Posted in fabo story, The Winner

FABO Story report for competition 7 judged by Elena De Roo

Oh my goodness! This was by far the most difficult Fabo Story round I have judged in all my (yikes, nine) years of being part of the Fabo Story team. The standard of writing was the highest I’ve seen yet. And the entries kept rolling in – all 120 of them. I loved the mix of all the different styles and genres. There were fairy tales gone wrong, horror stories laced with comedy, ghost stories, heist stories and even a sports story. Aurelia Lind wrote a fast paced mystery thriller:
“Jordan barely escapes, gets up and runs to the garden shed, grabs the can and runs outside. Holding the weed killer up like a gun, he yells ‘show yourself’ … and there it was at the edge of the garden. “

So what did Jordan plant?

As well as the many giant beanstalks there were money trees, lolly trees, a blue mandarin tree and a huge purple oak. There were also Venus Flytraps and plants too awful to be named:
“It was a hideous, weird, purple and yellow plant that towered up at least 6 metres in the air and it stunk like rotten cabbage!” (Leon)

Liam’s plant grew so tall Jordan had to climb back down to get a spacesuit he’d made in class:
“He hoped it would work because it was one he made and it wasn’t a real one.”

Addisen came up with some amazing hopping vegetables that hid themselves in with the normal vegetables and Freddie Read’s story had bulbs which grew legs and ate everything in sight. Dora Zhang created a rare magic ink plant, and Zoe — a crazy vine that followed Jordan everywhere:
“The thing was getting under his feet and mum would be mad, no, livid, no incandescent with rage. “

Some of the seeds grew into sea creatures — a monsterpus (Lucas Yee), a turtle egg (Lachie) and a shimmering sea-flower that lets you breathe under the sea (Lark) — or even more unusual things like dancing trolls (Lorenzo) and a giant basketball court (Hayden).

Dryads and dragons also featured prominently. I especially liked Tom Ambury’s camel-dragon who could spit water over long distances. And Neve Overend created a nice twist in her story by turning an unlikeable Jordan into a dragon:
“Jordan looked down at himself. He had talons for toes and scales for skin. He leapt to a nearby pond and checked his reflection in the water. He now had a long snout with smoke streaming out of two big nostrils, he also had leathery wings and a tail. He let out a growl.”

Another theme which emerged was portals opening to another world or time. I was impressed by Joe’s Sugrue’s concept of Jordan being stuck in an endless loop (where he keeps finding a packet of seeds and replanting them) and Millie Balsom’s nicely structured story in which the seed created a hole that took Jordan back in time.

There were also some clever stories involving wishes:
“’Well,’ he stammered ‘first of all I would love some peace and quiet!’
‘You dream, I deliver. Your wish is granted!’
All of a sudden the faint noises of his big brother screaming and his little sister crying all vanished. There was silence.
‘Also, what is your name?’ Jordan curiously asked.
‘Your wish is granted,’ the genie said smugly (Alexa Potter)

“My last wish is to have you as my friend” replied Jordan. “Your wish is useless, Jordan,” said the fairy. “You were my friend from that moment you saved me from being frozen to a fairy cube” (Mia)

I loved all the creative names that came up too — especially the cute bloodsucking zombie bear called Cuddles (Evelyn) and the caramel Cavoodle named Vickie Milickie (Esther Bond).

Some outstanding sentences that really packed a punch were:
“I am Pumpkinapple.” He boomed. “This is the Kingdom of Why, and I am the ruler.” (Maddie McDowell)

“So Jordan spat on his palms, tucked his book under his arm, took a deep breath, and started climbing. On and on he went, up and up and up, just like the marigold.” (Hana Smith)

“Questions loomed in the dark shadows. What would happen to Jordan if his Mum found out he had so carelessly planted that large vine that now rocketed up into the sky. “ (Zoe Kearns)

And there were some beautifully evocative descriptions:
“No matter how often the family saw it [the dragon] fly, arching with outstretched wings, each as brilliant as stained glass, they held their breath for a moment, eyes wide. “ (Samantha Muirhead)

“The silhouette of the moon was rising, and the sun was sneaking away on the opposite side of the sky.” (Ollie)

“Jordan finally found his alarm clock, but it felt different, rough like sandpaper. ” (Olivia Whale)

“Stars whispered words of encouragement to Jordan while passing meteorites threatened to knock him off track but Jordan continued not looking to the right or the left.“ (Pearl)

A great opening sentence can really hook the reader into your story. Here are some of my favourite beginnings:
“The plant burst out of the ground like a rocket and tangled around Jordan with its purple spikes and green roots. It squeezed him like a lemon getting squeezed into lemonade.” (Henry Peters)

“A plant the colour of blood-red dragon scales erupted from the ground. Still clutching his book, Jordan watched in awe as it grew upwards, the branches clawing at the sky.“ (Madeline Young)

I was also really impressed with the many original and well thought out similes you used (but remember to use them sparingly so that each one stands out and they don’t take away from each other).

“It was as big as the Empire State Building and as beautiful as the icy pathways, glinting in the golden sun.” (Angus Potter)

“Vines crept towards him like wildfires.” (Serena Wong)

“Its leg splattered like a pancake that had been flipped but missed the pan.” (Ollie)

“With a tearing sound, like an old top getting ripped to rags, the heaving earth split down the middle.” (Indigo Tomlinson)

“His eyelids felt like cold concrete.” (Maddie McDowell)

Best endings:

“As they carefully climbed down the vine it slowly disappeared until it was transformed into dust. Jordan sighed, guess it’s back to Monopoly fights while reading Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH!” (Ivy Lange)

“The flytrap had a good dinner that day and the moral of the story is don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” (Noah Hancock)

“He buried the packet in the abandoned house on the corner of his street. Jordan didn’t have any giant crazy plant problems again but that house… it never sold!” (Zoe – Glenview Primary)

There were some memorable characters created:

Grandpa Jo, whose piece of cheese he was saving in his pocket for afternoon tea, turns out to be the secret weapon against the plague of bulbs. (Freddie)

Lily the flower who looks cute, but is actually evil:
“He spotted Lily on top of the Sky Tower!
‘I have dominated the world!’ shouted Lily. (Bella Jones)

A very cute little phoenix who keeps accidentally burning his own wings:
“The little Phoenix puffed out his chest and said “Oh, I can still burn a hole through my wings, my flame can burn anything. It‘s even more powerful than this itty bitty bandage.” (Lincey Jiang)

And finally, here is my rather long shortlist:

Ava Lister whose story had a unique tone that made it sound almost like a memoir.

“The acid burnt large brown patches on their luscious green grass, and it was so strong it peeled the paint off any nearby fences. Over the past week, the plant had grown from a purplish blue colour to an orangish red color. The previous day, the large plant sent a shower of spiderlings and larvae everywhere.”

Her sweeping story about a plant called George, covers two generations and has a classic horror-comedy ending.

“Jordan and his parents soon forgot about George, although every now and then the memories would come back to haunt them. Jordan grew up, got married, and had two wonderful children. When the day came that Jordan’s eldest son was trying to read, went down to the old garden shed, and discovered a packet of seeds, Jordan had this weird feeling in his gut that something was wrong. When he saw his son crossing the yard with a bucket of water, he ran. ‘No! Don’t do it!’ he screamed. The bucket was emptied. ‘Here we go again.’”

William Kelly — I particularly liked the twist where Jordan’s dad (named Jack) and turns out to be the actual giant from Jack in the Beanstalk. I really enjoyed the clever dialogue in your story too.

“’We don’t climb beanstalks any more… times have changed’, replied Dad ‘well, since 2018, when there was an outcry because people were too tired and too fat to keep climbing beanstalks.’”

And what a great idea to make the giant talk in rhyme.

“’Fee, Fi, Fo, Fun… I smell a boy from Wellington,
I hate your smile, it’s sad and vile’ sneered the giant.
Dad leaned towards Jordan ‘that’s the trouble with giants, they speak in rhyme, but it’s pretty handy for when you need to write poems for homework’, he whispered.”

Zoe Bedford — I loved that your world was created out of the book Jordan was reading and that both the characters and setting relate to the same book. Even the food in this literary world tastes papery – a brilliant touch!

“Jordan glanced at his Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH copy. It was lying open on the ground. The strangest thing was happening to it; the words inside were being sucked out of it and they were attaching themselves to the tree! ‘A literary tree. Fantastic!’ Jordan thought. He touched the paper bark.”

Olivia Morriss — I was drawn in straight away by your story centred around the character from the nursery rhyme ‘Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary’ and impressed that you had done some research into different versions of the rhyme.

I love the way you describe Mary’s appearance “She clutched her bright orange dress tightly above the ground, careful not to dirty her frilly petticoat. She looked a bit like a pumpkin, orange and round, smiley all over.” And then slowly reveal the evil character she really is underneath her “big, fake, celebrity smile, all white teeth”.

Lyndey Jiang – you were my runner up. With very few words you wrote a fast-paced entertaining story, with a clever twist at the end. I could imagine it as a picture book. I like the way the story escalates as the tiny Venus Flytrap grows bigger and gets more and more out of control, first eating flies, then fruit, then Jordan’s dog and finally eyeing up Jordan as his ultimate snack.

“’Didn’t you say you can eat everything? Can you eat your roots?’ Jordan sneered.
‘I totally can!’ the plant bellowed. It bent down to the earth and ate its roots. Finally, it realised what was going on.
The plant shrieked with agony.
‘No! I got tricked!’ It started to crumble. Everything it ate spilled out.”

Well done Lyndey! Your story was very close to being first.

Which brings me, at last, to my winner – Sam Smith. The more I read your story, the more I liked it. Especially the way that, although the story is complete, it hints there is more to know. I’m also impressed by the way you had just the right balance of description, action and dialogue and tell us a lot about the characters with a few well-chosen words. Congratulations on a great story Sam!

Here’s what Penguin author, Pamela Morrow (Ngāti Pū) has to say about Sam’s story. Pamela is a self professed “big science nut” who often creates laser beams and explosions in her work as a visual effects artist. She has just published her first book, Hello Strange, a fast-paced futuristic YA romance about artificial emotional intelligence.

Pamela says:

This story is full of action and rich with character, which makes it an exciting read. I’m impressed that our point of view character, Jordan, is attentive to specifics and doesn’t miss a trick. How he notices the somewhat ironic way a botany specialist’s shoes ‘clacked down the garden path, squashing a rosebud into the ground.’

And another favourite image, the mum whose slippers ‘lapped at her heels as she ran.’ The best writing is simple, yet creates a vivid impression. I can readily see in my mind’s eye, this mum efficiently dealing to an interruption in her morning routine. You nailed it Sam, great work.

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. ….

Sam’s Winning Story

The ground split open with a mighty crack, and a small plant poked its head out. To Jordan’s surprise, it was a marigold. A perfect little flower, with fierce sunset orange petals and delicate oval leaves.

“What has happened to my garden?” a sharp voice said from behind Jordan. He turned and standing on the verandah was a tall man in a pinstriped suit, the man’s flawlessly clipped moustache had positioned itself above his tight-lipped mouth.
“Well?” the man said again.
“I… I’m sorry, Father,” Jordan stammered. “I didn’t mean to!”
His Dad burst out laughing. “Hahaha,” he snorted, wiping his eyes. “Oh, you should have seen the look on your face Jordan. Come on kiddo, I don’t always lose at Monopoly.”

His father told him to come inside for dinner, and they were all sitting around the dining room table, vegges on one side, sausages and potatoes on the other. The Monopoly box sat in the corner, it looked like someone had packed away hastily. Jordan was busy eating his third sausage while the twins were eating broccoli. Suddenly, the earth beneath them started to shake.
“EARTHQUAKE!” yelled his mother. “Take cover!”
That’s no earthquake, thought Jordan to himself scurrying outside. He reached the front door and flung it open. Dodging a falling vase, he grabbed his gumboots and kept running.

The sky was dark, the moon was hiding behind the clouds. But Jordan could see the giant marigold in their back garden. Mum and Dad came running out behind him.
“I don’t think…,” said Mum, “I don’t think that was an earthquake.”

The next morning, while Jordan was eating his cornflakes,
a dark car came speeding around the corner, skidding to a stop on their gravel driveway. A man wearing a white suit and sunglasses climbed out. His midnight-black shoes clacked down the garden path, squashing a rosebud into the ground. He rapped on the front door.

“Mum, someone’s at the door,” yelled Jordan.
“Coming,” called his Mother.
She came rushing out of the bathroom in a bathrobe, with a towel wrapped around her head. Her slippers lapped at her heels as she ran. She opened the front door and frowned,
“Were we expecting you?” she asked.
“No, I’m afraid not,” he replied, “Sorry for the interruption, but this is very urgent.”

Jordan’s mother got dressed and invited the man in. He introduced himself as Dr Brian Whittleton.
“Do you want anything to drink?” she asked him.
The doctor ignored her and stared out the window. He pulled out a small sketchbook and began sketching the marigold,
“Do you mind if I could grab a few samples?” he said as he strolled outside. He pulled out some gloves, tweezers, and a small whirring machine. He plucked a small leaf from the giant stem and placed it inside the machine. It binged, and he flashed a smile.
“Perfect,” he murmured to himself. Brian turned to us and said,
“Thank you for your hospitality, but I best be going now.”

The next day Jordan woke up to find the strangest thing had happened, the giant marigold had disappeared. Only a large crater remained. Jordan walked outside in his PJ’s and something caught his eye. It was a business card for a botany specialist by the name of Dr Brian Whittleton.

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)


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 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 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 fabo story, The Winner

Elena’s FABO Story Judge’s Report

I’ve been super impressed with the quality of the entries that have come in over the last couple of weeks.

There were some wonderfully detailed descriptions which really created a picture in my mind of the worlds Anneke and Nikau found behind the double doors.

Georgia (Palmerston North Intermediate): A sea of stars spread over the ceiling, people walking around in the strangest outfits Anneke had seen! Shapes twinkling in the walls like diamonds in the sun … An old woman with wire-like hair that fell down to her bony knees, gnarled up fingers from work and a hunched back, muttering deliriously to herself in too small overalls and sandals tinkered about with a small wooden horse.

Sylvie (Rototuna Primary School): At first they were blinded by the blue and purple shimmers and silver stars on the walls and roof, but as they got used to it, they could see by the light of a few twilight bulbs and squares on the roof that there was a huge conference table in the middle, surrounded by ten violet and turquoise bean bags.

Sasha (Marina View School): There were signs in different spots saying “Don’t Touch.” Everyone was squished into a tiny room.

I also loved the imaginative and inventive products that popped up in the Comet store.

Portable spaceships in bulging bags and dark matter bubble gum, which was later used to encase the baddie in a bubble. Maddie (Te Huruhi School)

Dark matter Oh My Stars glitter eyeshadow palette, able to literally transport you to a different world. Daisy (Discovery School)

Neisha (Tauranga Intermediate) had my mouth watering with her space-themed candy descriptions: Star Sherbert (turned your mouth from pink to a silver star colour, Asteroid Lollipops (made your mouth swell up with candy flavoured ulsors) to Universal Chocolate (never ran out).

Some superb characters came to life on the page.

Bob the Blob:
At the exact time, a bizarre creature consisting mainly of a green slimy and liquidy blob with an eye smack bang in the middle came and said, “Hullo there, my name is Bob the Blob. It is quite the pleasure to meet you mod dom. How may I help you?” Reinhelda (Palmerston North Intermediate)

I also liked the way this idea was carried over into other areas of the story with a “blob jumping” competition, followed by Anneke and Nikau exiting Comet with hands full of “thingamabobs.”

Byron (Te Huruhi School) made excellent use of dialogue, in his funny and fast-paced story, to create a likeable alien character.
“Wait you’re just going to go without me?” asked a quiet voice. They turn to see a small alien man about the size of a small book case.

Other stories impressed me with the creative way they used language.

Madeleine (Marina View School) made Comet an acronym.
“Cooperation of meteorite engagement team … C.O.M.E.T. plans to destroy the earth with a big meteorite!” Anneke explained.

Mia (Te Huruhi School) created a new word for her story’s space creature pet – a flirkin.
“Flirkin Food! Why Flirkin Food?” spilled the shopkeeper.
“We have a flirkin … obviously,” Nikau said.

Daisy E. (Rototuna Primary) included some wonderful similes in her story.
It was like sprinkles being sucked up a vacuum cleaner! …The children landed on a moist, fuchsia-coloured field. The surface of it felt like a damp sponge.

Jerry’s (Greenhithe School) story began with a clever simile which linked in nicely to the story starter:
The swinging entryways opened essentially smoother than the female voice.

Best Endings:

Aiesha’s (Marina View School) story ended on a memorable and unusual last image.
They trotted down the road as the horizon lay upon them.

I also really liked Jacob’s (Glen Eden Intermediate School) understated ending which echoed the story starter:
They made it but they were 13 minutes late.

Isabella’s (Discovery School) story took an interesting twist when Comet turned out to be a computer game (Comet the Unicorn). Her story’s ending included some beautiful imagery:
The unicorn gestured them onto her back, so they climbed on. Comet lifted off into the sky with icy wind blowing past their faces.

Special mentions:

Aden (Te Huruhi School) wrote a great fast paced story, which skilfully built up the tension:
“This ship has a rusty engine, low fuel and you say this is my fault. I’m trying to fix it not make it worse.”

Olivia (Fenwick Primary) created an impressively eerie and evocative story.
Both children could immediately hear a well-oiled mechanism click, and they jumped back in surprise, while a low hiss was heard and slowly, the huge, heavy doors slid open.
Great writing Olivia!

Erin’s (Te Huruhi School) story included two of my favourite lines:
“Calm down, Nikau. We’re still in the Milky Way. There is nothing to panic about,” Anneke said …
“I know a device that can teleport a building anywhere in the Universe! We need the dust of a newly dead star and an old robot,” said a rather elderly lady.

The following stories made it into my shortlist:

Ava Lister’s (Tokomaru School) atmospheric and very spooky story stood out because it was almost entirely dialogue, which I thought was very clever and gave it a unique tone.

Isabella McGregor (Tokomaru School) wrote a wonderfully accomplished and surreal story that skilfully took the reader through a number of alternative scenarios.

Indigo Tomlinson’s (Whakatane Intermediate) story combined excellent world building, evocative description and great characterisation with a clever story arc.

And the winner is Kate Barber (Oroua Downs School). I loved your circular plot with its clever twist at the end and am impressed by the way you managed to draw me in with a mystery and then resolve it, all within the word count.

Elena’s Story Starter

Even though it was only just after 5pm, the misty mid-winter drizzle meant it was already getting dark by the time Anneke and her younger brother stood waiting for the pedestrian light at the bottom of Queen Street. They had plenty of time. She and Nikau had managed to catch the earlier express bus into town – it was at least an hour before their robotics workshop was due to begin at the library.

De-de-de-de-de-de-de … The pedestrian signal went. She and Nikau wove their way through the flow of people crossing the road in the opposite direction. Someone, she didn’t see who, pushed a flyer into Anneke’s hand.

“Hey, what’s that?” said Nikau, once they’d reached the other side. He pointed to the stylised image of a comet streaking across the outside of the leaflet.

Anneke shrugged. “I dunno. Probably a new electric scooter or something.”

“Can I see?” Nikau grabbed it. A handful of glitter stars fell out into his hand. “Wow! Listen to this.” He moved into the nearby entrance of a brightly lit food hall to read it.

COMET is here!

For a limited time only COMET, the most famous and fabuloso POP UP SHOP in the universe, is orbiting into your galaxy right now!

If you can imagine it – we have it! Gazillions of prizes and give-aways, the very latest inter-galactic games and absolutely astronomical opening specials on all – yes, all – of our signature range, dark matter make-up!!!

Entry by invitation and in the allotted time-slot only:

17:13 local time

Strictly no late entries. Present this ticket at the door. Valid for 2 customers.

Make sure you don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity! COMET will not be popping up in your galaxy again for another hundred light years.

Snooze and you lose! Be there or be E = mc2! Find us at Queens Rise (2nd floor) right now.

“Did you hear that? Free stuff,” said Nikau. He took a few steps back and looked up at the sign above the food hall entrance. “Woah! Queen’s Rise. The store’s right here. Can we go?” said Nikau. “Please, Anneke.” He stuck out his lower lip and made pleading puppy dog eyes.

Anneke sighed. It did sound fun. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to have a quick look. She checked her phone – 5:10pm, or 17:10 using a 24-hour clock. They had exactly three minutes before their time-slot.

She and Nikau bounded up the short escalator to the first floor two steps at time. Once at the top they hurried past a circle of busy restaurants to the next up escalator. This one was much longer and steeper. The noise of the first floor faded away. Anneke checked the time on her phone. 5:12pm. Nearly at the top now. She reached back for Nikau’s hand and they stepped off. In front of them was a large solid double door. Scrawled across it in purple neon was the word, COMET.

The digital clock above the door flicked from 17:12 to 17:13. A green slot lit up and blinked.

Welcome universal shoppers – said a smooth female voice – 17:13 time slot customers may now scan tickets for entry.

Kate’s Winning Story

“I’m so excited,” Nikau grinned his face spread in a wide smile. I squeezed his hand and exchanged a smile. Slowly the crowd started to move forward. Up ahead a curly brown-haired female staff member was at the front of the line taking the tickets. A phone in her hand, her eyes fixed on the screen. Her golden name tag flashed Jane.

When we got close to her she mumbled “Ticket please,” Reaching into my jacket pocket I produced the ticket. Quickly she glanced up and checked the ticket over before giving it back.

“Name,” she asked still looking at her phone.

I replied back “Anneke Thompson and thi-” Jane interrupted me.

“Wait your Anneke Eva Thompson,” she questioned, her blue eyes staring at me. I paused, how did she know my middle name. This was weird.

I waited for a moment until I spoke again.

“Yes I’m Anneke Eva Thompson,” I said uncertainty echoing in my voice. Immediately I regretted it. You don’t tell strangers your personal details.

“Oh my gosh.” she blurted. ” I am honoured to be in your presence. The work you do is incredible.” My heart leapt in my chest. I glanced at Nikau, his brown eyes filled with fright.

“What do you mean,” I asked trying not to let my nervousness show. Jane stared at me a puzzled expression plastered on her face.

“Are you Anneke Eva Thompson,”

“I am,” Silence. For a moment everything was quiet.

“Then why don’t you tell me about your great inventions.” Jane accused, her voice rising. Slowly I backed away pulling Nikau with me. Terror filling my body

“What about your Time Retract ball.” She takes a step towards us. My mind races, what to do, what to do.

“Answer me,” Jane shouts. Nikau cowers behind me. Heart leaping in my chest.

“Who is making all that ruckus,” An angry voice grumbles from behind me. Startled I turned around and saw a burly man with brown hair and a thick beard. His mouth twisted into an angry snarl.

“Jane what did you do,” he continued. Jane crouched down in fear. I stood still frozen in shock. What was happening?

“I’m sorry sir,” Jane apologised. “It’s just this is Anneke Thompson.” The burly man looked me over before speaking.

“You silly girl. There’s a time difference here in Earth. Anneke isn’t even over fifteen. And now I’ll have to sort this out” Still angry he reached into his pocket and pulled out a strange-looking device. It was circular with bright lights spinning around inside. On the base was a silver metal label that said A.T company.

“Bye, bye,” he said. I gripped Nikau’s hand even tighter. Then….De-de-de-de-de-de.

Posted in fabo story, The Winners!

Kathy’s FABO Judge’s Report!

I don’t think I’ve ever read so many great ideas and well-rounded stories. Talk about making it difficult for the judge to do her job!

There were some exceptional ideas – using sticky tape on small hands to climb the walls, using lego pieces to spell out messages to classmates, and gigantic rats and spiders lurking in the back room. Some cockroaches morphed into humans and merged with human society. I particularly liked the rebelling mutant cockroaches who turned out to be badly-behaved kids, and Mr Lewis’ wife who had been trapped in the cockroach jar for 17 years! (Sian)


I liked the way you played with language and used it to create memorable pictures of characters and ominous places.

The kids slowly sunk to the dusty floor like ice melting in the sun (Daniel);

Before the trio could speak, they had shrunk to the size of a child’s pinky finger and formed the shape of a crunchy little cockroach (Daniel);

The three kids became “the bugskiteers” (Sarah).


Some of you thought carefully about the detail in who the characters were and how they behaved differently.

“Frankie landed neatly. Tyler sprawled and Brendan crashed into painful splits.” (Bessie);

Mr Lewis was beaming, and you could see all his cavities, silver teeth, and remnants of the burrito he had had for lunch earlier that day. (Indiana)


So many of you wrote great dialogue that I can’t mention you all. The best bits sounded really natural, with small pauses. For instance Kate wrote about how horrified the kids were when they found out that Mr Lewis didn’t know how to reverse what he had done.

“Scared that they won?” one of the boys shouted.

Mr Lewis shook his head.

“I don’t know how to reverse it,” he quietly sputtered.

The whole entire class gasped. You could hear a pin drop.

“Why, did you do this to US,” Frankie exploded.

In fact, Kate and Indiana had two of my favourite philosophical questions:

“Insects are a part of the circle of life. Do you like destroying the circle of life?”

“What is wrong with not making cockroaches’ legs twitch?!”


I like the way a lot of you played with words and used humour in your endings.

(After having been shrunk and re-sized)

3:30 at Tyler’s House.

“How was your day Tyler,” Tyler’s Mum asked.

“I have little to say about it,” Tyler replied. (Kate)

“Mr Lewis got fired, and now lives in his mother’s basement, trying to be a half-decent citizen.” (Jeremy)

Frankies eyes went blank. Her mouth was dry. “If this is a spider web, then where is its maker?” Eight eyes glowed red as Mr Lewis opened the cage behind them. (Indiana)

However I had the biggest chuckle with this from Daniel:

Mr Lewis came bursting in, Jason tackled him down like an ALL BLACK. Hurling him onto the red dot he commanded Brendan to press the button.

The evil teacher shrunk down to a cockroach. Wondering what the commotion was about, massive Mrs Watson quickly waddled in. Seeing the ugly insect on the ground she crushed it under her large shoe.

“Do you think Mr lewis is okay?” asked Frankie

“No guarantees” replied Jason.

You’ve made it particularly difficult to choose winners this time because

(1) you’re all talented;

(2) You’re getting better at delivering a well-balanced story (with surprises) in terms of a beginning, middle and end;

(3) You cleverly used details in the story starter and built on that story, making it something that was uniquely your own.


I’m not joking when I say that so many of you were in my shortlist, so thank you to all of you for making me laugh and think. Congratulations to Indiana Taylor (age 8) and Daniel Morrison (age 11) who are my junior and senior prize-winners this week for being good at so many things, and because I loved the way you put your words together.

If I had highly commended prizes, I’d be giving them out to Bessie Martin and Kate Barber plus several others for doing particular things exceptionally well. Unfortunately, I’ve only got two prizes so I’m sending the rest of you a virtual high five. Indiana and Daniel, can you please email your addresses through the Fabo story website, so I can send you a prize.

P.S. My story starter was based on a real one. When I was 13, I stood up in my science class and told my teacher, Mr Lewis, that I wasn’t going to cut up the dead lamb on my workbench. Kids were firing body parts around the room and I found it upsetting. My friend Dinah joined my protest, and we both had to scrape chewing gum off school seats for a week as punishment. It was the first time I protested about something that mattered to me; I’ve done it many times since. ☺

– Kathy White

Prize-winner: Indiana Taylor, Pt Chev Primary

Something from above shot down at them, and cloaked all three in a sticky, tough, strong material. They were trapped. Goners. Doomed.

“Ughh… I read a book on spiders yesterday,” Frankie shivered. “And gathering all the facts together, this is a spiders w..w..web!” Frankie screamed as a small prod in the back occurred.

“It’s all right.” Tyler whispered. ‘We are going to be fine. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO US MR LEWIS! WHAT IS WRONG WITH NOT MAKING COCKROACHES LEGS TWITCH?!”

He continued. “Well, you’re not bugs, are you? Your sign only said no bug experiments. Or am I mistaken, are you a bug, and I should switch you for these cockroaches.” Mr Lewis smirked.

Tyler struggled to find his sign so he could change what it said. “Looking for this?” Mr Lewis was beaming, and you could see all his cavities, silver teeth, and remnants of the burrito he had had for lunch earlier that day.

Brendan thought back to all those missing children from room 5. Tyler probably was right with assuming Jenny didn’t go on holiday so suddenly, and for such a long time too. That was over 2 and a half years ago. And maybe Jack really didn’t switch schools without telling anybody. Maybe Mr Lewis had been up to his experimenting for some time.

Frankies eyes went blank. Her mouth was dry. “If this is a spider web, then where is its maker?” Eight eyes glowed red as Mr Lewis opened the cage behind them.

Prize-winner: Daniel Morrison, age 11, Te Mata Primary

It all happened within a second, lasers shot out illuminating the mysterious room with colours, the kids slowly sunk to the dusty floor like ice melting in the sun.

Before the trio could speak, they had shrunk to the size of a child’s pinky finger and formed the shape of a crunchy little cockroach.

Mr Lewis gathered them up, walking them into the classroom he locked the back-room. With a little giggle he informed the kids in the classroom that he had found a few new cockroaches in the backroom.

Mr Lewis poured them into the jar on his desk and Tyler tried to escape but it was no use, they were trapped.

And then…


“Hey… You three, can you guys get me out.”

“who are you?” Asked Brendan sounding confused.

“I’m Jason.” he answered.

“Jason Greene?” asked Brendan.

“Yeah,” he told them.

“You kicked the football through the window last term, Mr Lewis told us you were expelled” exclaimed Brendan.

“He turned me into an ugly six legged pest and has kept me in here for weeks!” Yelled Jason frustratingly.

“So who are all these people with you?” asked Tyler.

“Oh no these are just normal cockroaches” he said with a short smirk.

Everyone muted, the same thought locked inside everyone’s head. How to get out? Finally the silence broke.

“We could play dead!” screamed Frankie.

“Yes, and we run on three!” “Agreed Jason.”

The four insects faced their shiny backs to the ground and just laid there waiting. Just as they had hoped, a large boy from their class walked by noticing the four seemingly lifeless cockroaches laying in the jar. Out of curiosity he slowly lifted the lid up and Jason signaled

“3,2,1 GO!”

The pocket sized pests all scattered out of the jar within a second which made the poor lad embarrassingly scream his head off.

Tyler directed the three roaches to head under the back room door, they quickly followed. Frankie then got an idea.

“We could use those Lego pieces on that shelf to make words to tell the other kids to press the red button and turn us back.” she insisted

“Great idea” said Brendan, and quickly the insects formed the words.

Immediately a kid ran into the room with bug-spray in hand. Surprised by the Lego message, he pressed the button reluctantly. Again the room filled with light. Instead of shrinking, they grew from the red spot on the cold flooring, transforming back to their human form.

Mr Lewis came bursting in, Jason tackled him down like an ALL BLACK. Hurling him onto the red dot he commanded Brendan to press the button.

The evil teacher shrunk down to a cockroach. Wondering what the commotion was about, massive Mrs Watson quickly waddled in. Seeing the ugly insect on the ground she crushed it under her large shoe.

“Do you think Mr lewis is okay?” asked Frankie

“No guarantees” replied Jason.

Posted in fabo story, The Winners!

Sue’s FABO Report!

Thank you, Fabsters, for revving up your imaginations to finish the story starter. I was intrigued to see what you thought might happen when a lady in a funny old toy shop in a weird town told you to spin a globe which was clearly not going to be a normal globe. Where would you end up? The jungles of Africa? A Himalayan mountaintop? In fact, many of you ended up on desert islands with soft sandy beaches and turquoise sea. Could that be because we’re in the middle of winter?!

BUT, we also had: a planet where everything was the same yet different (Ella Stewart), Antarctica in the future (Finn Wescombe), inside the globe (Fatima Lefale), Dunedin in 1948 (Emma Shepherd), olde-worlde England (Maddie Mitchell), back to childhood (Mackenzie Carkeek), and the Titanic (Keziah). Oh yes, and Cole Wescombe landed on an island with a herd of buffalo, and also named the ‘weird’ town as Napier ☺.

Well done to those of you who included elements from the story starter in your writing. The toy shop owner, the sea serpents, Easter eggs and even pies were featured. Lucy Eastwood’s sea serpent appeared as a turquoise snake with curly horns, called Clarissa-Genevieve-Margaret-Elizabeth-Mary-May, and Indie Cowan’s was Falkor, the Luckdragon of Fantastica. I also liked Maia Wenham’s creepy button-eye dolls. Charlotte Rodgers-Foran gets an special mention for her truly scary and revolting serpent.

There was plenty of great descriptive writing. Keira Auden’s story featured an old lady with hair in “an unnecessarily tight bun”. Keira – I think I might just have to steal that for my next book! And Jade from Tauraroa School had the awesome line “Fairy tales go wrong” – but Jade, your lovely story was 1,348 words long. Hint: read the instructions!

Beginnings And Endings

A word about beginnings and endings. Your beginning needs to hook the reader in, and most of you nailed this. Straight into the action! Two fabulous beginnings were from Chelsea Young, whose story began: “I don’t know why I did what this woman told me to, it was a stupid idea. Maybe 13 is the age where you begin to do stupid things.” And Tatiana Austin, whose story began: “OK, so at first it sounds like a really idiotic thing to do, to spin a weird looking orb because a weird woman in a weird store in a weird town told you to. Man, I wonder why the result was weird.”

Now to endings. One of my favourite last lines came from Mackenzie Carkeek: “Well everyone must be a child one last time.” But, there were some riproaring stories that just fizzled out. Fabsters, we’ve told you before, we really like to know what happens in the end! How can you do this to us! Take a look at the winning entries to see how they have rounded off their tales. And something else we’ve mentioned before. Try and avoid the “Oh, it was a dream!” ending. Aim to be original. And think – if you got to the end of Harry Potter and found it had all been a dream, wouldn’t you be disappointed? The FABO judges are the same.

The Winners

And so, to my two winners! Yes, although I do have an overall winner, it was so close that I’m giving a second prize too.

The second prize goes to Peter Browne, from Otumoetai Primary School in Tauranga, whose spinning globe releases the serpents into the town, and he has to use his wits to outsmart them. Excellent beginning, plenty of action, a great ending and dollops of humour. Love it!

And the overall winner is … wait for it, wait for it … Mika, from Thighes Hill Public school, whose story had it all – superb descriptive writing, really creepy, and a great twist at the end.

I will email you two to let you know about your prizes.

Here are the two stories:

Mika’s story

The light was inexplicable. It tore away everything, blocking out all sound and vision. My throat was raw, my limbs paralyzed. Terror took hold of me, gripping my heart with icy fingers. I screamed, willing my legs to move, but nothing would come.


Something solidified under my feet. Solid ground. The earth beneath me was hard like rock, and had a strange, foreign feeling underfoot, almost bouncy.

As the vision returns to my eyes, I hear a raspy, terrifying voice choke out a feeble sentence, “But… Where… no…” My hand flies to my throat as I realize the voice was my own.

The scene around me is both horrifying and stunning. The land is perfectly flat, covered in long, wavy grass that goes up to my waist. To my left the land slopes downwards and meets the waterline. The waves soar above my head, crashing just metres away from me. I catch the salty spray on my tongue and pull away, scrambling into the grass. Briefly I remember the strange creatures that roamed the water on the globe. The sun suddenly becomes unbearable. The heat pelts down on the land. Sweat breaks out on my brow and I cringe. I raised my head and stared upwards. My heart skips a beat.

Above me, the sky is curved upwards, forming a glassy dome above me.

And behind the dome is the face of the store owner. Her grey hair surrounds her laughing face like a hood, her eyes peeking out from under her fringe of curls.
I am trapped, gone.


Peter’s story

As it spun, the brownish land and sea turned green and blue suddenly the sea serpents grew bigger and bigger and BIGGER! Finally, the serpents came to life! The serpents slithered out of the toy shop.

“I have to save Easter from the serpents, otherwise they’re going to wreck it!” I thought.

I sprinted out of the toy shop and into the town that really wasn’t a town. The serpents were already heading into a café. If I didn’t stop them the people in there would die then I would die to. I ran down the street and into the café.

When I reached the café the serpents had almost eaten their first meals! I needed to distract them. I grabbed the door and started swinging it open and shut. Well that got their attention, it worked really good … a little too good – now the serpents were after me, not the café people! I ran for my life (and for Easter).

I wondered about the old lady back in the toy store. Did she want this to happen? If she did then she’s going to pay for it.

“Snap out of it” I said to myself “Stop thinking and start running!”

Finally, I had an idea. If the sea serpents came to life when I spun the globe right, if I spun it left the sea serpents would go back in. “I’m a genius,” I thought, but did I spin it left or right? I’d forgotten. Well, I did just randomly spin it.

Suddenly I remembered that it was Easter! I ran down the road and into another café. Sure enough there were Easter eggs everywhere! Lucky me, I thought, so I asked the counter person if I could have some eggs. She said no, but when the serpents came in she gave me them all. I was chocolate rich, but this wasn’t for me it was for the serpents.

I ran out of the café holding the Easter eggs in my hand and screaming at the top of my voice. “Come and get it, you slimy sea monsters!” They soon followed me at supersonic speeds. If I couldn’t outrun them I’d have to outsmart them. So I dodged, jumped, and swerved until I’d almost tired them out. Finally, I could run to the toy shop.

When I reached the toy shop I found the lady asleep on the counter so I walked over to the globe. “Here goes nothing” I thought, and spun it … Sure enough the serpents got sucked back into the globe.

As for the old lady, she got sent to jail for the rest of her life. And, I was interviewed for breaking news on Channel 3.

Posted in Prizes!, The Winner

Melinda’s FABO Report For The Competition Ending June 9

It is wonderful to see so many of you participating in Fabostory, even from as far afield as Canada (Hi Ella!). We received 67 entries for this challenge. Wow! Good effort, people!

It was really interesting to see several of you take the story in an Alice in Wonderland direction with cakes saying ‘eat me’ and drinks saying ‘drink me’ and odd doors and special keys.

There was some terrific writing although sometimes it was let down by the lack of an ending. It is true that good endings are hard to come up with, but there are other ways to finish a story in a satisfying way, even if you can’t figure out a resolution. Please, please make sure you check your story for mistakes, correct punctuation (are there enough full stops and commas), consistent tenses and that it is complete before you submit it. Some wonderful stories had too many mistakes which meant I marked them down.

There were many lovely images and ideas – like this from Maddie Mitchell at Raumati Beach School, “Great,” I thought. “Now I have a chance of getting strange-looking-vine-from-tree-o-thermia.” And Fear hung in the air like a thick mist from Maia at Carmel College. My feet vacuumed me down like I was getting pulled down a plug hole, by Maddie at St Cuthberts and Jake Richards at Upper Moutere wrote – the forest had eaten us.

I liked Vaya and Laela’s (Sunnynook Primary) idea of the children being in a video game. Charlotte Ng Waishing from St Cuthberts created a very interesting world of sweets trapping Maria and her friends. It was cool how intasab Zohra from Sunnynook Primary linked this story with the previous challenge, and how Natalie Lamb from St Cuthberts wrote the story as a police procedural.

Rosie Shiu from St Cuthberts had an interesting approach with the forest having a Dark Side and a Bright Side. The story by Indie Cowan from Cambridge East School was well paced and had some great action. Amber Wastney from Upper Moutere had a fresh, original idea for her story using mirrors.

Alex B from St Cuthberts had some lovely language – My heart was pounding like a piston, and, I blow the evening zephyr a kiss.

I loved these lines from Mackenzie Carkeek from Carmel College – ‘Are​ ​we​ ​seriously​ ​going​ ​to​ ​do​ ​this​ ​you​ ​know​ ​how​ ​it​ ​always​ ​ends​ ​in​ ​action​ ​movies’​ ​said​ ​Josh​ ​in​ ​a worried​ ​tone, and, ​the​ ​air​ ​was​ ​still​ ​a​ ​nose​ ​burning​ ​stench.

Jade from Clevedon School had a really intriguing story with chapters. And I loved the idea that the world was ‘degravitised’ in Leah Joy Werner’s (Upper Moutere School) story.

I liked Julita Seumanutafa’s (Carmel College) use of ‘voice’ – All these questions popped up in my head like, “What was I supposed to tell her parents?, especially her mum she would probably bite my head off.

If I just told her that Maria’s feet just disappeared, she would have asked me if it was her daughter’s feet that had vanished or whether it was my mind that I had lost.
And also Lola Wood at Raroa Normal Intermediate – Crawling through talking bushes isn’t exactly where I excel…

Grace Chisnall and Rosa Kelly both from Upper Moutere School had some great over all writing as did Annabel O’Rourke from Carmel College, Rebecca from Northcote Intermediate, Julia Wilkins from Willow Park School, and Cole Wescombe from Aidanfield Christian School.

My runners-up for this challenge are Ella Ava Bruce Sievert from Verran Primary, Nathan Stacey from Churton Park School and Finn Wescombe from Aidanfield Christian School. Great writing folks!

I have a special prize this week for Marlow Cornish from Taupaki School who is new to the story writing business but who impressed me with his vivid and cool ideas. Well done Marlow! Keep up the good work.

And finally, drum roll please …. The winner of this challenge is Anita Lese from Ellerslie Primary with great poetic language and a smart twist. You can read her story below. Congratulations Anita!!

Marlow, please could you email your postal address to me at so I can send out your prize (or I can forward it to your school if you prefer). Anita, Tania is going to send your prize and has already emailed you.

Anita Lese’s Story

Her shriek morphed into a nail, and drilled itself into our memories. We retreated as a pack, shins scraping against bare bush, hearts pumping under our blazers. With our fear came sweat, penetrating the safety of our group.

I struggled forward searching for any changes to the scene. A puddle of dry mud encasing a pair of sneakers met my eyes.

A rustle of dead leaves reminded me of my companions. As if acting to cue, a hand squeezed my shoulder. I turned my head and saw the worried face of my friends. “Are you going in?” Rosie questioned, voice crackling with fear. The crackles turned into a roaring fire. The squeeze of my shoulder was a way of releasing nerves. I am the brave one. They are a shaky building, and I am their supports.

With new authority I nodded and threw my now undesirable bag over my shoulder, along with my strangling tie which flew through the air, then nestled around my discarded bag. One by one they followed suit. “You don’t have to.” I said. “We know.” Replied Charlotte and they continued to copy me.

Panting heavily in anticipation, we jumped into the great unknown. Our brains were radios all tuned to the same station. The ‘Save Maria’ station.

Everything was dark. Our eyes drifted around, searching left, right and centre. Searching for clues. Maria. Light. There was nothing.

Suddenly a light formed and slowly grew into a sun, we laid back relying on the sun’s familiar rays to calm us. A burning sensation in every spot the sun touched us was our repayment.

Faster than a wink something was sprouting from our shoulder blades and spreading to our fingertips. Wings.

The fear was back, eating our insides. Coursing through our blood. Lungs yearned for air, but mouths wouldn’t open. Once again, the fear led to sweat. It was sliding sloppily down my brow.

Animal like whimpers escaped Charlotte and Rosie’s mouths. Their worries gave me strength, reminded me I was the supports. I must stay calm. I pointed to the sun, then indicated my wings. Luckily they understood my wild gestures and each clasped my hands.

With that simple act our lungs opened, letting in fresh oxygen. Clearing our minds from any worry. We rose up, uncertainly flapping our wings. Could we trust these wings? With everything that had happened would this be a blessing? A curse?

The air was alive with the sound of our flapping wings. We were doing it, soaring high above the ground towards the sun. The wings were trustworthy, no hoax.

A sneaker patterned limb waved in front of my face. Maria. I clutched her leg and pulled her along with us.

“We escaped. We survived.” I tell the teacher. But she doesn’t believe me, she just gives me the knowing look only a teacher can give. Maybe that excuse was a little too crazy. Next time I’ll just do my homework.

Or stick with the classic, “The dog ate it.”

Posted in The Winners!

Melinda’s Judge’s Report For The Fabostory Challenge Ending May 26

Wow, thank you for all your wonderful stories – 59 in total. There were all sorts of weird and wacky solutions to dealing with the terrifying Miss Fox and rescuing the other students from their shrunken state.

Fynn Whittle from Sunnynook Primary sorted out Miss Fox with the help of Spongebob and krabby patties, and Katie Heays-Wilson also from Sunnynook had a taniwha save the day.

Gabriella Rusk from Churton Park School took Miss Fox’s name literally and expanded on the idea with Mr Wolf turning up as the replacement teacher. Zach from Sunnynook, using a mirror, and Emma Anderson from Carmel College using a whiteboard, both cleverly deflected Miss Fox’s spells and turned them back on her. Oliver Stacey from Churton Park distracted Miss Fox with donuts. Catherine Sole from Carmel College, had the fresh idea of yoghurt being the cause of Miss Fox’s strange powers.

Some of you opted for the classic ‘it was all a dream’ ending, but in most cases this doesn’t really provide a very satisfying ending to a story. Some of you had amazing ideas but let yourselves down by not reviewing and editing your work. Editing will always be an essential part of the writing process. With two weeks to write your story there should be enough time to go over your work and make any corrections needed before submitting.

Well done to Finn Wescombe from Aidanfield Christian School, who had some great writing and an interesting twist.

Nathan Stacey from Churton Park School also had some great writing with lots of action.

A blast from Miss Fox narrowly missed Cassie’s head and now her hat was a plaything for Miss Fox’s toys. This time Cassie did scream. Morgan clamped her hand over her friends mouth even though she wanted to scream too. Morgan flipped their desk on its side and ducked under it, dragging Cassie with her. “What do we do!?” whispered Cassie, terror in her voice.

Minty from Waiheke High had some great descriptions.

Cassie stood up with a yell, her chair scraping across the floor of the classroom.
She didn’t care much for Dan but Mrs Fox was creepy!!

Dan was now a miniature version of himself, squirming in Mrs Fox’s iron grip.
Morgan’s eyes were staring at the hobbit version of her classmate, hand over her mouth in a silent scream.

And I liked that Cole Wescombe from Aidanfield Christian School thought about things from the perspective of a miniaturised person.

Suddenly it dawned on her. She was hit by one of those ‘bullets’. She looked around to confirm it. There’s the field, look at the size of the grass! She turned to look at the classrooms. She could barely see the top of them they were so tall!

Then the bell went. Morgans first thought was, “How is the bell so loud now?” Her second thought was “Oh no, recess!”

And finally, drum roll please …. I have two winners this time with two fantastic stories filled with wonderful language and terrific ideas. Congratulations to Ysabelle C from Ellerslie Primary whose story was well-crafted and very funny, and Briana Wells from Carmel College with great language and a smart twist. You can read their stories below. Congratulations Ysabelle and Briana!! Please email your postal address to me at so I can send out your prizes (or I can forward them to your schools if you prefer).

Ysabelle C’s Story

Wiremu quit laughing and asked, “Is there anything wrong, Miss?”

He got his own beam, and he was suddenly in Miss Fox’s hands. The girls tried to sneak under the table. But Miss Fox saw them and shouted, “Get back into your chairs!” Miss Fox rarely shouted though.

She sat down, smiling at the nearly empty classroom. “Class,” she started. There was a tiny squeal from her palms. She continued. “We are,” she stopped again. “Why is my class empty?” she said sarcastically. “Oh, because I turned them into tiny humans!”

Morgan screwed a finger into the side of her head when the teacher wasn’t looking. “She’s gone loopy.”

Perhaps Miss Fox heard this because her eyes started to glow a dangerous red. “Are you two wondering why I haven’t gotten you yet? Because I save the best, for last!”

That was old Miss Fox’s saying. This new version used it very scarily.

She stood up, bent her head, and shot beams at them.

Morgan shrieked. Her call echoed down the hallway and it brought Vice Principal Bentley.

“Miss Fox, why isn’t your class here?” he asked sternly, but kindly. He had a big crush on her.

She batted her eyelids and said we were doing independent fitness outside. Vice Principal Bentley smiled sweetly and strode off.

“Now my evil plan will work! First, I need to grab some COFFEE!!” said Miss Fox.

Coffee possesses adults. A lot.

Cassie found the others in a small pile. “Hello! Are you guys ok?”

“Yes,” they chorused.

“What happened to Miss Fox?” Morgan asked.

“I don’t know,” said Florence. “We were all crowded around this box that Seth brought, and it was from his dad.” Seth stood in the middle of the crowd on the desk and he shrugged.

“Dad said to never open it. I kinda wasn’t listening.”

Cassie and Morgan looked at each other. “Typical Seth. Never listening.”

“So…” Morgan started.

“What was in the box?” asked Cassie.

“It was something small,” said Florence

“That turned the teacher crazy?” asked Cassie.

“I guess so.”

Morgan told him that they needed a good plan. There was an inscription on the side of the now huge box saying, “Whoever opens thee, shall be cursed, take heed.”

“How exactly are we able to do this when we are way-way smaller than our teacher?” asked Dan.
Florence read it and smiled. She muttered her plan and everyone thought it was a good idea.

When Miss Fox came back, she sat down, plotting.

Florence counted them down and they all shouted, “Deeh ekat, desruc eb llahs, eeht snepo reveohw!” (That was the inscription backward.)

It worked! Miss Fox rubbed her eyes and looked at the class, who was back to their normal size and piled on her desk.

“What are you silly billies doing on my table? I have good mind to punish you by making you do PE!!”

Everyone laughed, even the Vice Principal who was outside, wondering why they weren’t actually doing fitness.

Briana Wells Story

Wiremu’s smile turned into a grimace.

“Yes, this is the real me! Iniquitous, sinister, venomous, malicious and vile! Feel the burn kids, feel the burn!”

“Anyone think that are teacher could be slightly delirious?” Cassie asked.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN SLIGHTLY DELIRIOUS? OUR TEACHER IS OBVIOUSLY DOWN RIGHT MAD! THAT’S MY FRIEND SHE’S TURNED INTO A RATTY LITTLE FIGURE!” Mordan shouted. Possibly a bit too loudly. Mrs Fox looked outraged. ‘Zap!’ Morgan was now a wriggling ‘ratty little figure’ like Dan.

“Shoot, now it’s only me and you,” Wiremu whispered to Cassie.

“What are we going to do?” Cassie looked ashen.

“Find our way out of course,” Wiremu’s eyes scanned the room and he caught sight of something…. A possibility if they are careful.

“Cassie, do you think we could climb through that-” Mrs Fox cut him off.

“You not planning an escape are you? As your teacher, I wouldn’t advise it. As an evil assassin, it would make an interesting scene. Much more fun to catch you.”

“I agree with Morgan. Mrs Fox is unhinged. We should get help.” Cassie seemed concerned about the lady who had turned all our classmates into lego pieces.

“Oh yes, I’m sure that would work, you know, Mrs Fox would definitely appreciate sitting down with a councilor and discussing WHY SHE TURNED OUR CLASSMATES INTO MINIONS!” Wiremu’s patience was wearing. They had to get out and they had to get out fast! Luckily Mrs Fox didn’t appear to hear his outburst. She had returned to her desk and was now placing her students in a domino line.

“Oh, what a shame, just not enough. Fortunately I have you two. I might keep you average sized for a little while longer. Draw out the tension, you know?” Mrs Fox said. Time was running out.

“The air vent!” Wiremu whispered desperately to Cassie. Cassie nodded. “Three, two, one, go!” Wiremu ran like nothing could stop him. Mrs Fox looked up with red hot lasers shooting out of her eyes. Wiremu ducked and felt her glare singe his hair.

“You won’t get away!” Mrs Fox sounded like a villain in a cheesy action movie. Wiremu grabbed the metal grate and pulled. Mrs Fox was shooting them with her laser eyes, but fortunately she didn’t have very aim. He doubted that she was a champion thrower in her school days.

“Cassie, help me! The grate’s not coming off!” He yelled. Cassie grabbed the other side and they pulled. ‘Pop!’ The grate came off. Cassie scrambled through, Wiremu following her pursuit.

“I’ll catch you!” Wiremu heard a yell and looked behind him. He saw that Mrs Fox was running towards them. Luckily for them Mrs Fox ran a bit like a hippo, slow and clumsy.

“Not much of an athlete is she?” Cassie chuckled. They moved quickly, and were soon to a dead end, another grate.

“Should I pull this open?” Cassie asked.

“Yeah,” Wiremu replied. He heard another pop as it opened.

Then he heard cheering. “Congratulations, kids, this is going to make excellent tv! It was definitely worth the money we spent on those 3d projections and that actor!” A guy with a t shirt that had ‘director’ on it said.

“So this whole thing was fake?” Wiremu could hardly believe it.

“Yup!” The director said.

“Well that explains a lot!” Cassie exclaimed with a grin on her face.

Posted in The Winners!

Kathy White’s FABO Report

You all deserve to be congratulated. You got this story-starter just before the school holidays. I gave you Dewey Decimal Classification numbers to decode. I also gave you an ethical dilemma – an animal rights Predator-Free dilemma – and left it up to you to decide what should happen to the last Trichosurus Vulpecula in New Zealand.

You decided that the creature in the box was a rather dangerous codswallop, a spider, a wasp, squirrel, brushtail possum, platypus, wallaby, kiwi, tuatara and moa.

One of these animals ate a growth pill and our librarians met an unexpected and untimely end (Charlotte Treadwell). Another Trichosurus Vulpecula was a genetically modified combination of three creatures, designed by humans to fix man-made problems (Rebecca Wilkins). Most of you decided to let this creature live, despite getting into trouble for it. I admired your boldness.

Some of my favourite thought-provoking quotes from your stories were:

Alannah Ward wrote “No sorry, this creature is more important than my play time, this could be the discovery of the century, I HAVE to investigate further.” He tried so hard, but he could not find anything, except that the government had made a rule that this species is a pest, and if found, you have to murder it! “What about the animal’s rights?” thought Katya.

Lola Hartingale wrote “Back in Russia my uncle was a fur farmer and he killed innocent possums just like this one for their amazingly soft fur,” commented Katya.

“You’re talking codswallop! No one would kill a creature as beautiful as this for its fur no matter how soft it is!” exclaimed Sarah.

Rebecca Johnson wrote “How is that beautiful? It’s a possum,” Todd said, looking at it weirdly.

Alexandra Bow: “It is a pest to New Zealand, it must be killed at once.” Sarah cried.

Corwin Heath-Cameron showed the Australian perspective of Trichosurus Vulpecula: “Like hell it’s nothing,” he chuckled. It was one of the airline ground staff. More friendly now, he asked “Were you going to let that possum out on the tarmac? It could get run over, or hurt. Give it to me – I live near the bush, I’ll let it out there.”

Cole Wescombe wisely said “Anyway, they hunted them almost to extinction right when the SPCA decided that just because they weren’t the best for the environment, they didn’t need to make them perish from the world ….”

Sarah Aitken wrote “Talk about animal rights, more like animal wrongs,” groaned Jessie.

Some of my favourite phrases and snippets from conversation were:

“Let’s get this animal into proper care. That boy is a true Russian Rascal.” (Great alliteration, Finn Wescombe)

“Mad!” Mr Johnson screamed. “Codswallop! Curse madness and bury clouds. Mad!” (Finn Wescombe)

“Your moo-ah ate my doughnuts.” (Alexandra Bow)

He wasn’t ordinary. He didn’t have a pesky bone in his body. (Sienna Mitchinson)

And there were some beautiful descriptions:

A spark had ignited in his very being, bringing with it, new courage to get back there …. A rush of adrenaline suddenly coursed through his bones. Wings he didn’t know he had surging with energy. The Kiwi almost bounded out the window, leaping onto Katya’s roof. With one last whoop of thanks the Kiwi channeled this energy and bounded off the roof. Without a second thought – as if by some primordial instinct – the Kiwi flapped and soared gracefully through the air, magnetic fields materializing in his vision. He turned towards a pulse. “Home!” Thought the bird with joy. He flew with even greater speed past the town, past the mountains, past the port and out towards his island. (Nathan Stacey)

It was a strange sight. Its yellow stripes stood out garishly against the ebony darkness that covered its thorax, where a wasp’s razor sharp stinger sat. Its small, fluffy limbs dangled uselessly in the air and its face was a squirrel’s face, with a butterfly’s tongue, and beautiful ethereal butterfly wings covered in iridescent blue powder. (Rebecca Wilkins)

A great ending

And that brings us to the end of our story. Casper lived on for eight years, helping young children learn to read at the school library. Sarah, Katya, Jessie and Todd never forgot that special possum. (Sienna Mitchinson)

Tatiana Austin caused chaos in Australia, through Mr Creech and Katya returning a possum with a green-tinted tail that was immune to snake venom.
“A tv’s headlines read “Australian Possums Are Taking Over Australia.”
As Mr Creech swung his bat and grumbled curses, a slightly green tinted tail blurred the television screen before the possum they had spared went off to take over Australia.”

The Winners

Your stories were so much fun to read. It was extremely difficult choosing a winner because you all did different things well, so I have two winners. The first, Corwin Heath-Cameron, wrote a well-rounded and balanced logical story, with great dialogue and description. I also loved Corwin’s solution to the dilemma. The second, Lola Hartingale, has a lovely writing style and a great twist to her story. Congratulations, Corwin and Lola. Please write and let me know where I should send your prizes.

Kathy’s Story Starter

“Not again!” Sarah grumbled. She picked up the apple she’d left on the library bench and pointed to the bite marks. “This isn’t a joke anymore. Who’s been eating my lunch?”

The four school librarians looked at each other and then focused on Todd.

“Not me,” he shrugged. “I only steal chocolate and chips.” He glanced at the boy next to him, who was wearing an enormous mustard-coloured raincoat that stretched down past his knees. “Katie looks like he needs a feed though.”

The small boy scowled. “My name is Kat-ya.”

Sarah sighed. “He’s Russian, Todd. Doesn’t speak much English, remember? Leave him alone.”

She looked at the empty space on the front counter and gasped. “There’s no number.”

Every day for the last week, they had found a number – a dewey decimal classification number – scrawled on a paper star, on the front counter. Mr Johnson, the librarian, hadn’t said anything about it, and because he’d been acting so strangely lately, no one had wanted to ask.

“Do you think we’re going to be tested on it?”

Everyone pulled a face.

“Maybe it’s a treasure hunt.” Jessie looked hopeful.

Katya pulled a scrappy piece of paper out of his pocket and flattened it on the counter. All of the numbers were listed in the order they had found them.


“994 is the number for Australia,” Jessie said, pointing to the animal poster on the wall above 994 in the geography section. It had AUSTRALIA emblazoned across the top, with photos of a snake, Huntsman spider, crocodile, bilby, numbat, wombat, kangaroo, and koala. Underneath the poster sat a cardboard box.

“Oh no, please don’t let it be spiders.” Jessie groaned. “I’d just die.”

Todd lifted one of the flaps with a ruler. Claws scuffled inside the box, making everyone jump.

Sarah leaned in for a closer look. “Oh my God. I haven’t seen one of those in years,” she said.

“That’s because New Zealand killed them all back in 2017. The year of the big cull. My parents protested about it.” Todd looked into the big eyes of the creature looking back at him.

“What are we going to do with it?” Jessie whispered. “It’s just a baby.”

“It’s also a Biosecurity Code Red,” Sarah said. “Perhaps we should give it to Mr Creech.”

No one said a word. Mr Creech was the caretaker. He kept a cricket bat on his wall for taking care of the things he classed as pests.

Katya lifted the frightened animal out of the box, stroked it and slipped it inside his jacket. “Bee-YOU-tee-ful,” he murmured.

Winner 1: Corwin

Corwin Heath-Cameron (aged 12), South Wellington Intermediate continued:

“It was eradicated for a good reason. Trichosurus vulpecula. Also known as the common brushtail possum,” said Sarah. “We should probably turn it in”.

“Codswallop,” said Todd, “it’s only a baby”.

“I wonder what these other numbers mean” said Jessie.

“Guys, whoever left them was trying to leave a message for us. 179.3 is animal rights, 599.2 is marsupials, and 363.78 is…”.

“What is it Sarah?” asked Todd.

“It’s pest control”.


“What about the other ones?” asked Jessie.

“Well, I don’t know everything do I?” said Sarah.

“I was just saying – let’s go look”.

They spread out to search.

Soon Todd called out, “found one, 333.95 is biodiversity”.

“636.8 is cats, which were one of the possum’s only predators in New Zealand” said Sarah.

“675.2 is leather technologies. I guess that makes sense because weren’t possums introduced to New Zealand for the fur industry?” Jessie said.

“And 027 is… general libraries? Sorry guys, I can’t fit that in,” joked Sarah.

“Apples” said Katya.

“What?” asked Todd.

“634.11. It’s apples”.

“Maybe they like to eat apples or something?” tried Jessie.

“We need help to work out what to do. How about Mr Johnson?” Sarah suggested.

“He was probably the one leaving us these clues,” said Todd.

“No. If he was leaving the clues and handing it over to us I do not think he will be able to help,” said Katya.

They thought for a while.

“You know, I’m going on holiday to Australia in the school holidays, which is only a few days away” said Jessie. “I could take it with me”.

“Will it get through customs?” asked Sarah.

“Maybe? They won’t be looking for it at our end. I’ll let it out as soon as we get off the plane, and since they are still protected in Australia, it will run free.”

Todd shrugged, “I can’t think of anything better”.


They were the longest days of Jessie’s life. A distraction at customs helped her sneak the box through, and she thought she’d faint when the possum stuck its head out of the box as a flight attendant went past, but somehow, they made it.

When she was finally there she hustled out of the plane and opened the box to let the possum out. Suddenly someone said “Hey you! What do you think you’re doing?!”. Panicking, Jessica said “Nothing”.

“Like hell it’s nothing” he chuckled. It was one of the airline ground staff. More friendly now, he asked “Were you going to let that possum out on the tarmac? It could get run over, or hurt. Give it to me – I live near the bush, I’ll let it out there”.

“Oh thank you so much!” said Jessica.

“Well hello there,” the man said, as he popped an apple from his pocket into the box.

It was at that moment that Jessica realised that it was the baby possum that had been eating Sarah’s apples.

“Ha!” she thought, “I’ll have to tell her when I get home”.

Winner 2: Lola

Lola Hartingale (aged 9), Motupipi Primary School continued:

The baby possum looked up at Katya with beady black eyes.

“How has a possum got into New Zealand?” Asked Sarah in a questioning tone. Everybody was clueless.

“Maybe it could have been smuggled here.” suggested Todd

“What do you think Jessie?”
Jessie didn’t answer, she was on the other side of the large library at the computer table staring at a computer. She had the tatty slip of creased paper with the Dewey decimals on it beside her. Sarah, Todd and Katya walked over to her and seated themselves comfortably on the plastic school chairs next to her. They peered at the computer screen.

“What is on that piece of paper ?” Asked Sarah

“Look.” whispered Jessie. “All of these Dewey decimals represent something, don’t they?”

Everyone nodded. “I have found out a few of their meanings… for example, 179.3 is animal rights, 599.2 is marsupials, 363.78 is pest control and the other meanings I wrote on this paper.”

The other words scribbled on the piece of paper by Jessie were: Biodiversity, Cats, Library’s , home tanning and leather craft, Apples, and Australia.

“These Dewey decimals were on the paper, right?” Asked Jessie without waiting for a reply. “We got them off Mr Johnson’s desk. They must have been on there for a reason. This might have something to do with the possum.”

“Back in Russia my uncle was a fur farmer and he killed innocent possums just like this one for their amazingly soft fur.” commented katya
“You’re talking codswallop! No would kill a creature as beautiful as this for its fur no matter how soft it is!” Exclaimed Sarah

“They…” Katya was just about to retaliate when he was interrupted by Jessie, she was pointing at the computer screen, “Oh my gosh!” In the corner of the website on the computer they were looking at a gray advertisement streaked with black and white and had these words on it…

“Jolly Johnson’s gloves!
Made with the softest Trichosurus vulpecula fur
By the warm-hearted Mr Johnson “

Everybody was startled. They peered over to Mr Johnson’s desk. They stared at his softest furry scarf and at his gloves with a fur lining laid neatly on his desk. They then swiveled their heads to peek over at his winter coat. Fur was poking out of the sleeves and it had a fluffy collar. The children were startled. They gaped at each other, then peered down at the creature nestled safe and sound in Katya’s coat pocket. It never knew what nearly happened to itself, and if it found out it would have been horrified …

Posted in The Winner

Melinda’s FABOstory Judge’s Report

Fabostory Challenge 6th to 17th March 2017

I had great fun reading your stories about what happened to poor Tom the dog/boy, and I was mightily impressed to see how many of you managed to include the bonus words. Well done! There were 53 stories in total from all over New Zealand and a few from Australia as well.

It was a popular idea to have Tom cured by the same box that had turned him into a dog in the first place and I was amazed and amused to see how many of you had the students hijacking a car. The quality of the stories was generally very high and there was some wonderful polished writing. It was great to see so many well-constructed sentences and lots of correctly used punctuation. Even the best story ideas won’t get far without these.

Well done to Jess Hudson who seemed to pick up on the joke in Ivan’s name and make good use of it – “Ivan,” Maria said calmly in this not at all calm situation. “Ivan Eyedea. You are the smartest kid I know. Come on, you need to think of something,”…

And to Chloe Mann who came up with a great name for Tom’s condition – dogoitis.

A shout out also to Katie Lye and Finn Wescombe for ‘best use of the word hijack.’

When they went to the counter to pay for the goods Maria said, “hijack” and the salesman said, “how did you know my name?”
“It’s on your badge”.
“Oh”, Jack said.   (Katie)

And – I laughed at her, took charge of the hijack-in-the-box and took care to lock the lid. (Finn)

For a sentence that just made me laugh out loud thanks to Ella GrayThey popped into the library to get a book that Maria needed for school. It was called ‘I just want to hijack a car.’

And William BattenWhen we finally got home, puffed, we gave the antidote to Tom, he ate it suspiciously, but ate it anyway because he’s a Labrador and they will eat anything.

Special mentions for well written, well thought out responses to the story starter go to Jess Hudson from Remarkables Primary, Kelly Zhang and Emma Ying from St Cuthberts, Corwin Heath-Cameron from South Wellington Intermediate, Zoe Churm from St Cuthbert’s College, Finn Wescombe and Cole both from Aidenfield Christian School, and Ava Schaumann from St. Francis Xavier School.

And the winner of this challenge is Matteo from St Peter’s Catholic School, whose well executed story had energy, and a truly fresh and imaginative spin on Tom’s transformation. You can read it below. Congratulations Matteo!! Please email your postal address to me at so I can send out your prize (or I can forward it to your school if you prefer).

– Melinda Szymanik


Our teacher, Mr Dart, said it’s rude to listen in on other people’s private conversations. And he said eavesdropping can often lead to trouble.

I wasn’t sure what he meant. I didn’t think it was all that bad. After all what kind of thing could kids my age be talking about that was so secret. Or so dangerous.

Of course Mr Dart was right. And I found out the hard way. It all started the day Maria Aches, Tom Bowler and I (Ivan Eyedea, but you can just call me Ivan) were having lunch under the willow tree. The tree doesn’t grow on school grounds but its branches hang really low over the fence. Some other kids were having their lunch just beyond our hiding place and we could hear them talking.

“Don’t worry. It’s behind the caretaker’s shed,” one said.

“Are you sure no one will find it?” another said.

“They’d better not,” the first one said. “I buried it pretty deep. It should be safe.”

We met behind the shed straight after school, and soon found the patch of freshly turned earth. Maria handed out scallop shells she’d borrowed from the art room and we started digging. The dirt was pretty loose and we made quick progress.


“It’s some kind of box,” Maria said excitedly as she scraped more earth away.

“Do you think it’s treasure?” I asked.

“I could buy a new bike,” Tom said.

He pulled the box up and lifted the lid. Rays of light shone out from inside. Tom leaned in closer and that’s when it happened. The light focused itself on Tom and held him in its beam. Then it threw him backwards onto the ground where he lay twitching, arms and legs sprawled, eyes blank and staring.

“Tom? Tom, are you okay?”

“Woof!” Tom said. “Woof, woof, woof.”…

Matteo’s Winning Story


Liv Eurtreets was hungry. Liv Eurtreets was cold. She was also angry.

Angry at the world. Angry at the horrible humans who had hijacked that car that was to take her home to a family – and tossed her out, onto the streets.

Eight days now it was; eight days since she had escaped the cold, hard, caged environment that was the pound. She’d been looking for a home – a place of comfort, hoping she might finally find one…

She had however, found something different….Something very different. Something even worse than her caged kennel at the pound. Having escaped the animal control, Liv had stumbled into the hard reality that was the backstreets. Again.

Two men – thugs, walk past. They’re talking in low tones. Liv cranes her neck round to overhear.

“Third alley, at the back.”

“Sure they won’t find it?”

The conversation fades away.

Third alley Liv thinks. She knows that place. It’s a frequent source of food, if mainly consisting of rubbish.

She thinks, and barks in recognition; she remembers.

The freshly turned dirt at the back…


I’m a superhero. Weeeeeeeee! Fun! Except kind of not fun.

I’m flying. Though a multi-dimensional cylinder – like the one in RUN, the game.

Except real. REAL. Of course I’m not scared. Only marginally freaked. (Okay, maybe a little. Or maybe more than that.)

What if I’ve been scared the whole freakin’ time this has been going on: Box – light – Boom! Noooooooo. Totally not.

If this is the kids’ secret then it’s worth keeping.

I spin and turn and flip – like the ball in that game I can’t remember the name to.

I think I might be slightly enjoying this. Slightly.


Liv’s paws plod along the wet concrete of the big city’s sidewalks. She is silent.

At least her body is. Her mind is not. It is furiously pumping away:

Sidewalks, I must be quiet, treasure?, HUNGRY, back of the alley, what could it be, HUNGRY, treasure?

She turns right. Spins her head round to look and creeps forward.

Plod, Plod, Plod.

And then she stops. Frozen.

“Ha, stupid stray!”

A guard; they have posted a guard. He picks up a broomstick and runs forward.

“Get out!”

The thug lunges, clumsily forward, bringing his wooden broom down.

Liv darts to the side, her wet coat shaking water droplets out into the dark alley and her tough, calloused paws pounding on the ground.

The thug trips and curses. As he hauls himself up, Liv races to the end of the alley, slides to a stop and spins. The small lump of fresh soil is there.

The thug stumbles forward.

Liv’s legs are a confused bundle of limbs and dirt as she paws the ground, then her sharp claws scrape against something. She uses her muzzle to push it open. Almost…

The guard stumbles closer and closer. He raises the broom.

The box opens, light streams out..

Liv feels sucked in.

Blackness surrounds her, and then light, in all colours streaming around her. A black object zooms towards her. Then as it nears she sees a human child. There, and then gone. More light follows; then blackness again.


It goes black and I stop moving. When I open my eyes I’m a dog. A dog? And I’m in a dark alley. And –



Liv is still. When she opens her eyes, two gasping human children stare down at her. Except it’s not her – not her body anyway. She cannot stay silent any longer.
“Woof” Liv says “I’ve an idea!”