Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 4 judged by Helen Vivienne Fletcher!

Wow! Judging Fabo Story is never an easy task, with so many talented young writers sending in their work, but this round there were a whopping 277 entries which made picking just one winner a particularly difficult job.

I was so impressed with the fantastic stories, and the range of ideas and styles of writing presented, especially as many of you are only just beginning to explore storytelling, and are already so talented. Our youngest entrant was just four years old, which is an amazing effort, and I think might be a record for youngest ever entrant to Fabo (thanks Harlyn and Harlyn’s helper!)

We had bookshelves falling down like dominoes, staircases made of books, Uncle Toby appearing with a ladder, and one story where Marco climbed a stuffed giraffe to reach the top shelf. There were many fantastical stories. Julia Moffitt’s library-eating book and sugar-and-spice-stew cure was a great adventure that had me on the edge of my seat. But I also enjoyed the real-world tales. I was always happy when Marco finally found a cosy armchair, or spot sitting in a tree, to curl up and read, like in Amy Cordwell’s entry where Marco had to outwit his uncle, with a cup of tea, to finally get the chance to read.

There were flying books, talking books, blank books Marco had to write himself, and books that were portals to Candyland, Booktopia, Wonderland and many other fantastical worlds. There were hidden jewels, secret tunnels, magical buttons, and keys, lockets, whistles and notes hidden between the pages.

There were pixies, fairies, trolls, narwhals, and robot dog librarians; evil and imposter versions of Uncle Toby, and missing parents being returned or coming back to life. I also enjoyed the cameos from book and fairy tale characters, from Harry Potter to Tweedle Dum and Dee, Cinderella to Toothless, Red Riding Hood and many more. We also had a few real life “characters” appearing, including Donald Trump, Bear Grylls, and I even found myself popping up in a few stories. I also loved the original characters created by entrants – Amy Dillon’s Bookeaters and Lilly Griffiths’ character “Charli” were some that stood out.

Some stories had stories within the story, poems, secret messages or riddles, and a few had powerful morals. Maytal Noy’s cleverly rhyming poem was one particularly notable example, and Ishel of Te Miro School and Jesse Richards had great stories with lessons woven into them. I was also very impressed with Molly Sherriff, who included an original blurb for a book in her story. Ask any author and they’ll tell you writing the blurb can sometimes be harder than writing the book itself, so Molly did very well to create a convincing one.

With so many entries, it’s impossible to mention everyone, but please know that every story was carefully read and considered. There were so many stories I loved, so please don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your name or idea mentioned here. A huge number of the ideas were strong enough to be developed into much longer stories or even novels. I know many of you will go on to do great things with your writing.

Before I announce the winning entry, I’d like to mention a few runners up.

Abigail of Royal Oak Intermediate and Cassia Wallace. These were stories that had me thinking about them later. Making a story creepy without being over the top takes a lot of skill, and both of these entries did this very well.

Evie Haughton had some great imagery. I particularly liked the moment where Marco saw his own reflection in the crystal wall, and it made him rethink the consequences of sharing his discovery.

Indigo Tomlinson – Great writing makes you want to share it with other people. I really wanted to tell all my writer friend’s about the writing residency in Indigo’s story, and the evil uncle stealing ideas. A very imaginative plot – Uncle Toby clearly hasn’t stolen Indigo’s ideas!

And now, on to the winner…

Congratulations, 12-year-old, Ariana Kralicek.

One of my criteria for a winning story is one that stays with me after I finish reading. Ariana had such vivid imagery in her story, it was easy to picture the strange world she described, and I found myself thinking about it long after I had put it down.

Ariana’s writing was full of carefully built tension. Lines like:

“It felt heavy and rough, brimming with secrets threatening to spill”
drew me into the story and made me want to know more. I just had to find out the English translation of the Czech phrase, and I wanted to know what was beyond the strange archway. I even dreamt about Ariana’s story, which told me it had certainly had a powerful effect!

Chris Mousdale, author of A Place of Stone and Darkness also read Ariana’s story and had this to say:

This is a lovely, poetic image: “A rainstorm of books had flooded the room, a dull haze of colours.”

The story passage builds very effectively as we follow Marco through the bookshelf ‘portal’ device that brings him to the doorway.

Good use of simile: “…like a spear through a tree trunk.” Of course, I had to google translate the Czech phrase – ‘The land of miracles, the fate of death’!

It seems the journey will be dangerous. Will the miracles evade the inevitability of fate or will they offer surprises that we never saw coming?

Ariana delivers a gripping prelude and her writing is assured and evocative. Terrific!

Congratulations again, Ariana! We’ll be in touch about your prize, a book from our fabulous sponsor, Puffin Books.

Helen Vivienne Fletcher xx

Helen Vivienne Fletcher’s Story Starter

Marco had never met anyone who had a whole library in their house before. Bookshelves, sure, maybe even a wall covered in books, but never a whole room. His uncle had just that, and it was a BIG room. The towering shelves stretched up, up, up in front of Marco, each containing hundreds, if not thousands of tomes. He spotted Alice in Wonderland on one shelf, The Wizard of Oz on another. He’d enjoyed those books, but today he wanted to read something new.

He wandered between the shelves, reading the spines. Something was calling to him, he could feel it. Like a little whispering voice, it was as if he could “hear” that the perfect story was in this room, just waiting for him.

Finally, he saw it. At the very top of one of the shelves, a single book seemed to stand out. The title, The Book of the Missing, was written in gold lettering, which caught the light. It was practically glowing! Marco knew he had to read it.

There was just one small problem. The book was near the ceiling, and that was at least three metres out of his reach.

“How on earth does Uncle Toby get books down?” he said aloud.

The books didn’t answer.

“Well,” said Marco, “there’s only one thing for it.”

He got a foot up onto the bottom shelf, and started to climb …

Ariana’s Winning Story

Marco gripped the sturdy shelves as he carefully made his way up. His knuckles were turning white from clinging on, and his feet ached with every step he took.

Finally, he found himself at the very top of the bookshelf. The Book of the Missing was right in front of him. He warily glanced down and was hit with a wave of vertigo. The floor of the library seemed so far away. How had he even made it up this far?

Marco shook off the dizzy feeling and pulled himself together. This was his one chance to prove to himself that he was brave.

He reached out one hand, and closed his exhausted fingers around the Book of the Missing’s spine. It felt heavy and rough, brimming with secrets threatening to spill. But just as he was about to climb down, his left foot slipped off one shelf and in his panic, he fell, bringing the bookshelf down with him.

When Marco finally opened his eyes, he was surrounded by darkness. A heavy weight was crushing him. He gasped for air, and in one swift move, lifted the heavy shelf off himself just enough to wriggle out.

A rainstorm of books had flooded the room, a dull haze of colours.

Marco rubbed his eyes. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted The Book of the Missing. It lay open, a thick black block of words scrawled on each page.

Marco limped over to the book and picked it up. He read aloud the first words he saw.

“Země zázraků, osud smrti.” He recognized the words as Czech, a language from Eastern Europe.

Then, without warning, the book’s pages started flipping rapidly. A thick cloud of dust appeared, enveloping Marco. A swirling sensation made his stomach flip, and his feet couldn’t find hard ground. His eyes screamed for moisture.

And then suddenly, the swirling stopped.

Marco’s feet hit dry soil and a wave of ground shock travelled up his legs, like a spear through a tree trunk.

Marco gazed at his surroundings. Hundreds of piles of metal junk towered above him, rusty and sharp. The sky was a deep grey, and with horror, he realised that the soil he was standing on was a dirty shade of black.

But the one thing that caught his eye was an old-looking wooden archway, with peeling white paint. At the top of the archway was a crooked sign with red letters hastily painted on, as if the person who had made it didn’t care about what it would end up looking like.

As he read the sign, Marco gasped, and arrows of adrenaline shot through his body.

For the words on the sign were Land of the Missing.

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