to correctly use 11 of my Wicked Words in her story! She even had me reaching for the dictionary with that extraordinary word “thaumaturgic”! I’m not going to tell you what it means – you’ll have to look it up for yourselves! Fantastic job Jemma – keep up the good work!
The Magic Paintbrush.
The ram was chewing grass as he surveyed the pond below him. A beautiful cream- white frog with vermillion eyes stared out at him from between green reeds. How jealous the ram was of the frog’s skin. He was only dark sienna, the colour of seaweed. The ram didn’t know what seaweed looked like, as he had only ever been in this one grassy landscape – in the painting that Princess Shuang was now painting.
‘Oh, poor ram,’ said Princess Shuang. ‘He has such a dreary coat. I’ll brighten him up.’ She mixed some colours on her palette and painted the ram’s legs a sumptuous purple and gave him an illustrious black goatee.
The ram felt instantly better. He now had a resplendent coat to rival the frog, but there was something missing… something that could bring him to life. Yes! It came from Princess Shuang small hands holding her tattered bamboo brush as she painted down his back and tummy, bringing the gift of life with each stroke.
The ram suddenly found himself next to Princess Shuang and gave an exuberant kick of his heels while she brushed life into the frog. Princess Shuang got a terrible surprise and promptly burst into tears: her painting had come to life! The frog jumped about wildly.
“I am sorry for Come- quit’s rude behaviour,” said the ram fastidiously. “He has no manners.”
“How dare you!” croaked the frog, wishing to elucidate. “My name is Cumquat, your Majesty”, he said.
“Your majesty”, cried the ram, bowing down on one foreleg. “My name is Mellow. Where are we and what is your name?”
Princess Shuang, who was in shock, spent several minutes opening and shutting her mouth. “My n-name is P-p-princess Sh-shuang. We are in the P-p-palace in the F-f-forbidden C-city of B-b-Beijing. How did you come out of my p-p-painting?” she blurted.
“It was the thaumaturgic brush Princess Shuang,” said Mellow, bowing again.
“Grandma’s old brush?” She picked it up, wondering at her serendipitous discovery.
“Yes your Highness”, answered Mellow and Cumquat.
“Oh, please don’t call me that!” Princess Shuang said. Mellow and Cumquat looked at her in a puzzled way. “I just hate it. Ever since Ma and Da died, I’ve been told I have to be queen and now everyone calls me that. They used to call me Sweet Peach, but they don’t even call me Shuang anymore.”
“Your parents are dead?” said Mellow, “We are so sorry to hear this.”
“Yes, about a year ago they were on holiday for two weeks in Tianjing city. There was a rockslide and…” Princess Shuang began to cry again.
“You poor girl,” said Mellow, with lugubrious respect.
But then Princess Shuang said something which changed their lives forever. ‘Will you be my friends?’
Three months later, their friendship was still happy and strong. Unfortunately, Mellow and Cumquat’s paint was flaking off with every game they played. Soon they would become only paint-dust and he and Cumquat were worried. Between them they stole the magic brush from Shuang while she slept. They painted themselves back into their canvas.
Shuang woke up. She’d been having the most horrible dream about Mellow and Cumquat becoming two dimensional again. But it was only a dream, thank goodness.
“Mellow! Cumquat!” cried Shuang repeatedly – silence.
Shuang felt afraid. She looked but could not find her special brush. She looked at the painting. Two animals on the canvas- a cream coloured frog and a brown ram with purple legs looked out at her.
“No!!!” choked Shuang. “It can’t be true!!”
“I’m sorry,” thought Mellow.
“We were turning to dust Shuang,” thought Cumquat.
At that very moment Shuang’s heart turned to ice. Choosing a new canvas Shuang began to paint. Mixing a dark sumptuous blue with grey, black, white and a little vermillion, Shuang painted a hurricane monsoon. Fiery blues mixed with vermillion makes the most hazardous, desolate storm. The storm swelled and roared from her canvas. Lightning flashed, hail dropped, thunder rolled, and the wind beat a heavy, fast rhythm against Shuang’s Palace.
“There, I’ve painted the perfect storm,” cried Shuang. “I hate you Mellow, you deserted me, you pusillanimous ram and Cumquat, you despicable frog!”
The storm rose to a crescendo. A bolt of lightning threw itself down from the heavens, straight into Shuang’s small body.
“Cumquat, something’s not right.” Said Mellow, peering out from the wet canvas.
“I know Mellow. Something terrible is happening to Shuang!” croaked Cumquat.
“We must help her!” Cried Mellow.
“The sacrificial way is the only way we can help Shuang.”
“But we will die! Turn to dust!” Cumquat yelped.
“She’s our friend, and she’d do the same for us, I know it.”
“ Quickly Cumquat! Hold me tightly and say what I say.”
“For a friend, we exchange our lives.
For a friend, each of us dies.
For a friend, who needs us,
We will turn to dust.”
Rainbow colours swirled around Cumquat and Mellow.
“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” they cried in unison. Suddenly they were in Shuang’s bedroom- but where was Shuang?
“Shuang! There she is!” Mellow cried. Under a pile of hailstones was Shuang, ice cold and deathly pale. Cumquat put his head on her chest. The faintest, tiniest beat.
“She’s alive, just.” Said Cumquat gravely.
“M-Mellow? Cumquat?” whispered Shuang. “Will die because of me? I didn’t know, I was so happy to have some friends. I didn’t see that you’d turn into… dust.” Her voice faded away and Mellow and Cumquat’s paint flaked off, the beginning of their sacrificial ending.
Mellow and Cumquat started to disappear. Their bodies slowly disintegrated and their paint blowing away.
“Don’t go Mellow and Cumquat!” cried Shuang. “Please, don’t leave me, I will die instead!”
But all she could hear from the outlines of Mellow and Cumquat was Mellow saying:
“I told you that she would die for us Cumquat, and maybe she will, in another time, in another life. We are all bonded… for eternity.”
THIRD PLACE: Aria Fafat, Grade 5, Canadian International School, Lakeside Campus, Singapore, 9 years old
Aria’s story of tragedy, love and sacrifice, including a fearsome dragon, is truly moving – and I loved her fabulous writing style, especially her description of the childhood years of Meili and Honggan: “The clearings in the forest were their playgrounds, the animals their uncommon friends, the cave their cradling home” – now that’s what I call great writing! Aria’s third place is well-deserved – and I very much look forward to seeing her entry in my next competition!
The raging fire spread across the village, and crept up to the palace, where the Great Empress of China had just delivered a baby girl. The Emperor took the baby and fled towards the forest. He gave the baby to his friend, the ram, to carry her to safety while he stood guard to stop any would-be attacker. The village, meanwhile, was in complete pandemonium, people running about in chaos. One village woman also fled with her baby boy to the forest, and left him in a stone cave. She ran back to help salvage what was left of the village, hoping that the fire would not reach her little one.
The golden ram took the baby princess to his cave in the meadow – a cave which he shared with his friend, the frog. They gave the baby girl some water and tried to comfort her. Soon, the girl fell asleep, but the sounds of crying continued. The frog hopped deeper in the cave and saw another baby, swaddled in blankets.
“Jinse, look!” The frog called out to the ram. The ram came over and looked at the wailing baby. He had rough, black hair and a thin, unhealthy body; caked with dirt and grime. Jinse took the baby boy and kept him with the sleeping child. In comfort at the sight of another baby, his crying stopped. A gentle bond had been forged.
Alas! The fire could not be tamed. It destroyed all in its path – palace and village alike, even as the lush greenery of the forest protected all within. By the time morning arrived, all else had been lost…
Over the next few years, the children grew up as brother and sister. The clearings in the forest were their playgrounds, the animals their uncommon friends, the cave their cradling home. The frog had named the girl “Meili” and the boy, “Yonggan”. Meili and Yonggan were inseparable, whether they were sprinting through the foliage or lazing around by the stream in warm sunshine. In each other’s company they found contentment of life.
On that fateful day, while Meili was out collecting berries and nuts as a birthday treat for Yonggan, she heard the distant sound of thunder. Before long, the clouds had gathered in angry force. Hard rain started pouring down in gushing rivers and icy winds whipped her hair. Mist swirled around the clouds and mud splashed across her grass dress. While trying to get home, Meili tripped over a rock and blood oozed out from her cheek. She moaned in pain and scrambled around to find a place to hold. Her legs and arms were full of scratches and her feet were throbbing.
Back in the cave, everyone was waiting for Meili.
“Jinse, Yonggan lets go search for Meili. I’m worried that this ferocious storm has done something to our little princess” said the frog anxiously.
Yonggan comforted him, “Frog, do not worry. Meili will return. She will find her way back.” So they waited for what seemed like eternity.
Meili had lost her basket of nuts and berries. She limped along the muddy field and found herself in front of a cave. She called out weakly, “Yonggan ? Jinse? Frog?” No one answered. She went in. And gasped! A vermillion glow danced on the walls, and the carcasses of humans and animals were all over the floor. Meili looked around her in scared wonder.
Suddenly a voice boomed,” Who dares disturb the great dragon, Zhulong?” Meili jumped, but didn’t answer.
That was when the fireballs came.
“Meili? Meili where are you?” Yonggan and the frog had gone to search for Meili, while Jinse stayed home, in case Meili came back. As they crossed the stream, the frog noticed a trail of blood, scraping the damp grass. They hurried along the trail till Zhulong’s cave in front of them.
“Yonggan. This is cave of the dragon. No one comes out alive.” The frog warned.
Meili dodged gargantuan fireball after fireball. Zhulong had still not shown himself, but the fire seemed to have come from the roof of the cave. “Stop! Please stop Zhulong!” she pleaded. Hearing her voice, he sprung out of his hiding place and roared,” No one gets out of here alive! You will die.” With his red scales shimmering, he breathed another fireball that grazed Meili’s leg. She screamed with pain.
Her shrill cry reached Yonggan and the frog. Yonggan ran to the cave. Inside, Meili was hurt and Zhulong was about to pounce. Yonggan shouted, “Zhulong! Don’t waste your fire! Come and battle me by hand.” Zhulong snarled and they grappled for a while. Then, the frog stopped Yonggan from tearing out Zhulong’s scales.
“Yonggan! If you kill this beast, the world will be in darkness forever!” Yonggan scrambled back. “Zhulong, please, let us go!” Zhulong laughed atrociously. “Yonggan, I can’t do that! I need food!”
Meili painfully got to her feet. She put her hands up and said,” Oh, Zhulong. If you are so hungry, please take me and spare Yonggan and Frog. I am hurt and useless, now. Eat me.”
As Zhulong got ready to kill her, the frog turned to Meili.” Your father tried to save you from fire. But your destiny is embedded in you. You did well my child. You did well.”
Zhulong let go of the fireball, and Meili was blown backwards. Yonggan, unable to bear the pain of being without Meili, ran at the dragon. Zhulong let out another fireball and Yonggan too, was blown away. Then it went dark.
“Meili?” Yonggan was ablaze, but he couldn’t feel anything. Meili was right next to him, on fire. They were spirits. Fire spirits. And as the two floated together, Meili smiled at Yonggan. “Yes?” “Nothing” Yonggan held her hand and together they watched the fiery sun set.
Two different lives, entwined as one, and even in death inseparable. That is the true meaning of love.
FOURTH PLACE: Dominic Jun Cheng, Year 5, Chinese International School, Hong Kong, 9 years old
I loved Dominic’s tale of a magician ram, a frog princess, a neon dragon and a wicked witch! It is entertainment from start to finish, with some great vocabulary and a fun ending. A very impressive effort from one of the youngest contestants in this category.
The Magical Ram and the Frog Princess
The vermilion ram was bored. Yang had been living on an ancient and very soporific farm outside Beijing for his entire life. He was intelligent and kind, but fed up. More than anything he longed for adventure and to discover the world.
On a day that Yang thought could not get any more boring, his adventure finally began. As he was chewing on some juicy green grass a frog hopped over and, to his surprise, started talking.
“I haven’t seen the color vermilion since I left the imperial palace,” the frog croaked.
“Well I am not an ordinary ram,” Yang replied. “I am a magical ram with transfiguration powers.”
“Transfiguration powers? May you please turn me back into the princess that I really am?” asked the frog.
“Not unless you help me escape from this dirty, noisy, stinking farm,” Yang said. “Even though I am magical I will always be vermilion. Everyone would notice me if I escaped, I can’t do it alone.”
“I will help you,” agreed the frog princess as she hopped over the farm’s ramshackle fence to open the gate.
The ram and the frog had not gone very far when a huge and terrifying storm blew up. Thunder clapped and lightning crashed so they sprinted to a cave to shelter. They heard a massive boom and thought cave was going to explode and bury them alive. They could not believe their eyes when a gigantic neon dragon with lightning flashes on his back appeared instead.
“What are you doing in my cave?” the dragon roared.
“We are on a quest to turn this ordinary looking frog back into an imperial princess,” Yang stammered.
“A real princess?” the dragon asked, “I have always wanted to help a real princess.”
“It is indubitable,” Yang told him. “I have transfiguration powers and can change her back into a princess here if you will let me.”
“Be my guest,” the dragon said happily.
Yang lifted his hooves to transfigure the frog back into an imperial princess. Magic flashed, but nothing happened.
“Why haven’t your powers worked?” roared the dragon angrily.
“Oh, now I remember,” the frog whispered. “Only the witch can change me, it was her who cast the spell.”
“Treacherous villain! What an egregious crime,” the dragon boomed. “What is this witch called?”
“Witch Wupo,” the frog croaked.
“I know that witch. She used to be an enemy of mine, I will be very happy to kill her for you,” offered the dragon. “She lives on the planet Mootanious, twenty light years from China. I can travel at one light year per minute, so let’s go!”
Zoom, zoom, zoom! The frog and the ram felt like their bodies were left behind in China as they rocketed towards Mootanious. They could only see blackness and hear the whooshing of the dragon’s wings. All of a sudden there was a choke and they went flying off the dragon’s back and landed on the planet’s cushioned surface.
“Don’t worry if your feet sink down,” the dragon told them. “This planet is made from clouds.”
“It seems lifeless here. The witch must be hiding from us,” Yang said. “Let’s go and find her.”
The dragon, the ram and the frog princess walked until they became so exhausted that they fell asleep in a heap on the marshmallow-y ground.
In the morning, they spotted a pitch black dot dashing north. They realized it must be Wupo so they jumped back onto the dragon’s back and flew after her. As they got closer they saw that the witch was riding on her broomstick towards her gingerbread house. Wupo spotted the friends and turned her broomstick in the opposite direction. The dragon wanted to follow her, but the ram said, “Stop! I will transfigure myself into whatever potion Wupo is making in her cauldron. We will catch her, I promise!”
The dragon stopped at the witch’s front door and breathed out a lightning bolt to destroy it. The ram tiptoed in, looking around carefully for traps. He had to destroy Wupo’s bubbling potion so that she had no power left. He tipped it into the fire, which then turned invisible. It was very powerful stuff. In its place, he transfigured himself into a shimmering vermilion-colored potion and slipped into the witch’s cauldron to wait.
Once it was dark again Wupo returned to her gingerbread house. She wanted to finish her potion and was happy the dragon was not there. She was surprised when she spotted that her potion had changed color, but she thought it was because the recipe was so strong. She tried a spoonful. As soon as the liquid touched her lips she turned bright pink. When it was in her mouth she had grown a snout, a curly tail and some wiry ears. When she swallowed the mouthful she was one hundred percent pig and started snuffling around her gingerbread house in panic.
“Ha! We have got you now, Wupo!” the dragon cheered.
The pig snorted back, “I knew that pesky princess would come back to get me. If I promise to be good, will you change me back?”
Before the dragon could answer, sparks began flying. Something incredible was happening to the frog and to the vermilion potion. Poof! The frog became a princess again. She was not a pretty princess that you read about in fairytales but, abracadabra, the potion became a prince with bright vermilion hair and he did not care. He thought she was tantalizing.
The princess and the vermilion prince forced the pig onto the dragon’s back and they all flew back together to China. The left the pig at the dirty, noisy, stinking farm where the farmer was happy to have her instead of a vermilion ram. Then off they went to the imperial palace where they transfigured the dragon into a gargantuan guardsman before they lived happily ever after.
FIFTH PLACE: Isabel Duggan, Grade 5, Loreto Mandeville Hall, Toorak, Melbourne, 11 years old
Congratulations to first-time competition entrant Isabel on this clever twist on the true story of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang and the Great Wall of China, as well as her very original idea of a gang of rams led by the evil Thundertooth! It was good fun to read, and well written too. I look forward to seeing more of Isabel’s work!
The Dominating Horns!
Lu had been walking for hours on end. Her face was wet with tears and her eyes were red with rage. Lu wanted to stop and rest, find some food, or maybe some water. But her anger forced her on. An unwelcome menace had slipped into her life and she was going to stop it, no matter what it took.
Lu’s eyes had been staring at her dirty sneakers the whole trip. They were once pale pink, but the dirt as red as blood, Lu had been rambling in for the whole journey had turned the sneakers a dark and evil vermilion. It was the colour that gave Lu the impression; she was staring into the devils eyes.
But the sound of an unfamiliar voice bought Lu’s eyes back into the world.
“Why are you crying little girl” The voice was concerned yet inquisitive.
Lu looked around, trying to find someone who may have spoken the words, but all she saw was a drooping dove-tree in the distance losing a war against the heat.
Lu looked down. What she saw was not what she expected. Her eyes lay upon a gaunt looking frog. He’s smooth green skin and white chest lacked moistness and even though he was a frog the intelligence his eyes were filled with, only an owl could contain. Lu just stared. The frog was obviously used to this.
“Yes, yes I know, I am talking frog. But the way you are looking at me suggests that I have two heads, which I certainly do not. Now please tell me what caused you to be so upset.”
Even though Lu thought she had swallowed her tongue in shock, she tried her best to explain her story clearly and accurate.
“My Father is the resplendent Qin Shi Huang. He is the first emperor of China, which makes me the illustrious empress. A few days ago, he and his men made the decision to build a huge barrier around china to protect us. He’s calling it the great wall. People say it’s being built to protect us from armed men with horses and weapons, but the reality is much worse. My father tells me of a big and powerful ram named Thundertooth who leads an army of hundreds and maybe thousands of rams called the Dominating Horns. Only yesterday, the day before the building of the wall would begin, during the middle of the night my Father was taken by the Dominating Horns. This morning, everyone was in a state of pandemonium. I got my things and started to look for him. I had no idea where to go, but I needed to find him. My life isn’t complete without him.”
Lu had told her story extremely quickly and only in one breath, which left her gasping for air once she finished.
The Frog waited patiently for Lu to catch her breath before introducing himself. “My name is Lewis, the talking frog.” His said in his posh voice and held out his webbed hand.
Lu looked at the slimy hand and shook her head. “I don’t want to get any disease from your germy hand”. Lu felt bad almost immediately after she said it.
Lewis didn’t seem to mind though. “I know quite a bit about the Dominating Horns, in fact I even know where their evil lair is. But I’ll only share my knowledge with if you pour some of that divine liquid onto my dry skin. I’ll drop dead in this weather without my beautiful silky flesh being moist.” He said motioning to the water bottle Lu held in her frail hand.
She made the deal and soon learned that the Dominating Horns’ base was in the middle of Hallstatt, an abandoned city of China. Lu had never been to this place in China because she never knew it existed. She imagined it, as small and shadowed by an evil presence. Walls that were once red were painted black, and bought bad luck, but when Lu arrived at the town, it was tremendously worse.
Lu felt as though the town itself was sapping her only strength left from the long journey to even get here. It smelt like death and decay lingered in the air she tried terribly hard not to breathe in. The very few buildings this town had, cast shadows that played tricks on Lu’s eyes. A cold breeze blew by carrying disturbing whispers with it. Lu felt an ever-present sense of inescapable dread filling her heart.
And her Father was here.
Lu took a closer look at the town and saw many rams guarding every door. She was going to need a plan to get herself in and her father out. Lu thought and thought, until she remembered her black belt in karate!
All it took was a kick to knock out one of Thundertooth’s rams guarding the door to the prison. Lu took the keys from his belt and entered the dark room. Lu felt as though something evil was waiting around the corner, ready to grab her. But what she saw instead was a room with a single candle lit, in the center of the room. The candle seemed to bring dark much more than light, and Lu didn’t see the point of it.
But her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a very familiar voice.
“Lu? Is that you?”
Lu couldn’t be more relieved.
Lu ran to the cell that her fathers voice came from. She used the keys to unlock the door and hugged her Father!
“What have they done to you?” Said Lu, concerned.
“Oh, nothing they were just going to hold me prisoner so I wouldn’t build the wall. But that explanation can wait. How do we get out of here”?
Lu showed him the way back home and made him a big bowl of chicken and noodle soup before announcing to the whole of China that Qin Shi Huang was home safe and sound.
SIXTH PLACE: Gabriel Ben, Grade 4, Rose Bay Public School, Sydney, 9 years old
Gabriel’s entry made me laugh out loud – especially when I saw how cleverly he had re-interpreted my Tale of Rodney Ram – not to mention the Legend of the Five Rams of Guangzhou about how rice came to China! I thought the story was great – and I especially loved the talking frog with his distinctively Aussie accent! Great work Gabriel!
The Adventure of Rick the Ram
Somewhere near Beijing, tucked away in the great and vast land of China, was a small village ruled by a wealthy empress. The empress had pale skin, was very polite and she normally wore a bright red dress with white lotus patterns and gold stripes running down the front of her dress. The empress lived in a stone castle built by the hands of her great ancestors. The villagers were extremely kind people, who loved their ruler dearly. And in return she gave the villagers a place to spend time in with their families and to live in. So they all had a happy life – whether rich or poor.
The empress and her village made most of their money to build the magnificent statues and buildings in their land by selling wool from the fluffiest sheep in all of China. The empress had a favourite sheep and it was a male ram called Rick. Rick was a grand animal. He had curly horns that were brown and strong and his wool was soft and white. Every day he was sent flowers from his admirers who were the dashing female ewes. Every time he showed them his teeth that shone like stars they all lay back and fainted.
The empress had everything. She had gold, servants, a lovely village; there was nothing else she wanted except one thing. There was an ancient Chinese legend that a wise, 100 year old talking frog that can only be found in a pond near a patch of unknown crop would be brought to a Chinese town by an animal that lives in a royal palace, and the empress wanted that frog as much as anything. So every night, from when the empress was a child, she would look up at the sun setting in the vermillion coloured sky, which would be slowly becoming purple, and wish for the frog to come.
One windy night a huge storm struck the village. Rain and hail flooded the grass, lightning split the sky, thunder rumbled like a giant’s belly and all the houses were nearly swept away – all of the village people were ineffable – they couldn’t describe the storm! At the time, Rick was in the grass battling against the wind to get past, when he suddenly got swept away like a rag doll! He landed headfirst into an atrocious muddy puddle! Luckily, the angry storm had finished before the bright sun came up. Rick had never been so happy to see it! He stood up and slowly took in the view around him.
Then he saw a frog jumping in a pond. “G’day mate!” it said. Rick nearly jumped out of his skin! As Rick studied the frog closer, it jumped onto Rick’s soggy back.
“Fetch summa that rice over there” the frog said as it hopped down from his back and over to some light green grass that had grown crazily making the shape of a bad attempted mohawk. “Bring it back to ya village.”
As Rick bent down and picked up some rice in his mouth the frog hopped onto Ricks muddy but dry back again and together they slowly made their way to the palace.
As Rick walked onto the wet but magnificent marble ground, the empress walked up to Rick and gave him a hug.
“My dear friend, where were you? And what is this strange plant you have in your mouth?” she said.
“It’s a rice crop” the frog said. The empress was so bamboozled that her eyes nearly fell out of her head in shock!
“My god!” Is this really what I think it is?” the empress managed to choke out. “Is this the frog of my dreams?” she gasped.
“Mate, if you’re referrin’ to me, yes.” the frog croaked.
The empress, having recovered from her shock, lifted the frog in amazement.
“Rick, your-your-your wonderful” she stammered quietly.
As Rick turned red in the cheeks and smiled he dropped the rice into some dirt that had been flooded during the dreadful storm. As weeks passed the rice grew taller and taller, and the village was known throughout the world because not only of the wool they had, but Rick’s adventure, the discovery of rice, and the amazing talking frog. By this happening, the village had started the ‘silk road’.
In honour of Rick, the empress had a giant stone statue of him built in the middle of the village. And that is where it still is.
SPECIAL MENTION: Hillary Lo, Grade 6, Shatin Junior School, Hong Kong, 10 years old
A very fond farewell to Hillary Lo, who first started entering my Clever Competitions four years ago, when she was just 7 years old! Hillary has never missed a competition since, and has won a place every time, with her poetry just as good as her prose! Highlights were her First Place in the Grade 4 to 6 Category of the Handsome Horse poetry competition last year, and her Third Place in the Shaggy Sheep Poem competition this year. Hillary has also been an enthusiastic follower of my blog, contributing many comments to its pages. Sadly this competition is the last time we will see Hillary’s special talent, as she is now moving onwards and upwards to high school. Thank you Hillary for your devotion to my Clever Competition and to the cause of great writing, as well as for your fabulous contributions – I hope to see your name up in lights as a famous author one day! Here is Hillary’s last great entry:
The Story of Xin Ya
A young figure of 9 stood by the doorstep, her clothes ragged and torn. With tears trickling down her cheeks, she was solemnly waving to a girl with the same identical face but taller. As footsteps padded down the stairs, revealing a heavily built lady with a belly that looked like an explosive balloon that might burst any time, the puddle widened.The lady was the only one wearing decent clothes, and she snapped at the two sisters while she lay on a sturdy wooden chair, slumped sideways like a sack potato.
Xin Li gave one last goodbye to her departing sister, attacking her damp face with a lace handkerchief. “There, there. See you,” Xin Ya whispered comfortingly to her sister and herself as she wanted to believe that they would. On the matching wooden table, lay catalogues and cute outfits for the new baby. “Real Cuju footballer! Unlike you two dirty faced, lackadaisical girls!” she boasted proudly and turned her back with disgust on them.
The reason why they were so filthy was because all of Xin Ya’s salary provided this disgraceful woman with new clothes and hair accessories, her body dripping with diamonds.
“Bye, Xin Ya! Good luck!” Xin Li tugged at the creaking door, her body crumpling due to her tiredness and sadness.
“Yeah, good riddance!” cackled a very unpleasant voice.
Xin Ya froze, as solid as the ground, when she spotted a bobbing head with streaks of white hair and wrinkles of worry near the market on her way, whom she recognised was her late father’s ailing mother, who was concerned about the two sisters. Xin Ya ducked as she realised how sad she would be if she knew Xin Ya was leaving.
Xin Ya gave a wry smile as she reached the guards at the palace door and the palace towered over her. “Xin Ya. Consort Xu’s maid.” Xin Ya sighed as she went through the same procedure as she did every 2 years. A grim expression plastered across her face as Consort Xu and Consort Wu, with new sumptuous robes, sashayed behind one of the most illustrious people Xin Ya had known during her time in the palace- Empress Yang.
Xin Ya and the guards obediently bobbed a curtsy to each of the women.
“See? As the day of my upgrading ceremony is looming, I wear nicer silk! ”
Consort Xu frowned as Consort Wu boasted.
“Well, my dear sister Empress, she is your new maid. Xin Ya, you should be grateful since the emperor let you become upgraded!”
Empress Yang looked like she was facing dirt. “Get yourself here quick!” Xin Ya felt relieved to have the soft silk for maids rubbing against her shivering body. She playfully stuck two blue lavenders in her new hairstyle and returned to Empress Yang.
“Well, you do look better.” Empress Yang said flatly as she nodded approvingly, trying not to show how impressed she was.
Xin Ya hummed as she watered the flowers by the pond and noticing a lime green frog perched on a lily.
“Good Morning, my pretty little ‘un. What a mellifluous voice you have! I could fall into a dream!” There was a hint of French.
“I, Bergamo, was born in Canada. And during a big storm, when the wind spins rapidly like knifes in a blender, the old frogs leave. Empress Yang uses us orphans to create an anti-aging frog soup. Terrible! Luckily, we escaped at the last minute. Xin Ya, help us stop Empress Yang. Go on, I shall reunite with my family soon!”
Bergamo camouflaged himself in the pond. Xin Ya hurriedly created ripples, feeling around. She shrieked when she found gargantuan frogs who burped but not once that humble talking frog.
A clatter of footsteps slowly became louder, and the Emperor appeared, looking resplendent in his vermillion robes for the morning prayers. A ram was highly neighing and snorting at fearful and nervous eunuchs and maids. “No grass, Stanford!” Stanford neighed in protest.
Xin Ya turned to Stanford. “Calm down, Stanford! Who’s a handsome clever boy?” Stanford nuzzled up to Xin Ya in agreement. Xin Ya stroked his head comfortingly as he nudged her pocket. A piece of paper floated out of Xin Ya’s pocket.
Emperor Tang gasped as he read the contents written by the Empress.
“Emperor Tang, may I ask what you are in such hurry for?”
The Emperor looked stricken. “Xin Ya, Yang’s title shall be removed. I have already chosen the new Empress! In 5 minutes, you have totally captivated me with your kindness, and I believe that you will become a great empress. I totally admire your idiosyncrasies, as well as how you happen to sing and talk to the pond while you’re cleaning!”
Xin Ya’s mouth fell open. “But, Emperor, I am only a maid! Oh, thank you!” Xin Ya kneeled on the ground, amazed.
On the day of this very imperial marriage, it was an utter pandemonium, maids rushing everywhere to dress the perfect duo and the whole city ringing of how the maid became the Empress, a very important ingredient- kindness.
Everyone adored the iridescence of the pearls placed on Empress Xin as the sun created a spotlight for this couple.
A few days later, a storm arrived. Xin Ya thought of Bergamo and bit her lip worriedly as she lit up a candle specially for this honourable frog. She sat silently, and snapped back into her senses when she heard a nervous knock. The new maid walked carefully over to her.
“Good Afternoon, Empress Sin.” Xin Ya clamped her hand over her mouth when she recognised that voice.
“Xin Li!” Xin Ya rushed forward to pull the young girl into a big embrace.
“Xin Ya! I can’t believe it! Mother is fine but she’s devastated because “he” was a girl after all.”
“I’ll look after you, Xin Li, you’ll see.” Xin Ya kept to her promise, as the fluffy white clouds in the sky took the shape of a smile.