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Short Story Competition 2021 winners revealed

Kamahl Cogdon and Diana Jenkins, December 2, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

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Year 4 student Ava Prettejohn, 10, took out top prize in the Year 3-4 group, chosen by a panel of judges that included her favourite author, Jackie French. Picture: Gary Ramage media_cameraYear 4 student Ava Prettejohn, 10, took out top prize in the Year 3-4 group, chosen by a panel of judges that included her favourite author, Jackie French. Picture: Gary Ramage

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The Kids News Short Story Competition has unearthed some amazing new writing talent and given a past champ another chance to shine.

The judges were wowed by stories of Covid, family, friendship and animals that all skilfully conveyed important messages and meanings.

The winners rose to the top from a record field of more than 4600 entries.

Judge and award-winning author Jackie French said she wished she could have selected more stories for recognition.

“I am totally blown away by the quality of the entries, their grasp of narrative and most of all the originality,” she said.

“They may have been written by young people, but they are enchanting for any age.”

HarperCollins children’s publisher and fellow judge Lisa Berryman said the stories showed there was “no doubt genuine writing talent abounds in our schools”.

Kids News Short Story Competition winner media_cameraLivinia Buchan won the Kindergarten to Year 2 category for her story about how Covid-19 has changed hugs with her mum, Emma Maguire, who works in a hospital. Picture: Ian Currie

Victorian student Livinia Buchan, 7, was the youngest winner, taking out the Kindergarten-Year 2 category with her story, The Hug, about how Covid-19 has changed precious hugs with her health worker mum.

Her story describes the new routine that has replaced the hugs she used to share with her mum as soon as she walked in the door after a shift at The Alfred hospital.

Now she must wait until her mum has removed her shoes and clothes and had a shower before being able to wrap her arms around her.

Livinia, who is in Year 2 at Holy Spirit Primary School, said her mum’s hugs were the “best thing in the world” and at first she didn’t understand why she had to wait to get one.

“It made me feel a little sad the first time it happened because I thought mummy didn’t want to give me a hug. I wasn’t used to it,” she said.

“But it went along and along and then I was fine with it.”

media_cameraAward-winning author Jackie French was part of the Kids News Short Story judging panel. Picture: Kelly Sturgiss

NSW produced two winners, with Ava Prettejohn in the Year 3-4 group and Sadie Quinn in the Year 5-6 group.

Ava’s tale, Second Sky, is about an emperor penguin chick that overcomes an imperfect wing to “fly” through water.

“You can do anything if you have an open mind,” said 10-year-old Ava, who lives in Bywong, NSW, but travels over the border to Canberra Girls’ Grammar, where she is in Year 4.

Ava said she was thrilled to have been selected by a judging panel that included her favourite author, Jackie French.

Kids News Short Story Comp Winner media_cameraSadie Quinn, 11, was the winner in the Year 5-6 group for her story, Flourish. Picture: Gaye Gerard

Sadie, 11, wrote about a girl whose vegie patch helps sprout a little tenderness toward an annoying little sister. After calling her sister a “crybaby”, the girl suffers the same insult from a boy at school during a game.

“The girl was realising her mistake by having it happen to her,” said Sadie, who is in Year 5 at Wilkins Public School.

“She didn’t really understand how powerful her words were until she had that experience as well.”

Queensland student Amaeh Reed made it three wins in a row when she took out the Year 7-9 category with her story, Resplendent.

Her story is about a young Australian nurse during World War I who discovers a wounded soldier is an old friend. The friends briefly escape the horror of war in shared memories of the blooming jacaranda trees they left behind at home.

Kids News media_cameraAmaeh Reed, 14, was a winner for the third year in a row, this time in the Year 7-9 group for her story about an Australian nurse during World War I. Picture: Liam Kidston

Amaeh, 14, said her inspiration came from a family visit to New Farm Park in Brisbane.

“The jacarandas were blooming and I thought it was just beautiful,” said the Mount Alvernia College Year 8 student. “I started to think about my story and what would be the opposite to this beautiful place – and that was being in the war.

“So I thought I had a good comparison there and also that the main character could be taken back to her days spent under the jacarandas with her friends and her family.

“Topics where people find hope and love in such desperate situations is a really lovely thing to write about, it’s one of my favourite things to write about.”

The winner in each category will receive 10 copies of their book published by HarperCollins, an iPad and a $100 book pack. The runners-up get a $100 book pack and three highly commended entrants in each category get $50 book packs.



First: The Hug by Livinia Buchan, Holy Spirit Primary School, Victoria
From the judges: A short story heavy with emotion, a beautiful evocation of the best 2021: compassion, hard duty, and hugs. The story is simply written, but enormously profound for such a young age.

Second: Adventures at Wombat Pool by Ingrid He, Carlton Gardens Primary School, Victoria
From the judges: a clever concept, combining humour and drama, and of course, wombats.

Highly commended: Jelly Boy by Katie Ashton, Bangor Public School, NSW
From the judges: I absolutely loved this story. It is fresh and funny and with a storyline that is extremely inventive and delightfully told.

Mr Chicken – The Mad Scientist by Matteo Speranza, St John Bosco’s Primary School, Victoria
From the judges: This story is such a clever spoof on the classic Frankenstein novel – and ending with a love story is the perfect conclusion.

What Money Can’t Buy by Hillary Yuan, Peakhurst Public School, NSW
From the judges: The author’s understanding of values and what really matters in life was so well revealed in this story, which also contained some lovely evocative writing about Mrs Horgard’s garden.

YEAR 3-4

First: Second Sky, by Ava Prettejohn, Canberra Girls Grammar School, ACT
From the judges: A beautifully set scene, lovely progression of the story. I was entranced by the realistic vision of being another creature, longing for the sky, but finding there are other ways to fly.

Second: A New Beginning, by Natalie Morgan, Yarrambat Primary School, Victoria
From the judges: I loved how this writer turned an exotic adventure into one that still depends on a joyous companion – a dog.

Highly commended: The Hat with No Home, by Mateo Ratcliff, Cornish College, Victoria
From the judges: Original, hopeful and with a clear narrative.

Why Birds Sing, by Yui Takahashi, Waitara Public School, NSW
From the judges: This story is a timely tribute to all that we have experienced due to Coronavirus, and a beautifully expressed reminder of how even the worst of times can pass.

The Crimson Parrot, by Jamieson Mos, Templestowe Park Primary School, Victoria
From the judges: Written with deep knowledge of the subject, which even though short, is enough to make a complete story of a day in the lives of a bushfire habitat.

YEAR 5-6

First: Flourish, by Sadie Quinn, Wilkins Public School, NSW
From the judges: The best stories need a writer who understands their character. This is a tale about how that empathy can grow, just with tomato seeds. It takes a small event, and gives it the greatest possible significance: how to be a good human.

Second: Glow, by Harriet Twine, Ipswich Central State School, Queensland
From the judges: An entrancing idea. Often the beginning of a superb book also makes a great story. This is an idea to keep working with.

Highly commended: Undiscovered Adventure, by Lilly O’Sullivan, Glenhaven Public School, NSW
From the judges: A lot of adventure tucked into three memorable pages.

Rise with the Waves, by Zoe Bulkin, Mount Scopus Memorial college, Victoria
From the judges: A deeply exciting story, full of drama with the perfect hilarious anti climax. A word of warning though: never try to stick a raft together with limpet slime.

The Flood, by Cynthia Chan, Ivanhoe Primary School, Victoria
From the judges: This story has a well paced narrative flow as the flood builds and safety finally arrives, and is thoughtfully visualised from an animal’s viewpoint.

Year 7-9

First: Resplendent, by Amaeh Reed, Mount Alvernia College, Queensland
From the judges: This is beautifully told, deeply evocative, and with an unexpected and totally fulfilling ending.

Second: Alumuna ‘Our Home’, by Eve Ferrie, Vermont Secondary College, Victoria
From the judges: A sophisticated coming of age story, beautifully evocative.

Highly commended: Her Name was Eva, by Joann Jacob, Suzanne Cory High School, Victoria
From the judges: Congratulations to this author whose sophisticated dual narrative expresses so powerfully the sense of loss and grief that can be further heightened by situations beyond one’s control.

The Pickpocket, by Otto Hulewicz, Waverley College, NSW
From the judges: A beautiful contrast between the emptiness of global society, and one man’s quiet dedication and sacrifice. This is one of the stories where the reader can imagine, or hope, ‘Their life will be different after this.’

Infinity, by Kerry Cao, All Saints’ College, WA
From the judges: The very notion of having a super power is such an enticing idea for an author to work with, and this writer has brought to this story a sense of jeopardy that is almost filmic in its fast-paced and exciting storytelling.


Extra Reading in short story competition