Yo nerds. Something a little different this time. Since 2011 (I think) BBC Radio 2 has held its annual 500 words competition – the brainchild of breakfast show presenter Chris Evans. Each year, children from all over the country spend weeks at school and home studying and writing short stories. They are then encouraged to submit a short story (up to 500 words) to the BBC competition. Each year the entries are split into 2 categories, a 5-9 years old and a 10-13 years old and the judging begins.
Round 1 of the judging is completed by volunteer teachers and librarians across the UK. The second round of judging is done by trained professionals from The Reading Agency. From this round of judging, 25 stories from each category are shortlisted. Both age categories also have 3 wildcards each. The final panel of expert judges then convenes and 6 stories are selected as winners – Bronze, Silver and Gold in each age category. Each story is judged on originality, plot, characterisation, language, and finally enjoyment. I can’t seem to find who the expert judges are this year, but the panel normally consists of highly successful children’s authors and other powerhouses in the literary world. HRH The Duchess of Cornwall (the probable future Queen) is also involved, serves as an honorary judge and is often in attendance at the final.
The winners of Bronze win their own height in books. The winners of Silver win 5 foot 6 inches in height of books (the height of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall). And the winners of Gold win 6 foot 2 inches in height of books (Chris Evans’ height) and 500 books for their school.
How is this anything but a wonderful thing?! I love the 500 words competition. Every year it makes my heart warm a little. Some schools and teachers make a huge deal out of it and whilst the writing is taking place there are plenty of snippets of advice and help from celebs and the such. It must be a wonderful and special thing for the children involved. I so wish this was in place when I was a kid. I’m not one of those grumpy old men that believe kids spend too much time in front of screens etc, but I do believe it’s increasingly important that we encourage children to be interested in literature and show it as a valid and necessary medium they can engage with for enjoyment and entertainment.
Each year I am blown away by how creative the children are and by the quality of the stories. I thoroughly enjoy reading through the finals and making my own judgements. This year, I decided I would do blog posts with a quick summary of each story. So today, we will look at the 28 5-9 years old stories. You can visit the website here to read them all.
Hey ho! Lets go!
A Monstrous Voyage by Sanjay Keshav – A schooner is sailing in tranquil waters. A storm is spotted approaching fast. But is it a storm, or something lurking beneath the waves?!
A polite but demanding letter to Mrs Theresa May by Cara Bell – Oh boy what a bunch of fun. Alfred Tennis-ball an actual living tennis ball writes a letter to the Prime Minister on behalf of the NSWVHTPASTHEHATSTAOTB requesting ‘that you will hold one of those “referendum” things to end our misery.’
Bob and the Plastic Pirates by Hector Godden – Bob finds himself in the unpleasant situation of being sucked down his toilet and plopped into the sea. He is rescued by pirates. But friendly ones that sail on The Recycler and save the world from the plastic sea monster. Heavily focused on the need to recycle our plastic use.
Cameron the Chameleon by Yuna Vavrovsky – Cameron the chameleon is ashamed of his changing skin colours and his lack of ability to control such. One day after a particularly shameful event, he meets Bepsy, a beautiful butterfly who teaches him the importance of self acceptance. An ugly duckling retelling of sorts.
Charles the Talented Chicken by Charlotte Hessey – Puns galore! Charles is a pet chicken that secretly enjoys writing stories. His owner, Amy, discovers this and encourages Charles to publish his stories, but a few tweaks are necessary to keep his chicken identity hidden.
Granny’s Hip Replacement by Xuki Viner – When a granny breaks her hip after base jumping off the Gherkin in London, she gets a nice new golden hip replacement. Snazzy and full of bling, her grandkids brag to their mates at school about it. But this catches the attention of their teacher, who just so happens to also be a robber.
Hairy’s Ocean Adventures by Hattie Minto – Hairy is a Yeti that lives in a giant teacup that floats on the ocean. One day, hairy is reading when a sea monster jumps out of the waves and steals his book. Hairy dives under the water to confront the monster and reclaim his book and ends up making a friend in the process. A wonderful message of love and kindness.
King Onion – A Legend Is Born! by Nate Mackereth – A clumsy alien accidentally zaps a spring onion to life. The spring onion takes inspiration from an Elvis impersonator and becomes King Onion, with his mission to protect the other veg from being eaten by the King Slug.
My Journey To Ambis by Evelyn Hamer – Muna is the Goddess of the Moon. She gets sad and lonely because no one is out at night when she is out. This loneliness creates a spell that stops the sun from rising and the day from appearing. The Gods Re and Tothuk take Muna to visit Ambis, the Goddess of the Night Creatures in the hope that Muna can make some new friends and break the spell.
Nick’s Shrinking Adventure by Darcy Taylor – A poem detailing how one night, a child named Nick spots something strange on the moon. He blasts off to investigate and comes face to face with destructive aliens! Can Nick save the day?! Read on to find out.
Oak Tree by Jackson Layton-Henry – Oak Tree lives in the park. George and Essie live by the park and spend their time with Oak Tree. One day George and Essie find themselves in a pickle after George has damaged a pipe whilst digging in the garden. George and Essies parents are going to be fuming mad, and may never let them play out again. But Oak Tree might just be able to save the day.
Sam and Oren’s Great Adventure by Aidan Hall – Sam gets his tooth knocked out by a football. Placing the tooth under his pillow he goes to sleep. He wakes in the night and comes face to face with his tooth fairy, Oren. Oren has broken his wing and must get back to his home with Sams tooth before morning or he will die. Sam to the rescue.
Strictly Vegetables by Molly Roberts – Somebody clearly watches Strictly Come Dancing at home. What do all the fruit and veg in your fridge get up to when the door is closed. Naturally, they participate in a dancing competition. With judges Craig Lemon Horward, Darcy Grape Busle, Shirley Strawbery Balas and Bruno Totally Bananas Tomyolly.
The Architect by Nate Markson – Peter and Margaret have a child and name him Fyon. Fyon loves to build towers. As he ages, his parents and teachers get frustrated with his obsession for building and architecture and as for him to be moved on to somewhere else, (i.e. from home to nursery, nursery to primary school, primary to big school etc). One day, his primary school falls down and would you know it, they don’t have insurance to rebuild. If only they knew someone with a desire to build…
The Bug Who Mugged The Pug by Jacob Ap Dafydd – This made me laugh out loud several times. A poem about a pug and a bug and how a thief can be misunderstood. A lesson of kindness, compassion, and remorse.
The Day My Homework Ate The Dog by Nathan Thompson – A Johnny Lock-ness is sent home after the school toilets… break. He wants to play with the family dog but he isn’t anywhere to be found. Rather creative and entertaining.
The dinosaurs who loved trampolining by Thomas Campbell – Ever wondered how dinosaurs came to roam the lands of earth? Well, this is that story of how alien dinosaurs love to compete in trampoline events and took bouncing just a little too far.
The Great Diamond Heist by Ayla Fahie – Oh my! 2 detectives. An italian bear named Dave, and his partner, Jerry, who just so happens to be… wait for it… A WATERMELON! Automatic 500 RM points to this story. The Cutlery Gang are out to steal the world’s largest diamond, the purple star. It is up to Dave and Jerry to outsmart the gang and thwart their plan.
The Jewel Tribe by Matilda Bradley – Don’t kill the tigers. Rani is the daughter of the chief of the Indonesian tribe, Zumbra. The Zumbra hunt tigers due to a misunderstanding of thinking that tigers have jewels in their hearts. Rani befriends an injured tiger and learns that tigers are the jewels of the jungle. She must try and teach this to her father to stop the killing of the tigers.
The Little Messenger by Fionn Mcann – No, you’re crying! Oh what an adorable bittersweet story about finding comfort after a loved one goes on a journey to ‘the great unknown’.
The Poo Fairy by Evan Boxall – In Battenhall, there are a high number of people that don’t pick up their dog’s poo. Annabelle is a poo fairy, the only poo fairy in fairy land. She goes around at night picking up the poo to ensure school children don’t do ‘the poo slide’. When Annabelle is bullied by two other fairies and gets locked in her house the poo situation in Battenhall becomes a major problem.
The Strain by Esther Clifford – WAIT A MINUTE, this was written by someone aged 5-9?! You can’t see me right now, but I am sat here gobsmacked. Just… Wow. Influenza has killed many, and we as a human race are out to end it. But, what would the story be like if it was told from the virus’ point of view. Well, now we know.
The Voice Catcher by Marcie Jean Thorpe – A terrible figure known as The Voice Catcher is going around the world stealing the singing voices of anyone with talent. Even Madame Goo-Goo falls victim. The day of the royal wedding, and the Queen’s singing coaches are begging her not to sing live on television. The Queen has not been able to hit a single note during practices. But when the moment comes, the Queen performs beautifully. How did she manage this?
The World’s Most Clever Boy by James McGourty – The oceans are full of plastic. It’s a problem. Luckily, we have Mo, a 10 year old that spends all his days inventing machines in his shed. One day he completes a machine that can suck up plastic from the ocean and make it into delicious chocolate!
This Girl Can by Zara Hayworth – This girl has been told ‘little girls don’t play football, how about ballet or gymnastics?’. But this girl is determined. She is passionate. She is about to go out there and play in the Women’s World Cup Final. Yes, this girl can.
Agent Ramsbottom and the mysterious fish and chips by Francesca Wade **wildcard entry** – In a future where unhealthy foods have been outlawed by the state, the evil Dr Fatbürg is set to reintroduce Fish and Chips to the population. This must be stopped. What if the adults fell back into their ways of eating themselves into an early grave? Agent Ramsbottom to the rescue.
Mrs Biggin-Bottom by Isabelle Williams **wildcard entry** – I can just imagine Isabelle giggling to herself as she wrote this. Mrs Biggin-Bottom… wait for it… has a big bottom. I’m giggling a little too much at this myself! Mrs Biggin-Bottom’s big bottom causes mayhem as she breaks benches and causes bridges to wobble, but one day when a pipe breaks and the school floods, she knows exactly what to do.
The First Ever Feminist by Lola-Mae O’Leary **wildcard entry** – Olga lives in prehistoric Ireland. She wants to go hunting with the boys and men, but her mother won’t let her because it’s not what girls and women do. One day Gob, Olga’s brother, gets himself into a little bit of trouble whilst hunting and Olga ceases an opportunity to show the world that anything a boy can do, a girl can do better.
And those are the 25 finalists and 3 wildcards for the 5-9 years old category. Honestly, I am just blown away by the skill and creativity on show here. I am in awe as to how children of this age have the ability to come up with such entertaining and relevant concepts and then execute the writing with such competency. Bravo to all the finalists.
My winning picks are:
Join me tomorrow when I will take us through the 10-13 years old category. I can’t wait! (Or click here to go to that post now – we are in the future.) Until then, Peace and Love!