Let’s Read children’s writing contest winners announced

Muscat: The winners of the14th Let’s Read Children’s Writing Competition in association with Dar al Atta were recently announced.

In the English category, the first prize went to Salma Youfus al Farsi (10 years) of l Injaz School, second prize to Anuska Saha (17 years) of Indian School Muscat (ISM) and the third prize to Aidan McBirnie (eight years) of Batinah International School in Sohar.

The theme given to the budding writers was ‘Stories from Oman.’

“Congratulations to all the winners and let them keep writing!” said Jane Jaffer, founder of Let’s Read.

“The response was not as much as what we usually have while the schools are open as they also encourage the students to participate. Under the current situation, we still had children come forward and participate. In total, six judges graded the writings,” she added.

The winning stories are ‘The adventure of Meshmesh and Kishkish’ in the first place written by Salma Yousuf al Farsi from Injaz School.

A starry secret in the second place written by Anushka Saha of Indian School Muscat and Aidan McBirnie’s Sea Monster Days of Batinah International School, Suhar.

All three stories have a sense of adventure and great read during the Covid_19 lockdown. Oman Observer presents the three winning stories.

The adventure of Meshmesh and Kishkish (First Prize)

Meshmesh and Kishkish at Wakan village, photo taken by Salma al Farsi

Once upon a time there were two donkeys who lived in Wakan village on a big mountain. Their names where Meshmesh and Kishkish. They were best friends and did everything together. One day they decided to go on an adventure to explore a new place. They saw a trail, so they followed it to a very big cave. Kishkish suggested: “Meshmesh let’s go in the cave!” But Meshmesh did not think that this was a good idea. But Kishkish forced him; “You should go in first!”, but Meshmesh refused to go in first. Kishkish said to Meshmesh we should go into the cave together; they both agreed to the idea and went into the cave together. The first thing they saw was a giant tree filled with lots of different kinds of fruits: bananas, apples, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, peaches and oranges and so much more. The two of them where extremely hungry and happily munched away on the fruit. They were so full and there were no more fruits on the tree. But suddenly the fruits grew back on the tree, so they thought it must be a magical tree. So the two of them went back to the village.

When they reached the village, they told all their friends and families about this magical tree and they took them to the tree to see this magic with their own eyes. Aydan, one of the other donkeys, asked Kishkish: “How did you find the magical tree?” Kishkish told him the story of the magical tree and how they had found it in the big cave. Aydan was a good friend of Meshmesh and Kishkish and became a part of their adventure. The very next day and for the rest of the week the three friends ventured deeper and deeper into the cave and found many more magical trees. And every day they ate lots of fruits and brought big amounts back to Wakan village to share with their families and friends.

As they were always extremely tired on their way back home, having to climb 700 steps, they kept dropping some of the fruits on the ground. Until today the way to their home on top of the mountain is lined with beautiful fruit trees, which are nowhere else found in the whole region. Until today Wakan village is a magical place in the Hajjar mountain of beautiful Oman and everyone should go and see this amazing place. Make sure to climb all the way to the top of the village, all 700 steps, and meet Meshmesh and Kishkish. But reaching the village is not as easy as some expect, it is a long drive from Muscat and also needs a four-wheel-drive vehicle to reach the village. Small cars are not allowed because you have to drive on a rough road to the top of a mountain.

A stary secret (Second Prize)

Anuska Saha

12:05, 13:27, 15:45, 17:00; The day was changing into night, the birds returned to their nests to rest, but there was still no one in sight.

“UGH, WHY AM I SUCH A SCATTERBRAIN??”, thought Miha, whose legs were aching profusely. The heavy backpack only made it worse. The wind was no help either, the warmth of it made her sweaty.

“This is just wonderful, isn’t it?’ she said aloud to herself.

After all, it was her fault she was stuck in this mess. You see, she and a bunch of other people from her

neighbourhood decided to go visit Al Ain Sahban,

also known as the ‘Sulphur lake’. It was such a feast for the eyes – shimmering blue water depositing white sulphur on rocks, with needlegrass growing amidst tiny tadpoles, swimming around your feet, and the occasional black frog hopping from rock to rock. Blue and red dragonflies fluttering away. Soaking her feet in the water, Miha didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay there forever. “If only such fantasies could come true”, she sighed.

Later, the group came together and discussed the journey to their next destination – Wadi A’Zaimi. They decided to go walking together all the way from the Sulphur lake to the wadi, sleeping in tents at nightfall and travelling through the day. It was on this very occasion that Miha got separated from the rest of the group. One particular night, she couldn’t sleep due to the constant biting of mosquitoes, so she went out to get some fresh air. She was so mesmerized by the night sky that she kept walking away without any thought. When morning arrived and she returned to the camp site, there was no one around. Which brings us back to our darling protagonist walking through thorny bushes and sickly heat, trying to figure out whether she was close to the wadi or not.

A little while later, Miha began to feel thirsty. She removed the lid from her flask and proceeded to drink, only to find the flask empty. Frustrated, she threw her bottle to the ground. “Oh, I feel like tearing my hair out!”, she cried. But every cloud has a silver lining, as Miha realized that her shoe-clad feet were immersed in cool, clean water coming right up to the surface from underground. Ecstatic, she took some water in her palm and sipped it. “This is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever tasted in my life!”, she said to herself.

After the task of quenching her thirst was successfully accomplished, she sat on a rock to rest. She then observed her surroundings carefully. There were date palms in the distance, where water was flowing in shallow streams and tall mountains surrounded it all. Then, as Miha turned to her left, her eyes fell upon the mouth of a cave in the mountains, hidden by the willow trees growing there. Fascinated, she got up and started walking towards it.

Standing in front of the cave, she gulped and went inside. The cave had a mysterious air surrounding it, she felt as if it held secrets unknown to all. It was pitch black inside, so she took out her torch and flashed it around. This ended up frightening the bats inside, and she crouched low as the swarm of bats flew out. She got up and moved ahead. With every step she took, the passageway grew bigger and colder. She felt bugs crawling around her, and she heard soft hushes, as if someone was trying to silence her. It sent shivers down her spine and made her heart beat faster in fear, but she refused to turn around.

‘Well, well,well, looks like we have a tough one here. Or a dumb one? It’s hard to decide. I created all those eerie sounds and sent the bugs around your feet to scare you off, but you refuse to budge. Interesting,’ said a soft female voice right behind her. Gasping, Miha turned around, only to find no one there.

“Don’t be scared, human, just because you can’t see me but can hear me gives you no reason to be frightened.”

Miha couldn’t believe it. This is just a dream, right? she thought. So she pinched herself to wake up. It hurt like hell, but she could still hear the voice.

“Ah, never seen, or – pardon me – HEARD an otherworldly entity before, now, have you? So you try to wake yourself up, as if you were dreaming. This isn’t a dream and you are not asleep.”

“Who are you? And what do you want?” cried Miha.

“THAT is the first thing you say to me? Such trivial questions are of no importance. However, I’ll tell you what I want or, more specifically, what I’m going to do.”

Just as she finished speaking, Miha heard a ‘POP’. Surprised, she looked up. A beautiful blue flower had bloomed out of the rocky roof of the cave. Its delicate petals gave out a phosphorescent blue glow. Suddenly, the petals floated out and merged together to create a glowing blue orb of light, close enough for Miha to touch, but she dared not. Right then, a loud ‘POP’ was heard, and countless flowers bloomed all around her, from the roof of the cave to the walls and the floor. All the petals floated out and turned into blue orbs of light, then all together rushed out of the cave, creating a strong wind in the process.

“A human is never supposed to know of this. Want to know why?”

Miha nodded.

“At this moment, many such orbs will float out of caves everywhere in the world. They will float away high in the skies, so high you can’t even fathom. They have been guiding travelers towards their destination for centuries. Since they float to such a staggering height, people often mistake them for stars, and call them constellations. Astronomers won’t be too happy to know that ‘constellations’ are NOT what they think they are.”

“So what are these orbs called?’ asked Miha, awe evident in her voice.

“They have no name, and even if they did, I wouldn’t tell you. You are just a mere human, a human who is dumb enough to wander into this cave”, said the voice sharply.

“You don’t have to be so mean, you know”, said Miha, who was hurt by what she heard.

“It doesn’t matter if I am mean to you or not. You are not going to survive anyway, so why do you care?”

“WHAT?!!” shouted Miha.

“Yes, it is necessary for you to die. Humans are not supposed to know of this secret of the world. So how can you expect me to just let you go?

I would have actually just killed you when you were getting deeper into the cave, but I thought that it would be rude to do so, so I waited for a bit. Now, do you have any last words to convey to people you know before you leave this world?”

“Can’t you just trust me to keep my mouth shut?”

“No can do. I apologize for being rude. Now, last words please,” said the voice.

“Firstly, you won’t be able to convey my message to the people I care about, so why in the world should I tell you? And secondly”, she gripped the torch harder, “I am going to live so I don’t need a messenger in the first place !!”And then she bolted.

Miha ran and ran. She didn’t care about the voice whispering “It’s too late, you won’t live”, or about the bugs crawling around her. But as she got closer to the exit, she tripped on a rock and fell, hitting her head to the ground.

And with that, she passed out.

“Miha! Miha! Miha, wake up! Come on, how long are you going to be passed out? Miha ! MIHA!!!!”

Opening her eyes slowly, trying to adjust her eyes to the bright light of the sun, Miha saw the leader of the group’s face, relieved at seeing her awake.

“Oh, thank goodness you are awake! When we all woke up in the morning, you were nowhere to be found. We looked around, but we couldn’t find you. So, we headed off to the wadi instead, with the decision that we would ask the locals to help us search for you. And today, one of them came running to inform that he had seen a girl lying unconscious under a willow tree. That’s how we found you. What in the world happened to you? said the leader, in one breath.

“I-I-I don’t know. I was s-searching for you all, and then I came across this cave here and I went and saw ——

“What cave are you talking about? There are no caves here. And what did you see?”

“Huh? What are you saying? It is right behi———— me.”

As Miha turned, she saw that the mouth of the cave had vanished. What was left was just the rocky surface of the hill.

“See, there is no cave here. Anyhow, what did you see in this SO CALLED CAVE?”

“I don’t remember. Why don’t I remember? Ah, my head hurts”.

“Let’s go back to the others. They’ll help you”, said the leader.

Miha was given some food to eat by the locals, who were very kind to her. After resting for a bit, she and the group thanked the locals for their hospitality and left.

“Ah, I wish I wasn’t lost. Then I could have explored Wadi A’Zaimi,” said Miha.

“What are you talking about? You are in Wadi A’Zaimi right now,’ said the leader.

“REALLY? That means I still can still look around!”

“Yeah, you can. Oh, by the way, can you still not remember what you saw last night?”

“Nope, not even a bit. What I still don’t get is that I’m pretty sure there was a cave there, but now there’s nothing. Ah well, whatever. I’m pretty sure whatever happened to me yesterday won’t be a big deal,” said Miha, looking up at the blue sky.

Sea Monster Days (third prize)

Aidan McBirnie

Rashid woke up one morning very excited, because he was going to go out fishing for the first time with his dad. He had been watching his dad go out fishing every day and finally he was old enough to go now.

He went downstairs and opened the door and saw the wide beach and the nice blue water that brought in lovely white fluffy froth. Rashid loved living in Suhar! He looked happily at the nice, soft, shiny bright yellow sand. His dad and he neighbours had made a boat out of palm trees. His dad had the best type of palm tree  for making boats and he was very proud their boat.

Rashid said goodbye to his mum and they headed out to sea. The journey took a long time because they wanted to go to the deep part where they thought they’d find most fish. On the journey Rashid’s dad told him traditional stories of when he first got to go fishing with his dad, Rashid’s grandfather. His dad started to sing old fishing songs and Rashid soon joined in. After fishing for two hours Rashid and his dad had only caught thirteen fish. Then Rashid saw two bright green eyes in the ocean. He didn’t know what it was so he sailed closer to it. He threw his fishing rod at it and it got caught in it’s mouth. ‘It is a sea monster after all!’ said Rashid as he tried to back away from it.

The monster kept pulling and it felt like they were being pulled to India. The sea monster did not stop, so then Rashid threw his life ring around it’s neck and pulled it closer. The sea monster got very cross so it started to dive down to the deep! The boat was too light, so it didn’t go under the surface of the water. As he continued wrestling it looked like the monster was trying to tell him something and was pointing somewhere. He let the sea monster go and followed it to where it was pointing. The sea monster disappeared under the water and out of sight.

Rashid and his dad stayed there and caught 313 fish – 300 more fish than they had caught before. Rashid and his dad were so happy that they danced all the way home. When they arrived they went to the fish market straight away. They sold three quarters of the fish at the market and kept the rest for their family and neighbours. They all ate it with pleasure. Every time they went fishing again, they would look out for the two bright green eyes!