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Here we go again, I think. First day back at school after the summer holidays and our new shiny bald teacher, Mr Shakespeare, wants us to write a story. I mean, what is it with these teachers? Don’t they read enough books?
‘Perhaps you can write something about your holidays,’ said Mr Shakespeare, trying to spark our interest. ‘A special experience or adventure! Or maybe a story that captures the imagination and leaves the reader wanting more.’
‘Gee whiz, how exciting is that,’ I mumble, trying to contain my enthusiasm.
You’d think he is an expert on the subject. I glance at the clock. What! It’s only ten past nine. Where is the bell when you need it?
A familiar hand shoots up like a Jack-in-the Box. It’s Alex Brown – school suck. Last year, he brought all the teachers at Merrilands Primary School an apple every day. I reckon his parents own an orchard. All the teachers were touched by his kind gesture. They said he’s the best thing since sliced bread – until Mr Wrigley, the school principal, found a worm in his apple.
Actually, it’s worse than that– he found half a worm! Let’s just say it didn’t go down well, for Alex – or the principal.
‘Can I write about my fishing trip in Cairns?’ Alex grovels, with a big cheesy grin. ‘It’s a true story! It happened to me over the holidays.’
‘That’s a marvellous idea,’ says Mr Shakespeare, falling for the bait – hook, line and sinker.
Oscar, my best mate, whispers in my ear. ‘What a crawler.’
‘Yeah, and I bet it’s the same story he wrote for Mrs Dickens in Year Five,’ I add. ‘Only this time, he’ll claim he caught a giant black marlin that is bigger than the boat!’
Oscar laughs. ‘More like a sardine!’
Mr Shakespeare begins to brainstorm a list of topics on the chalkboard. He goes on to explain that a good story needs a plot, with a beginning, middle, climax, and end. It also needs interesting characters, a setting, and a problem to overcome.
Easier said than done. I sigh, still struggling to get started. Everyone takes out their books as Mr Shakespeare patrols the aisles. Before long, it is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. I give Oscar’s shoulder a nudge. ‘What are you going to write about?’
Oscar taps his pencil to his nose. ‘I think I might write about the girl of my dreams. I met her during the holidays. She had blueberry-coloured eyes, her skin had the glow of a peach, her cheeks were like apples, and her lips like cherries.’
‘Sounds like a fruit salad to me,’ I joke, giving him another nudge.
BANG! Mr Shakespeare whacks our desk with his ruler. My heart skips a beat and poor Oscar nearly wets himself.
‘Enough talking, you two! It’s time to unleash your brains and put pencil to paper!’
I pause to catch my breath, and to check the time again.
Mr Shakespeare gives me a smouldering glare. ‘I hope you’re not one of those boys who sit and watch the school clock all day!’
‘No, sir!’ I answer, shaking my head. ‘I’ve got a digital watch that beeps at the end of each period.’ Some of my classmates get a fit of the giggles.
‘What’s your name?’ snaps Mr Shakespeare, obviously lacking a sense of humour.
‘It’s Rhys Mickey Atkins, sir.’
‘Well, I’ll call you Rhys Atkins,’ said Mr Shakespeare.
‘My dad won’t like that!’ I protest.
‘He doesn’t like people taking the Mickey out of my name!’ There is a moment of silence before the whole class explodes into laughter. Mr Shakespeare’s face twists like a rotten apple core.
‘I suppose you’d like some extra time to complete your writing?’ he fumes, with a look that could melt ice.
I nod my head, cracking a nervous smile.
‘Well, Mr Atkins, your extension has been granted. You can write your story during time-out, at lunchtime, every day – until you have finished!’
‘What a grumble bum,’ I mutter, unimpressed.
This chapter book for younger readers is clever and entertaining due to the marvellous play on words that is used throughout, and the terrific illustrations produced by the multi-talented Kevin Burgemeestre. It’s the kind of book kids love to read – full of nonsensical barbs, and smart-mouthed conversation. It comes highly recommended for reluctant readers.
Rhys has detention for not showing interest in his writing assignment. Bored out of his head and with not even a floating thought of what to write about, a ball comes through the widow, shattering both his thoughts and
the glass. A brilliant idea enters his head, breaking his day-dream.
The story flows through him at great speed. It takes on a peculiar, detailed form. It includes the class suck-up Alex, and Alex’s
well-known, over-used story about the fish that got away, and an incredible but hilarious cat tale with a strange twist.