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These 10 stories are the winning entries of the Spark Children’s Arts Festival 2012 storywriting competition. Children from Leicester primary and secondary schools were invited to write a story - science fiction, history, fantasy or real life - around the theme of arriving in an unknown land.

The theme was inspired by a new stage production of “Gulliver’s Travels” which was premiered by Dragon Breath Theatre at Curve in Leicester as part of the 2012 festival. Written by children aged 9 -16, these stories take us on journeys to many weird, fantastical, threatening, comic and surprising worlds. We hope you enjoy reading them and are inspired to write your own stories. They were selected by a panel of judges that included the winners of last year’s competition, and authors Chris d’Lacey and Andy Barrett. The stories have been illustrated by year 9 and 10 students at English Martyrs’ Catholic School, with support from artist and designer Fiona Richardson who also created the front cover.

The Spark Children’s Arts Festival is an annual festival of theatre, dance, music, visual and digital arts for children, which takes place in Leicester every summer. It provides thousands of children each year with the opportunities to watch professional performance and to create their own art themselves. The storywriting competition gives children a chance to write and share their own stories – we hope you enjoy them!

www.sparkfestival.co.uk


Acknowledgments:

The Spark Children’s Arts Festival 2012 storywriting competition and book production was supported by Whatever It Takes, a Leicester city reading campaign.

Thanks to:

Our selection panel, Andy Barrett, Paul Gobey, Chris d’Lacey, Rebecca Hand and the 2011 competition winners Senna Patel, Raeesah Burani, Naseera Esat, Charlie Bray, Daisy Connolly and Grace Wilson; Ellen Lee and the Whatever It Takes team at the Schools Development Support Agency; Lisa Chatterson at English Martyrs’ Catholic School; children and teachers at all the schools that sent in entries or joined in the judging!


contents

Page 6

Page 9

The Magical Library

The Train To Everywhere (And Nowhere) Page 12

Page 15 Page 18

EOT MOG IETHOM

This is a Man's World

The Land of the Unknown Page 21

Page 25

More Like Me

Changing Rooms, Changing Attitudes Page 28

Waldenwrath, City of Stone Page 31

A World Unexpected page 35

Puddle

by Libby Haward age 9

by Natasha Bulman age 16 by Beth Cartwright

age 12

by Caitlin Rawlings

age 12

by Aliyah Rose age 10

by Elizabeth Starr age 15

by Kiana Chapman age 11 by Joe Tobin age 14

by Elouise Oakes-Wilson age 13 by Oscar Needham age 13


6

Arrival in an Unknown Land


One sunny, summer’s afternoon Milly was in her favourite place. The library. Milly carefully chose a book, checked no one was looking and sneaked into her comfy spot. Milly had hidden a coloured bean bag from the children’s area between two tall, old bookshelves in a dark corner of the old library. It was her secret place. She snuggled down, began to read, losing track of time as she got engrossed in the mystical fairy book.

Hours passed, it started to get dark and the street lamps outside began to throw patches of yellow light onto the pavements beneath.

Milly was suddenly aware of whispering and pattering footsteps and saw a tiny toothfairy fly past her. Milly crept out from under the bookshelves and was met by a very odd sight. She wasn’t in the library anymore, although her bookshelf was still there.

“What on earth is going on?” Milly asked herself, puzzled. She looked around her and realised she was in…

Fairy Land! Brightly coloured toadstools scattered the floor like litter on a pavement. Then, Milly saw the same tiny fairy she had seen before. “Hello!” the fairy squeaked, fluttering up to Milly holding a quill the size of a needle and a piece of paper to match. She showed the paper to Milly. It read:

The Magical Library by Libby Haward

Milly did what Chrissie said, instantly becoming smaller, turning into a fairy just like her. “Right, now you’re the correct height, come with me.”

Milly flew with Chrissie through the jungle of toadstools, passing fairies of all kinds. She felt excited but a bit worried. They came to a dark cave and waited. When the moon came

7


out Chrissie turned into an old, wrinkly, humpbacked fairy. “Don’t worry”, Chrissie told Milly, “this happens every night which is why I need you. Help me find the magical potion, pour it on my back and face to break the spell. The potion is at horrible Doctor Evil’s house.”

Chrissie gave Milly directions and a map and she set off to the Doctor’s house. Over fields and rivers, passing magical creatures of all kinds. As she approached the Doctor’s front door the air grew cold and icy. Milly flew through the letterbox without a sound and bravely searched the dark, eerie house for the potion. At last she found it, put it in the tiny pocket of her dress and flew back as fast as she could.

She returned to the cave just before sunrise, poured the potion over Chrissie who slowly changed back to the beautiful fairy she had once been. She kissed Milly gratefully as Fairy Land started to disappear. Eventually Milly was back in the familiar library. Wow! What a great book, she thought to herself as she closed the pages.

8

Arrival in an Unknown Land


The Train To Everywhere (And Nowhere) by Natasha Bulman

Illustrated by Eleanor Wells

The Train To Everywhere (And Nowhere) by Natasha Bulman

9


A sudden jolt of the train woke Ingrid with a start. Eyes wide, she pushed herself higher on the cushioned seat where she had been slumped in slumber. Bright sunlight was fighting its way through the roughly-woven weave of the curtains that obscured the window. Raising her right hand to shield her eyes, Ingrid pulled the fabric back and stared in amazement at the world beyond.

The sprawling cityscape had vanished, replaced by fields. Everything was green! She was sure that it was the rapid movement of the train that blurred her vision so much that she could not truly pick out the definition of what could be a perfectly beautiful scene and in so doing, appreciate it. Indeed, she had often wondered what the country looked like in the many moments her mind had wandered at school. But she had never dreamt that those daydreams would manifest under such traumatic, unappealing circumstances.

Presently, all she pined for was home: some familiarity in this alien landscape. Where was the grey concrete, the red brick, the writhing mass of city-folk? Tears sprang to her eyes as she realized that she might never see them again. For all she knew, the war could span many years more; continue for so long that she would never have the chance to escape back to London. Angrily wiping the moisture from her eyes, she shook her head. How can you think like that? A self-mocking smile curled her lips: at sixteen, she’d have hoped to have a little more perspective than this. The war couldn’t continue for years: before long, there wouldn’t be enough solders to sustain it. One side would triumph and the consequences would be faced either way. 10

Arrival in an Unknown Land


Turning her back on the rest of the compartment, Ingrid faced the window. Reaching up, she clicked open the section of glass near the ceiling to allow some fresh air inside. Standing a little, she poked her nose through the minute gap that had been formed. She withdrew almost immediately. Not only was the air outside incredibly cold compared with the stuffiness of the compartment, but it even smelt different here. Too fresh and clean. Her nostrils flared with distaste.

Steadily, the motion of the train was slowing. Branches were now distinguishable in the many trees that passed, and heads and tails of cows were blinking and flicking at her from the herds of brown. Gradually, the train came to a stop; the harsh screeches of metal-on-metal emanating from the wheels against iron rails making Ingrid clap her hands to her ears. A whistle trilled, high and sharp, cutting through the stunned silence of the children on the train. Ingrid stood and slid her small case from the rack above their heads, so that when the smartly-dressed warden opened the door to the compartment and ushered them out and into the throng of youngsters filing from the train, she was prepared.

Dumbfounded, Ingrid stepped out and stared blankly around her. London was long gone now.

The Train To Everywhere (And Nowhere) by Natasha Bulman

11


by Beth Cartwright

Illustrated by Niall Godfree and Jayde Parmar “What’s that?” I asked Mum when she walked into the living room with a massive cardboard box in her arms.

“Just a box. It was spare from work. Thought it might come in handy some time.” Mum worked at a school, so I guessed it was used for books or something. She must have had a pretty manic day because she was still wearing her goggles from a science experiment she’d done. Mum left to get dinner ready so I returned to my English homework and listening to One Direction. Just then my younger brother, Jordan, came charging into the living room. He jumped into the box pretending it was a time machine. He was a fan of Doctor Who so he was probably pretending it was the Tardis.

12

Arrival in an Unknown Land


Twenty minutes later I realized that I hadn’t seen Jordan get out of the box. I peered into the box. Jordan wasn’t there. “Jordan, stop messing around. Jordan! Jordan?” I could hear Mum screeching in the kitchen to her Take That CD. “In here!” came a voice from the box. I clambered in.

The next thing I knew I was lying on what seemed to be clouds. The thing was – I wasn’t in the sky. I got to my feet and looked around to see where I was. I saw Jordan and ran over to him. “Jordan! What is that?” He seemed to be stroking a horse but it had cow’s udders. I pinched myself just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. “Ouch!” I must have pinched myself too hard. I looked

EOT MOG IETHOM by Beth Cartwright

up and noticed that there were fish. In the sky! I looked down into a nearby stream and noticed birds swimming under the water. “What’s up with you?” asked Jordan.

“Oh nothing – just that we are in a strange place with swimming birds, flying fish, upside down, striped trees, upside down flowers and horses with udders!”

“You forgot the dad-dancing lions in skirts.” Jordan pointed behind me; I turned round and wished I hadn’t. Behind me were three lions on two feet, in Hawaiian skirts, dad-dancing.”

13


“We have to go home.” “How?”

“I don’t know! You’re the one who got us into this mess!” “You’re the one who decided to follow me!”

“Excuse me, you must read this”, said the horse. “Aaaaaah! It spoke!” I screamed.

Jordan grabbed the note the horse was pointing to.

he read.

Next thing we knew, we were squashed together in the box in the living room. The strange thing was that Mum was still screeching to Take That and cooking dinner, when it felt like we had been gone for hours.

At dinner Jordan and I stayed quiet.

“You can keep that box if you want. I don’t need it”, said Mum. We looked at each other across the table and grinned. “Yes please!”

The next morning I read the note again. After about an hour I finally worked it out: “Time to go home”.

14

Arrival in an Unknown Land


by Aliyah Rose

Illustrated by Caitlin Collins

This is a Man’s World by Aliyah Rose

15


Trudging heavily through the narrow street, feeling exhausted, the sun beamed down on me. I had never felt like that before. My father would usually have given me a lift, but he is not allowed to drive. Normally in heat like this I would be wearing something more suitable like a t-shirt and shorts, but I couldn’t, I wasn’t allowed. Usually I’d run ahead of everybody but I had to walk three paces behind my sister.

All around me were women glaring at me, like I was their prey. This land was strange, foreign maybe. The crowds of women were increasing. Many of them looked me up and down to make sure I

was dressed appropriately, covered from head to toe. If we didn’t there would be serious consequences.

Everybody had a beaming smile, bragging about the Olympic Games, saying that they had an amazing team that would do well for the country. A group of fourteen women would represent the country. I wondered why there was not a single man and they handed me a newspaper. It said that the team should be women only.

16

Arrival in an Unknown Land


We arrived at our friend’s house. It was his third birthday and he invited us to his party. His mother greeted us and passed the boy his present. It was wrapped in pink sparkly paper and frilly ribbons. His face lit up when he saw it. Quickly, greedily, he ripped off the paper and cheered with excitement. It was a pink Hoover, kitchen set and tea set. We couldn’t stay for long, the boy’s mother was going to a gym class. When she said that, I saw a glimpse of jealousy cross her husband’s face. He was not allowed to go to the gym.

While I was in bed that night, all I could think about was home. I wanted to go home, this place was not fair. How can men be second class citizens? Everything was wrong. I wished everything was back to normal.

I woke up the next morning and realised I was back home. Relieved, I took off the heavy clothing and had a soothing bath. I put a t-shirt and shorts on, I felt free once again. Leaning out of my window, I saw exactly what I wanted to see. Men were driving cars, men were walking three paces in front of women, and girls, not boys, were covered from head to toe. I was so happy to be back home where I belonged. I was getting ready to go out and play with my friend when I saw the newspaper. Quickly, I flicked through it. My eyes fell on a story and I read it. It said that there was not a single woman in the Saudi Olympic team. But what was wrong with that? That’s how things should be. This is Saudi Arabia

This is a Man’s World by Aliyah Rose

17


by Caitlin Caitlin Rawlings Rawlings by Illustrated by Georgia Harris Illustrated Illustratedby byGeorgia GeorgiaHarris Harris 18

Arrival in an Unknown Land


Know what it’s like to be different? I was taken to be a weapon for the human race. The creatures of the devil. Their government took me from my people to fight for them. My people were creatures of peace, unlike what they turned me into. The only word I knew was destruction. But I was different. I could do things others couldn’t. Their government knew that and turned me into the ultimate fighting machine. Then I was placed into battle. To fight. To kill…. As I first stepped out onto land it felt dry, like my skin, and as hot as the surface of their sun, smelling like gas and desperation in the air. Suddenly, I felt a firm tug on the chain pulling me to the front of the army in front of thousands of humans. I faced out, looking into the empty distance, onto nothing by dry land. Not a growing thing in sight. Everything dead. No movement.

The Land of the Unknown by Caitlin Rawlings

My land was like another time compared to this. Mine had the feeling of being alive and free with soft ground, which I used to walk upon feeling like I was flying. The trees grew as tall as the skies and the word weapon was unknown. But here it was a different story.

A silence was ringing round. All you could hear was every human’s breath and even their sweat dripping to the floor as their legs trembled, as what lay where their eyes could not see made their confidence shatter in a million pieces. Suddenly there was movement just at the very peak of the horizon. There was a moving wave of panic flowing through every man that stood behind me as they clapped eyes on what really gathered before them. What they’d really have to fight. As my chains were released, I started to get a closer view of what I was up against.

19


Then suddenly I saw what it was. The creature. It was one of my own. My brother. When our eyes met we both stopped dead. Looking at each other helplessly. Then I heard something. It was a voice. His voice. Our people could communicate with each other, but I thought it no longer possible once we had been separated. He said “My brother, I will not fight against you.” “Neither I.”

20

We looked right into each other… Then suddenly he raced off breaking his chains; as he did I followed him. As the humans raised their guns and shot at us we jumped into the air, soaring off into the distance. We kept running till we were finally rid of them. We were in the land of the unknown, but we were together. All we needed was each other.

Arrival in an Unknown Land


More Like Me by Elizabeth Starr

21


When we landed on the pebbly shore I had my head in a bag of oats.

“Come on Rip, get out of the boat. I’m not pushing it with you in it.”

I got out with a whump, leaping up into the air and doing my attack landing. I wasn’t going to let this new land burst my bubble.

“Hmph, ‘snot so different from where we come from” I grumbled, trotting around in a circle. I was lying. I had never seen wispy legions of grass like this, fluttering lazily above my head. I glared at them. I’m wary of everything taller than me. Except Aaron.

“Yes, ‘tis Rip,” he sighed exasperatedly, struggling to ground the boat, our home for two cycles, “and you know it is”. Aaron is probably my only friend. From how he talks about other people, I’m probably not his. Only friend. But I’m his only friend here, now.

I flicked my tail and bounded into an overhanging crab apple tree. There were still trees at least, though much smaller and more knobbly that what we were used to. “’Snot diff’rent, there’s trees, ‘tis a tree, look, ‘min a tree” I crowed, bouncing up and down on the branch till fruit rained.

22

Arrival in an Unknown Land


“Hey, fill the boat with ick why don’t you?” Aaron yowled, finally banking our craft on the grassy bank. “Ooh, apples!” Aaron likes apples. When I first saw him, he was eating an apple. The tall boy strode over to the tree, grass stroking his waist, and jammed one in his cheek. I curled my lip; every sensible creature knows meat is the only food. Apples are for prey… oats are meat too. Puffing hair out of my eyes I flicked my snout dramatically.

“M’gonna explore. Find you later,” I told him importantly. Aaron frowned and rolled his broad blacksmith shoulders, standing with his back to his homeland.

“…’Kay then,” he mumbled, casting furtive glances around. Honestly, hatched for fifteen years and he still doesn’t want to be top drake. Well, luckily for him I’m around.

“Don’ worry, I’ll look out from above” I informed Aaron, before launching myself over him. My wings snapped out and I swooped upwards, riding a thermal till I was nothing but a white blot circling over little-big Aaron’s head. His dark brown hair blended in with the ground until I could no longer see him. But I knew he was there.

More Like Me by Elizabeth Starr

23


Fields and meadows lay before me. Where were the forests? And the river? Though I hatched in Aaron’s land, it was plain to see I was no river hunter. I had hair for one thing, not those…frills. Maybe in this land… Smoke stung my eyes and I choked and fell through the air a bit. I meant to do that, though. Meandering up, smoke furled from a collection of human nests. I gave a victory crow. This land would be good. There would be people for Aaron, and maybe… maybe other dragons like me.

24

Arrival in an Unknown Land


“Daddy, buy me these!” Charlotte demanded “Lottie, they’re £250!” cried her dad.

“I’ve no mother and shoes make me feel better,” she wailed.

“Yes dear,” he moaned.

“Let’s see how they match with my dress,” she boasted and flounced to the changing rooms.

Charlotte’s mother died in childbirth and Lottie (as her dad called her) received gifts from her father to compensate. As a result, Charlotte was truly spoilt. Still, her father never refused her.

Changing Rooms, Changing Attitudes by Kiana Chapman

25


Lottie admired herself in the mirror. Her curls shone and her eyes were the colour of the ocean. “I don’t need a magic mirror to tell me how beautiful I am,” she thought smugly. Suddenly, her image began to sway and become hazy – Charlotte felt sick. Lottie found herself in a place she thought was heaven. There seemed to be identical girls. “Who are you and who am I?” Charlotte asked a fellow citizen.

“Right now you’re in Charlotteville and everyone’s called Charlotte,” exclaimed the replica.

“B-b-b-b-b-b!” stammered Lottie but before she could produce a sentence the girl had disappeared. Lottie wandered off in a daze to Charlotte Square. There she could see hundreds of girls, all the same. THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF CHARLOTTES! “I want some shoes!” one yelled at Lottie

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“I have no mother, buy me something!” another growled in Charlotte’s face. “Why should I?” asked Lottie

“Well, you have to buy us things and pity us because you made us. We’re your reflection. That’s the only thing you’re good for,” one added.

“I don’t care, I’m not buying you anything!” said Lottie firmly. “So, I still want some shoes!”

“Buy me a dress!”

“I want some shoes.”

“My diamond hairband’s snapped.”

They surrounded her, assaulting her ears with their deafening cries. Even though Charlotte covered her ears with her hands, she could still hear their every demand. Charlotte collapsed to the floor in a heap. They wouldn’t stop shouting. They were invading her brain!

Arrival in an Unknown Land


“Daddy, I realise now that I’m vain and spoilt and if I hadn’t been so over indulgent I wouldn’t be in this mess,” she bellowed, trying to be louder than the vast crowd and letting her tears trickle down her face. She began to feel sick again, probably because she missed her dad so much. “Lottie, are you talking nonsense again?” someone asked.

“Charlotte, you’re not having the shoes,” he said sternly, using her proper name for once.

“It’s OK, I’ve got lots of pairs of shoes, but I’ve only got one you!” she smiled.

There was only one person who called her Lottie…

“Daddy!” she shouted and hugged him tightly, not wanting to let go.

Changing Rooms, Changing Attitudes by Kiana Chapman

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Arrival in an Unknown Land


Waldenwrath CITY OF STONE by Joe Tobin | Illustrated by Bongani Dube

I walked out of the transport and stopped. Dead. Before me stood the most beautiful city I had ever seen. Golden-domed watch towers protruded from tiers of the city, spiralling up, as if supporting the sky itself from caving in on the paradise city. I had emerged from a middle tier, the sun blazing in my eyes, and I realised that the entire place was carved from sheer cliffs, into shelves that held entire towns within themselves. The upper tiers sparked in the sun, as golden buildings seemed to span that entire layer, and looking down in the city, I felt as if it were a gaping maw of some feral, mythical beast, come to devour me.

Furnaces and smelters filled the pit with a fiery glow that seemed to emanate evil itself. Monstrous beasts pulled laden carts, no doubt filled with precious ores, ready to be smelted in the bowels of the city. The beasts were easily eight foot tall, shaped like yaks, with massive horns and thick, fuzzy hair covering their bodies.

However, they had great tusks also, and were a solid pack of heaving muscle. If they were to charge they could smash through meters of solid rock. I watched one of the creatures intently, it was snorting and shuddering with the load it was tugging. As it passed under a waterfall it seemed to relax as if enjoying the cool spray, that made its fur glitter in the light.

Waldenwrath, City of Stone by Joe Tobin

29


Even skyships had to fly through these gates, due to the innumerable waterfalls that shielded the city from above. If the gates were sealed no-one would be able to enter or leave.

I peered back at the vessel that had brought me here and I’m afraid there was only one word to describe it. Junk. It was a hydrogen balloon with a small cabin suspended underneath. The balloon looked like a joke, it seemed to be made of patchwork quilt and, even as I was looking, an old lady was sewing a flower-patterned material over a rip in the side. The cabin was little more than a wooden box. Could this really have flown me halfway across the Galaxy to an alien planet? I didn’t want to think about it. The waterfall was a thousand feet in height, tumbling over the lip of the cliff, soaring above the highest golden tier before crashing, roaring down into the guts of the city, before turning into steam by the heat of the furnaces below, creating a glowing haze or mist.

I could see why the city was considered safe. The only entrance was through the towering brass gates and walls that barred the open end of the U-shaped city.

30

As I looked back across the city, I realised the strangest thing – the people. They only grew to about four foot high, and were almost as wide and muscular as they were tall. Even as I observed this, a man walked past. He had a flame-orange beard, he was mumbling in a low, gruff voice and carried two, paired pickaxes that crackled with energy on his back.

Of course I was looking at one of the people of the glistening province of Waldenwrath, the City of Stone.

Arrival in an Unknown Land


by Elouise Oakes-Wilson Illustrated by Chishamiso Chivhenge

A World Unexpected by Elouise Oakes-Wilson

31


Elouise, small, black hair and thirteen years old, was waiting for her friends. She had been by herself for a while now. Alone. Scared. Suddenly everything went pitch black. She shrieked for help but no-one could hear her. She was trapped. Elouise could hear an engine. Could it be a plane? She knew it wasn’t good and wouldn’t end well. Everything had happened in a flash. She wasn’t the slightest bit relieved. She knew something else was in store for her.

She saw light. The abductors had let Elouise go. She couldn’t chase them. She was too exhausted. Yet again, alone. Elouise had hardly eaten that day. The only things that were around her were sand, sea and banana trees.

Two days had gone by slowly and the only food she had consumed was bananas. Elouise had a long and tiring day. She didn’t know what was going to happen. It was all too sudden for her. She couldn’t breathe.

~

32

Arrival in an Unknown Land


Again, she was caught. In another box. On another plane. Elouise could hear noises, talking and she cried for help but nothing came out, her lips were almost frozen, it was too cold for her. Elouise could hear more noises, like a lion roar, Elouise thought long and hard about why a lion was on a plane. She knew that the lion wouldn’t attack her, not just because she was in a box, but because the roar sounded too far away.

~

She was on another plane and she could still hear the lion and still it seemed the same distance away. Elouise felt that she had been on the plane for many, many hours. When in fact it was actually only 2 hours. Elouise was almost frozen. She shrieked but nothing came out, only a little moan of pain from her lips. She couldn’t stay in the same box for any longer, the plane was freezing cold and the lion’s roar seemed to have gotten closer to her. She was terrified.

~

A World Unexpected by Elouise Oakes-Wilson

Elouise was on, yet again, another plane. But this time she was in a new box and this time she couldn’t hear a lion, she could hear a hyena and it sounded like more than one, possibly six. She knew they were close and she was correct. They were next to her. More and more hours went cruelly past as she waited intensely to get out of the box. Noises from all over the country were in the plane, even voices from different parts of the world. Elouise’s wait was eventually over, she was off the plane but wasn’t out of the box yet. As she was brought off the plane, a hot breeze hit her. Then everything went black. As she awoke, she saw she was behind bars, everything got brighter and brighter.

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Everyone was looking and pointing at Elouise. She looked around, saw a sign. It said ‘zoo’. Elouise was a monkey.

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Arrival in an Unknown Land


Introducing Jemima, walking merrily to school, and an innocent puddle, formed by thousands of raindrops joining together. It’s a well known fact that little girls love jumping in big puddles; shame then that this was no ordinary one. As the girl’s shoes hit the water, she fell through into an ultimately different world.

Puddle by Oscar Needham

35


Jemima fell for what seemed like an eternity and landed with a fantastic THUD upon what looked like sand, but had an odd burning smell to it. She dusted herself off and proceeded to examine her surroundings. All around were the screams of dying people (mainly men) trying desperately to survive another few seconds. Explosions wiped out entire buildings and flames engulfed the remaining debris. Jemima was too young to make an educated guess as to what lay before her, or how a puddle could have led her to this‌. Chaos. This scenario was the stuff of nightmares.

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Arrival in an Unknown Land


She didn’t stick around for long, and soon noticed that another puddle was nearby. Maybe she could get back? And everything would be OK? Of course not, reader, only in the pettiest of stories would that be a solution. She stepped into the puddle – nothing happened, only a minor ripple over the gleaming surface occurred. Jemima sat by the puddle, trying to take in what had happened so far: it was unrealistic, she concluded. There was only one thing for it. She must attempt to find a way out. As she was pondering over this decision a tall, colourful and slightly creepy man tapped her on the shoulder. Jemima turned and the man (who now clearly resembled a clown) Puddle by Oscar Needham

whispered a few words, so terrible that it makes me shudder whenever I hear them spoken. These words, reader were: “I’m going to kill you.”

Jemima ran for her life, not knowing where to go, buildings were still collapsing around her timid little body, and the clown still pursued her with a gleaming knife made of some unearthly material. Suddenly, the clown fell to the ground and disintegrated into nothingness. She stopped running, turned around and gawped at the spot where the phenomenon had occurred. This was insane.

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Now she realised what this world was – it was the land of bad things, cruel things, ghastly things and terrible things. Where no rules exist and no life thrives for more than a minute. This, this was hell. Jemima wondered if she would ever escape Satan’s trap that she had absent-mindedly been led into. She sat, and cried, thought of home. Jemima got up again, regained confidence and walked aimlessly. Through the flames, the terrors, the deaths and the smoke. The soldiers, the weapons, the trenches, then spoke: “Why am I cursed? Why, oh why? I’ve never been naughty, or told a lie.” Such a sweet girl was Jemima, so young and innocent, too bad then that she never returned. Her parents always told her…. Don’t jump in puddles. The end.

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Arrival in an Unknown Land


Printed by Taylor Bloxham, in Leicester Book design by Keith Turner at Mooli, in Loughborough

Cover illustration by Fiona Richardson

Inside cover illustration by Mhairi Anderson Š The Spark Children’s Arts Festival, Authors and Illustrators 2012


These 10 stories are the winning entries of the Spark Children’s Arts Festival 2012 storywriting competition. Children from Leicester primary and secondary schools were invited to write a story - science fiction, history, fantasy or real life - around the theme of arriving in an unknown land. Written by children aged 9 -16, these stories take us to many different, weird, fantastical, threatening, comic and surprising worlds. We hope you enjoy reading them and are inspired to write your own stories.

“The stories I read, the many unknown lands described, were a joy to enter and fiendishly difficult to separate when it came to choosing ten for the book. The final stories are an interesting mix which capture, in microcosm, the imaginative voice of the young people of Leicester.”

Chris d’Lacey, Author

supported by Whatever It Takes Leicester’s reading campaign


Arrival in an Unknown Land