Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 3 judged by Michele Powles!

Wow. The tale of Briony and Jeremy’s online zoo visit really got some imagination juice flowing this week. There were close to 250 entries, and every time I thought I’d found the winner, another fantastic story appeared on my screen. To say choosing who to select was as difficult as grabbing a penguin by its shadow is an understatement!

You came up with a HUGE range of possible intruders into the penguin and puffin enclosure. There were a lot of bad-dads, supervillain-mums and dodgy uncles, robots, aliens and deadly ninjas, but there were also spies, teachers and a dastardly famous author, giraffes, gorillas and tigers, an elephant, a rival zoo owner and hypnotised guinea pigs! I also particularly liked Floyd Palmer’s giant evil marshmallow! The police were very busy in the majority of stories.

There was a lot of thought, creativity and skill in every single one of the stories and you all impressed me with your descriptive powers, understanding of metaphor, simile, dialogue and punctuation. Well done. A small note that might be useful for next time is to think about tense. If you start your story in past tense: he went, she was, they thought, stay in the past tense unless there is a clear time change in your story. There were quite a few stories that leapt into present tense: he goes, she is, they think, part way through an otherwise truly excellent story. Sometimes I could tell that you’d just got so involved with the story telling that you’d simply forgotten what tense you were in (I do this too!) so remember to read your story through a few times before you submit. This last proof read will pick up lots of these sorts of annoying details. Because the entries are JUST SO GOOD though, little things like this make a difference to who is named the winner in the end.

Also remember to read the details of the story carefully. Jeremy and Briony were watching the online live stream of the penguins and puffins at Saint Louis zoo. The zoo is in Missouri in the United States of America so unless you located your characters in America (which some of you did, well done particularly to Anika Myers for her descriptions of the endless streets of Missouri) it was going to be pretty difficult for them to pop down the road to the zoo. But there were plenty of ingenious ways you got around this issue: magic spears, teleportation potions and shapeshifting laptop screens, even magic crystals and a lightning fairy.

There is a long list of honourable mentions this week because, well, so many of you deserve it.

For cracking dialogue Ria Nielsen from Albany Junior High School, Frida Peltzer from Springston School, Aisha Gemala from Parnell District School, Olivia Morriss from Oamaru Intermediate (who also managed to showcase her ability in French), and to Surina Ranchhodji from Ponsonby Intermediate for her lovely penguin lullaby.

For great descriptions, a wow to William Kelly of Wellington, Charlotte Howell from Island Bay School, Samantha Muirhead from Kenakena School, with great lines like, “Glowing saggy skin was surrounding small opening on its face”, and also Isobel Knowles from Glen Eden Intermediate School, with lines like “The man’s face was distorted, with an ugly scar running from his nose to his chin.

For lively onomatopoeia and disco drones, a huge shout out to Cate Ambury, and to her younger brother Tom for his brilliant and very current lockdown story complete with the cancellation of the Animalympics.

For wonderful action sequences, well done to Taylor O’Reilly from Carmel College, Madeleine Lucas who is homeschooling (even before lockdown), to Megan from Bohally Intermediate School for making a great anti-villain who made an antidote to a deadly virus, and to Chiara Hogan-Seijo from Huirangi, who’s hero rescuing the penguins and released them back into the wild.

I also have to give a special mention to seven-year-old Elise de Moulin from Bethlehem College, this week’s youngest competitor, who gave the older writers a serious run for their money with her story.

But we have to choose the top stories, so, to the runners up. Molly McAra from Raumati South School, only just missed out with descriptions like: “Gaunt and waxy, his skin was pale and his dark hair fell over his eyes, which were black pools of menace.” You also had a strong narrative and great grasp of characterisation, how are you only 11 Molly?

Cecilia Lin from Kristin Middle School, was also tantalisingly close with her cracking action sequences, well structured story and ending with a great twist. This was a really great story, Cecila, you should be super proud.
Arshiya Tuli from Queen Margaret College you also deserve huge praise and to recognise what a great writer you are. Great dialogue and pacing in your story.

There can, however only be one and this week’s winner had not only great skill with descriptions, pacing and dialogue, but also created a story that kept me excited all the way to the end. A huge congratulations to Chloe Morrison-Clarke from Papanui High School.

Eileen Merriman, Penguin author of A Trio of Sophies read Chloe’s entry and commented “This week’s winning entry had me hanging on the edge of my seat. Great imagery and a masterful way out of a sticky situation – loved that last line too.

Well done everyone! Thanks for entering and we hope to see more entries from all of you this week!

X Michele Powles

FaboStory starter – Michele Powles

Jeremy Walker reached for the laptop. “It’s my turn to choose, and I say tigers.”

His twin sister Briony was too quick and pulled the computer into her lap. “We watched the tigers at San Diego Zoo yesterday. All they do is sleep or stalk about. It’s depressing. I want to see more Penguins.”

“Birds? Boring,” said Jeremy.

Briony ignored him, her brown eyes already darting over the screen. “Saint Louis,” she said triumphantly. “They’ve got a Penguin and Puffin live stream.” The twins were going on an online tour of the world’s zoos each morning. Mum had complained they were spending too much time online but Briony had argued this was educational and if they did it at ten o’clock, they’d be quiet for mum’s Zoom meeting. Briony was excellent at getting her way, which was annoying, but sometimes very useful.

CLICK. The screen was suddenly full of birds. Black and white, yellow and orange, beady little eyes and snapping beaks. Jeremy sat back as the noise spewed out of the speakers. It was a clattering, raucous muddle as the Puffins and Penguins chatted, argued and maybe even sang to each other. They were all on the rocks of the enclosure, the water an empty blue pool below them. Jeremy waited for something to happen. Something. Anything.

He yawned. “At least tigers roar every now and then.”

SPLASH. As if it had heard him, a penguin dived into the water. And another and another. Like living torpedoes, the penguins and a solitary puffin arced through the water leaving long lines of bubbles in their wake. Jeremy wasn’t about to admit it, but it was cool. Underwater, the birds stopped being kooky and became graceful dancers.

“Hey, that’s not allowed.”

Jeremy tore his gaze away from the underwater disco and looked up to the top of the screen where Briony was pointing. A figure, dressed in black and holding a giant bag, was clambering over the enclosure wall. The intruder’s face was out of shot. “Maybe it’s a keeper?” suggested Jeremy. But as he said it, the shadowy figure bent over, and Jeremy’s breath rushed out of him in a startled gasp. That was no zoo keeper…

Chloe’s ending

The wizened face seemed to stare right into the camera. Jeremy’s scream pierced the air. Briony flung her hand to her lips, as though clamping a wound.

Where the woman’s eyes should have been were sunken holes, covered by thin, dry patches of skin that stretched over the sockets. They both sat in stunned silence as the woman swept the bag over a little blue penguin which squawked in innocent surprise, having waddled up to her in hope of snaffling food before the others.
Jeremy was the first to recover.

“See Briony, that’s what happens when you’re too greedy.” He tried to laugh unconcernedly, but all that came out was a high pitched squeak.

“What are we going to do!?,” said Briony. “The alarms must have been turned off, but surely someone will come? ” She stared, transfixed in horror at the screen as the woman bagged another penguin with apparent ease.

A hailstorm of feathers was whirling the enclosure into a cyclone that blotted the camera, but they could still hear the cries and angry snaps of the penguin’s steely sharp beaks. Jeremy pounded at the volume control.

“Okay, Briony, calm down. I have a plan.” Briony tore her gaze from the screen to give him a look of scorn.

“And when have your plans ever worked before?” she snapped.

“Just listen. Okay? You could hack into the zoo’s system and set off the alarms. The penguins are in a soundproof enclosure, which is why no one has come running yet.”


“Look, those penguins are being stolen! Don’t think I don’t know how many awards you’ve won for your hacking and coding. It’s the first thing mum tells everyone, how amazing you are.” He took a deep breath.

The woman was now extracting pocketfuls of fish from her baggy sweatpants and laying them on the ground.

“No,” groaned Briony, her head in her hands. A few seconds passed in silence. Finally, she twisted around to look at Jeremy, giving a small nod, before bringing up her code.

Her fingers tap danced on the keyboard, language exploding into the screen. Jeremy watched with the fascination of an amatuer seeing a master at work. Ribbons of meaningless symbols fluttered, settling into something apparently comprehensible.

Briony muttered to herself, her lips curling around the instructions she was writing, groaning whenever the word ‘error’ appeared in bright red. Jeremy fought the rising wave of panic in his stomach.

“I’ve done it!” Briony shouted after several long minutes.

“3, 2, 1…” She tapped the enter button. Jeremy crossed his fingers. On the zoo cam, the woman froze. Beams of red light circled the enclosure and a wail ripped the air apart. Penguins voiced their distress as keepers came running, caught sight of the woman, and started frantically talking into their radio’s.

Jeremy and Briony smiled at each other. The silent truce hanging in the air, Briony clicked off the zoo cam and deleted her code.

“So, Jeremy. Do you still want to see the tigers?”

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