The Crazy Panda Pentapi

Well, I think we can call session one of Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp a grand success. At least for the Crazy Panda Pentapi at the Girls’ School of Austin. The truth is: three weeks weren’t enough with this group of kids. Their savage imaginations ate up everything in their paths. Their enthusiasm floored me. They worked a million tons of magic. I simply couldn’t wait until our summer anthology, Rise, launches in the fall to share some of their work. Here are kind horses, telepathic cheetahs, bubble people, strange cities, odes to Oslo and a very special nose, a poem about the struggle and triumph of poetry, and a million other surprises.

Callie Collins
Badgerdog Teaching Artist


A Horse, of Course

– after Aimee Bender’s “The Rememberer”

Imagine you wake up one morning and you smell the strong (but good, in my opinion) smell of horse. Maybe you’re still asleep? Or maybe your daughter is so obsessed with horses and she’s talked about them so much that they’re just on your mind. You start to ask your husband if he smells it, but he seems to be in the bathroom, shaving his face. So as not to interrupt his shaving ritual, you begin to climb out of bed and wake your son. On your way to his room, the smell becomes much, much stronger. You creak open the door to his room and find him sitting at his desk, holding his nose.

“Charlie, do you smell that, honey?” you ask.

“Smell that? Yes I do! What could it be?”


“Maybe Ava has finally turned into a horse!” Charlie jokes.

“Ha, ha! Very funny.”

Suddenly, your husband appears. “I’m making breakfast. Bacon, anybody?”

While he’s making breakfast, you knock on your daughter’s door to see if she’s awake. “Ava! Time to get up! Remember, you have camp at Badgerdog today!”

Response: a muffled whinny, like a horse.

“No time for games. You’re late!”

With that, you walk into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Maybe some caffeine will do you good. Then you remember something. Yesterday, Ava, your daughter, had written a story about herself becoming a horse at a writing camp.

“She always gets so caught up in her writing!” you mutter to yourself.

Then, you hear an odd sound: clip-clop, clip-clop. And then, to your astonishment, a young horse comes trotting into the bathroom. She is a dark brown color with odd blue eyes. Like your daughter’s! you think. But no, this can’t happen. Then she comes into the kitchen. Your husband has left for work. Your son is sticking his little, pink tongue out at the bacon. The horse nuzzles you and stands in front of the table. You try to stay calm. You put some bacon in front of her and say, “Eat up!” The horse wrinkles her nose at the bacon. She is a vegetarian, after all.


Bacon! Oh, the indignity! I thought I had talked so much about the grassy diet of horses that she would know I’m a vegetarian. I snort in frustration and stand in front of the sliding glass door that leads to the backyard. I’m hungry! My brother cannot stop laughing, and Mom looks like a strangled duck! If they won’t open the door for me then I will do it myself.

I rear up, and my front hooves break open the glass door. I charge outside and tear at the delicious grass with my big, yellow teeth. I feel good in this new body. I have always wanted to be a horse. I don’t know how it happened, though. I just woke up and was a little too large for my double bed.

Inside, I hear my brother saying, “Mom, I can just tell it’s her. I can see it in those big, blue eyes. She is a free lawnmower!”

I think to myself, I love being a horse! I’ll just lie out here all day and eat grass! What a good life!

So just to let you know, campmates, the eleven-year-old girl reading in front of you may be a robot. Do not be surprised if my true self, a horse, comes clip-clopping through this door any minute.

Ava Masterson


– after Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

Dear Manly Diary,

My adventure in tree city was treetastic. I can’t believe they can live in trees so high up. Their city is like a whole other world to me.

I have to say, my favorite part is that they can live in trees one thousand feet high. How do they survive? I’m really jealous they get to use ziplines and vines and a floating bus to get around. But before I get into details, let me tell you how this civilization started.

One day, a group of people were adventuring around when they came across these ginormous trees. They thought it would be cool to climb the trees, so they did. The only thing they didn’t know was that the trees were a thousand feet tall. Once they got to the top, they’d already adapted to the air up above the ground. When the group of people came back down, they couldn’t breathe. The group realized they couldn’t adapt to the air, so they climbed the trees and started making Treenomia, and that’s how this whole city started. Cool story, right?

As I was saying, I thought the coolest job was planting the trees because the people who do it jump off the tree with just a rope attached to them. Once they get to the ground, they have thirty seconds to plant the trees and get back up or they’ll suffocate. Crazy, right? They say twenty people have lost their lives doing it.

When I visited, they were having this cool celebration, or festival, I guess. So, what they did was thank the trees for not dying and then they gave them purple immortality juice.

When I went to the city, the people were so friendly, and they didn’t even know me. They were dancing and always had smiles on their faces. The reason I think they are so happy is because of their ruler, King Treeward, the leader of the group who discovered the trees. They say he’s really nice and fair. He even does charity events.

But the only problem is the government. They say the government is going to bomb the Russians for chopping down one tree. It just so happens that the day I was there, they were sending the bomb to Russia. Well, of course I had to stop it. So I ran and zip-lined as fast as I could and then . . . Wait, hold on a second. The weather here is amazing. Then I got to the plane that had the bomb and knocked out the pilot. While I was kicking butt, I sort of hit the drop the bomb button, and I sort of blew up Treenomia. But luckily, I survived.

Kuran Patel


Enchanted Meadow

– after James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”

In front of me, I see thirteen amazing children,
writing in their journals,
writing about what they see while I write about what I see.
Over the building to my left,
there is a dolphin swimming in the sky.
There is beautiful pollen on the ground;
the great pollen from a beautiful, towering tree.
When I take in the air,
the smell of the crisp morning breeze overwhelms me.
The cold rock beneath me
will support me henceforth.
I am not beauty. Whoever is reading this is not beauty.
Nature is beauty.

Ella Greene

The City of Bubblebob

– after Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

The city of Bubblebob is ruled by King Bubblebob the First. He blows the bubbles and pops the old bubbles (also called the elderly bubbles). He blows bubble cars, bubble houses, and the bubble people. He blows bubble babies for bubble couples. He blows bubble bunnies, bubble cats, and bubble dogs for his transparent citizens. No one has money, except for Bubblebob, who goes to town and buys a huge cauldron of bubble soap.

When he was young, Bubblebob was just Bob, and he lived in a town where bubbles were hated and therefore banned altogether. Bob ran away at a young age, deemed himself “Bubblebob,” and created a town of his own, completely out of bubbles. He built a wall, and a round roof on top to keep out wind and anything that could hurt his city.

Every year, they celebrate the creation of the first bubble person ever made, on June 8, 2005. Sometimes he cries for his parents, but his bubbles need him, so he can’t leave. He still lives there today, getting older and older, his memories of life outside the dome fading; the only thing keeping him alive is his bubbles.

King Bubblebob named his people “Bubbazens,” for “bubble citizens.” Sometimes they cry with him; crying together about nothing, crying little bubbles for tears, crying about the fading past. Crying for their leader.

Emma Huffman


Life Has Strange Agendas

Perhaps I am mistaken
Because that’s how it seems,
That poetry is nothing more
Than words in lines and scenes.

So why make poetry
When all that you need
Is a handful of rhyming words
And a working enter key?

It’s simply many words
Arranged to please the eye,
I really don’t get all this
Poetry do-or-die.

Then why, you ask, am I
Writing this in rhymes,
Stringing all these words
Into short, clipped-up lines?

Truth be told, I don’t know,
Maybe it’s because I’m bored.
Or maybe for the sake of it,
Like why we carpet floors.

No, I think it’s for the feel,
The wondrous emotion,
The many, many feelings
All swimming in an ocean.

And that, my friend, I think,
Is why we write these things.
For the insight, for the feels,
For the crystallizing dreams.

Katherine Yan

Sitting in Serenity

– after James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”

Over my head, I see clouds,
Not just any ordinary clouds.
These fluffy white containers of rain
Bring endless possibilities.
The smell of wet grass along with paper
Tingle my nose.
I hear the sounds of birds calling
In the trees, scattered here and there.
I feel the smooth yet jagged
Edges of the cool rock gently
Digging into my leg.
I feel the flimsy grass beneath my feet.
Nothing could break the serenity of this courtyard,
Except for a giant dinosaur foot smack dab in the middle.

Karina Schwab


On the Water

I remember it vividly.
A port city in Southern Norway,
the castle up on the hill.
I remember walking down by
that famous harbor.
Behind me, that grandiose hall,
red brick, silver clock.
In front of me, the ships
that lined the Oslo harbor.
Gargantuan cruise ships,
small, fishing trawlers.
To my left, the battered castle
that withstood
the ravages of time.
To my right, the commercial
center, tall buildings —
ugly, man-made things,
A few blocks away,
The Nobel Peace Institution,
where my father
A couple blocks away
from that,
the lovely statues
of Vegallen Park.
Bronze babies and
stone ladies
scattered the grass.
That wonderful grass.
A place for the people of Oslo

Zachary Suri

Eleven Ways of Looking at Folding Chairs

– after Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and inspired by the work of Robert Therrien at The Contemporary Austin 

  1. “What small
    chairs.” A giant
    plops down on
    a folding chair.
  1. “What big chairs!”
    I examine some
    extraordinary chairs
    at a museum.
  1. “I’m glad I have somewhere
    to sit down. What a
    long day!”
  1. “I CAN’T
  1. “Oh! I feel like I’m
    going to break this
    thing, it’s so small!”
  1. “This is what
    mice must feel
    like! This chair is HUGE!”
  1. “I wonder what
    would happen if this
    chair broke and I fell off.”
  1. “I wonder what would
    happen if this chair
    collapsed, and fell
    on top of me.”
  1. “I should probably
    close my eyes, and
    fall asleep.”
  1. “I think I
    should curl up
    under this chair,
    and fall asleep.”
  1. “Yawn! Good morning!”
    “Uh-oh! Ahhhhhhhh!”

Mariela Denson


Birth Miracle

The birth of you,
another miracle,
as today we celebrate
the day of birth of
the oldest out of three,
but not the most mature.
Getting older,
but looking prettier.
I am so proud
to say
that you are my mother.

Dilen Patel

Dr. Fatter in the Glass City

In the glass city, there was a wealthy businessman who was the richest man in the city. He was an arrogant jerk who always bragged about how much money he had. His name was Dr. Fatter, and he was really fat. Then, on June 22, 2015, he lost his job and decided to become a preacher. He thought preachers made a lot of money because he had a friend who was a preacher. (That’s what Dr. Fatter thought, but he was a peacher.) His family always had food in their bellies. How do I know? We live in a glass city, duh. And they lived in the most expensive place in Glatopia, even if they had to move.

Anyway, it was the end of the month, and Dr. Fatter still didn’t get any money from the church, so he called. “Um, where’s my money?!” he asked

The head of the church said, “You don’t get any money.”

Stunned, he took his family to McGlonald’s and spent the rest of the money they had.

One month later, they lost their house. At church, he couldn’t even preach, no matter what. They never had food in their bellies anymore. Five weeks later, five of his kids died from starvation, one dying each week. After a month had passed, the other five kids had died, and it was just Dr. Fatter and his wife. Two days went by, and his wife passed away. It was just him. Eleven days later, Dr. Fatter died. Zombies had been waiting until Dr. Fatter had died for… the zombie apocalypse! Then everybody died.

Jay Campanell


Ode to My Detector

– after Tim Seibles’s “Ode to My Hands”

You’re the one that brings me together
like a magnet to metal.
You sniff like a wolf finding his prey,
the one that gives taste to things in need.

Oh, you look like two dead caves, useless,
but you are a wonder to all eyes.

You are a smoke detector, nose,
the one that warns me when I need you
but have not gotten enough thanks.
S,o thank you for everything,
the sniff, the smell, the taste, and the warning.

But, as you get old, your sense goes,
I know you did what you could bringing me the smell of sweet
mangoes and fruit, the smell of
cookies ready to be eaten, and the revolting
smell of cigars.

So, as you go, remember I thank
you; I praise you.
When scents linger in the air,
you catch them in a snare, a trap.

I love to smell the things I see,
as quick as lightning you will get
them so.

Oh, remember who you are, nose.
Thank you for the service you have done,
like a butler bringing me food smells.
Thank you, nose.

Asha Patel

Pink Fluffy Unicorn

There once was a pink, fluffy unicorn that went to a wishing well. The pink, fluffy unicorn made a wish that she would never be chubby again. She threw her penny into the wishing well, went home, and went to bed. The next morning, she looked at herself in the water mirror, and she saw she wasn’t chubby. She was skinny, and she was so happy about that. She thought to herself that she would never be chubby ever again.

The next day, she woke up and went to the store through the water tube. The pink fluffy unicorn went into the store and bought a lot of junk food, like chocolate cake brownies, chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate ice cream, chocolate cookies, marshmallows, donut holes, and chips. Then she programmed the water tube where she wanted to go, and the water tube took her to the house. It was just eleven o’clock in the morning. The pink fluffy unicorn turned on the TV, lay down on her waterbed, and while the TV was loading, she looked outside at the beautiful blue water city where everybody was going around in tubes.

When the TV loaded, the pink fluffy unicorn started eating on her waterbed all the junk food she bought at the store. The pink fluffy unicorn started to get chubbier. The unicorn went to program the tube again, and went to the store and bought a lot of healthy foods. When she got home from the tube, she turned on the TV and ate all the healthy stuff. Then the unicorn went to bed.

The pink fluffy unicorn woke up in the morning and she finally knew she was the pink fluffy unicorn who couldn’t lose weight.

Madeline Alanis


My Best Friend

– after Aimee Bender’s “The Rememberer”

I am going to tell you a little secret I have. So, yesterday, I was going to my friend’s house just to see how she was doing because she was acting a little weird at school. When I got there, I saw black beaded eyes, orange fur, and black spots running around the house, but I couldn’t quite spot what it was. Then it stopped, and I saw it was a cheetah.

I screamed at the top of my lungs and ran as fast as I could. Or, at least that’s what I should have done. But nooooo, stupid me thinks, Oh, It’s just a big kitty, maybe. I can pet it.

I said to the big, giant monster, “If you let me pet you and you’re in my best friend’s house and my friend was acting weird at school… but you can’t be! But… but… you are!”

“Yep, I don’t know what happened. I got home and I was watching Netflix and then I was a cheetah!” Skyler said. But don’t think she was talking to me. When we were in first grade, we came up with a secret language where we could communicate telepathically, so we were talking like that. But I could see she was very frightened. Her mouth was trembling and she was shivering. I was nervous about her parents getting home. Then I said, “Hold tight. I’ll be right back.”

I went to my old science professor, and he gave me an antidote. I gave it to Skyler. Guess what? It turned her into a donkey, and then overnight she turned back. I told her how much I missed her and going to the mall with her. I was excited for her to be back.

Ella Matchett

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