Standing up to bullies, overcoming a fear of dogs, dealing with antisemitism and being strong in the face of self-doubt were the themes of this year’s winning entries in our Young Writers’ Competition.
For the third year running, Jewish News teamed up with WIZO – the Women’s International Zionist Organisation – and PJ Library, which distributes stories celebrating Jewish values and traditions to more than 8,000 children across the UK, and asked young writers to pen their thoughts on the theme of courage.
A panel of judges, including WIZO UK’s Emma Yantin, Sara Miller and chief executive Maureen Fisher, Jewish News features editor Francine Wolfisz and director of PJ Library in the UK Lauren Hamburger, selected a shortlist from 130 entries from 26 schools.
Guest judge, television writer and children’s author Ivor Baddiel then selected the final winners, who were revealed last week.
Daisy Williams, 10, from Brodetsky Primary School, Leeds, won first place in the primary school category for her short story, It’s All About Courage, with Abi Zinkin, 11, from Etz Chaim Primary School, Mill Hill, named as runner-up for her thought-provoking piece about bullying.
For the secondary school category, Maya Garren, 14, from Hasmonean High School for Girls, Mill Hill, took first place for The Gauntlet. Daniel Shaw, 12, from City of London School for Boys was named as the runner-up for his reverse poem, Courage In Two Directions.
At a special event held last Thursday evening, the winners were presented with an iPad for themselves and their schools, while the runners-up received a PJ Library Goody Pack in the primary section and book vouchers in the secondary category, as well as a selection of books for their schools.
WIZO UK chair Annabel Stelzer said: “Education is at the heart of what WIZO does and I was delighted to be part of an evening that not only encourages talent from schools in this country, but also promotes a literacy programme used in WIZO’s day care centres developing childrens’ language and reading skills, strengthening family bonds through the shared experience of reading. The theme of ‘courage’ felt particularly apposite and the winning entries were both unique and creative.”
Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer said: “Now in its third year, the entries continue to be stronger than ever and we never cease to be amazed by the imagination of our young writers. This initiative, supported by WIZO UK and PJ Library, provides children with the unrivalled chance to express their thoughts, unleash their creativity and inspire others.”
Lauren Hamburger, director of PJ Library in the UK, said: “The Jewish story has always been a rich and varied one. The PJ Library team always love to hear a new story. It was so exciting to be part of the judging team and read the winning entries, which created magic with their words.”
Youngsters shortlisted for each category received a certificate of commendation. They were: Adam Singer, 11, Year 6, from HJPS, Katie Singer, nine, Year 4, from HJPS and Rebecca Bloom, 11, Year 6 at Menorah in the primary school category; and Daniel Pesin, 13, Year 9 at Westminster School, Rachel Jacobs, 14, Year 10 at JCoSS, Talia Goldberg, 16, Year 11 at Hasmonean High School for Girls and Abigail Rowe, 16, Year 11 at Hasmonean High School for Girls in the secondary school category.
WIZO is the largest independent social welfare organisation in Israel, supporting more than 800 projects across the country at every stage of life. These include children’s day care centres, emergency centres for babies and children at risk, youth villages for vulnerable teenagers and more than 100 after-school programmes.
The charity also provides additional services, including support for single-parent families, foreign language groups for immigrants, shelters for victims of domestic violence and a retirement home.
WINNER, PRIMARY SCHOOL CATEGORY:
DAISY WILLIAMS, Age 10, Year 5 at Brodetsky Primary School, Leeds
It’s All About Courage
This story is set in a stunning place,
Where the ducks swim in beauty,
The birds fly with grace.
6-year-old Danny was next to the lake,
Hugging his mum, afraid a dog might escape.
You see, when it came to Danny, dogs were not his best,
He was scared one may bite him, which made him quite stressed.
Later that evening, Danny sat down.
His once-smiling face was paused in a frown.
His mum noticed and said, “Are you okay?
What’s been bothering you today?”
When Danny told his mum why he had cried,
She understood and pulled him aside.
“Oh darling, it’s okay to have a fear.
Now let me wipe away that tear.”
“The only problem is you haven’t given it a chance.”
She smiled at him with a loving glance.
“Okay”, said Danny, “let’s go to the park.”
“I’ll give the dog a stroke, and maybe it’ll bark!”
The next day, a small dog stood by Danny’s feet.
He took a deep breath whilst his heart skipped a beat.
“Wow, you are a cute one, now I understand”,
Said Danny, as he felt the fur on his hand.
Danny was feeling amazing and proud.
“I can’t believe I did it’, he shouted aloud.
Try and be brave, even if you are scared.
Once you’ve done it, you’ll wonder why you cared.
Ivor says: “It flows really well and I like its simplicity. I also like that it teaches us how courage can mean different things to different people…for someone, patting a dog is the easiest thing in the world, for someone else the hardest, so courage is about overcoming your fears, whatever they might be.”
RUNNER-UP, PRIMARY SCHOOL CATEGORY:
ABI ZINKIN, Age 11, Year 6 at Etz Chaim Primary School, Mill Hill
Thunk, thunk. The ball slipped out of Mya’s hands and dropped to the ground, where it rolled to the edge of the climbing frame and popped against the jagged edge of the first step.
Sasha sighed, then rolled her eyes at Mya. “You’re useless at sports,” she exploded, walking menacingly towards Mya. Straight away, Sasha’s gang moved closer, lining up behind Sasha.
“You are the worst at everything, you couldn’t catch a cold if you tried, and…” The bell rang for the end of break. I ran up to Mya and put my arm around her, comforting her and telling her that all Sasha does is pick on people and tell lies, but Mya shook her head and said, “But she’s not lying, I can’t catch and everyone knows it, I’m the worst at everything, she’s right.”
Mya broke away from me and ran into the classroom. I gritted my teeth. That was the worst thing about Sasha. She always got inside your head, and made you believe that she was right. I pulled open the classroom door and stepped inside. I was slowly dozing off, and the teacher was facing the board, fully absorbed in her display.
Mya and I sat in the front row, Mya concentrating hard on her maths problem. I sensed movement behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sasha move towards Mya’s long ponytail with a pair of school scissors. I clenched my fists, stood, and whirled around, grabbing the scissors.
“Why do you always pick on people?” I said, “You are no better than a slug crawling up someone’s shoe, you vicious bully.”
Her smug face crumpled at my hostile stare. I sat back down. After that school was never the same, I was an outcast, but I wasn’t alone.
Ivor says: “Well written, relatable for children and I particularly liked the bit about bullies getting in to your head and making you believe what they say about you. It’s a very important aspect of bullying – that it’s not just about the direct pain of a bullies’ words or physical attacks, but how they can make you feel they are right and there must be something wrong with you, almost as if you deserve to be bullied.”
WINNER, SECONDARY SCHOOL CATEGORY:
MAYA GARREN, Age 14, Year 9 at Hasmonean High School for Girls
Rain pattered against the windows. The girl had sat there for thirty minutes… only ten to go. A backpack weighed on her lap brimming with knowledge.
A maroon sweater and a black uniform skirt marked her as a high-school student, on her way home.
A delicate chain hung from the girl’s neck, a silver pendant of two overlapping triangles – in today’s London, a badge of courage.
An angry mutter broke through her daze, but her eyes remained glued to the window. They had been glaring at her since they boarded at stop ‘H,’ the three teenage boys sitting at the back of the bus.
Blazing eyes burned holes through the back of her neck as these strangers sent their hate her way. From daily experience, she knew: the real danger is in acknowledging them, giving them importance they do not deserve.
So, unseeing, her eyes blandly registered the stops. Buildings blurred by, soon replaced by small white and brown cottages, painted watery shades of grey by the mottled cloudy sky.
The ‘ding’ of the bus announced the stops as they passed by, but still the boys remained. A screen up ahead of her displayed the security cameras, providing her a clear view of the seething teens, puffed up with hot gas and self-righteous anger.
The Vale, proclaimed the bus’s computerised voice. At the last minute, the girl stood up, hooking her backpack over one shoulder and darting out of the doors, barely avoiding the snick as they closed.
Through the cheap see-through plastic, their glowers seemed to follow her home.
The bus arrived the next morning, waiting as the girl rushed out of her house, head held high as her silver pendant swung around her neck.
Ivor says: “Really well written, nice pacing and a strong voice that comes across in the great use of language. I love ‘backpack brimming with knowledge’, ‘angry mutter’, ‘buildings blurred by…’. I like the power of ‘her eyes blandly registered the stops’, when we know that in fact she is really very scared.”
RUNNER-UP, SECONDARY SCHOOL CATEGORY:
DANIEL SHAW, Age 12, Year 7 at City of London School for Boys
Courage in two directions
Courage is just a word
And don’t try and tell me that
No matter what happens
Fear can’t be controlled
It is not true that
People love me
And I know with great faith that
I AM different
I am not
I am not.
I am not in G-d’s image
And don’t try to convince me that
We are all special
In our own way.
They say ‘Be strong’
It echoes cowardice
‘Just go with the flow’
It is a lie
This world is scary
Even if One can try to withstand it
Goodness can all
Now read the poem from the bottom line up.
Ivor says: “A great achievement and it works, a really clever way to illustrate two sides of courage, how the way we look at things, our perspective, is very important.”
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