Tag Archives: creativity

Mud on the Tires #99WordStories

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about mud on the tires. The tires can be from any conveyance or serve as an analogy. How did they get muddy and why? What impact does mud on the tires have on the story (plot) or characters (motivation)? Go where the prompt leads!

In her post, Charli says ‘I guess this seems similar to balloons on a bumper. It differs, though. Mud is real. Balloons are temporary hopes and dreams susceptible to popping. Mud can stain. Mud can wash away. Mud says, “You’ve been places, Kiddo.”’

For my response, I have continued with my red convertible story with the girls Amy and Lucy playing imaginatively in their back yard with their toys and whatever else is available. (I have included the previous two stories at the end, in case you’d like to read them together.)

In the last episode, the girls had balloons on their bumper as they travelled to celebrate the wedding of their toys Teddy and Ollie. The balloons, as Charli says, were temporary. In this third episode, they have been replaced by empty cans. But the girls and their toys, including the tyres of their red convertible, have been covered with mud. The mud does say that they have been places. It also says they have had fun, used their imaginations and been creative — three things I consider to be very important in life. I hope this mud sticks, not only for them, but for everyone.

A note about tires. In Australia tires means to grow sleepy and tyres refers to the black rubber things on the wheels of a car. Hence the change in spelling.

I hope you enjoy my story.

Mud on the Tyres

After the wedding, Teddy and Ollie scrunched into the back of the little red convertible.

As Amy and Lucy drove them away from the faraway forest, the guests cheered and threw confetti. The empty cans, now replacing balloons on the bumper, clattered across the wooden bridge and scattered gravel along the mountain trail.

At the honeymoon resort, Teddy and Ollie splashed in the pool first, but they were overexcited, and the grounds were soon a mucky muddy mess.  

When Mother called, ‘Dinnertime!’, the girls were mud-spattered, from the hair on their heads to their convertible’s tyres.

‘Coming!’ they replied.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Here are the two previous episodes of this story.

The Little Red Convertible (Episode 1)

“Where to today?” asked Amy.

“Over the mountains, across the river, and through the far-away forest,” said Lucy.

“Be home in time for dinner,” said Mother.

“We will!”

The little red convertible chugged to the peak of the highest mountain where the children danced in clouds. It rolled through misty valleys and onto the plain where the children played hide-and-seek in patchwork fields. It trundled across the wooden bridge over the river that led to the forest where they fluttered with fairies and pranced with unicorns.

Rumbling bellies told them to head for home.

“Just in time,” said Mother.

Balloons on the Bumper (Episode 2)

“Where to today?” asked Amy.

“A party,” said Lucy, tying balloons to the bumper of their little red convertible.

“Whose party?”

“Teddy’s. He’s getting married.”

“I didn’t know he had a girlfriend.”

“He doesn’t. He has a unicorn-friend. Mother said I can marry anyone I want. So, Teddy can too.”

“Right. Which way?”

“Over the mountains, across the river, and through the far-away forest.”

“Be home for dinner,” said Mother.

“We will!”

The balloons sailed above the little red car. At the party, the children fluttered with fairies and pranced with unicorns as Teddy and Ollie shared their vows.

Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Balloons on a Bumper, including mine, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.

Inspire Creativity with International Dot Day – #readilearn

September 15-ish is International Dot Day.

The goal of International Dot Day is to inspire people of all ages to embrace the power of personal creativity, to make their mark on the world, making it a better place.

Creativity is important to me. I love being creative. I love inspiring creativity in children, and I acknowledge that it is only through creativity that we can innovate, advance and improve our world. For this reason, I am posting a day early to ensure you all know about International Dot Day in time to celebrate. However, any day is a good day to celebrate and promote creativity.

The Dot — the book

The Dot, written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds and published by Walker Books in 2003, tells of an art teacher who encouraged a young artist, who didn’t believe she could, to make her mark on a piece of paper. Although the story features an art teacher, Reynolds dedicated the book to his 7th grade math teacher who, he said, ‘dared me to “make my mark”.’

Like Reynolds, I believe there is a spark of creativity in everyone and that a dot is as good a place as any to start. What I really love about this book, is the way the teacher encourages the student Vashti, who then goes on to encourage others in a similar way. The ripples of a ‘you can do it’ philosophy spread. Who know where they will reach? Hopefully everywhere.

How International Dot Day began

(from the website)

International Dot Day began when Iowa teacher Terry Shay introduced his classroom to Reynolds’ book, and noticed the original publishing date of The Dot was Sept. 15, 2003. Shay and his students decided to celebrate the book’s birthday – and, little did they know, launched what would become a worldwide celebration of creativity and courage to “make your mark.”

“The Dot, is an invitation to students to be creative, and experience a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing, said Shay, a public school teacher for over two decades “Every great teacher works for those transformational moments.”

Exploring the themes of creativity, bravery and self-expression, The Dot is a story of a perceptive and caring teacher who reaches a reluctant student who thinks she can’t draw by encouraging her to be brave enough to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.”  The Dot has been translated into many languages (including Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Hebrew, Spanish and even Braille) and the animated film of The Dot (produced by Reynolds’ multimedia design and development firm FableVision Studios and co-producer Scholastic) earned the Carnegie Medal of Excellence.

Continue reading: Inspire Creativity with International Dot Day – Readilearn

Interview with Deborah Frenkel author of Naturopolis – #readilearn

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Deborah Frenkel and her beautiful new picture book Naturopolis with illustrations by Ingrid Bartkowiak and published by Storytorch Press.

About the author Deborah Frenkel

Deb is a human (Homo sapiens). She lives in Melbourne with her young family and a number of ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) who occasionally drop by. When she’s not writing for kids, she’s usually copywriting for TV commercials, billboards, and the labels

of shampoo bottles. Kids, thankfully, are usually more appreciative. This is her first picture book, and her second (with Affirm Press) is due out in 2023.

Find out more about the author from her website: http://deborahfrenkel.com/

About the illustrator Ingrid Bartkowiak

An artist and illustrator based in Brisbane, Australia, Ingrid works in watercolour and oils. Her practice revolves around her fascination with nature and its intricacies. Ingrid completed her Bachelor of Fine Art in 2019 at the Queensland College of Art. Engaging with native flora and fauna, her illustrations are whimsical and encourage an appreciation for nature. They often feature both realistic illustrative elements, merged with abstraction and blocks of vibrant colour. There is a focus on detailing and pattern, with one of Ingrid’s earlier interests being in the visual tropes of the arts and crafts movement. A highly talented artist, this is her first children’s book.

Find out more about the illustrator from her website: https://ingridbartkowiakart.com/

About Naturopolis

Among the steel and stone canyons of the city, nature flourishes in tiny, tenacious ways. Follow the ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus) to discover the scraps of wilderness hiding in plain sight in this lyrical celebration of urban flora and fauna.

Naturopolis is a wonderful acknowledgement of the unseen, and the world that awaits the viewer, eager to connect with nature. You don’t have to go far to find what is waiting for us beneath our feet.

Naturopolis is creative non-fiction that celebrates nature that can be found in our cities. The lyrical text invites children to look closely and stunning hand-painted illustrations show them where to look. Each observation is accompanied by an information tag that provides the reader with fun facts about the fauna or flora discovered. It is a perfect balance of fiction and non-fiction, enough to excite the imagination while at the same time, fostering an interest in exploring and finding out more.

Themes are resilience, community and appreciation of nature.

The Trailer

Continue reading: Interview with Deborah Frenkel author of Naturopolis – readilearn

Welcome to our new Children’s Laureate – #readilearn

This week the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation announced our new Children’s Laureate for 2022-2023, Gabrielle Wang.

Gabrielle Wang is an Australian author and illustrator and our seventh Children’s Laureate. She was born in Melbourne of Chinese heritage. Her father is from Shanghai. Her maternal great grandfather came to Victoria during the Gold Rush.

Gabrielle has been an author for 21 years and has had 20 books published. She mainly writes for 8-12 year olds, but has written for older and younger children too. Her stories are a blend of Chinese and Western culture with a touch of fantasy.

You can find out more about Gabrielle on her own or the Australian Children’s Laureate’s website where Gabrielle has her own page.

Be inspired by Gabrielle’s journey in a video that can be viewed following this link.

The theme for Gabrielle’s term as Children’s Laureate is ‘Imagine a Story’.

She says,

“Your imagination is your most treasured possession and I want to encourage all children to use their imaginations regularly by reading, drawing and writing stories.”

What a wonderful theme.

In her two year ‘Follow the Dragon’ tour of Australia, visiting and conducting workshops in schools, galleries and libraries, Gabrielle has four key messages for children, parents and librarians:

Continue reading: Welcome to our new Children’s Laureate – readilearn

Flying Pigs #flash fiction

The phrase ‘when pigs fly’ means that something is impossible, it will never happen. The phrase is an adynaton — don’t you love that word? I just learned it — an exaggeration, hyperbole. I seem to think I heard the term many times growing up, though I can’t recall about what in particular. Maybe it was life in general.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads!

The first thing I thought about when reading Charli’s prompt is a hilariously delightful picture book by the fabulous author-illustrator Mo Willems: An Elephant and Piggie Book Today I Will Fly!

If you don’t already know the story, I suggest you acquaint yourself with it with this video. It will only take a couple of minutes.

I remember when I was first introduced to Mo Willem’s work. A colleague came rushing into my room one morning and pushed Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! at me, saying, “You’ve got to read this!’

I would have to say, the book didn’t have instant cover appeal, but she left it with me, and I continued with my preparations for the day. Later, when I sat down to read, I knew this book was something special. I loved it and the children loved it. We read it and read and read it. It had us in stitches. Unsurprisingly, it was a Caldecott Honor book.

After that, we read all the Mo Willems books we could get our hands on. The children brought in those they’d purchased or borrowed from the local library, and I couldn’t resist buying additional titles whenever I saw a new one in a book store I just happened to be passing.

When I visited New York in 2016, I was delighted to find an exhibition of the Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems at a museum not far from my accommodation. I couldn’t go through the exhibition shop without purchasing a book or two or more and also came home with a pigeon and a duckie soft toy. I am, unreservedly, a Mo Willems fan and I have the enthusiasm of my colleague to thank for that. If you would like to find out more, please visit the Mo Willems website.

And Mo is not just for little kids. He is for big kids (like us) and writers too. He has wonderful advice for teachers and writers alike when he discusses creativity, the need to play and the ever-present failure. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Mo, please watch his video on The Joy of Creation. It will inspire you.

In another video on his website, Mo explains how to draw a piggie from the Elephant and Piggie books. The inspiration for my flash came from this video. The flash is also a nod to my favourite ever principal Peter Kidston who not only valued my work as a teacher, he respected it enough to provide me the freedom to teach how I wanted, knowing that the children and their learning was at the centre of all I did. I wrote about Peter in this post.

I hope you enjoy my story.

Flying Pigs

Children’s squeals drew the principal to the window. Ms Irena’s children were running about the yard tossing bits of paper in the air. What were they up to this time?

“We read a book about a flying pig,” explained Ms Irena. “The children decided to make their own pigs and see if they could fly. Then they wanted to see whose would fly the farthest or highest. After, we’ll write stories about our pigs. So, it’s literacy, art, maths and science rolled into one — STEAM!”

The principal smiled. “A flight of pigs. With Irena, even the impossible seems possible.”

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Let’s meet courageous, creative Claudette by Helene Magisson – #readilearn

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Claudette, the beautiful new picture book written and illustrated by Helene Magisson, published by Red Paper Kite. While Helene has illustrated many other picture books, this is the first that she has both written and illustrated.

I have previously introduced you to Helene’s gorgeous artwork when interviewing her about Magic Fish Dreaming, a collection of poems by June Perkins and Sarah’s Two Nativities by Janine M Fraser. Please refer back to those posts to find out more about her beautiful artwork.

About Helene Magisson

Helene Magisson is an award-winning illustrator. She started her artistic career as a painting restorer in Paris, where she was also trained in the art of medieval illumination.
Helene has lived in Africa, France and India. She is now settled down in Australia with her family. She has illustrated more than 15 books and has collaborated with major Australian publishers.
Recent awards include:
• Claudette, her first book as an author-illustrator, has been longlisted in the Australia Books Industry Awards 2021
• Little Puggle’s Song written by Vikki Conley, CBCA 2020 Notable Picture Book of the Year
• Slowly! Slowly! written by T.M. Clark, CBCA 2018 Notable Picture Book of the Year

About Claudette 

Loutka is a brilliant puppet maker. All of his creations work perfectly, just as he expects them to. Except for Claudette. She is a rickety misfit who longs for freedom and adventure. What can be done with such a puppet? Loutka doesn’t know.
So Claudette stays on the shelf. Until one incredible day…

Claudette takes the reader on a courageous and magical adventure beyond the clouds, discovering the power of beauty, possibility and self-worth along the way.

‘A book infused with magic!’ – Megan Daley, Children’s Books Daily

Longlisted in the Australia Books Industry Awards 2021

The Interview

Helene, we’ve met you before as an illustrator of beautiful picture books. Now we are talking to you as an author-illustrator.

What gave you the idea for this delightful story of the extraordinary puppet Claudette?

Continue reading: Let’s meet courageous, creative Claudette by Helene Magisson – Readilearn

The Importance of Daydreaming and Imagination — a Guest Post by #Josh Langley – #readilearn

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Australian author and illustrator Josh Langley who advocates for children’s mental health, including developing their self-esteem, friendship skills and creativity through his books and online course. These topics are close to my heart and regularly appear in our readilearn posts and feature in our teaching resources.

With next Wednesday 21 April being World Creativity and Innovation Day, I thought now was the perfect time to share with you Josh’s recent post Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Let Kids Daydream.

First let me tell you a little about Josh.

About Josh:

Josh is author of the award winning ‘Being You is Enough’ books series for kids and promotes positive mental and emotional health messages for kids through his books, presentations, primary school talks, videos, charity work and courses, like ‘Here I am!’.

Josh says,

After suffering childhood trauma, I feel driven to make sure kids don’t ever have to feel like I did. That’s why I want to give them the emotional and mental skills to be resilient to what is thrown at them and the inner knowing that they are ok the way they are. And the only way I can do that is in my own fun and unique way! Thankfully parents and kids love it.”

About Josh’s Books

Continue reading: The Importance of Daydreaming and Imagination — a Guest Post by #Josh Langley – readilearn

special days and events for classroom celebrations in September

Special Days and Events for Classroom Celebrations — September – #readilearn

September has almost arrived, bringing spring to the Southern Hemisphere. I always enjoy spring when the world seems to brighten, and gardens fill with flowers, insects, birds and other small creatures. The days are pleasantly warm and don’t yet have the stinging heat of summer.

I hope wherever you are and whatever season you are in, you enjoy it too and that you find this list of September days and events useful.

Before we get into September days though, I want to share with you the sad news that Sir Ken Robinson passed away on Saturday 21 August after a brief battle with cancer.

Sir Ken has been an education hero of mine, and of millions of others around the world, since first hearing his TED Talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? Recorded in 2006, it is the most popular TED Talk of all time. This tribute in The Washington Post written by Valerie Strauss provides an overview of his career and impact on educational thinking.

To honour this great man, I again share his influential video on schools and creativity. It can never be shared or viewed too often.

He may be gone, but never forgotten, and greatly missed. Thank you for your contribution to making this world a better place, Sir Ken Robinson.

Now onto the September days.

Continue reading: Special Days and Events for Classroom Celebrations — September – readilearn

Jacqui Murray blog hop Survival of the Fittest

Blog Hop: Jacqui Murray — Survival of the Fittest

This week I am delighted to introduce you to Jacqui Murray. I’d been following Jacqui’s blog Ask a Tech Teacher for some time before I realised she had other writing achievements in her portfolio. I had always enjoyed keeping up with what was new in technology for the classroom and reading Jacqui’s advice for teachers and parents as well as the general technology user. Now, I’ve discovered she has much more to explore.

Jacqui and I have found that we share a lot in common. She recently hosted me at her blog here, and soon her guest post Why Kindergartners Must Learn Technology will be shared on the readilearn blog.

This post is part of a blog hop celebrating the launch of Jacqui’s latest prehistory novel Survival of the Fittest.

Survival of the Fittest by Jacqui Murray header

The Book

Title and author: Survival of the Fittest

Series: Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Cover by: Damonza 

Available in print and digital at: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU

Short Blurb

Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.

Summary

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes–from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her.

Questions for Jacqui

Setting a book in the days of prehistory must present a number of challenges for writers. I asked Jacqui to explain how she approached some of those challenges.

How did Xhosa tell time?

Xhosa’s People had no need for the exacting time that we today have. It was enough to know that events happened around certain other repetitive events (like a full moon or a sunrise). They could peg daily events to when the Sun reached a certain point in the sky (with a good guess if it was overcast).A popular way of telling time which I borrowed from societies that predated clocks, sundials, and any regimented ways of telling time is measuring time by sun’s movement. A finger of time would be about fifteen minutes and a hand of time would be bout an hour.

How did Xhosa count?

Xhosa and her People also had no need for counting. This is true even today with primitive people. Many count only to two (which is the method I’ve adopted for Xhosa). Beyond that, numbers may be described as handfuls or how much room they occupy in relation to something else. Counting people was unnecessary because all Xhosa had to do was sniff, find everyone’s scent, or notice whose she couldn’t find. 

Did Xhosa have any type of culture—art, music, that sort?

This time in man’s prehistory predated art, music, and most culture. There is very little if anything known about earliest man’s (850,000 years ago) interest in art and music. In Xhosa’s case, I extrapolated from what we do know about these early iterations of man. They appreciated colors but didn’t think of applying it to themselves. Their brains could imagine things unseen but that didn’t extend to painting themselves, wearing jewelry, or tattoos. Since clothing was only for warmth (or in Seeker’s case, to protect his sensitive parts), no thought was given to designing or decorating these.

Music—They did appreciate bird songs but considered it an animal voice, not something that they could replicate for their own pleasure. They could replicate it but it was to imitate the bird, not express creativity. They also appreciated rhythm but that was to set a running pace or sooth people.

Most scientists believe Homo erectus couldn’t talk. How did Xhosa and her People communicate?

These early humans were highly intelligent for their day and possessed rich communication skills but rarely verbal. Most paleoanthropologists believe that the ‘speaking’ part of their brain wasn’t evolved enough for speech but there’s another reason: Talking is noisy as well as unnatural in nature which attracts attention. For these early humans, who were far from the alpha in the food chain, being noticed wasn’t good.

Instead, they communicated with gestures, facial expressions, movements, and all the body language we-all still use but rarely recognize. They talked to each other about everything necessary, just nonverbally.

thank you for your participation

Thank you, Jacqui. You’ve obviously worked hard to make your novel ring with authenticity.  I wish you success with it.

About Jacqui

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Connect with Jacqui on social media

http://twitter.com/worddreams

http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

https://worddreams.wordpress.com

https://jacquimurray.net

 

Jacqui has generously provided us with Chapter one as a preview of her novel Survival of the Fittest.

Survival of the Fittest by Jacqui Murray

Chapter 1

Her foot throbbed. Blood dripped from a deep gash in her leg. At some point, Xhosa had scraped her palms raw while sliding across gravel but didn’t remember when, nor did it matter. Arms pumping, heart thundering, she flew forward. When her breath went from pants to wheezing gasps, she lunged to a stop, hands pressed against her damp legs, waiting for her chest to stop heaving. She should rest but that was nothing but a passing thought, discarded as quickly as it arrived. Her mission was greater than exhaustion or pain or personal comfort.

She started again, sprinting as though chased, aching fingers wrapped around her spear. The bellows of the imaginary enemy—Big Heads this time—filled the air like an acrid stench. She flung her spear over her shoulder, aiming from memory. A thunk and it hit the tree, a stand-in for the enemy. With a growl, she pivoted to defend her People.

Which would never happen. Females weren’t warriors.

Feet spread, mouth set in a tight line, she launched her last spear, skewering an imaginary assailant, and was off again, feet light, her abundance of ebony hair streaming behind her like smoke. A scorpion crunched beneath her hardened foot. Something moved in the corner of her vision and she hurled a throwing stone, smiling as a hare toppled over. Nightshade called her reactions those of Leopard.

But that didn’t matter. Females didn’t become hunters either.

With a lurch, she gulped in the parched air. The lush green grass had long since given way to brittle stalks and desiccated scrub. Sun’s heat drove everything alive underground, underwater, or over the horizon. The males caught her attention across the field, each with a spear and warclub. Today’s hunt would be the last until the rain—and the herds—returned.

“Why haven’t they left?”

She kicked a rock and winced as pain shot through her foot. Head down, eyes shut against the memories. Even after all this time, the chilling screams still rang in her ears…

 

The People’s warriors had been away hunting when the assault occurred. Xhosa’s mother pushed her young daughter into a reed bed and stormed toward the invaders but too late to save the life of her young son. The killer, an Other, laughed at the enraged female armed only with a cutter. When she sliced his cheek open, the gash so deep his black teeth showed, his laughter became fury. He swung his club with such force her mother crumpled instantly, her head a shattered melon.

From the safety of the pond, Xhosa memorized the killer—nose hooked awkwardly from some earlier injury, eyes dark pools of cruelty. It was then, at least in spirit, she became a warrior. Nothing like this must ever happen again.

When her father, the People’s Leader, arrived that night with his warriors, he was greeted by the devastating scene of blood-soaked ground covered by mangled bodies, already chewed by scavengers. A dry-eyed Xhosa told him how marauders had massacred every subadult, female, and child they could find, including her father’s pairmate. Xhosa communicated this with the usual grunts, guttural sounds, hand signals, facial expressions, hisses, and chirps. The only vocalizations were call signs to identify the group members.

“If I knew how to fight, Father, Mother would be alive.” Her voice held no anger, just determination.

The tribe she described had arrived a Moon ago, drawn by the area’s rich fruit trees, large ponds, lush grazing, and bluffs with a view as far as could be traveled in a day. No other area offered such a wealth of resources. The People’s scouts had seen these Others but allowed them to forage, not knowing their goal was to destroy the People.

Her father’s body raged but his hands, when they moved, were calm.  “We will avenge our losses, daughter.”

The next morning, Xhosa’s father ordered the hunters to stay behind, protect the People. He and the warriors snuck into the enemy camp before Sun awoke and slaughtered the females and children before anyone could launch a defense. The males were pinned to the ground with stakes driven through their thighs and hands. The People cut deep wounds into their bodies and left, the blood scent calling all scavengers.

When Xhosa asked if the one with the slashed cheek had died, her father motioned, “He escaped, alone. He will not survive.”

Word spread of the savagery and no one ever again attacked the People, not their camp, their warriors, or their hunters.

While peace prevailed, Xhosa grew into a powerful but odd-looking female. Her hair was too shiny, hips too round, waist too narrow beneath breasts bigger than necessary to feed babies. Her legs were slender rather than sturdy and so long, they made her taller than every male. The fact that she could outrun even the hunters while heaving her spear and hitting whatever she aimed for didn’t matter. Females weren’t required to run that fast. Nightshade, though, didn’t care about any of that. He claimed they would pairmate, as her father wished, when he became the People’s Leader.

Until then, all of her time was spent practicing the warrior skills no one would allow her to use.

One day, she confronted her father. “I can wield a warclub one-handed and throw a spear hard enough to kill. If I were male, you would make me a warrior.”

He smiled. “You are like a son to me, Daughter. I see your confidence and boldness. If I don’t teach you, I fear I will lose you.”

He looked away, the smile long gone from his lips. “Either you or Nightshade must lead when I can’t.”

Under her father’s tutelage, she and Nightshade learned the nuances of sparring, battling, chasing, defending, and assaulting with the shared goal that never would the People succumb to an enemy. Every one of Xhosa’s spear throws destroyed the one who killed her mother. Every swing of her warclub smashed his head as he had her mother’s. Never again would she stand by, impotent, while her world collapsed. She perfected the skills of knapping cutters and sharpening spears, and became expert at finding animal trace in bent twigs, crushed grass, and by listening to their subtle calls. She could walk without leaving tracks and match nature’s sounds well enough to be invisible.

A Moon ago, as Xhosa practiced her scouting, she came upon a lone warrior kneeling by a waterhole. His back was to her, skeletal and gaunt, his warclub chipped, but menace oozed from him like stench from dung. She melted into the redolent sedge grasses, feet sinking into the squishy mud, and observed.

His head hair was sprinkled with grey. A hooked nose canted precariously, poorly healed from a fracas he won but his nose lost. His curled lips revealed cracked and missing teeth. A cut on his upper arm festered with pus and maggots. Fever dimpled his forehead with sweat. He crouched to drink but no amount of water would appease that thirst.

What gave him away was the wide ragged scar left from the slash of her mother’s cutter.

Xhosa trembled with rage, fearing he would see the reeds shake, biting her lip until it bled to stop from howling. It hardly seemed fair to slay a dying male but fairness was not part of her plan today.

Only revenge.

A check of her surroundings indicated he traveled alone. Not that it mattered. If she must trade her life for his, so be it.

But she didn’t intend to die.

The exhausted warrior splashed muddy water on his grimy head, hands slow, shoulders round with fatigue, oblivious to his impending death. After a quiet breath, she stepped from the sedge, spear in one hand and a large rock in the other. Exposed, arms ready but hanging, she approached. If he turned, he would see her. She tested for dry twigs and brittle grass before committing each foot. It surprised her he ignored the silence of the insects. His wounds must distract him. By the time hair raised on his neck, it was too late. He pivoted as she swung, powered by fury over her mother’s death, her father’s agony, and her own loss. Her warclub smashed into his temple with a soggy thud. Recognition flared moments before life left.

“You die too quickly!” she screamed and hit him over and over, collapsing his skull and spewing gore over her body. “I wanted you to suffer as I did!”

Her body was numb as she kicked him into the pond, feeling not joy for his death, relief that her mother was avenged, or upset at the execution of an unarmed Other. She cleaned the gore from her warclub and left. No one would know she had been blooded but the truth filled her with power.

She was now a warrior.

When she returned to homebase, Nightshade waited. Something flashed through his eyes as though for the first time, he saw her as a warrior. His chiseled face, outlined by dense blue-black hair, lit up. The corners of his full lips twitched under the broad flat nose. The finger-thick white scar emblazoned against his smooth forehead, a symbol of his courage surviving Sabertooth’s claws, pulsed. Female eyes watched him, wishing he would look at them as he did Xhosa but he barely noticed.

The next day, odd Others with long legs, skinny chests, and oversized heads arrived. The People’s scouts confronted them but they simply watched the scouts, spears down, and then trotted away, backs to the scouts. That night, for the first time, Xhosa’s father taught her and Nightshade the lessons of leading.

“Managing the lives of the People is more than winning battles. You must match individual skills to the People’s requirements be it as a warrior, hunter, scout, forager, child minder, Primary Female, or another.  All can do all jobs but one best suits each. The Leader must decide,” her father motioned.

As they finished, she asked the question she’d been thinking about all night. “Father, where do they come from?”

“They are called Big Heads,” which didn’t answer Xhosa’s question.

Nightshade motioned, “Do they want to trade females? Or children?”

Her father stared into the distance as though lost in some memory. His teeth ground together and his hands shook until he clamped them together.

He finally took a breath and motioned, “No, they don’t want mates. They want conflict.” He tilted his head forward. “Soon, we will be forced to stop them.”

Nightshade clenched his spear and his eyes glittered at the prospect of battle. It had been a long time since the People fought.

But the Big Heads vanished. Many of the People were relieved but Xhosa couldn’t shake the feeling that danger lurked only a long spear throw away. She found herself staring at the same spot her father had, thoughts blank, senses burning. At times, there was a movement or the glint of Sun off eyes, but mostly there was only the unnerving feeling of being watched. Each day felt one day closer to when the People’s time would end.

“When it does, I will confess to killing the Other. Anyone blooded must be allowed to be a warrior.”

Survival of the Fittest by Jacqui Murray

 

 

Thank you blog post

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what do you love a post about a love of literacy

What do you love?

We use the word ‘love’ to mean care deeply about, as in people, or like a lot, as in food, objects and activities. Questions such as “Who do you love?” and “What do you love?” will elicit very different responses and we generally have little difficulty in distinguishing between the intensity of the feelings. Mostly the whos are more important to us than the whats, and it is easy to distinguish between the likes and the loves, though they can sit along a continuum.

love of vegetables on a continuum

For me, housework sits at the opposite end of the continuum from reading and writing. You won’t find me writing any posts about housework. But you will find lots of posts about reading and writing, especially encouraging a love of reading and writing in children. I find sharing a love of reading and writing to be almost equal in enjoyment as reading and writing for myself. To see children light up with enthusiasm for reading and writing is sheer joy.

the love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child

I have often said that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is a love of reading. A love of reading and writing, and indeed for all learning, is the best gift a teacher can give.

the love of reading and writing is contagious

It is often said that a love of reading is caught, not taught. The same goes for writing. It is important for teachers to ensure that there is time every day to read aloud to children, to inspire them and excite their imaginations with wonderful literature and to provide them with time for expressing their own thoughts and imaginative ideas through writing and any other of the expressive arts.

I have written many blog posts, both here and for readilearn, with suggestions for making time for literature and literacy, but it was the prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch that kept me thinking that way this week.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Valentines

You see, Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about valentines. It can be Valentine’s Day, the exchange, love for another, romance, or friendship. Have a heart and go where the prompt leads!

But, as well as being Valentine’s Day, 14 February is also Library Lovers’ Day and International Book Giving Day.

Why wouldn’t I write about one of my loves — reading and writing? I hope you enjoy it.

Just for the love of it

The teacher closed the book, but the children were abuzz.

“Keep going,” they urged.

“Will they be alright?”

“What will happen?”

The teacher looked at the clock. The minutes had passed like seconds. Was there time?

“Pleeeease!”

The teacher opened the book.

“Yay!” cheered the children, then hushed as the words flowed.

As the story unfolded, their eyes lit up and imaginations sparked. They discussed the story’s intricacies and contemplated outcomes as they journeyed with the author through good and fearsome times. Finally, just as the dragon was about to swoop, the teacher stopped. “Now write! What happens next?”

 

reading is a super power

Here are links to just five of the posts I’ve written about reading and writing:

A sprinkle of this, a pinch of that, and Poof! It’s reading — magic!

Wrapping up a year of books — the gift of reading

I love poems

Reading is all it’s cracked up to be: 10 tips for an early childhood classroom!

Writing poetry with children

And two more about libraries:

Libraries: A wondrous universe to explore — a guest post by Dimity Powell

Libraries, books and reading = infinite worlds to explore

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.