Excerpt from the grade 2-3 winner, The Adventures of Blue Flame, the Heroic, Giant, Squid-fighting Hero by Sage M:

            Ring, ring. The piercing sound of Blue Flame the Heroic Giant Squid-Fighting Hero's alarm clock broke the sweet sound of the trees swaying to the tune of the birds. Thunk! Blue Flame fell out of bed just as she always did every Sunday morning. "I can't beleive I fall out of bed every morning," moaned Blue Flame. "You don't fall out of bed every day, only on Sundays," complained Beeser.

            Beeser the Bee was Blue Flame's sidekick and was always in the garden making honey. "Hey, Beeser, go get my suit," shouted Blue Flame. "I've got enough to do. I've got to eat my bed and sweep my food. Or was it make my bed and eat my food?" mumbled Blue Flame. Beeser had his hands stuck in honey up to his elbows. As he yanked one of his hands out, gooey, sticky honey smacked him in the face. "Why do I always have to get your suit at the cleaners? I'm a sidekick not a servant," grumbled Beeser. Upstairs, Blue Flame rolled her eyes. "You know how I hate malls, Beeser," sighed Blue Flame.

            Suddenly, Blue Flame heard static coming from the radio. Who turned the radio on, she thought to herself. "Just get my suit, Beeser!" she said. I'll just listen to the radio she thought. "An MMF monster has covered the Dunesberry church in tomatoes!" yelled the reporter, which made Blue Flame nearly jump out of her socks. "For the last time, get my suit, Beeser! It looks like I'm going to need it."

 

Excerpt from the grade 4-5 winner, 1 by Nicci M:

            As the sun rises my eyes open.  I can see my brother, Asin, as he lays next to me, a smile upon his lips.  The antelope hide that lies over us is warm from the heat of our bodies. 

            My body protests as I rise to meet the dawn.  

            Today, Asin turns five.  He gets to stay in bed because of it.  I wish I could stay in bed too.

             I walk to the opening of our mud hut.  The African sun beats down on my skin and I feel a burning sensation.  I am used to this, having lived in Africa all my life.  Sunburn, is what my father calls it. 

            Happy moos come in a chorus from the shack in which we house our cows.  I walk to the shack and rub each of their noses.  I start with Azr’s, the bull, who licks my hand, as if to thank me, I then rub his mate’s nose, Gio, and then I rub the noses of their two calfs, Nea and Zimbo. I reach into a sack and pull out some hay for each of the cows.  From my pocket I take a handful of dried corn and sprinkle it over the hay.  This brings so much happy mooing that I’m afraid it will wake Asin!

            After I have fed the cows I milk Gio.  This morning I also bleed her.  I promised my brother a blood milk shake, which is his favorite.  I always keep my promises, so of course I do this.

            I bring in the milk and the shake and put them in the most shady corner of the hut, to keep them cool. 

            My feet feel warm as they walk upon the hot, parched, ground.  Although it is still morning, it is already eighty degrees.  I walk out the entryway and look toward the sun.  Not a second later my eyes burn from the heat and glare. I am forced to look away.

              Again I walk to the shack.  I head to the back of it where a pile of sticks await me.  I pick up ten sticks and head back towards our hut.

            As I walk back toward the hut my brother’s snores greet me.  I stifle a quiet chuckle at this.  Asin is just like Zanaoogoo, who snores like thunder. 

            I head to the front of the hut, where a circle of stones for the fire lays.  The ground is blackened from many previous fires.  A pile of ashes sits in the middle, a reminder of all the sticks that have been burned. 

            I place the sticks in the middle and they blow up a cloud of the ashes.  Beside the circle of stones lay two smaller stones.  They have white streaks on their sides.  Flint, is what it’s called.

             I pick the flint up in my hands.  I raise my right hand like a lion does when it pins down its prey and runs its long claws down its neck.  But instead of running my nails along the flint, I strike the stone in my right hand on the one in my left.  I do this several times.  Finally, a spark flies into the air and lands on the pile of sticks.  A wisp of smoke rises.

 

Excerpt from the grade 6 winner, The Princess by Lena G:

It must be very, very late, but I can't get to sleep. I'm thirsty, and I want a glass of milk. I get out of my bed and pass the closet as I walk into the living room.

   I can see Mom and Daddy in the kitchen, by the sink, talking. No - arguing. I stand in the living room and don't say anything.

   "I don't believe this," Mom is saying. "Our children are royalty. And you want to keep them here in this run-down apartment forever?"

   "That's not - "

   "Well, I thought the plan was that we move back," she says. She puts a hand on her hip. "Well, then, Abimelech? Why haven't we gone back?"

   "It's not safe there. It wasn't when we left, and it isn't now." Daddy's voice sounds calm, but a little shaky.

   "How do you know?"

   "Meredith, I know the country better than you do."

   "Well, I know what's best for my family!"

   Silence. It's a scary silence.

   "When we left, you said - you said we could go back after a while." Mom's voice sounds shaky now. "It's been a while! The children will be making friends and ties here before too long. I look at Almira flying, and I have to tell her it's not safe. At least in Atlasia, it would be safe for us to be who we are. Can't you - "

   "If I could, I would."

   "This is about me, isn't it?" Mom asks, and her voice is angry, very angry. I am hidden in a shadow, but I'm scared. What's happening with my parents? "I'm endangering you all, aren't I? Then divorce me!"

   Divorce? A kid in the kindergarten, Joey M., has divorced parents. He visits his Daddy on weekends. Are my parents going to divorce? Will I see Daddy on weekends? And what about moving to Atlasia?

   "It's not you, it's - " But before Daddy can finish, I step out of the shadow. I just have to know.

   "Are you getting a divorce?"

   They both turn and stare at me.

   "Almira?" Mom asks. "How did you get here? You should be in bed by now. It's ten o' clock!"

   I don't answer. "Well, are you?"

   "No, of course not!" Mom says, and Daddy nods.

   "Are we moving?"

   This one is longer to answer. They stare at each other for what seems like forever. Daddy says something, but I don't hear. The tears are coming now. Faster, and faster, and now they're rolling down my cheeks, and -

 

Excerpt from the grade 7 winner, Happy Ending is a Place, by Mandy H:

There they were, all six of them, their chunky leader Olinda Whiffat in the lead. Oh snap. I twirled my hair, backing away. I always twirled my hair when I was nervous, a habit which my mom tried unsucessfully to break.

            “Hey shrimp,” Olinda sneered. I hated when she called me shrimp, and she knew it. I thought it was shopworn and besides, I liked to call myself Fun-Size. Not my fault I was short. I didn’t care.

“Scared?”

I didn’t speak. The group continued jeering, circling me. “Knock it off,” I said grimly. I was trying to decide if I should run, scream or hit someone with my backpack.

            “Aw, the baby is scared.” I’d like to say that I was brave. That I was not scared of being squeezed like an orange in a juice press, which was not a sweet prospect. No pun intended. The truth was—I was terrified of being pulverized to a pulp. It hadn’t happened to me yet, but rumor had it that they sent one kid home with a broken arm last year.

I darted through a small gap in the circle of bullies, and sprinted down the hall. Olinda Whiffat and her posse pursued close behind. I have always been short for my age, but my mom says I make up for it with speed. The problem is Olinda is tall and has a long stride. 

Come on, I told myself, the cafeteria’s only ten feet away.

“Elda?” I turned at the sound of the voice. It was my best friend, Megan Lee. She was standing ahead of me in the hall outside the mustard colored door of the girl’s bathroom.

            “Meg,” I yelled.   

            “What can I do?” She raised her eyebrows at the sight of the commotion.

“Just help. Will you?” I dashed past her.

She smiled. Instead of commenting, she walked over to Olinda, held up her hand in a stop motion, than tapped her finger to her nose. To my utter shock, Olinda turned away without a sound, then swirled back and gave me the evil eye that could kill road kill.

“What did you do? You’ve never done that before,” I asked looking up at Meg who, at 5’ 11”, stood taller then some teachers, let alone me. I was short for my age, at 4’ 8”.

She grinned, “Lunchtime,” and waltzed into the cafeteria. 

 

Excerpt from the grade 8 winner, Hollin, by Garrett R:

Checking a nearby sundial, Hollin found that he still had half an hour before he was expected home.  Wandering to the pastry aisle, Hollin sniffed and searched and eventually purchased a Burburry danish for three copper ingots.  Munching the bright orange pastry and savoring its sweet taste, he continued to browse the market stalls.

He stopped dead in front of a shop that sold leather, sinew, and animal organs.  A cage hung next to the displays and, inside, a baby griffin lay.

Its head was a that of a small lion, with amber eyes and sharp white teeth.  Its front legs were hawk-like, scaled in dark green, with talons sleek and black as ebony.  Majestic white, albeit dusty, its wings swept down from the shoulders and folded over its back.  The hind legs were lion as well, with a wolf tail falling from the hindquarters.  The mahogany-maroon fur was thin and ragged.  Its body was emaciated, with bones showing under a tight skin.  It obviously was cold and cried.  “Kioooooooooh!”

Other shoppers had noticed the griffin as well and crowded around the stall, which attracted more attention. Soon there was a throng of people jostling and bumping to try and get a look at the unfortunate creature.

The owner of the shop, Ailen, maneuvered the bamboo pole, from which the cage hung, up and over the crowd so that everyone could see.  The little griffin cried again and shut its eyes.  Hollin felt a rush of pity.

“Whar did ee’ get the ‘ittle whiner, Ailen?” said a big man with a large brown beard.

Other voices clamored for an explanation as well.  Hollin wondered silently.

“Waaall,” said Ailen, who was fond of attention and drew stories out as long as he could.  “Et were three nights back, so it were.  No, there I tell a lie, ‘twas four.  Now, I was checking my pens of chickens and ducks, y’see, cause that’s what I do at night to make sure no foxes or wolves were a’ stealin’ my livestock.  Annyow, I was checkin’ on my last chicken house when I see this weird shape climb over the chicken wire and enter the henhouse.  I said to myself, ‘Ailen,’ says I, ‘Ailen, that’s a mighty stealthy shape right thar.  I reckern that there’s somthin’ a foot in my hen house. It certainly didn’t look like a hen.” He paused and looked around to make sure everyone was paying attention.

“So I readies me slingshot and enters the house.  Right thar, in front of me own two eyes, I sees this baby griffin dining on me fattest and best-producing hen.  The griffin looks up and sees me, and then it tries to run.  Quick as lightning, I shoots my sling and that drat griffin falls out cold.  I bundled it into a cage and then I brings it here.  I thought that I could fetch a handsome price.  They’re rare in these parts.  If trained, griffins make excellent guards you know.”

The crowd started clamoring again.  Some were sympathetic to Ailen’s actions, and others began making up stories about griffin encounters.  Men checked their purses to see what money they had.  Some of the richer occupants of the town sidled up to Ailen and asked for a price.  Ailen stated, “Ten gold ingots, and no less.”

Throughout the story, Hollin had listened in silence and shock.  That poor griffin!  It was only trying to feed itself.

“Is et male or female?” asked the man with the beard.

Ailen unceremoniously grabbed the griffin out of the cage and checked under it’s feathers.

“Et bees a female, so it is,” said Ailen.  He threw it back in the cage and locked the door.

The man with the brown beard yelled, “I’ll buy it from you for eleven gold ingots! I could make a fortune selling that animal’s meat and hide when it is grown!”

“I’ll pay twelve!”

“Thirteen!”

Hollin realized that if he didn’t intervene, the griffin was doomed to a life of misery.  He wanted so badly to buy it.  But how could he?  He didn’t have even ten golden ingots.  Making a quick decision, Hollin hurriedly elbowed his way to the front of the crowd.

“I’ll buy it from you for fifteen gold ingots!!”

Ailen looked at him skeptically. “And what will you be doing with a griffin?”

Hollin didn’t answer. He had said fifteen to buy time. In reality, he had only the equivalent of eight gold ingots. He decided to see if Ailen was as clever as he made out to be.

“Better yet,” Hollin said. “I will buy it from you for forty silver ingots!”

Ailen seemed seduced. He tapped the side of his chin as he considered. Inwardly, Hollin was jumping for joy. Could Ailen really be that dumb? Forty silver ingots amounted to only ten gold ingots.

Ailen shook his head and said, “No, that is not enough.”

“Very well,” Hollin said. “I will buy it from you for one hundred and sixty copper ingots!” That was only eight golden ingots. Hollin had lowered the price by seven gold ingots.

“DEAL!” Ailen said suddenly.

Excerpt from the grade 9 winner, Why I Missed the Second Set, by Rose C:

She was there, out of view from the lit windows of the main building, pressed close against the stones of the wall. Her hair glistened silver-gold even in the faint light we had. She wore a long gray dress and kept her face cast down as she spoke: "I am glad you came. I hoped that you would answer my summons. I watched as you sang, and I knew you were the kind I wanted for this business tonight."

"I don't quite understand," I said. She was a bit taller than me, but still I could barely make out her face. "I need to be getting back. Mrs. Walton told us to get back into the practice cabin right after the first set."

"You shan't need to worry about that," she said. "I have put a mist in their eyes. They will not notice that you are missing."

Something about the way she said that prickled on my skin. "But you don't understand. I want to sing with them, you know. They aren't forcing me - I love to sing, like I've never loved anything else I do." I was puzzled. "Who are you?" I asked in a sharp whisper.

She raised her head, then, quick as a cat, and I saw a quick vision as if a veil slid off - faintly glimmering skin, sharp-cut features, and...eyes. Her right eye was blue, deep dark blue, and her left was silver-gray. A narrow band of silver metal rested on her forehead. "I am Noelle, of the Fay that live in the Wind Hill."

I gripped the hard edge of my music binder until it bit into my hands. Noelle...of the Fay....that lived in the Wind Hill. What had I gotten myself into, stumbling out of line and leaving my proper place, stepping into the world of Faery? I looked back over my shoulder. No, there was the cabin, with my friends and fellow Cantiquae singers moving about in it. There was the gravel parking drive, with a few cars. The stones we stood against were the stones of the main building, wherein the people were still chatting and laughing, and the choirs from the Trinitarian School (our rivals) were beginning to sing. Had I "stepped into Faery"? Or...was it that our world....was also Faery?

Noelle's lips twitched into a smile. "You should show greater honor, mortal maiden, to those who are fellow singers with you."

Shaking, I pulled myself together. "I believe you," I said, my voice steady. "So what do you want me to do?"

 

Excerpt from the grade 10 winner, Children of the Stars, by Holden M:

Star Trek is a fraud.

Scientists all over the world had hoped, prayed and dreamed that this was not the case, but it was all in vain.

“Warp Drive” was impossible.

We would not visit the stars within the lifetime of anyone on Earth.

Astronomers across the globe were heartbroken, physicists tossed and turned in bed at night, and the fantasies of children were less and less of “Captain Kirk” and more and more of the firefighters and bomber pilots of their grandparents’ childhoods.

The space program suffered quite a drop in popularity, as the regular old planets in our solar system stopped being as interesting. “If the eventual outcome of all this research and colonization was not going to be interstellar travel, then what was the point?” was the thought of many a person.

But amid these disappointing realizations, there was a glimmer of hope for would-be starship captains. A remarkable loophole was theorized by some of the true geniuses of the 23rd century, an idea that would crack the barrier of light and physics in a roundabout way. Eager scientists and astrophysicists across the globe began working at a furious pace to take this marvelous and romantic idea to the next level. Within ten years, Project Eden was complete and “go for launch.” The interstellar travelers would arrive no older than when they had left, no matter how far they traveled. This was because of a simple idea:

“Why not send the children?”
 

Excerpt from the grade 11 winner, Cadence, by Scout G:

“Let’s just make a plan, all right? I’ll go first and you’ll see what I mean.” Leigh took a deep breath, and began, “When I grow up, I want to be a pirate queen, but if that doesn’t happen, I want to be a fashion designer and make fancy clothes. I’m going to have two houses, one in the United States and one in England – if I end up being a fashion designer, anyway. If I’m a pirate queen, I’ll live on a ship. No matter what I am, though, I’m going to have a kid – one kid, and it’ll be a boy, and I’ll name him Cadence, the most beautiful name I have ever thought of. And of course, all through my life, I’ll be best friends with my blood sister, Sarah Quinn.” She stopped in order to breathe, and said, “There, see? That’s my life. Now plan yours.”

  “Okay,” my mother said, and she thought for a moment. “Well, when I grow up, I want to be a veterinarian for horses. If that doesn’t happen, I want to work in advertising, just like my mommy does. I just want one house, and it’ll be in the United States. I’m going to have a kid too, just one – a girl. And I’ll name her…Sphinx. I learned that word in history class, but I think it’s pretty. I can call her Sphinxie as a nickname. Oh, and all through my life, I’ll be best friends with my blood sister, Leigh Latoire.”

  “Since you’re having a girl, can she marry Cadence?” cried Leigh excitedly. “Then when they have kids, we’ll be grandmothers together!”

  “Yeah,” agreed my mother. “Yeah, they’ll be best friends and then they’ll get married.” She left the fort for a minute and returned with the set of four horses. “Look, Leigh,” she said. “It’s me and you and Cadence and Sphinx. You and Cadence are the palominos, and me and Sphinxie are the bays.” She opened the box and took the horses out. “Here,” she said, handing Leigh the palominos. “They’re friendship tokens.”

  “And reminders,” said Leigh, stroking the palominos. “They’ll remind us to follow the plans, for always.” She picked up the bay foal and held it one hand, the palomino foal in the other. Slowly, she touched their noses together in a kiss. “Cadence and Sphinx,” she whispered. “Our children.”

  When a little girl is born, she already has all of the eggs she will ever have inside of her. So, in a way, Cadence and I were there as our mothers made their plans, as they named us, as they betrothed us. As Leigh touched the foals’ noses together, we were dormant and sleeping inside. And perhaps we stirred slightly, knowing somehow that the plan would hold and we would someday burst out into the world as red-faced newborns, ready to grow. We, under the old sheet of the fort, two eggs out of millions.

  We were there.

 

Excerpt from the grade 12 winner, If Pearls Could Sing by Pamela C:

We were five when we promised.

Daniel was lying on his stomach, his Lion King T-shirt soaking up the saltwater in the dock’s wood. We used to think about how, if the ocean ever dried up and there was no water left on the planet, we could find a way to survive through this secret stash of H2O. We’d be like agents, partners in crime.

I shifted uncomfortably as my sore ankles dug into the ripped wood. The ocean stretched before us, as dark and sweet as melted black licorice. The faded reflection of the moon rippled against the constant movement the surface, swaying and distorting and evolving. Sometimes, I had to take a glimpse at the real moon looming in the sky, just to be sure it hadn’t morphed into a liquid football.

Actually, transfixing my eyes on the moon was a nice distraction from Daniel’s face wet with tears. I’d never seen Daniel cry before. Not when he wrecked on his bike the time we tried to beat Lance Armstrong’s mileage record, not when we watched movies where the dogs died, and not the hundreds of times after he came in from bodysurfing with scratches along his chest from the sharp seashells. Tonight, though, was different. Grandma Suzanne had been a second mother.

I heard Daniel take in a ragged breath. “Um, Shiloh?”

“Yeah?”

“Guess what?”

“What?”

He rubbed a fist across his cheeks. “I’ve got a dare for you.”

 

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