Congratulations to the winners of the little BIG Book Competition!
The little category winner is Thomas Johnston, 11 years old from Armagh, Northern Ireland.
The BIG category winner is Emma Uren, 18 years old from Auckland, New Zealand.
Here are their winning stories Dragon Quest by Thomas and A Golden Promise by Emma.
I got out of bed. This was the day I had been dreading and it was finally here. Today I had to do a test and if I succeeded I would become a knight and then I'd have to go off on quests to kill dragons.
Unlike everyone else I liked dragons but they all wanted to destroy them and wipe them off the face of the earth. I wanted to save them and let them exist forevermore. I couldn't fail, no matter how hard I tried I always succeeded so I was bound to pass. No I would not let that happen. Today I would try my hardest and I would fail.
Eventually the test started, but just before we commenced a man raced in yelling, “Help! Dragons! There's a fire breathing dragon in the swamp!” “Is there indeed?” asked the King who had been watching from the side-lines. “Well, I'll send my bravest knights to kill it.” And with that he strode off.
I knew I had to do something but I didn't know what to do. Then I had an idea. I raced off to the stables where I grabbed the King’s Pegasus and freed it before I hopped upon it's saddle. It raced off instantly taking to the sky, however the archers on the castle walls spotted us and shot at the winged horses tail. The Pegasus fell from the sky onto the forest floor where it landed with a thud.
I had no choice but to continue on foot. Soon I came by a peculiar little green man with large pointed ears. He beckoned me closer but when I approached him he attacked me and bit my arm. I fought back and kicked him into a river. Now I was terrified! Who knows what else was lurking in the forest.
Soon I came to a clearing. I thought it was the perfect place to stop and have a rest but something huge flew towards me out of the sky. It was much too big to be a bird and it had horns. It swooped towards me and appeared to be some sort of winged bull. I ran off but it was gaining on me fast. Just in time I reached the trees and spotted a stone path leading out into the swamp.
I had made it! And sure enough there was the dragon. Its eyes were pools of red hot lava and it was staring straight at me. Suddenly I heard clopping behind me. I leapt into a bush and three knights on horseback arrived. Their swords were gleaming in the sunlight.
As quick as the wind, I leapt out of my hiding place, grabbed a rock and bashed the first knight over the head with it. He collapsed onto the ground. I ran at the second one however he deflected my rock with his shield. I jumped atop the dragon and flew off into the sunset
A Golden Promise
Rain shattered across the rooftops.
“Ugh, it’s started again.” I could feel that slightly prickly, slightly sweaty feeling that always comes with rain starts to creep along my arms.
“You should be thankful for the rain, Adegoke. Only a few months ago you were complaining that it was too dry.” Blessing, our head housekeeper, crossed the room to draw the blinds.
“Yeah, well, now I wish it would stop.”
I rolled over. The crunch of beanbag beans swirled under my stomach. The view beyond the windows was a bleak picture these days: our courtyard filled with mud, the air shining with heat or striped with rain. Even the pool was muddy—not that I needed a swimming pool in this weather. At least we had air conditioning. On the hottest days I barely left our compound.
“You’ve been playing on that thing all day. Isn’t it time for your studies?”
I groaned, and flopped my arms against the beanbag, dropping my Gameboyonto the carpet. “Do I have to?”
Blessing’s voice was stern. “You’re the son of a king, Adegoke. You have to set a good example.”
“I bet Papa didn’t study after dinner when he was my age,” I muttered.
Blessing raised an eyebrow. “What was that?”
“Nothing!” I gathered up my Gameboyand retreated to my room.
Mama and Papa were home for a change, and I didn’t want any disagreements this early in the evening. Right now they were probably in the West Wing, discussing riots and politics and other boring stuff with the advisors.
I lay on my bed and stretched. Last week we had moved here all of a sudden from our palace in Abuja. We didn’t normally move during the wet season, and I wondered if maybe my parents had had a disagreement. I twisted the ring on my finger. Everybody was so tense these days. It was getting on my nerves and the rain, too.
As if it could hear me, the pounding on the screen door grew louder. I groaned and shut my eyes. Stupid rain.
I was woken in the night by loud noises. At first I thought it was the rain again, but then I realised that the banging and shouting was coming from insidethe compound.
Suddenly, the door opened and someone ran in. It was Blessing.
“Adegoke! Quick, get up,” she hissed. “The compound’s being attacked.”
I stumbled out of bed and grabbed a jacket from the floor. The tang of smoke tugged at my nostrils. “What’s happened? Where are Mama and Papa?”
I looked up to see in surprise that her eyes were glistening in the darkness. Blessing was crying.
“They’ve been…they were…killed by the attackers. Everyone’s dying—oh, they’ll kill you too if they find you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. There’s been so much political tension. We were all worried but I can’t believe it’s come to— here, take this.” She wiped her cheeks angrily and shoved some money at me, then scribbled an address on some paper. “Go to my cousin’s house in Lagos. He’ll help you get out. Oh, and take these clothes—nobody can recognise you, you hear me? Be strong, my prince.”
She hugged me, and then pushed me towards the screen doors to my ground-floor balcony. Still sleepy, I staggered forwards and caught the handle. It was strangely cold. Surely this was all a strange and terrible dream. I turned back, wanting to say something.
“Go!” she shouted
The man at the desk had greasy hair and a cigarette burn in his shirt—the sort of person I would never normally speak to. It was strange how quickly everything had changed. Still, after sleeping rough in the city, I probably didn’t look much better.
The sign outside this shop had been scribbled with rust, but still proclaimed the words it had taken me two bus rides and a fifty minute walk to find: Internet Café. Quality connection.
I pulled my jacket tighter and approached the desk. My legs felt like jelly.
“Could I use the internet, please?”
The man looked me up and down.“That’s 150 naira an hour.”
It cost money? That was something I hadn’t expected. All the same, I dug in my pockets, pulling out the crumpled notes that Blessing had handed me a lifetime ago. A hundred and fifty gone. That meant less than two thousand left.How long would I last on two thousand?
I handed the money over. The man’s gaze seemed to burn through my clothes and my skin like acid, as if at any second it would melt away my disguise and he would know who I really was. Papa’s words came floating back to me...the people are unhappy...riots in Gboko...but this time the words were suffocating, dangerous, alive.
“Fine. You have one hour. You’d better be out by quarter past, kid.”
I nodded and scurried away to a computer, feeling a little less jelly-like.
It had taken so much effort to get to an internet café that I had barely thought about what I would do once I got here. First, I tried sending messages to friends. Mostly I didn’t know their contacts, but there were a couple I remembered. I researched bus routes to Lagos. I started to look up the news, but figured that was probably a bad plan.
Suddenly, I had an idea. It was a bit desperate. But hey, I was a bit desperate. Who knows it might even work.
One of my friends had gone to England on holiday last year, and said that people overseas were very nice. Mama had always told me to ask when I needed something. Why couldn’t I ask them for help?
I opened a new email, and started typing in random addresses.
And for the message—what to say? How could I convince anyone to help me?
Right now I wished more than anything I had paid more attention in my English classes. How would I describe my situation? Dessert..no. Despair...no. Desperate. Yes, desperate! That was a good word to use. I remembered that one now.
Imperfect or not, I typed on, pushing through the broken phrases. My tutor and I had been doing letter-writing just two days before...before things fell apart.
I started the email, then frowned. I should offer something in return—nobody would help me otherwise. I was sure Papa had once talked about money somewhere in Switzerland.
I am Adegoke a Nigerian Prince. I am in great Turmoil in my country as my Relatives is dead and there is riots. I am infact Desperately need money to leave but if you will help me my family has Gold in banks I will reward You greatly. Please help!!
Your humble servant,
I sighed and pressed my fingertips to my forehead. It would help. I had to keep telling myself that. I was sure it was the right thing to do. Surely somebody somewhere would reply.
Outside, dusk was collecting against the grimy windows. Beyond the glass, I could see the last rays of the setting sun spiderwebbing their way towards the horizon. A golden promise, trickling away.