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.”
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 …