Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mysterious happenings on Planet FaBo2 with Kyle Mewburn!

Wow! What an amazing collection of mystery stories you sent in this week. And talk about mysterious. I was scratching my head the whole time, trying to solve the mystery before Sher did. (And no, I don't have fleas!) Lots of you scattered cunningly clever clues through your story, which is exactly what a good mystery needs. There were lots of trapdoors and secret passageways, too. Which is always good for adding mystery to a story. And in Chloe & Sophie's story, Sher had to unravel some clever alibis, just like a real detective.

There was lots of blood, too. Grace's story had a blood-stained dagger and people dying like flies. While in Maddie's story, Sher cut a monster in half and ate its two hearts! Urggghhh!

There were mysteries about missing jewels, a missing Star of Scotland, missing cupcakes, missing wallets and even missing grandmas. There were poisoned drinks, a plague and a murderous king. And talk about imagination! The Over Council of FaBo2 will be amazed when they read this week's stories. There was everything from magic wands to dragon trainers to talking dogs (called Ricky and Leonard) and even talking FURNITURE! And there were lots (and LOTS!) of goldfish, too.

Along the way, poor Jock McWat (who was supposed to be Sher's best friend) was everything from her brother to her boyfriend, a villain to a hired assassin! That was very confusing. I liked Sally's story about terrible King Humphrey, too, but it was more like a fairytale than a mystery.

But there can only be ONE winner! And this week I've chosen Caroline Moratti's story. Caroline is in Year 8 at Balmacewan Intermediate in Dunedin. I loved her quirky humour and the way she made Sher come alive. I also liked the twist at the end. You can read Caroline's story by clicking on the tab above! Caroline not only gets an awesome prize, she will also have a place on FaBo2 named after her. Check out what it is on the Planet FaBo page.

Hmmm, actually, the Over Council has just informed me we're now going to pick TWO winners each week - one primary and one intermediate. What a generous council! So this week's primary winner is Matthew Illing who is in Year 6 at Maungawhau. (Who is currently Number 1 on our Best Schools list. Well done!) A special prize is on its way to Matthew. He also gets a planetary feature named in his honour.

Oh, and a special mention to Millie Brown of Maungawhau for her great introduction! You can read it on the winning entry page as well.

In the meantime, here's MY mystery story called ...

The Mystery of the Missing Mist

Jock McWat twisted the lens of his telescope one way, then the other until the towering spires of Glottis Castle came into sharp focus.

“Hey, Sher, check this out!” he called.

"Mffflogrmmmlfrrt?” came the reply from behind.

“What?” Jock asked as he turned to where his best friend, Sher Lock, was busily polishing her gumboots by the fire.

Sher spat out the ends of her pigtails. She always sucked them when she was concentrating. Which is why they always looked more like two wet rat’s tails than pigtails. “I said - I’m busy.”

“No, seriously, you have to check this out,” said Jock. “It’s ... it’s ... I don’t know what it is.”

He sighed. It was a very long sigh. Sometimes it was very frustrating not having an imagination.

Sher’s sigh was even longer. It lasted all the way from the fire to the window. Considering she was dragging her feet as if they were made of Gloomstone, it was a very long sigh indeed.

“So what’s sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo important, McWat?” she asked, rolling her eyes dramatically. Nobody could roll their eyes quite like Sher. The thick lenses of her glasses magnified her eyes to the size of those weird puffballs that grew in Thompson Swamp.

Jock was so mesmerised, he could only point.

Sher’s eyes swept along Jock’s arm, leapt off his pointy index finger, then plunged out the window. They vaulted over the sleepy village of Gloomingdales, skipped across three mirror lochs and raced up the rocky slopes of Epi Hill, before finally landing on the stark shape of Glottis Castle outlined clearly against the clear, blue sky.

Her jaw dropped and her glasses nearly fell off her nose.

“It’s ... it’s ...” she stammered. “It’s totally weird.”

“I know,” said Jock. “Isn’t it amazing? You can actually see the castle. And the sun! The mist is like totally gone!”

Sher rolled her eyes even more dramatically.

“Nooooooooooo,” she said. Even though what Jock said true enough. For the first time in her entire whole life, there was no mist filling the village streets, and no dark cloud concealing Glottis castle from view. Which was totally weird when you thought about it. But Sher wasn’t going to tell Jock that. Besides, there was something even weirder than a clear sky in the Gloomingdales.

“I didn’t mean the sky. I meant the castle. Look at it! Have you ever seen such a weird-looking castle?”

Frowning, Jock stood studying the castle and tugging his left pigtail. (Everyone in the Gloomingdales wore pigtails. Even though it made most of them look pretty silly, they couldn’t imagine any other hairstyle they might choose. So pigtails it was.)

“I guess it does look a bit weird,” said Jock.

“A bit???” said Sher. She started to roll her eyes again, but stopped when Jock’s cheeks turned as red as a strawbeet.

“OK! OK!” cried Jock. “It’s like totally weird. It’s the weirdest castle I’ve ever seen.” (Which was true, too, because it was the only castle he’d ever seen.) He cleared his throat. “So what do you think is the weirdest part?”

Sher pushed her pink deerstalker hat back and scratched her head.

“Well, for a start, have you ever heard of a castle with four enormous chimneys?” she asked somewhat hesitantly, glancing slyly at Jock to check his reaction. After all, she had never seen a proper castle, either. But she had read about them in fairytales so many times, she could almost imagine what they might look like if she had an imagination. One thing for sure, they wouldn’t look anything like Glottis castle. No way!

Jock shrugged. “It’s probably cold living in a castle.”

Sher sighed. “Aren’t castles supposed to have towers and battlements and moats and stuff, too?”
“I guess,” said Jock. The castle did look a bit odd. It was a long, squat rectangular, grey building that needed four adjectives to describe it because it didn’t have any features except for the four towering chimneys. “But what’s that got to do with the missing mist?”

“I’m not sure,” said Sher. “But it’s our first clue, I think. Let’s go.”

The normally bustling streets of Gloomingdale were eerily quiet. If it wasn’t for the sounds of children laughing and a moghorn symphony drifting on the breeze, Sher and Jock might have thought the whole population had vanished with the mist. (Assuming they didn’t notice the signs on every shop reading “Gone Fishing” or “Closed until further notice”.)

As they puffed their way up Epi Hill, Sher kept stooping to inspect strange objects littering the path. There were octagonal stones with grooved holes through the middle. Peculiar sticks that looked like mushrooms, with grooved stalks just thin enough to fit through the holey stones. And the hillside was dotted with tangles of rusting gloomstone.

“What are they?” asked Jock each time Sher paused to peer at an object through her magnifying glasses.

“More clues,” said Sher.

Finally they reached the castle entrance. There was no moat or drawbridge, just a simple door with a sign reading – “Glottis Gloomstone Co.”

“Just as I suspected,” said Sher.

“What?” asked Jock, scratching his head. But his voice was drowned out by a loud creaking as Sher heaved the door open.

Inside was a vast, silent cavern with a damp, stone floor. As Sher paused in the doorway to allow her eyes to adjust to the gloom, huge shapes slowly separated from the darkness. Her head swivelled left, then right. When she saw the small, red light, blinking like a dying star on the far side of the cavern, she gave a grunt of satisfaction, then set off towards it.

Her hand touched cold metal first. The skin of some enormous machine. Then she found the light. With one gentle press, it turned green.

The cavern filled with clanking, grinding sounds as Sher retraced her steps. By the time she reached the door, the first holey octagonal stone rolled off the end of the machine’s conveyor-belt tongue, and onto the pile that had been creeping towards the machine like a slow-motion avalanche for a hundred years.

“What did you do?” asked Jock.

“Nothing,” said Sher with a smug smile. “I just solved the mystery of the missing mist. That’s all.”

As they wound their way down Epi Hill, the famous Gloomingdale mist began to thicken around them. At the foot of the hill, Sher glanced back over her shoulder. But there was no sign of Glottis castle.

The people of Gloomingdale never suspected their famous castle might be a factory. So they never imagined the sun might return again with a single push of a button.

And Sher? Well, she never imagined it might be a good idea to tell them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A FaBo Fairytale : Melinda Szymanik

Well it was an interesting bunch of stories submitted this week to start this year's Fabo story challenge.

Melinda certainly rose to the challenge of introducing imagination to the FaBo Planet...nostril hair tho?

Check out the winning students story on the Winner's page and Melinda's report to get some cool writing tips and join us for this weeks challenge, (see the sidebar....)

Take it away Melinda!

The Three Arty Faeries

Once upon a time, in a far away place, there lived a proud and important man. Lord of the Over Council Imagination Committee, Professor Nottin Spyre had been charged with the job of protecting his people from their own imaginations. He had a beautiful wife, a perfect baby daughter and more power than any ordinary man could ever wish for, although he lived in a dull, grey world without art or creativity. Not long after the birth of their first child, Enid, the couple planned a party to celebrate her arrival. They invited everyone they could think of but because they lacked any imagination they forgot to invite Gouache, Arpeggio and Grammar: the three faeries of the Arts from the abandoned Institute of Combined Arts and General Creativity. One of the Professor’s first tasks when appointed Lord of the Over Council Imagination Committee, had been to shut the institute down. Now parents kept their children away from the derelict building where strange coloured figures were seen flitting along empty corridors and weird noises were heard, with haunting tales of mysterious ghosts.

On the day of the party guests bestowed their best wishes on Enid as they arrived and passed their gifts (mostly nappies, socks and soap on a rope because they lacked any imagination), to Professor and Mrs Spyre. Everyone enjoyed their glasses of water (without flavouring or carbonation because of the absence of imagination) and bread without any spreads (you can guess why if you are getting the hang of this no imagination thing by now). The guests shared boring chitchat and admired the pale cream walls of the grand hall at Spyre Mansion. The Professor and his wife remained at the front door, their baby cradled in Mrs Spyre’s loving arms.

The sky darkened. In a flash of searing brightness three faeries suddenly stood on the doorstep.

In unison they spoke,

“Imagination cannot be denied…”

Then Gouache, dressed in a rainbow coloured gown said, “My birthday gift to your daughter is the gift of art. Her paintings will be beyond compare and will inspire anyone who looks on them.”

“My gift is the gift of poetry,” recited Grammar, clothed in sweetest pink. “She will combine words in a way that breathes new life into them.”

“And my gift,” sang Arpeggio, in a cloak of shimmering blue, “is the gift of melody. Your daughter will put her poetry to music. Her songs will delight and cheer everyone who hears them.”

The three cackled in chorus, waved their wands over Enid’s head, turned three times and were gone.

The professor turned to his wife. “We can’t allow this,” he said so only she could hear. “This would be the end of my job if word got out that our daughter is artistic.”

Meanwhile, ignored by all, a fourth faerie in a black cape bestowed a gift. “You cannot suppress the imagination forever. On her sixteenth birthday a dashing hero will come and unlock young Enid’s creativity.” The sprite breathed on Enid’s head and before anyone even noticed she was there, she had gone.

When the party was over and everyone had left, Nottin locked his daughter in the highest tower of his palatial home, paid a woman to take care of her and never spoke of Enid again. When she realised she could not persuade her husband to change his mind, and too afraid to have another gifted child, Mrs Spyre consoled herself with McRonald’s burgers until she eventually died of a broken heart. The years passed and Professor Spyre, satisfied that he had well and truly eradicated any sign of imagination, stepped down from his job with the Imagination Committee. Now deaf and more than a little vague he had forgotten all about Enid and the faeries and how many years were passing.

Young Dash drove his clapped out Fabota car through the dark forest. He’d left his home in New Yawn on the east coast of Allerica days before, bored with everything and sure there must be more to life than this. With no car radio or audio books to listen to he began feeling sleepy until suddenly a shadow stepped out of the shadows. It was an old woman, hunched over with age, swathed in a black cape. Dash slowed the car as he watched her raise a knobbly thumb in the classic hitch-hiker gesture. The Fabota slid to a halt and Dash wound down his window.

A vicious smell blew into the car. Filth crusted the old woman’s cape and Dash saw enough dirt under her fingernails to grow pomatoes in. But Dash didn’t mind. He covered his nose and said,

“Need a lift?”

The old woman shook her head.

“What a nice boy you are. You will find what you are seeking. Take this magic hamburger,” she said passing him a small round parcel wrapped in greaseproof paper. It felt warm in Dash’s hand. “And these three hairs,” she continued, pulling three long, dark, brown ones from her left nostril. “You will know what to do with them when the time comes.” Dash took the gifts and climbing back into his car, cranked the handle, pumped the gas pedal and took off into the gloom.

The trees closed in around him, growing taller and thicker and closer together with every passing mile. Again he felt sleepy. Dash wound the windows down to try and keep himself awake with the cold night air. Instead a strange noise came down the road towards him and like a magnet he felt drawn towards it. Soon he found himself parking in front of an old mansion house in the middle of the overgrown forest.

There was that noise again, a lilting sound floating down from above. Dash could not help but feel cheered. Looking up he saw a fair young woman peering from a window in the highest tower. The wonderful sound was coming from her and Dash was overwhelmed with the desire to meet her.

“Um,” he said, staring up at the smooth wall above him. He pulled the old woman’s gifts from his pocket. The package was mushed but he opened it up and the smell of the burger was so delicious he gobbled it up immediately. He felt strong but the window was too high to jump up to. Dash needed a ladder. As he looked at the three nostril hairs in his hand they thickened and lengthened until they were each like a rope.

“Hey that’s cool,” he said scratching his head but he still couldn’t figure out what to do. Someone tapped him on the shoulder.

“A bit of creative thinking would have been handy,” a voice said. Dash wheeled around. The beautiful young woman stood behind him, a bed-sheet rope dangling down the wall behind her.

“It’s alright,” she said. “I’ve been climbing down for years. My name’s Enid. I’m the singer in a band ‘The Faeries’ down at the Institute. Then I teach an art class at eight. Can you give me a lift there? Walking is such a drag.”

“Sure,” Dash said smiling and he unlocked his car and opened the passenger door for her.

The End

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Launching Now...Off To Planet FaBo

Hi Everyone,


The 2011 FaBo Story Challenge is now live. Our magnificent student winner, from last year, Angus Smith has provided the first story to get you into the FaBo story atmosphere and he has set the challenge for all of you this week.

Don't forget that one of the FaBo team will be taking up this challenge along with you. Their story and the best story submitted by you will be up next week along with the next story challenge.

The Fabo team are looking forward to seeing what you come up with this year. We are ready to pit our writing wits against you (we've been practising...)

Bring it On Kiwi Kids...

Take it away Angus.

Mr Groat Becomes Confused

Deep in the velvety blackness of space, parallel to the Great Nebula of Pork-Chop, spins the ancient planet of Fabo2. Now, Fabo2 is not a particularly remarkable world. It looks quite similar to Earth in fact, although the poles are slightly different and the continents positioned oddly. Anyway, that’s beside the point. Hurtling through space towards Fabo2 at that moment was a meteor. At least, that’s what it appeared to be.

Mr and Mrs Groat owned a plantation south of the Missislurpy, a muddy river running almost the entire width of the Combined Districts of Allerica. The old couple raised goats and gardenias on their land; although, due to lack of imagination, not much raising was involved. Mr and Mrs Groat and the goats usually just sat in front of the telescreen with their feet and hooves up, munching on the hamburgers they had had delivered from the fast-food restaurant McRonald’s in the city.

One ordinary, unimaginative evening, Mr Groat put the trash out (even those without imagination have to do chores). Grumbling under his breath, he detached his bulk from the sofa and scooped up the rubbish bag from the bin.

‘Mrs Groat, I’m taking the garbage out,’ Mr Groat said, stomping out the kitchen door.

‘That’s nice, Mr Groat,’ Mrs Groat said with disinterest. She was watching a Poppy Street sing along for kids. (‘Arm bone connects to the hand bone, hand bone connects to the Eye-Phone, Eye-phone connects to the internet, internet connects to the Goooogle, Goooogle connects to the Over Council.’)

Mr Groat waddled down the dusty track leading away from the farmhouse. He dumped the fetid bags of filth into the battered steel bin then turned to walk back up the track. But something made him pause. He turned his podgy face skywards.

There was a burning orange light in the sky, gradually getting bigger as it came nearer. A faint roaring noise, like the sound of a fire flaring up when you toss human body parts into it, accompanied the light.

‘What on earth is that?’ Mr Groat frowned. He had no imagination, so he couldn’t work it out.

Shrugging, he began to plod back towards the house. A few seconds later, a massive meteor entered Fabo2’s atmosphere and slammed right into the Groats’ property. Ash, piping hot space debris and asteroid rocks flew everywhere, crushing the house and all the surrounding landscape flat. Mr Groat had been a strongman in a Travelling Sir Cuss, so he managed to stand his ground.

Mr Groat blinked and looked around in despair once the oily black smoke had cleared. ‘No!’ he moaned. ‘The gardenias! The goats! Mrs Groat!’

A swishing noise made him turn to look at the meteor itself. In fact, it wasn’t a meteor at all. It seemed to be metallic, and was a perfect sphere. A door-like section at its centre lay open, and a figure was crawling out of it.

The person emerging from the spacecraft (although Mr Groat didn’t know it was a spacecraft, as he had no imagination) was very similar to you and I. He, for it was male, had on a suit and carried a cane in one hand and a large movie encyclopaedia in the other. The man blinked, then noticed Mr Groat.

‘Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,’ the strange man enunciated slowly, after a moment of consulting his movie encyclopaedia.

‘Eh, wot?’ Mr Groat frowned, squinting at the man leafing through the thick leather-bound volume. ‘Who are you? What’s the meaning of crashing your thing on my land? By ecky thump, this is positively queer!’

‘Here’s looking at you, kid,’ the man said solemnly, advancing unsteadily towards the rather confused Mr Groat. ‘Bond. James Bond.’

‘O-okay, Mr Bond,’ Mr Groat stammered. ‘Will you bloody well tell me what you’re doing here? I don’t know, see, ‘cause I have no imagination.’

Mr Bond rested a hand cautiously on Mr Groat’s shoulder. ‘Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’

‘My name’s not Louis, it’s...’

‘I’ll be back,’ Mr Bond told him, patting Mr Groat jerkily on the back. He then marched off briskly in the direction of the city, umbrella and movie encyclopaedia tucked under one arm.

Mr Groat stood blankly for a few seconds, attempting to think. Eventually he gave up. All he knew was that his house was destroyed and his wife probably dead. Then some instinct took him over, and Groat hurried after the stranger.

‘Wait! You can’t just leave me here!’ Mr Groat pleaded, tugging on the back of Mr Bond’s jacket. ‘Can’t you at least take me with you?’

‘You had me at ‘hello’,’ Mr Bond said. Without any further ado, he punched Mr Groat hard in the face. There was a metallic crunch.

Mr Groat drooped to the ground, unconscious. Mr Bond hauled him up and effortlessly slung him over one shoulder. He began the long walk to the city.

‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.’

Mr Groat opened his eyes. He seemed to be lying down, and could see a row of trees to his left. He rolled over, to see a busy sidewalk to his right. He sat up. Groat’s back hurt something dreadful, probably due to the park bench he was laying on. In the distance he could see the Urbandome and the Mall of Allerica.

‘What?’ Mr Groat frowned. ‘I’m-I’m in Mineapplepolice! But how…’

It was then that he noticed Mr Bond standing behind him, beaming and holding out an icecream cone in his direction. Groat coughed uncomfortably. ‘Is that for me? I don’t like icecream.’

‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,’ Mr Bond said, after flipping through the movie encyclopaedia.

Mr Groat was confused. No one had called him ‘dear’ before. ‘Say, can we go and get a hamburger?’

They sat together at a booth in McRonald’s, Fabo2’s premiere fast-food eatery. Mr Groat was halfway through his eighth Heart-Attack-In-A-Bun. Mr Bond watched him eat with interest, his own food remaining untouched.

Mr Groat finished the burger then began to study the menu again.

‘Take me to your leader,’ Mr Bond blurted out abruptly.

‘Huh?’ Mr Groat looked up from the menu. ‘Leader? Like, the most important person?’

Mr Bond paused to look over his movie encyclopaedia. ‘Marilyn Monroe?’

‘No, no. You must be meaning the High One, the head of the Over Council.’

All of a sudden, a change came over Mr Bond. He leant across the table and grabbed Groat by the collar. He hissed into his ear with a metallic-sounding grate to his voice. ‘TheHighOneHasTrickedYouAll.YouAllAreNotOfRightMind.TakeThis. Imagine.BeFree.LIBERATE.’

Mr Bond pressed a yellowed envelope into his palm, then stood up and walked briskly away. ‘May the force be with you.’

‘But…where are you going?’ Mr Groat asked, watching helplessly as Mr Bond walked away.

‘Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.’

And then he was gone.

Mr Groat cautiously drew a piece of parchment from the envelope and began to read the words typed onto it. After a few moments, there was a curious buzzing in his head and he had to put the paper down. A small voice in his head whispered: Forget it. Have another burger.

‘Waiter, I’d like a Double Everything With Extra Cheese, thanks,’ Mr Groat said automatically.

Forget that nasty stuff you read, the voice purred. The High One has helped all his people be free. Now your minds are uncluttered and you have bliss. Isn’t that right?

‘Dunno, I don’t have any imagination,’ Mr Groat said out loud, although he was unsure whom he was talking to.

Exactly, the voice purred.