10-year-old Harry Mayou from Ulverston in Cumbria has won this year’s prize. For this year the challenge, children were asked to write a short story about an unlikely friendship, of no more than 1000 words. Harry’s story, A Fantastic Tail, was a highly original, imaginative and extremely well-written story, inspired by the recent news story about the stranded football team in Thailand.
Harry will win the incredible money-can’t-buy prize of being published in an exclusive WHSmith edition of the paperback of My Mum Tracy Beaker, which will publish on 21st February 2019. He also wins the opportunity to meet with Jacqueline Wilson, receive £100 worth of WHSmith vouchers, a year’s subscription to First News and a bundle of Jacqueline Wilson books for his school (Lindal & Marton Primary School).
For the first time ever, the name of the first 500 entrants to the prize will appear in the WHSmith special edition of My Mum Tracy Beaker along with two highly commended stories: House Full Of Butterflies By Iona Mandal, Aged 12, King Edward VI Camp Hill School For Girls, Birmingham and Cahya And Agung by Rosie Harris, Aged 9, St Dunstans CofE School, Surrey.
The panel of judges included: Jacqueline Wilson; Kelly Hurst, Jacqueline’s editor at Penguin Random House; Fiona Evans, Head of Schools Programmes at the National Literacy Trust; Nicky Cox, Editor In Chief for First News; and Rachel Airey, Senior Buyer for Children's Fiction at WHSmith.
On winning the prize, Harry said:
'I am delighted to have won this competition as I would like to be an author when I grow up so this is a fantastic start. The inspiration behind my story comes from the football team of boys getting stuck in the cave. I can only imagine what they must have been feeling but I thought that they managed to get out because they had friends to get them through. This got me thinking of other times when people needed friends, so I went back to the 1800's and created my story with a really unusual friend!'
Jacqueline Wilson said:
‘I was delighted by the high standard of the entries for the 2018 creative writing competition. It's heart-warming to know there are such talented young writers out there! It was very hard to pick from the runners-up - but we all agreed that 'A Fantastic Tail' was a brilliant winner. It was well- written, immediately involving, full of tension, and very touching. I'm very pleased and proud that it will be published in my next book.’
Fiona Evans, Head of School Programmes at the National Literacy Trust, said:
‘The next generation of authors is here! It was a privilege to read such a wealth of creative writing in so many different styles demonstrating such sophisticated and skillful command of language, plot and character.’
Nicky Cox, Editor in Chief, First News said:
‘When reading the entries, I am always blown away by the imagination young people show and startled by the quality of their writing. Harry is a worthy winner this year, drawing on a news event that captured the world as the inspiration for his story.’
Read Harry’s wonderful story below
A Fantastic Tail by Harry Mayou, aged 10, Lindal & Marton Primary School
"I’d wanted to find a special friend ever since I came here. However, I never thought I’d find such an amazing one. I should consider myself lucky really. I feel sorry for those kids who have to stay at that dreadful place where all you get to eat is a bowl of broth and a chunk of bread once a day: but looking around with only a candle to guide me, I’m beginning to wonder whether this place is much better.
For as long as I can remember I have looked forward to turning eleven, its a chance to get away from that dreadful orphanage that I have spent the last seven years of my life locked up in. Now, peering down the passage that I have to crawl through, my heart skips a beat as that familiar feeling of dread trickles down my back. I descend down the mine shaft, fearing that the last thing I will see will be this, horrible place!
Counting the hours left until I can resurface I crouch to take a rest. Suddenly I hear screams from above. Something isn’t right. The rough rocks beneath me begin to shake, my candle falls and I am plummeted into complete darkness. The loud sound that fills this network of tunnels is like thunder but one hundred times louder than anything I have ever heard before! Suddenly everything stops and the tunnel became eerily quiet, so quiet that I can hear my rattling breath.
This is not the first time I have been all alone with no one to talk to. Back at the orphanage I am usually sat in a corner with only my thoughts as company, however, I have never been stuck in a cave clueless on what was going on. I am beginning to get panicky! As the fear and loneliness creeps up on me I feel something nudge my hand. Terrified, I jump away, hitting my back hard on the cave wall. I must have scared the little thing as I hear its tiny feet pitter patter along the floor. I whispered into the darkness “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, it’s just you gave me a fright,”
The little creature struggled to climb up my dirty hand-me-downs so I helped it get to the top, as soon as I touched it I realised by the soft fur and tickly whiskers that the poor thing was a mouse!
My worst nightmare had become reality - I was trapped in a cave with absolutely no light what so ever. I knew this was the end. I wouldn’t see sunlight again and would die of dehydration. I had no clue to what I was meant to do! However, my new found friend was scuttling and pacing backwards and forwards - I just knew I needed to follow him. He guided me to where the rockfall had happened so that when the other miners managed to get through they would see me and I would be saved. Who knows how long that would be! Would I even still be alive?
My frail legs could not hold my weight as I had not eaten in days, so I dragged myself as far as I could. The mouse buried itself into my sleeve and I could feel its warm breath against my arm. I began talking: “Why do I deserve this life? I’m just a boy I shouldn’t be trapped down here.”
Once I began to speak I felt the mouse’ ears prick up, I couldn’t believe it, I would of called myself crazy, it was almost like he was listening. “I think I will call you Spark, yes Spark is perfect, you gave me light when I lost the will to live,” I sobbed. I was no longer scared as I had someone to keep my spirits up.
I don’t know how long I had been trapped before I fell asleep with the warm fur of the mouse cuddled up at my cheek. I slept for what felt like hours and woke up confused. I’d forgotten where I was. Then it hit me, I was still trapped in a cave. In my hand I felt something, it tickled. Breadcrumbs! How did they get there. The mouse! “Thank you, thank you!” I whispered. I stuffed them in my mouth not caring about manners, back at the orphanage I would have been whipped until I was bleeding!
As the days went by the mouse kept bringing me crumbs, and throughout the day he kept me company. He’s the first person who seems easy to talk to. In return for the food I made him a little bed out of my socks. All day long I would talk to him about my life and my worries. I knew he was there as he always curled up on my lap. I told him that my father died in a rockfall, they found him dead under a huge boulder. I began to cry and the mouse scuttled up my clothes and got to my face, it cuddled against me and I instantly stopped. The mouse helped me through the hours down there. One day, or night, I heard scraping to my left,
My eyes opened and I saw a hole in the rocks. The miners had found me. I heard their mumbling voices and used the last of my energy to shout, “Hello I’m here,” They must have heard me as they furiously began to dig away the rocks. They managed to make a big enough hole for them to clamber through. The light from their candles blinded me. As soon as the first person got through he saw the mouse, “These awful pests,”
“STOP!” I exclaimed jumping in front of my friend protecting him from the pick-axe “He’s my friend”
He now lives in my pocket and comes down into the caves with me every day, I know that if it weren’t for Spark I wouldn’t be here!