Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 6 judged by Sue Copsey

Hey everyone! Well you’ve made my life very difficult, having to choose between all these amazing stories! All 154 of them. One thing’s for sure – you may have been locked down, but your imaginations haven’t been! The standard of these stories has blown me away. This is my third or fourth time as FABO judge and usually I quickly whittle it down to a shortlist of about ten. Guys, this time I have FIFTY-ONE on my long list. (Help me! )

OK, just going to get myself a fortifying cup of tea then I’ll settle down to read my favourites again, and choose a winner.

[Later]

Right. So I asked you to finish the story about the mysterious yellow flash in the trees. What was it? It was (are you ready?): a wolf, a phoenix (3 of those), a tui, huia (x 4), dragon (many), a puppy, a mind-reading golden-feathered super-powerful kiwi, various reptiles both friendly and fierce, a silvereye, a fairy, a diplodocus, a portal to another dimension, a griffin, a kakapo, a yellow octopus, an orphaned boy, a tiger (x 2), a grosbeak, a Covid-19-infected wild beast; there were talking lemons and talking bananas; a butterfly, lightning, lemur, golden owl, troll, golden-dragon-owl, a little gold box, scorpion, deer, baby in a crashed plane, an android tomtit, a yellow cat in a spaceship, the rare yellow head (x2), a horse, a toad, a fairy tern, a moa, gecko and buttercup.

Some stories had me snorting with laughter (especially the talking lemons and bananas), while others gave me the shivers; some of your description was so beautiful it made me sigh.

I liked how many of you paid attention to the detail in the story starter and brought that through – the sandwiches, the kauri dieback, and the patupaiarehe. Thumbs up to those of you who knew, or looked up, the meaning of patupaiarehe. Monty Parr wrote: “A little pale-skinned, red-haired person stands there. It looks just as at home in the maze of branches as we humans are in a house. I give a little gasp as an old legend comes back to me. In Maori mythology there are little creatures like this one called Patupaiarehe that live in the deep forest and the mountains … I realise that Patupaiarehe Bush has been left alone for five months, so you could easily call it deep forest. Maybe the bush is living up to its name.”

And Denzel Grevers-Smith wrote: “… standing around me are human-like creatures in the shadows of the dark forest. They have pale white skin. Some have flaming red hair, some have blond. They have dark blue eyes and they are wearing red flax garments. Some men are playing slow enchanting music on flutes and some women are weaving kete.”

This from Zoe Bedford: “The music weaves around me, swirling and twisting. Every fibre of my body wants to follow the Patupaiarehe – for I am now sure that is what it is – as it hops away into the underbrush.”

Before I announce the winner, here are my honourable mentions. I have so many, but I’ll try not to break the internet …

I loved the stories that featured an extinct bird returning to the forest. Maytal Noy wrote: “Huias are a symbol of love because they can’t survive without each other … I want to protect these two beautiful birds with every last atom of my body.”

Frida Peltzer wrote about little yellow birds that helped to save the endangered fairy tern. This was the twist at the end of Frida’s story: “There are heaps of little yellow birds dancing in the trees … Perhaps they are the Patupaiarehe … ‘Thank you’ I whisper, saluting them.”

Caitlyn Young had the forest spirits helping to save the kauri: “‘We are the Forest Spirits,’ she says, ‘and we look after this bit of bush. When the kauri disease came, we protected the forest … I gawp at her. ‘So you’re the one getting rid of kauri dieback?’ I say, shocked.”

There was some superb scary writing that had me looking over my shoulder. Olive Evans wrote about signs appearing in the forest, with messages like: THEY’RE COMING TO GET YOU; NO-ONE IS SAFE ANY MORE; and how about this … THE BIRDS DON’T SING ANYMORE. THEY SCREAM.

Olivia Whale wrote a brilliant ghost story. It was beautifully set out (thank you to those of you who took the time to think about your paragraphs and punctuation). This from Olivia: “I crawl under a fern and behind a kauri tree, reaching for the golden wisp, but it dissolves into thin air. Whoosh! It’s further up the trail, I can hear its hummed lullaby, like an ancient chant.”

Mia Fraser also wrote a superb ghost story with great atmosphere.

Big thumbs up to eight-year-old William Kelly, who wrote about a boy and a baby velociraptor. Well done for picking up the reference to caramel in the story starter: “It stares back at me with big blue watery eyes with a sliver of green through them – the colour of those green fruit bursts (not the yellow ones they’re disgusting). When it blinks, I smell a waft, something sweet, like caramel.”

Plot twists – surprises at the end – are always clever; they give your story the ‘wow factor’. Well done to Ayla for: “Ma’am, we don’t have a Burmese python.”
Bethany Scott-Donelan told an intriguing story that made the reader think hard about what was going on. I loved this line: “My sandlike mouth drops open, eyes gaping, trying to chase fact from fiction.”

Originality is important – how can you make your story stand out from everyone else’s? Kiri Clendon wrote a fun, quirky and surprising story about the Great Pet Revolution: ‘… the cats said that humans shouldn’t take other animals as pets and that they would take humans as pets if they didn’t stop. So after a bit of fighting a treaty was signed.”

Many of you wrote beautiful, rich descriptions of the forest and its inhabitants. Words that had me smelling, seeing, sensing … this from Dawn Rattanong: “A bird emitting warmth from each and every feather … It’s radiance shines throughout the trees, out-snazzing every possible competitor.”

And from Connie Wiles, “The tiny ball of light waltzes past the trees, spinning around in circles, heading off the track, deeper into the bush. A beautiful, yet haunting melody following closely behind.”

Lucy Kennedy wrote, “a pair of neatly-folded glittering wings, tinted yellow like stained glass with condensation on a winter’s morning”, and Fiamma Pyne’s story began: “It’s a portal. The cheery yellow darkens and morphs into a deeper, more dangerous colour; a deep blood red one that sends your mind to treacherous places where danger occurs …”

There were some great similes, like this from Jessica Rankin: “… that possibility flies out of my mind faster than a peregrine falcon at top speed.”

William Phoon’s story was funny and action packed and told with lots of bounce, and I loved Archibald Button’s story featuring a brave ecowarrior who took on the men in yellow vests.
More honourable mentions: Sophie Norris (such a clever idea!), Arvin Bhuiyan (a nice mystical vibe), Amber Henry (clever and gruesome), Sam Smith (I love your powers of observation – “there’s a couple in matching fitness outfits”), Samantha Muirhead (nice plot twist), Aisha Gemala (future fantasy writer), Isobel Knowles (I liked how the Patupaiarehe were dismayed that people had come back to the forest); Grace Moodie (lovely description and a nice twist); Ivanka Singh – I absolutely loved your tale of trolls; Indigo Tomlinson ¬– superb writing (“Its feathers are the colour of sunshine on butter”).

Casey Mackintosh – what can I say? A giant talking banana called Jill. I salute your wonderful imagination, and thanks so much for putting a big smile on my face. More thumbs up, to: Pearl from Lincoln Heights School (lovely writing), Clara Stupples (great suspense), Neve Overend (future horror story writer), Leo Jordan (a flying yellow octopus in the forest – well, these are strange times so why not!), Emelie Wissel (“you have no idea what two months of lockdown does to a kid”); Juliet Young (sinister lemons – loved it!), Nelima (whose wonderful imagination took me all the way to Pennsylvania); Meghan Benefield (nice mention of Jacinda); Lois from Bucklands Beach Primary – loved how the trip to the forest made your narrator think about the good things to have come out of lockdown; Isaac Ketchmark – your story was very cool, I love your imagination and you have a unique voice; Cate Neal – lovely description.

Victoria Murdoch – your story was a close runner up, I love your imagination and your powers of description.

And now (drum roll) … my second place goes to Maddie McDowell for her story about a little gold box that turned out to be a time travel machine. Congratulations on lovely writing, and please enter again (and again!).

But my winner this week is Malia Denny from Mapua School. Malia’s story had everything I was looking for. It was original (it had that extra something that really made it stand out), good pace (no boring bits), great description, tension, humour, a plot twist, and it rounded off with a clever poem. Congratulations Malia on a wonderful story!

And here is what one of my favourite writers, the multi-award-winning Mandy Hager, has to say about Malia’s story. Mandy is the author of many fantastic books, including Singing Home the Whale, Dear Vincent, and The Nature of Ash, so praise from Mandy is a precious thing – Malia, you should print this off and frame it!

Mandy says:

“I love this story. It’s inventive and playful, while still managing to create a sense of dread, with a fascinating twist at the end. The language is rich and original, and the metaphors strong and unexpected, and the poem at the end is so unique it will stay with me for a long time. Congratulations to Malia – I hope this is the start of a long writing career!”

Sue Copsey’s Story Starter

This is the first time we’ve been to the forest since lockdown. In fact since way before that, because of the whole kauri dieback business. Only one walking track has been open in the whole regional park since forever. You have to disinfect your feet as you go in, just like you have to disinfect your hands when you go to the pharmacy or whatever now.

Seems to have been all about diseases, recently.

But now, lockdown is over (yay and double yay!) and they’ve reopened two more tracks where the trees are getting better too, and so we’ve driven over to Patupaiarehe Bush and brought a picnic. Just like old times! But of course, the parentals want to make us work for our sammys. So we’re yomping through the trees, but it’s tough going. Plants have grown across the path; there’s a mad tangle of rata vines on the forest floor trying to trip us up.

It feels different to before. Denser. Greener. It smells of rain and earth and something sweet, like caramel. It’s quieter – a deeper kind of silence – but there’s more birdsong. I hear rustling in the bushes.

“Nature’s really reclaimed this, eh?” says Mum.

A flash of something yellow to my left catches my eye, and I stop. Perhaps it’s a tomtit. Such a cute little bird. “I’ll catch you up,” I call. I peer into the shadows, and I see it again. But it isn’t a tomtit …

Here is Malia’s tale:

The golden scales glow in the pale light. My eyes slowly adjust as I realize what I see. A shiver runs down my spine, I cower in fear, an urge to call to Mum boils in my mouth. I’m tempted to run and never come back, but my feet are dug into the squidgy mud, cemented like concrete.

Something stops me though … I realize this is the only chance I might get to ever see something as beautiful yet deadly in my entire life.

It swaggers forward – almost gloating over my naiveness, my innocent eagerness to see more.

Beadily, its eyes swivel, examining me – I am reminded of a dartboard and a player; he is the thrower and I am the board, pinned to a wall, flinching in fear of what was to come.

It makes a sudden lunge at my shoulder, I jump to the left, feeling like a dancer imitating my partner’s moves. I imagine the pianist’s fingers weaving about the soft keys, music sputtering out the majestic instrument.

In my head, I hear the music rising, getting louder, as we follow the dance, I step back as it does a jeté reaching out to snatch me up. I glance behind me and the truth slowly dawns on me … I’m trapped! The dark forest lays behind me and a still clearing lies ahead. Mum has disappeared and I’m alone with this beast!

It smirks, laughing at my desperate efforts to fend it off. Slowly it comes around me, its breath gently blowing down my back just enough to know it’s there, I writhe and squirm, fighting with all my strength.

Just when I think I’m knocking on death’s door, I feel a sudden peck at the hair on my head. Startled, I squeeze my eyes tight anticipating the pain to come.

A sudden stillness spreads around the forest floor, my breathing calms almost automatically, my eyes are still shut but I muster the courage to peep through one eyelid. To my surprise and delight I see the silhouette of Mum glowering down. Shocked, I pinch myself, determined it’s all been a dream, but … my skin’s turning a pinkish colour – the mark from my self-imposed suffering.

Scrambling up, I mutter something about getting a tad distracted. She winks, and says with a sly smile, “Only a tad? I’ve been waiting for half an hour!”

Sheepishly, I suddenly take a deep interest in the old knotted shoe-lace on my sneaker, wanting to look at anything apart from Mum.

“A-are you sure there was nothing here when you came Mum?” I ask, trying to sound normal.

“Definite! I just saw you taking a wee nap when I arrived!” She chuckles.

I frown, and place my hands on my shoulder, a line wriggles across my brow as, to my utter surprise I feel a leaflet stuck to my clothing. Opening it quickly, I read:

All I ever wanted was the bug upon your shoulder,
However I was in vain, It only smirked and grew bolder.
I shall forever remember this day,
The day, I met a walking, talking meal and I say,
“Some time, some day, I shall be back,
To meet you again in the proper way.”

See you again for a nice handshake,
Master Blake, the yellow snake.

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

Enter the seventh FABO Story competition!

The seventh FABO Story competition will be judged by author Elena De Roo.  Enter now!

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and continue the story.

2. We prefer your story to be 500 words or less (not including the story starter). Stories over 550 words will be disqualified.

3. You have a week to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 7pm Saturday May 16th (NZ time).

5. The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

6. Every week there will be a new competition and a children’s author will post a new story starter for you.

7. The competition is open to kids aged 13 and under.

8. The winner will receive a Puffin book of their choice* and their story published on the Penguin NZ website!

*book must be $25 or under, book must be in stock, book will be delivered post lockdown.

Elena’s Story Starter

Jordan wanted to read the last few chapters of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, but there was a loud argument going on over a game of Monopoly at the kitchen table. He sighed. Quiet space was hard to find, since everyone had come back home for lockdown.

Lucky no-one had claimed the garden shed yet. He opened the back door and snuck out. The shed was hidden by weeds in an overgrown patch at the end of the garden, and its old wooden workbench, under the window, was the perfect place to curl up with a book. But, this time, as Jordan clambered up onto the bench, a small packet fell out from behind a stud on the wall.

It looked like an ancient packet of seeds. The label was so worn Jordan could only make out a few letters — an M followed by an A, then a gap and then an I. Marigold seeds maybe? On the back were some faded instructions. Extra-fast growing. Water copiously then stand clear.

Jordan tore open the packet. Weird – it didn’t look like any seed he’d ever seen before. There was just one for starters. Also, it was the size of a marble and a shiny poisonous purplish-blue colour. What sort of seed was this?

There was only one way to find out. In the ground outside the shed, Jordan placed the seed into a shallow hole, covered it with earth, then sloshed a whole bucket of water over it.

Almost at once, there was a slurping sound. It was like someone trying to suck up the last of a milkshake through a straw. The loose earth around the seed began to jiggle.

The ground rumbled.

Jordan jumped back just in time.

Woah! What had he planted?

Not a marigold, that was for sure. ….

Now You Finish The Story…

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 5 judged by Kathy White

You guys are fabulous. I had so much fun this week reading your stories – perhaps not so much fun trying to figure out who was going to win the prize this week, because there were so many people who wrote well – but thank you, thank you, thank you for putting so much thought into our 5th writing competition, The Oak Tree Gang.

There were 134 entries this time – from all over New Zealand, and even from children in the UK, Taiwan and Malaysia. One thing was certain, no matter how old you were (three amazing entries were from four-year-olds), or where you were from, you were all keen writers, making the most of your spare time in Lockdown. Awesome.

THE STORY STARTER – I’ve been a judge with Fabo for more than ten years, and it constantly amazes me how many different ideas, genres and styles can come from a single story-starter. Every single one of you sounded different, as if you have your own unique writing fingerprint.

Some of you didn’t use the story starter, and just wrote your own story, saying it wasn’t your style. Just remember that it’s good practice to experiment with writing in all genres and styles, because it helps you to figure out what you DO like, and it hones your writing skills. I also can’t give prizes to people who write a story that’s not connected to the story starter, no matter how good your writing is, so PLEASE always use the story starter and find a way to add your own flavour to it.

YOUR IDEAS – On the surface, this story starter was about a few kids who came home to a street with no oak trees and a monolithic tower outside their home. But what was it REALLY about? You sent me sinister plots of mind control and surveillance, rival gangs, Russian spy agencies and people stealing data and cats. Neighbours disappeared at the same rate as the trees, factories pumped out grey fumes into the air, and birds were killed by radiation from the towers. There were killer power poles and drones, evil household appliances and automated houses. I have to say, you really liked the drones 😊 and poor Tyler seemed to bear the brunt of them.

There were also heroes going into battle, bamboozling and destroying drones, infiltrating factories, rescuing kidnapped cats, taking on the lead role in a fight to protect the world against alien invaders, investigating the law around protecting 100-year-old oak trees, and protesting at the council office and in Oak Tree Lane. You had some very innovative solutions to protecting that last oak tree. It took on symbolic significance for a lot of you, as it should. I particularly liked Hannah Tait’s story about an old man, a Valiant, just before he died, passing a magical weapon to the Oak Tree Gang, to protect the last of the ancient trees that are vital to our world’s survival.

Of course, where there’s action and argument, there’s also sometimes failure and despair. Zahra was especially good at writing with emotion, as were Alex, Summer and Anna.

Will, Angus, Theo , Harry, Juno, Frida, Hannah, Alexander and Molly wrote great action sequences. I also enjoyed reading good dialogue (conversations between people), with the best examples building on the personalities of the characters. Indigo, Cora, Olivia, Holly, Theo, Taylor, Emily, Hannah, Sadra, Emelie, Bethany and Victoria were all good at this.

Here’s an example from Victoria Murdoch, whose character was a little sinister:

“I wasn’t expecting a crowd. That was simply your choice. I thought perhaps there would be a tagger-on, but young people do tend to stick to one another like magic potion gone wrong ….” His words slipped from his mouth like an eel moving through water.

And one from Theo Parks, building on the character Deano’s superior vocabulary skills:

“We’ve just come back from school camp. Do you have anything to do with this …” I wave my hand around the forest of stumps. “M-er …” I can’t think of anything to say. “Deforestation,” Deano said. I shot Deano a glare.

And from Bethany Scott-Donelan, showing the distinctive dialogue of an older sister:

My older sister Kim then bounded in, looking strangely joyful. “Ügh stop with your frowny faces, boys. I have an idea.”

Treasure in language – The best thing about your stories was the words that you used and how you put them together, whether it was to create a scene, a mood, or to show something about the characters and the relationships between them.

Here are some of my favourite lines from your writing this week –

“Then we will just have to say our goodbyes, and not only to our tree, but also to our gang.” It was the stinging truth, you can’t have an Oak Tree Gang without oak trees. (Emelie Wissel)

Everything around me became a blur, like this whole event was just a nightmare. But it wasn’t, this is the grim reality, and not even some kids that fell in love with their little forest could stop the buried truth. (Emelie Wissel)

I didn’t even care that I had missed crumpets. I don’t know what had gotten into me. I love crumpets. (Arshiya Tuli)

The driver was a huge brick of a man (Seb Gibbs)

The drone’s light examined us. It saw our imploring looks. With a grunt, it whirred away into the orange sky, and the sky’s colour began to change again. The whispers of the breeze rose to a roar. (Arshiya Tuli)

My mind was so much like the ocean, calm on the surface with so many deep undercurrents, all of them with their own purpose. (Samantha Muirhead)

One by one, the cats jumped, their parachutes floating like coloured jellyfish out behind them. (Ben Parker)

It was hell to see the last oak tree also bend down into saw dust. (Zahra Parker)

THE SHORTLIST

My overlong shortlist included Emelie, Indigo, Arshiya, Taylor, Seb, Finn, Zahra, Taylor, Theo, Angela, Juno, Karina, Will, Juliet, Amadeia, Emily, Lucia, Evie, Bethany, Hannah, Olivia and Samantha.

You all had moments of brilliance. Please don’t despair if I haven’t mentioned you in my report. Every week is a new competition and a new judge. This week is Sue Copsey, who has both a quirky sense of humour and a love of things ghostly. Don’t delay. Get writing and enter the 6th writing competition.

But now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for ….

The 5th writing competition winner is 12 year-old Indigo Tomlinson from Whakatane Intermediate. Her story is particularly strong in dialogue and imagery.

Here are some of my favourite lines –

There was an air of menace about him, as though we were dancing on the edge of an icicle.

… the red light gleamed like vampire eyes ëven in the hazy afternoon sun.

His smile was like barbed wire.

That’s how he was looking at us. Like we were unwanted gifts.

David Hill, author of various books including Kiwi Bites and picture books about Edmund Hillary, Joan Wiffen, Peter Blake, and Jacinda Ardern also said

“Congratulations to Indigo on her success. I’m impressed by the tightness of her story – the way she’s managed to fit so many events into a small space. Things move briskly, clearly, and it’s a clever, unsettling ending. I very much like her use of dialogue, which is such a good way of showing mood, characters, relationships. The people in her story are authentic, and there’s a nice range of feelings among them. A good layout also, with a variety of paragraph and sentence lengths. The story looks interesting on the page. Congratulations to a writer from whom I hope we’ll hear more in the future.”

And that pretty much says it all. Kia kaha, Indigo. We’ll be in touch about your prize, a book from our fabulous sponsor, Puffin Books, soon.

– Kathy

Kathy White’s Story Starter: The Oak Tree Gang

“So how was it?” Mum asked as she drove through the Heu Heu Street intersection. “You boys weren’t too happy about going on your first school camp.”

Deano leaned forward through the gap in the front seat. “It wasn’t too bad, Mrs G, apart from the horrific river run …”

Wills groaned.

” … and Wills getting called Puffin’ Billy because of his asthma,” I added. Wills coughed as if on cue.

“And the over-salted rabbit stew on toast was disgusting.” Deano pulled a face. “Please don’t add it to your fine culinary repertoire, Mrs G.”

Mum smiled at him.

I sighed. Deano always impressed my mum with his vocabulary. I just wished he didn’t manage to make me look quite so stupid in comparison.

I yawned and pressed my face against the window as we turned the corner into Oak Tree Lane. Suddenly I was more awake than I’d been all week. “What’s happened to all the trees?”

Last week the street had been full of magnificent 100-year-old oak trees, one on every grass verge. Now they were stumps in the ground smothered in a fine layer of sawdust. I felt sick.

“As long as they haven’t cut ours down,” Wills wheezed. “You can’t have an Oak Tree Gang without an oak tree.”

I knew the news was bad as soon as I saw Mum’s face in the rear-view mirror.

“A phone company cut them down yesterday,” she said. “I came home from work to find it looking like this.” She pointed ahead of the car.

Holy macaroni. Right where our tree used to be, outside number 14, was an enormous tower made of concrete and steel. On the top were three antennae, and a platform full of dark grey boxes with LED lights.
What had they done with our club-house? And where was the flying fox that went into the gully?

“No way! ” Deano yelled, stumbling out of the car before it had pulled into the driveway. “There must be a law against this.”

“Apparently not,” Mum sighed, slamming the door. “I called them and they said the tree wasn’t on our land. There’s just one tree left and they’re coming to cut that down tomorrow.”

“Oh woe is me,” Deano said, sinking to his knees.

I heard a sound behind me and turned to see my beautiful cat, Tyler, running toward me, the bell on his collar jangling, and his big belly swaying. He started rubbing himself against my jeans, a big smile on his whiskery grey face. He obviously didn’t understand that this was mega.

“Hang on a minute,” said Wills, squinting. He pointed to a grey box at the top of the tower. “That looks like a mammoth drone.”

That’s when the light came on. A red laser light. And its sights were focused on ….

Indigo Tomlinson’s Winning Entry

I was still fuming, but the red light gleamed like vampire eyes even in the hazy afternoon sun. It rotated slowly till the tip was focused directly on Wills, Deano and me. Wills took a step back, waxy skin pale and cheekbones pulled into sharp relief as he took hasty little puffs on his inhaler. Deano glowered at the structure.
‘’What is that drone thing?’’ I asked, Mum sighed and shrugged,

‘’I don’t know but I’m going to cook dinner. You boys must be starving!’’ she pulled a silly face, ‘’Fancy any more rabbit stew on toast?’’

‘’Muuuum!’’ I groaned. She made her way inside the house, and we were left alone with the towering monolith. The gigantic drone lifted off into the air and whirred towards the ground, with a sound like a ferocious wasp’s nest. I shivered. An ashy black bird it landed on the ground next to us and I was reminded of my Grandfather’s funeral, and the way everything felt heavy and smelled of plastic flowers from the dollar shop. It was a funeral really. The funeral of our Clubhouse. The funeral of the Oak Tree Gang.

‘’I can’t believe anyone could commit such vicious sacrilege!’’ Deano declared theatrically. Neither could I. Anger bubbled like a lava lamp inside me.

‘’Wait!’’ Wills cried, ‘’Jo, didn’t your Mum say there was one tree left?’’ I nodded slowly,

‘’But they’re cutting it down tomorrow’’ I replied, Deano narrowed his eyes,

‘’We can stop them!’’ he cried, ‘’Tie ourselves to the branches! Y’know, like those environmental thingys!’’

‘’I’m afraid you can’t.’’ a frozen voice like an alpine lake said from behind us. We whirled around. A businessman in a crisp blue suit stood waiting. He reminded me of a glacier. Polished, yet hard and cold. There was an air of menace about him, as though we were dancing on the knife edge of an icicle. He smiled. A perfect celebrity smile. Fake, and shiny the way you are when you get a birthday present you really don’t like. That’s how he was looking at us. Like we were unwanted gifts. Fear bloomed in my stomach like poisonous spores.

‘’My name is Arnold Blunderbuss.’’ he said, ‘’I work for a multi-million dollar company.’’ his smile was like barbed wire, ‘’People pay us to, discover things. I suppose you could call us the ‘’gossips.’’ We give them the information. They give us the money. ’’ He clearly had no practice talking to pre-adolescents.

‘’What he’s saying,’ Wills explained adjusting his round glasses, ‘’Is that his company is invading peoples privacy then selling their personal data, using the tower and the drone! They’re not telephone people at all!’’

‘’Gah!!’’ screamed Arnold Blunderbuss. He lunged for Wills, but with the hiss of an exploding kettle, Tyler (whom I had completely forgotten about) landed on Mr. Blunderbusses perfectly gelled hair and clawed viciously at his face. He worked as a very good pair of head cuffs until the police arrived.

A few weeks later I woke up and looked out the window. A glacial looking man in neon orange community service overalls was digging a hole down by the road. Next to him was a baby oak tree. I smiled.

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

Enter the sixth FABO Story Competition!

The sixth FABO Story competition will be judged by author Sue Copsey.  Enter now!

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and continue the story.

2. We prefer your story to be 500 words or less (not including the story starter). Stories over 550 words will be disqualified.

3. You have a week to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 7pm Saturday May 9th (NZ time).

5. The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

6. Every week there will be a new competition and a children’s author will post a new story starter for you.

7. The competition is open to kids aged 13 and under.

8. The winner will receive a Puffin book of their choice* and their story published on the Penguin NZ website!

*book must be $25 or under, book must be in stock, book will be delivered post lockdown.

Sue Copsey’s Story Starter

This is the first time we’ve been to the forest since lockdown. In fact since way before that, because of the whole kauri dieback business. Only one walking track has been open in the whole regional park since forever. You have to disinfect your feet as you go in, just like you have to disinfect your hands when you go to the pharmacy or whatever now.

Seems to have been all about diseases, recently.

But now, lockdown is over (yay and double yay!) and they’ve reopened two more tracks where the trees are getting better too, and so we’ve driven over to Patupaiarehe Bush and brought a picnic. Just like old times! But of course, the parentals want to make us work for our sammys. So we’re yomping through the trees, but it’s tough going. Plants have grown across the path; there’s a mad tangle of rata vines on the forest floor trying to trip us up.

It feels different to before. Denser. Greener. It smells of rain and earth and something sweet, like caramel. It’s quieter – a deeper kind of silence – but there’s more birdsong. I hear rustling in the bushes.

“Nature’s really reclaimed this, eh?” says Mum.

A flash of something yellow to my left catches my eye, and I stop. Perhaps it’s a tomtit. Such a cute little bird. “I’ll catch you up,” I call. I peer into the shadows, and I see it again. But it isn’t a tomtit …
….

Now You Finish The Story…

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.

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

Enter the fifth FABO Story competition now!

The fifth FABO Story competition will be judged by author Kathy White.  Enter below!

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and continue the story.

2. Your story should be no more than 500 words (not including the story starter). Stories over 550 words will be disqualified.

3. You have a week to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 7pm Saturday May 2nd (NZ time).

5. The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

6. Every week there will be a new competition and a children’s author will post a new story starter for you.

7. The competition is open to kids aged 13 and under.

8. The winner will receive a Puffin book of their choice* and their story published on the Penguin NZ website!

*book must be $25 or under, book must be in stock, book will be delivered post lockdown.

Kathy White’s Story Starter: The Oak Tree Gang

“So how was it?” Mum asked as she drove through the Heu Heu Street intersection. “You boys weren’t too happy about going on your first school camp.”

Deano leaned forward through the gap in the front seat. “It wasn’t too bad, Mrs G, apart from the horrific river run …”

Wills groaned.

” … and Wills getting called Puffin’ Billy because of his asthma,” I added. Wills coughed as if on cue.

“And the over-salted rabbit stew on toast was disgusting.” Deano pulled a face. “Please don’t add it to your fine culinary repertoire, Mrs G.”

Mum smiled at him.

I sighed. Deano always impressed my mum with his vocabulary. I just wished he didn’t manage to make me look quite so stupid in comparison.

I yawned and pressed my face against the window as we turned the corner into Oak Tree Lane. Suddenly I was more awake than I’d been all week. “What’s happened to all the trees?”

Last week the street had been full of magnificent 100-year-old oak trees, one on every grass verge. Now they were stumps in the ground smothered in a fine layer of sawdust. I felt sick.

“As long as they haven’t cut ours down,” Wills wheezed. “You can’t have an Oak Tree Gang without an oak tree.”

I knew the news was bad as soon as I saw Mum’s face in the rear-view mirror.

“A phone company cut them down yesterday,” she said. “I came home from work to find it looking like this.” She pointed ahead of the car.

Holy macaroni. Right where our tree used to be, outside number 14, was an enormous tower made of concrete and steel. On the top were three antennae, and a platform full of dark grey boxes with LED lights.
What had they done with our club-house? And where was the flying fox that went into the gully?

“No way! ” Deano yelled, stumbling out of the car before it had pulled into the driveway. “There must be a law against this.”

“Apparently not,” Mum sighed, slamming the door. “I called them and they said the tree wasn’t on our land. There’s just one tree left and they’re coming to cut that down tomorrow.”

“Oh woe is me,” Deano said, sinking to his knees.

I heard a sound behind me and turned to see my beautiful cat, Tyler, running toward me, the bell on his collar jangling, and his big belly swaying. He started rubbing himself against my jeans, a big smile on his whiskery grey face. He obviously didn’t understand that this was mega.

“Hang on a minute,” said Wills, squinting. He pointed to a grey box at the top of the tower. “That looks like a mammoth drone.”

That’s when the light came on. A red laser light. And its sights were focused on ….

Now You Finish The Story…

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.”

Silence.

“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?”

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

Enter the fourth FABO Story competition now!

The fourth FABO Story competition will be judged by author Helen Vivienne Fletcher. Enter now!

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and continue the story.

2. Your story should be no more than 500 words (not including the story starter).

3. You have a week to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 7pm Saturday April 25th (NZ time).

5. The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

6. Every week there will be a new competition and a children’s author will post a new story starter for you.

7. The competition is open to kids aged 13 and under.

8. The winner will receive a Puffin book of their choice* and their story published on the Penguin NZ website!

*book must be $25 or under, book must be in stock, book will be delivered post lockdown.

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 …

Now You Finish The Story…

Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story Report for the second competition judged by Maureen Crisp!

When I wrote the story starter, I deliberately left a few ideas hanging to see what everyone would do. One of the tricks for following on with a story starter is to try and keep the setting the same, at least at the beginning. I put Rona into the backyard on a very stormy night. I was looking for stories that could continue the storm theme.

Lots of ideas came flooding in right at the beginning from Penguin Plagues, vampires in the storm, Owlbears, lost dogs, lost penguins from the zoo, zombies and witches. Then the flood slowed down to a trickle as if the writers knew that they had to take some time to think about what they were writing about.

Sean got off to a great start… and then finished with: it was all a dream. Many other writers also had their main characters waking up the next day.

When writers run out of ideas it can be very tempting to finish with the words ‘it was all a dream.’ Readers are left feeling cheated from a strong story ending that matched the strong story beginning. Endings are tricky… but if you look at the beginning, sometimes there is an idea for the end that will tie up the story nicely.

Many writers turned to horror stories for inspiration. That is fine but you have to be as creative with the ending as with the beginning. Horror always has a thread of hope in it. The main character must survive.

There were many creative creatures and themes in the stories with alien chickens, wild fires, the electrochicken monster, the golden dragons, evil chicken overlords and Chicken Evolution Clinics. Many writers decided that the penguin would be the main event so there were many zoo escapes. A penguin turning into a pegasus was an interesting idea along with a cockatrice. If you ever discover purple penguins you must feed them popcorn.

Many of you seem to be living with Mad Scientists. Your lives are filled with explosions, I know as resourceful Kiwi kids you will always triumph. As writers, if you mix in a little bit of real life you can make the stories much stronger.

Many stories ended on cliff hangers… which left me wanting to know what happened next. Unfortunately, we need complete stories with a satisfying ending.

Stories that impressed me came from all ages. Zoe, Oscar, Lincoln, India, Cartier, Evie, Salila, Madeleine, Victoria, Piper, Charlie, Maria, Hannah, Monte, Ecclesia, Evie, Margot, Serene, and Emma all had wonderfully creative stories that needed just a little more editing and a stronger ending.

There were some great lines written that really stood out. These people can be very pleased with the way they can convey emotion, action and humour in a story:

You could only hear the slow beating of their hearts and hard slapping rain pounding onto Rona’s wet jacket. – Cate

The shadow of truth is a special shadow that only comes when things are unfair and miserable. – Cartier

Suddenly the nightmarish storm grew furious. Her torch flickered in the darkness of the inky night. – Olivia

The penguin somehow had a fine coat of feathers, but he smelled like he was eating garbage for a week, which might have been the case, considering he was a penguin in the suburbs. – Thomas

Rona shivered, the chilly air flapping through her coat, thoroughly freezing her body. – Victoria

Splat! “Oof!”. Rona slipped, landing on her stomach face smooshed up against the squelchy mud. -Juno

Rona’s torch light illuminated a green, slimy, putrid crocodile with razor sharp gnashing teeth as well as a devious and sinister grin. – Samantha

Heading inside boots crunching along the path she took one last glance at the coop. – Emily

Out from the shadows emerged a cockatrice, a serpent-like creature with the head of a chicken, with the wings of a dragon from its shoulders. Everyone knows that you don’t look a cockatrice in the eye, or there are unforgivable consequences. – Sophie

Some of the only things I inherited from my father was his messy loose curls which with the addition of my brown hair, It looked like dying palm fronds had been dropped upon my head. – Kardelen

… a gust of wind made her ponytail stick to her face like a lolly wrapper to a child’s sticky fingers. – Kayla

Rona knew exactly what to do. Appear brave and better than her opponent, as then it might be not so confident, even if she was cowering with fear on the inside. She squared her shoulders and emitted a war cry as loud she could. – Grace

Rona realised the only chance of turning her feathery friends back into normal chickens was to get them struck by lightening again. – Cassie

The chickens could now be wild and live their dreams. – Megan

Mya, Juno, Olivia, Indie, Samantha, Florence, Theodora, Ria, Natasha, Victoria, Amelie, Denzel, Jenny, Hannah and Imogen wrote super stories with a lot of attention to detail. A special shout out to brother and sister writers – Cate and Tom Ambury who have great imaginations, and Milla for her impressive website research. (My cackle of glee woke up the family.)

In the end the winner popped out of 159 entries with impressive style. Well done Indigo Tomlinson for continuing the drama of the setting adding in some nice touches, a toy penguin and an Easter egg and the frustration and love of living with a special needs sibling.

Heather Haylock, Penguin author of the Granny McFlitter series of picture books said of the winning entry:
“Brilliant use of similes to tell a tale of rising tension against the backdrop of the rising storm. And I love the tender ending. Well done!”

– Maureen Crisp, Fabo Story Judge Round 2, 2020.

Maureen’s Story Starter

It was a dark and stormy night, so Rona made sure her torch worked before she stepped off the deck into the long wet grass.

‘It isn’t fair,’ she grumbled. Why did she have to check on the chickens?

Ever since last week’s explosion her mother hadn’t trusted her brother to do anything. Rona squelched through puddles, her gumboots making a squish suck sound until she found the path.

She flicked the torch around, the light was feeble in the gloom of the back yard. Wind whipped the branches so they clattered and crunched into each other making a brawl of sound. Rona’s hair was now getting plastered to her face with the torrents of rain.

‘I give up.’ Any chicken still outside the coop was going to be as brainless as her brother. She turned to head back to the house. The crack of lightening lit up the back yard. In the flash Rona saw the veggie garden, the washing line and a stray penguin.

Thunder rolled and faded. The dark gloom raced back into the yard. Rona stood frozen staring into the dark. She was looking right at a mountain of trouble for someone.

‘It’s not fair,’ she muttered as she went forward knowing that she was all that stood between her family and chaos. ‘Why me?’ …

Indigo’s Winning Story

As Rona made her way forwards her torch flickered and gave out, plunging her into blackness. Rona swore under her breath and fumbled with the switch, but her fingers were numb; slippery with water, and the torch fell away from her hands, lost to the dark regions of the grass. The wind lashed the tree tops and they danced like puppets under it’s unstoppable power. They looked exactly like her mother before she went out to a fancy dinner; runnning around chaotically, scrabbling in vain at pots and creams. Rona winced as lightning again illuminated the scene. The toy penguin lolled sideways, stuffing exploding from it’s plump, white stomach. Next to it her brother Bobby was kneeling in the vegetable patch, with his curly hair plastered to his face. He was digging frantically at the dirt and making agitated noises. Rona sighed. Sometimes it was really hard having a big brother with Down Syndrome. Last week, Mum had tried letting him help with the cooking. It hadn’t ended well. Bobby had got in a lot of trouble and he hadn’t even been allowed to check on the chooks – his favorite responsibility. Worse, Rona was supposed to be watching him. If Mum found out that Rona had accidentlay let Bobby outside in a thunder storm……

‘’Bobby!’’ Rona screamed, but he paid no attention.

‘’Find.’’ he said,

‘’What?”’ Rona yelled above the gale.

‘’Find.’’ Rona reached Bobby and heaved on his arm.

‘’Bobby, we need to go inside. Come on!’’ Bobby’s face was streaked with dirt and tears,

‘’Find.’’

‘’Find what, Bobby?”’ Rona asked, dropping to her knees and tossing through the earth.

‘’Easter egg.’’ Bobby replied. Rona exhaled. Bobby loved Easter, but he didn’t realise that it wasn’t coming till next Sunday. This happened every year.

‘’Bobby, we have to go inside!’’ Rona heaved on Bobby’s arm.

‘’Easter Egg.’’ Bobby repeated. The thunderous gale was growing stronger, and Rona’s jeans were streaked with dirt. The rain fell like arrows to pierce through her wet clothes plastering them to her skin.

‘’Bobby!’’ Suddenly Rona lost it. ‘’Think about others for once, you selfish thing! Who cares about stupid Easter or chocolate eggs or whatever. Why can’t you just be normal?’’ Rona exhaled, embarrassed by her violent outburst. But Bobby wasn’t even listening. In the soil Rona saw a flash of gold. Bobby had seen it too. He gasped and scrabbled madly in the ground. The egg emerged and even though there was hardly any light to see by it seemed to glisten like buried treasure. Bobby was ecstatic.

‘’Easter Egg!’’ he cried.

‘’That’s right.’’ Rona said, ‘’Easter egg!’’ Bobby unwrapped the foil reverently and slowly brought the chocolate to his lips. His eyes shone with happiness. Rona grinned. As the rain poured down, brother and sister huddled close and shared the chocolate between them. Easter eggs never tasted so good. Sweet, creamy and perfect.

‘’Happy Easter!’’ Bobby exclaimed. Rona smiled. Chaos had been adverted. She loved her brother just the way he was.

‘’Happy Easter indeed Bobby.’’

Posted in Enter Now, fabo story

Enter the third FABO Story Competition Now!

The third FABO Story competition has now opened for entries! It will be judged by author Michele Powles.

Instructions

1. Read the story starter and continue the story.

2. Your story should be no more than 500 words (not including the story starter).

3. You have a week to write your story, so there’s no need to rush! Take your time and send us the best story you can write.

4. Send your story to us by 7pm Saturday April 18th.

5. The winner of the competition will be announced on this website a few days after the competition closes.

6. Every week there will be a new competition and a children’s author will post a new story starter for you.

7. The competition is open to kids aged 13 and under.

8. The winner will receive a Puffin book of their choice* and their story published on the Penguin NZ website!

*book must be $25 or under, book must be in stock, book will be delivered post lockdown.

Michele Powles’ Story Starter

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…

Now You Finish The Story…