Is your child a winner in our short story competition?
We sought young writers who could make us go ‘Wow!’ and we found them. Lots of them!
Cue a roll of drums and trumpet fanfare – and step forward the winners of the first Suffolk Children’s Short Story Competition. We limited the number of words at their disposal (500 tops) but we couldn’t curb their imaginations! They dazzled us with sparky ideas and vibrant turns of phrase. If anyone tries to persuade you that original thinking is in limited supply among the youth of today, don’t believe them for a minute.
Taking top honours in the section for eight- to 11-year-olds is Kitty Frith, with Spit and Tell.
Judge Meg Rosoff said: “Kitty is a natural writer who uses words beautifully to make an extended natural metaphor come to life. The story describes the Suffolk coast using vivid, sophisticated and evocative language that is at once dreamy and precise.
“I’m really very impressed by this story and think Kitty has a real future as a writer ahead of her.”
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The winner of the category for young writers aged five to seven years is William Baker’s Little Red Rosie. “A lovely stillness to this story – conjures up an idyllic old-fashioned farmyard scene very simply, the farmer stopping in silence to watch the deer,” says judge Mary James.
Both writers receive £50 book tokens in the competition run by ealife publisher Archant in conjunction with BBC Radio Suffolk. Their stories will be read on air on Lesley Dolphin’s afternoon show and the writers will be interviewed by Lesley.
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Runners up in the five- to seven-year-olds’ group are Eleanor Spencer and Lexie Woolnough. In the older section it’s Fliss Kindred and Isobel Pierce.
Archant Suffolk managing editor Liz Nice says: “We received over 100 entries and the quality was extremely good. I know the judges had a hard time choosing the winners and it has been wonderful to see the children of Suffolk using their imaginations in such creative and innovative ways. Well done to all of them.”
WINNER: Spit and Tell, by Kitty Frith, age nine Look at me: Desolate, gloomy, disconsolate. Visitors trample their hard feet on my face, like spots that are scarred; the shingle is kicked in my eyes. My hair, the reeds, is pulled out. Despondent lighthouses and plain buildings have been placed crudely on my body – it hurts.
I am a fading deep browny-red and colliding green merge where the bulrushes are silhouetted against a bright sky. My wind whistles and the sea tears up the beach. Dancing in the flutters of the lace of white horses (my frilly blouse) are squealing children, splashing them with icy water.
Jagged concrete and tumbledown structures are dotted about on my ‘skirts’. I am a diminutive lady who stretches out elegantly in a grey-blue sea. Military ‘pagodas’ stand proud and impressive like forgotten Roman temples. I am alive; I change but I was never a child.
I have a character which is sombre and melancholy, nevertheless, I notice everything. Hidden away in my lonely little dark shell, I have seen generations of sailors being spied on by my faithful children, the marsh sprites!
An aroma of vegetables and dumplings fills my nostrils – cabbages from rich soil as well as carrots pulled up freshly that day from fields on the mainland yonder – a sweet aromatic and earthy smell which makes my stomach growl. These mud humans wear coarse hand-woven wool tunics. I catch the glint of bronze or gold brooches pinning together thick brown cloaks. Placed upon their ugly feet are sandals made of cow hide, however, this makes their footstep lighter than most. Oh, what a pungent smell!
Later they will sail a carved ship of oak wood along the narrow channel of water, making turbulence on my shore, ruffling the gathers of my clothes. They carry a to-be-famous king. His horse and weaponry is on board. The gleaming armour glimmers in the dim light and I shield my eyes. My children chatter like the seagulls and snatches of their conversation are brought to me.
“The treasure will be ours! Let’s search the tide line…”
Blackberries sweet and lush grow on the wet, sandy soil. Sheep graze and people sow their crops on my slender, sylphlike physique. The hustle and bustle of a busy port, which I shelter and protect from invasion, sits below an immense awe-inspiring castle. My torso feels weak from years of its citizens trampling my loose soil, my tender bones. I cry out with the wind.
Times are great when a low tide comes and I can join hands with the mainland. I get to see my friend. Sometimes, weird black looming eyes are looking at me and my birds, like they are agents who are collaborating with the outer world. Many times they have stared at me; however they are forced to leave by 4:30pm on a small motor-boat. I can then relax and un-contract my tense figure.
As the golden queen on her throne sinks down to the west I lie still curving round my family.
WINNER: Little Red Rosie by William Baker, age seven
One day the farmer woke up and got dressed and had breakfast and went out into the snowy farmyard and opened Rosie’s barn door and started Rosie up and put Rosie’s trailer on and drove Rosie to the snow plough.
After that they drove to the grit barn and loaded the trailer up with grit and went around the farmyard feeding the animals. They gritted the farmyard and used the shoot in Rosie’s trailer to put the grit on the tracks and a tractor came around with a loader following to swipe all the grit around the tracks.
After that he had lunch and then went around the farmyard again. When he went around the farmyard he saw some deer standing in one of his fields. He was very quiet and stopped Rosie’s engine to look at the deer.
Then he put Rosie in her barn and went home and had tea and went to bed.
RUNNER-UP: Lab 7 by Isobel Pierce, eight
Molly’s parents were scientists at The Ministry of Experiments. Molly had been to the Ministry lots of times, but there was one Lab she had never seen. Her parents had been working in Lab 7 for ages on a top secret potion. They had told Molly about the potion and said that she must never tell anyone. Ever. When she had asked to see Lab 7 they had said it was far too dangerous.
One day when Molly came home from school she rang the doorbell but there was no answer. She rang a second time then waited. Still no answer. Molly stared at her shining silver watch, it was half past 4 and her parents should definitely be home by now. She had a strange and lonely feeling in her stomach. She knew that there was something very wrong.
Molly was about to go next door when her phone started ringing in her pocket.
She answered the phone and heard a deep and mysterious voice. “Meet me at lab 7 at midnight. If you want to save your parents, you’ll be there. And don’t tell anyone. I repeat DON’T TELL ANYONE.”
The phone went dead and Molly stared at it stunned. What was she going to do? There was a voice in her head saying don’t do it, call the police, but there was another voice saying that this was her mystery to solve. She’d always wanted to find out what was in Lab 7 and now she might be able to. And of course she had to save her parents.
Molly left the house at 11pm. It was dark and cold and she could see her breath in front of her. The moon looked like a silver coin and the stars were like bits of glitter thrown into the sky. It was beautiful but Molly was still really scared.
Molly arrived at the Ministry just in time. The Building towered above her and in the dark it looked more like a prison than the usual bright building she was used to.
Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder and a voice saying follow me. She didn’t dare look round but she was sure that she recognised the voice.
Inside the Ministry it was pitch black but Molly followed the shadowy figure in front of her.
“Tell me about the secret potion your parents are making,” growled the voice.
“No,” said Molly.
“Tell me or you and your parents will regret it,” said the voice.
“Never!” retorted Molly.
Just then, the lights came on and Molly saw the faces of her parents.
“Welcome to Lab 7,” said her Mum.
“You were amazing,” said her Dad.
The mystery figure removed his mask and smiled at Molly. He was the chief scientist, she had met him before. “You passed the test Molly,” he said. “Your parents told me that you’d be brave enough. Now you are ready to learn the secrets of Lab 7.”
RUNNER-UP: Confined by Fliss Kindred, 11
I spend most of my time in here asleep. There is so little else to do. It feels as if I’ve been here for months, maybe even years, cramped in this dark, mysterious place. Am I ever going to be released?
I keep hearing strange muffled noises but as much as I try, I simply can’t work out what they are. Some of the sounds are familiar and soothing whilst others startle me. I am tube fed, mostly bland, tasteless liquid but occasionally it tastes like sweet nectar that makes my insides feel fizzy.
After a few more weeks of total darkness, I am finally able to open my eyes. At first my eyelids just keep flickering but after some more effort, I manage to open them fully. As my eyes adjust to the strange light, I can make out outlines. These unusual shapes loom over me. I can’t tell if they are there to protect me or if they are a threat, as if I’ve done something wrong and they are getting revenge. I attempt to scream but to no avail; no sound comes from my mouth and I feel myself begin to choke.
Yet again I try finding an escape route; a little gap where I might be able to get free but I feel this odd enclosure blocking me in, in every direction. I kick, push, and shove; anything to get me out of here but nothing works. I am still stuck. I collapse backwards, exhausted, and despite my efforts to stay awake, I feel my eyes closing.
In the morning I wake up, startled, feeling as if I am moving towards an egress. Abruptly, the movement stops. I decide that I must have been dreaming but I still can’t figure out what had awoken me. I am looking at the funny light patches that keep appearing when I feel myself being squeezed again into that same tunnel. This time I know I’m not dreaming. My legs are cramped and I can feel my skin bruising. My head is all dizzy with confusion, but still I am pushed further into this tunnel. I see a very bright light ahead of me which adds to my panic. Suddenly, my head bursts out of the channel, followed abruptly by my arms and finally my legs.
At long last, I feel liberated. The light is startling but I don’t care. I punch and kick my limbs vigorously to check they still work after all that time being confined in that bewildering place. I gently stretch, then open my mouth. The squealing sound that comes out takes me by surprise as I have never heard anything this loud before.
Cold. So, so cold. Then a voice.
“Congratulations! Mrs Kenton, you have a beautiful baby girl.”
The words have no meaning to me but I find comfort in the pair of loving eyes that look down upon me.
RUNNER-UP: Eleanor Spencer, aged six
Once upon a time there was a little girl called Emily. She was very poor but she was friends with the fairies. They were making a new invention, a time travelling machine. A couple of weeks later they had finished the time machine and Emily was asked to try it out.
There were two buttons. One said travel distances. One said travel back in time. She accidently nudged the one that said travel back in time. She travelled back in time to the dinosaurs in the past! After a little while she found a little boy called Thomas. Thomas took Emily to his camp.
Dun dun derr! Barry the chimpanzee comes and steals the precious toenails. We love those toenails, shouted the boy. Thomas and Emily went on a search to find where the chimpanzee had hidden the toenails. There was a temple and they thought it was hidden there. It was.
Oh no it’s a wrestling match against the chimpanzee! Pow bam, the chimpanzee was behind them with a bamboo stick and whacked my bottom!!!! Then they finished the boxing match.
With a bam!!!
There was another part of the temple with a map in it. The map led to the toenails. They searched and searched then they found the toenails. They went back home and made the precious toenails into soup. They settled down and ate the soup.
But Emily forgot she had lost the time machine. Oh no she had to make one but luckily the fairies had told her how they made it. The cogs went there. The wires went here.
After a little while there was a beautiful time machine standing in front of them.
WOW said the boy with his eyes wide open for the boy eyes where shining in gleam.
They went back home and made their own soup shop. And Emily wasn’t poor any more.
RUNNER-UP: The clumsy ginger bread man by Lexie Woolnough, age seven
On a sunny summer day a ginger bread man was laying on his bouncy blue striped deck chair under his umbrella next to his sweet ginger bread house. Suddenly he got the biggest shock ever. He ran round his umbrella screaming – then he realised it was his dog, Rex. Then the ginger bread man stroked Rex’s nose and said,
“My name is Sid,” like he always does.
Rex had a red fabric collar with metal buttons. Sid had three buttons, a red one, green one and blue one. Then his dog and he went in their house. It was a bungalow with whipped cream round the chimney. His city was called ‘Is it Ginger 206678’.
The door bell rang. Sid ran into the table (he already had a broken arm). Then his dog opened the candyfloss door. It was the neighbour’s dog called Tallulah. She had a pink collar with yellow buttons.
In a deep voice the dog said, “Come in. Do you want a tea party?”
In a sweet, very deep voice she said, “Yes.”
The ginger bread man went into his lousy living room. The dogs wandered off to the ginger bread man and ate his broken arm off. He fell over. Now he couldn’t get up. The dogs sat there laughing their heads off.
He bellowed, “A little help!”
Soon he got up by holding his dog. Then he had to go to hospital. He had crutches made of candy canes, or as he liked to call them, ‘help you walk things’.
The next day he tried not to get any injuries, but as soon as he sat up in bed, he fell out. He looked out of the window. Yawning while grabbing his crutches, he said, “I’ll talk to my friends today.”
He was on one step that led him out of his house when he suddenly fell down them as usual.
“Shall I have a ride in my car?” he asked himself, but when he put his seatbelt on he said, “Oh, I can’t drive. I only have one arm, don’t I?”
So he went in his house and video-chatted with his friend Lisa. When he saw her he tripped over and very slowly he moved on the floor like a slug. After that he had a mini ginger bread man for breakfast.
“I forgot to pack for my holiday,” he said. So he packed his caravan and toothbrush. The campsite was only thirty three steps from his house. He was in such a rush he tripped over his brown-eyed dog. The dog got hurt, so he had to take him to the vet.
In a few weeks the dog was fine, but the ginger bread man forgot about his holiday. So he picked a book off the shelf. It was called ‘Control Me’. He opened it wondering what it was about and it said,
‘Once upon the end,’ by Katie Perry.
He sped off. Two years later he broke his head.
Home, after Cubs, to exciting news
We interrupt Kitty Frith’s post-breakfast piano practice to squeeze in a chat and photograph before she leaves for a before-school swim.
Her mum broke the news of her triumph when the year five pupil returned home from Cubs the previous evening. “I was really ecstatic. Coming first was amazing,” she says.
It was Mrs Penny Barnes, Kitty’s teacher at Woodbridge Primary School, who heard about the short story competition and encouraged the nine-year-old to enter.
Kitty found her theme in Orford and the ness, which she’d visited with family and friends at the end of last summer. “The atmosphere inspired me to write about it,” she says.
They’d been practising writing in the first person at school, and writing about the senses, and those skills were pressed into service to personify parts of the Suffolk coast.
It’s no surprise that Kitty loves books. “I love reading! Probably my favourite author is Enid Blyton. I like Eva Ibbotson and Lauren Child. Caroline Lawrence is good because she writes the Roman Mysteries books and I particularly like mystery stories.”
What does she like about Blyton, who was also one of my childhood favourites?
“Well, it’s all very mysterious and I like how she’s based it on four children and a dog” – this is The Famous Five – “and normally animals aren’t a main character, but in those stories they are. I like how they have a different adventure in each book and solve it. It’s very clever how she’s planned it out.”
Kitty’s also keen on dictionaries and thesauruses. “Even though they’re not reading books they’re still books, and I like looking through them because you learn new words.”
Does she dream of becoming a full-time writer? “Hmm, I don’t know.” Other ideas? “Yes.” Like? “Like being in a band… only the things I want to do don’t earn much money… ’cos they’re all the fun things!”
Tractor Boy! It’s in the DNA…
“Tractor Boy” William Baker sits on his grandfather’s lap and they steer Rosie out onto the field. “He’s very, very passionate about tractors,” says Jane Baker about her dad. “You can see where William gets it from.”
You can indeed. Tractors have been part of agricultural engineer Robert Cragie’s life for decades. They took him around the world. In 1977, for instance, when he worked for Massey Ferguson, you’d have found him in Afghanistan, helping assemble dozens and dozens of mechanical workhorses. “Before the Russians invaded,” he grins.
Five years ago, when he found himself restoring a Massey Ferguson, his curious grandson – now aged seven; then a slip of a lad – was a frequent visitor to the workshop.
“At the time, he was living right next door to us, and of course William was always about. Hence, why he’s such a knowledgeable chap on tractors. You name it, he’ll put you right! He’ll tell you the model and the make.”
Rosie, this Massey Ferguson 135 given a new lease of life, is a character in her own right. It’s she who inspired, and features in, William’s prize-winning story.
“I make up quite a lot of stories,” the youngster tells me. Are they all about tractors? “Yes! They’re my favourite types of machine.”
It all started when the Riding for the Disabled group in the Hollesley area, near Woodbridge, needed a tractor.
Robert’s boss, James Leggett, had a family connection to the charity and it was agreed that AW Mortier (Farms) Limited would supply a tractor on permanent loan. Was Robert interested in helping out, and keeping its wheels turning? He didn’t need asking twice. The secondhand 135, most likely built in the late 1960s, was brought to Suffolk from Great Horkesley, near Colchester. It had probably seen service in an orchard.
“It was in a terrible state; really bad,” Robert remembers. The engine was leaking oil everywhere, the hydraulics didn’t work properly, and it needed a new clutch. “Everything, really! We got it back to the workshop, took it all to pieces, repainted it, and here it is.
“These little tractors are just so basic and simple. That’s what we need. No electronics whatsoever. Turn the key and it goes; pull the stop out and it stops.”
He’s got photographs of the day in August, 2010, when the tractor – repainted in gleaming red – was presented to the RDA.
It was christened Rosie after the group’s secretary, Rosie Clarke, who sadly died a few years ago. Happily, the tractor that William saw being restored – and now watches going about its tasks at the RDA’s base at Sutton – fired his imagination.
Bet you’d like to work on a farm when you’re older, I say before he heads back to school at Hollesley and an afternoon art session. “Is that your big dream?”
Novelist Esther Freud
Author Meg Rosoff
Mary James, who runs The Aldeburgh Bookshop with husband John
Philip Daws: “reading champion”, Bury Schools Partnership