The following are pieces from some of the special writers I was able to work with this summer. In our classroom each day, I was met with a myriad of unique voices and experiences. These Badgerdog campers came to our classroom with open minds and big hearts, with careful opinions and thoughtful questions. It pleases me to share their work with a wider readership here on Unbound because this work deserves to be read. For me, having access to the inner worlds of these wise, intelligent, and funny fifth- and sixth-graders offers me hope for our future and lends humor to our present. Throughout our week together, our writing practice centered on writing faster than the critic. The following pieces are what happens when we move faster than the voices that criticize us, and I encourage you take a note from these brave and creative students.
Badgerdog Teaching Artist
The Monster Shell
The sand drifted through the salty water, and a shell floated through the ocean. It gradually landed on the ocean floor, just as a snail approached–a snail with one red shoe. The snail glanced at the luster of the shell, and considered his choice. Mr. Snail was looking for a home to replace his shoe, and this one seemed to suit him well. He slid inside the house and glanced at the sparkling waters above. A plastic bag landed on the ocean floor, and Mr. Snail examined it. He shoved the bag aside to reveal a pair of gold scissors inside. Mr. Snail pecked at the blazing object, and stretched out his arms. He snatched the pair of scissors and opened them, but they were too heavy. Mr. Snail fell and his shell slid off. He grabbed the shell, but it shifted away, and said, “Don’t touch me!”
Mr. Snail’s eyes popped out of his head! “A monster,” he screeched. The snail began to flee, but was too slow.
The monster shell pounced on Mr. Snail and commented, “I’m no monster. I’m as nice as a dove and as happy as a human. Don’t run away. I’m your shelter.”
Mr. Snail answered, “Fine,” and put his smooth shell on, adding, “But if you plan to harm me, you won’t get away with it.”
Mr. Snail rode along the bottom of the ocean. A drowsy feeling came over him and Mr. Snail curled up inside his shell. The monster shell yawned, and fell asleep, too.
Mr. Snail awoke to something nudging him. He peeked out, and saw dozens of teeth looking back at him! “I’m famished, and you look like a pleasant feast,” said a voice.
Mr. Snail perked up, and saw a Great White Shark. “Oh, please, don’t eat me. I’ll taste like rotten skin covered with slobber! Please!” he murmured.
The Great White smirked. “I’ll gobble you anyway!”
The shark came nearer, and the monster shell jerked around. “No one can eat my buddy! Not even a white lump with pointy things!” The Shell ran to the Great White Shark, and pierced him with his point. The soft scent of blood filled the water, and Mr. Snail scrunched up his face and looked at the shell.
“Oh, thank you for saving me back there. I would be dead if it weren’t for you.”
The shell shrugged. “Glad I could help.” The friendly shell jumped on the joyful snail, and they floated towards the surface. The currents moved them towards shore, and the two friends slithered towards the red, orange, and yellow sun. After the sunset, stars layered the pitch black sky. Mr. Snail and the shell knew another adventure was waiting for them on the other side.
Have you ever heard of a narwhal or a mer-a-corn? Well, today might be a first. Now, let’s get on with the story!
One time, there was a magical narwhal, who went to see a sorcerer to get legs. But the sorcerer said, “You don’t need me to give you legs.”
“Why?” said the magical narwhal.
“Because you are a magical narwhal! Duh! You don’t need me to help you. You can do it yourself.”
“Oh, right! I knew that!” said the magical narwhal, and with that he was on his way. But, of course, when he got home, he completely forgot about wanting legs, so he took a nap. An hour and a half later, he was awakened by a loud knock on his door. To his surprise, there was a mer-a-corn standing right there, and with such a cold, hard stare–strong enough to shatter his very soul!
Three Japanese Haiku
White rice and curry
We ate sushi and ramen
Tofu and noodles
Blue skies and pretty clothes
There are beautiful old ruins
And cherry blossoms
Models in the sky
Colorful neon bright nights
The Crow and the Bike
Once, there was a crow named Jack. Jack was a very simple bird, and did not know what to think about bicycles–or humans, for that matter. The only thing Jack knew about humans was that they did not like crows. So, one day when Jack saw a human on a bike, he flew away.
The next week, Jack saw another human on a bike. Again, Jack was about to fly away. But suddenly, the human stopped his bike and got a drink of water. Meanwhile, Jack was thinking, What if I popped the wheel with my beak? After some time, Jack decided to pop the wheel.
He was just about to pop the bike wheel when the human got on the bike and slowly went around Jack, avoiding him. Then the crow had an idea: What if all humans aren’t bad?
So, the crow learned that not all humans are bad.
Fluffy, white, cotton candy
Magic in the air
We drink their tears
We breathe their mist
Clouds, an unearthly gift
Under their branches there is shade
In their leaves clean air is made
Heartwood makes their trunks stand tall
They bear fruit to feed us all
Under her cloak, Time stands still
Space himself is bent to her will
People stare as she blots out Sun
And one by one they succumb
Shadow is greater than them all
Only to Light will she fall
Midnight with Mr. Cold
It’s late. Midnight.
The sky is black and blue.
There is no sound but the
wind blowing and crickets chirping.
The moon is big and stars small,
as they shine and glow like one-thousand lights in the sky.
The city sparkles in the distance
while it’s dark where I am.
The lights are big and bold
up on the glowing bridge.
I feel the soft fall leaves hit my hands
and cold icy wind hit my face.
I feel my long brown hair slaps my shoulders,
as the wind slows down.
He was here–
the person I’d been waiting all
my life to see: Mr. Cold.
As he arrived, the lights went out,
wind stopped, and crickets, too.
The stars and moon dimmed into darkness.
As he walked, his white hair showing,
he stuck out a gloved hand,
reaching for the case in mine.
He took the case and disappeared into dark.
What did he put in that case ten years ago
when he gave it to me to keep safe?
One thing that looks like a giant gold penny is now flying high in the sky
The sun thinks it’s a flower that blooms for twenty-four hours
People think the sun is a coward for calling himself a flower
People change their minds and try to figure out discoveries from the bar-b-que
Flaming on the stove which we call the sun
Back then there was no sun
No beautiful colors brown under and gold
It was sad
Not even one person was on land
All colors no more
Only the color black
A Day in the Life of a Younger Sister
The stained-glass windows glinted in the sun, creating the illusion that they were shimmering, like tiny waves of glass rippling. Music strummed through my head, and everyone stirred impatiently, waiting for the bride to come. I stared out the window, and listened to a bird chirping a sweet song as we waited.
Then a sudden hush fell over the room, as the groom and the Reverend strolled down the aisle. The benches creaked as everyone stood up to look at the incoming bride. As she walked in, her silky, pearly white dress brushed the tile floors. Her hair was a golden blonde color, and her extravagant lace designs crawled up her dress. The bride’s veil stretched to her feet and bounced across her back as she walked. I listened to the click of her heels as she glided past me. Soon, she passed her mother, and her mother swooned, put her hand over her heart, and sighed.
As she arrived at the altar, she shared a smile with the groom, and then proceeded. The music died down to a soft hum and the Reverend began to speak. I watched as my older brother got married, and watched him carry away his bride. I smiled, laughed, and even cried a little. But not because I was happy.
After the wedding, Jacob walked hand-in-hand with my sister, coming over to me. “Congrats!” I said, half-smiling.
“I finally did it!” he exclaimed excitedly, grinning ear to ear. His smile was as big as a watermelon sliced in half. I remember the names I used to call him: monkey face, silly boy, goof ball. I remembered all the games we would play, like tag, chase, and zombie killer. I would miss him a lot. Then, unexpectedly, I burst into tears. Thick tears poured from my eyes and trickled down my face.
“What’s wrong, sis?” Jacob asked.
“I’m just so happy for you!” I lied, wiping my eyes.
“I’ll take care of him,” said Kathleen, dragging him away.
Later, I snuck away to sit in the garden behind the chapel. I inhaled the smell of sweet honeysuckles. Charlie came out a couple of minutes later, and wasn’t surprised when he saw my tear-streaked face.
“I’m going to miss him a lot, too,” he said, sitting down next to me. I lay my head on his knee, and closed my eyes. Suddenly, all the memories rushed to my head. A single tear fell from my eye. I just hated to see him go.
Garold the Hermit Crab
Hello, my name is Garold. I am orange with pinchers and a protective plate on my back. Us hermit crabs live next to a sea that is far away from Earth. To tell you the truth, I don’t know how my bestseller made it’s way to Earth!
As you may have heard, I have written three books. At first, not many crabs liked my work. All of the hermit crabs that live in the world of Atlantis are really not open-minded. Where I live, humans can’t get to me. Even if they tried, it would take exactly seventy-five light years.
My friend and I are really the only creative things on the planet. Now, you may be wondering who my best friend is. Well, of course, he is a red shoe. I found him in a plastic bag that read, “Thank you for shopping at Shoe Mart” all over it. I’m guessing my friend is paralyzed because he can’t walk or move. He doesn’t talk much either, but sometimes I hear him making noises like the ocean. He stays in my fourteen-carat gold house next to my twenty-four carat gold scissors.
Well, let’s just get back to Garold’s life (in other words, my life). I love to go on adventures, and guess what!? Just yesterday a UFO crash-landed in my backyard!
The aliens asked me to help them find a green shard called kryptonite. It turns out kryptonite can only be found on Earth with an evil man named Superman. The aliens said that Superman stole the kryptonite that was rightfully theirs. Aliens said that Superman lied, and that he hated kryptonite, but the truth was that he loved to eat it! The aliens called their emperor, and the emperor was furious about how selfish Superman could be, pretending to save the world when he was really trying to make aliens extinct!
I was way too busy to go to Earth yesterday, so I’m going today. The rocket UFO is a new creation that was made just three days ago. The rocket UFO is lustrous and is very sparkly! I am going to fly the rocket UFO to Earth. Now, as I mentioned earlier in the story, it takes seventy-five light years to get to Earth. But with the rocket UFO, it only takes three days!
To be honest with you, I am not scared to go to Earth at all. Now that I am in the rocket UFO, I am surprised by how fancy it looks inside. Blue velvet ottomans and big white couches, a bed with a red quilt sitting in the corner and clean white carpet. I run straight to the bed and start to jump on it. To my surprise, the bed is rock-hard. “Just how I like it,” Garold says to himself. This is going to be the best trip ever!
Too bad it’s only for three days. Three days go by so fast, and before I know it, I’m crash-landing down to Earth. The landing happened when I was sleeping, so I don’t really know much, but I do remember hearing an ear-piercing screech and before I knew it, I was crash-landing down to Earth!
Lea the Lemon
Once, a long time ago, a lemon fell from a colossal lemon tree onto the rough ground. “I’m falling! I’m coming into the world! I’m starting my life!” exclaimed the lemon. Once she hit the hard ground, she decided she needed some soft clothes to wear. So, she ran to the supermarket and looked at a sign in the window. It read:
New Gold Scissors: $20
Plastic Bags: $.40
Pretty Red, Blue, and Purple Shoes: $9 per pair
“Oh, dear! I can’t get any of those wonderful things. They don’t seem to have any care for lemons who don’t have any pennies or bills,” the lemon said to herself.
The lemon was a very sweet lemon. Her name was Lea, and she had, as not many lemons have, sturdy legs, long arms, beautiful eyes, and a pink mouth. But most importantly, she had feelings.
Suddenly, Lea had an idea! “I could go to the counselor! He can help me! I am sure he can!” she exclaimed happily. So, Lea the Lemon walked (more like ran) to the counselor’s office. When she arrived, she spotted two doors. There was a smallish door for fruits and veggies, and a human-sized door. Lea opened the door and looked in. She stepped inside and was greeted by a beautiful strawberry lady, whose name was Sally.
“Hello, how may I help you?” asked Lady Sally.
“I am in need of help, and I thought you would be perfect for my troubles,” answered the hopeful lemon.
“Yes, of course. Who would you like to see today? Miss Callie Carrot? Sir Christopher Cantaloupe? Or Mr. Benjamin Blueberry?
“Mr. Blueberry, please.” said Lea.
“Of course,” replied Sally Strawberry. She looked at her calendar, and led Lea to a blue door. “Here you are,” she said.
When Lea stepped into Mr. Blueberry’s room, he greeted her with a wide, welcoming smile. “Hello! How may I help you?” he said in an accent Lea couldn’t place.
“I have money trouble. I went to the store, and everything costs coins and green bills. I need things from the store, like clothes, and I don’t even have a home! Or friends!”
“Do you have family?” asked Mr. Blackberry.
“Yes, but either they have fallen way before me or haven’t fallen yet,” Lea explained. “So, they can’t help me.”
“I see.” Mr. Blackberry leaned back in his chair, and thought of how to help Lea the Lemmon.
The Adventures of Sir Lemon
Sir Lemon sat on the produce shelf next to Miss Apple. He was startled when he learned that his friend, Joe, was pulverized by a man wearing red All-Stars. His friend’s blood was put in a cup with sugar and water that humans call lemonade.
By the way, did you know that Sir Lemon is not ripe? That’s why Mr. Red Shoe didn’t pulverize him. Out of fear, he hopped in a plastic bag with an orange, four pears, and one hundred cherries. The bag swayed harshly when the human dropped the bag, and Sir Lemon was bashed against some of the cherries. Good thing his skin was still hard.
He rolled out of the bag, and saw a bright orange and red paper bag. Sir Lemon wanted to see more things and explore the world. On the way to see what was in the paper bag, he made up a song.
“I’m a tiny lemon in the big, big world,” he sang with a small and squeaky voice until he reached the bag. He peered inside and found a tiny top hat! Sir Lemon put it on and started to fly. He looked down and saw the tops of the buildings. He looked up and saw that the top hat had turned into a helicopter. Then, Sir Lemon realized he was wearing a green suit and had arms and legs! He knew then that the hat was magic, and he flew the helicopter over the all the huge buildings!
Ms. Allison’s Orphanage for Young Girls
Today, we traveled down a brick road, all the way down to the wealthy street of Lincoln. We went as far as you can go down Lincoln, to 73 Lincoln St.
It’s no ordinary house. It’s two stories and made of brick with lots of windows of different shapes and sizes. There’s a wooden door with a gold knocker. It’s the type of house in which you would imagine an old lady sitting by a fire. Maybe that’s what you would do forty years ago. Know that if you enter through the front door, you would see Sage, a young careless lady. Sage would probably be counting her money.
Sage runs the orphanage. It was started by her great grandmother, Allison. Ms. Allison started the orphanage at the age of eighty-three because she felt lonely. When Allison died at the age of eighty-four, her daughter, Milly, took over. When Milly passed away, her greedy daughter, Sage, took over. The orphanage has fifty-three girls.
Now, back to the house. The house downstairs is shiny and smells like lavender, but if you dare to walk up the wood stairs, you will find twelve rooms, two bathrooms, and ten bedrooms. In the bedrooms, five to six girls sleep on blankets and pillows.
Our story takes place at 5:30 a.m. If you were there, you would hear thundering footsteps–the footsteps of Ms. Sage.
“A new orphan is coming today! Clean up and prepare a bed!” screamed Ms. Sage. You will smell dust, tears, and sweat as the girls shake out the blankets. The new girl comes in. She’s short and maybe a year old. She only has the clothes she came in. Her name is Avery Kya Thomas.
Five years later…
“This is cruel and unfair,” said Avery one day. “We are being mistreated, and not one of us has been adopted,” said another girl.
“We should tell someone,” said Avery. It took a while, but soon they had a plan. The girls put the plan to action on the second of October.
At 6:30 p.m., when Ms. Sage came up to bring the food, Avery was dressed up in the older girl’s dress. The thundering of Ms. Sage’s feet was Avery’s cue to hide. Avery leapt into a closet! Sage unlocked the door that kept the girls from going downstairs, and walked to the first room to deliver bread and water. The bread was a rock, and the water was dirty. Avery ran down the stairs two at a time. The light was so bright, it burned her eyes, and the room was orange and pink. Avery ran to the front door. She opened it up to a bustling street. The air tasted weird and smelled weird, too. All of a sudden, water started to fall from the sky. Avery walked, and as she walked, she observed. She was looking for a person she could ask for help.
Avery found me and told me her story and I went to the police and explained the situation. Ms. Sage was arrested, and all of the girls were adopted. As for me, I live with my wife and my adopted daughter, Avery.
The Adventures of Mister and Misses Cake
Mr. Cake was in the oven getting toasty and fresh when he became aware.
He asked himself, “Where am I? Why am I here? And why is it so hot?” But then he heard a loud ding! and was pulled out of the oven, carried by the chef at the bakery, and feeling the fresh air in the world.
The chef sat him down and got a big white tube and started to squeeze it onto his body. Mr. Cake was very curious; he was feeling of nervous and excited at the same time. Once the chef was finished, he then took Mr. Cake to the display. And that’s when Mr. Cake caught a glimpse of Mrs. Cake for the first time. He suddenly felt more nervous looking at her. He knew he loved her, but he didn’t know how to express it.
Right when Mr. Cake was about to say hello, the chef took Mrs. Cake and put her in a box, which he handed to someone, and they took her away, never to be seen again. The chef then left to go to the restroom. “Nooooooo!” yelled Mr. Cake.
He would never be able to marry Mrs. Cake.
Suddenly, he heard a voice next to him. “Psst! Hey, you! Yeah, you!” Mr. Cake looked over to see a mysterious looking cake.
“Hello, I am a sponge cake, but you can just call me Spoog. It looks like you had a crush on Mrs. Cake, huh?”
“Yeah, but she’s gone now,” replied Mr. Cake.
“Love is a thing that happens a lot here, but it never lasts,” said the sponge cake. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Well, Mr. Cake, I could always help you find Mrs. Cake.”
Suddenly, the chef picked up Mr. Cake and handed him to Mr. Carl, who handed the chef a green piece of paper. “Oh, no!” yelled Mr. Cake to Spoog.
“Oh, well. Sorry, Mr. Cake. Good luck finding Mrs. Cake!” Spoog yelled back as Mr. Cake was put in a box and put in Mr. Carl’s car.
On the bumpy ride home through the clear plastic box, Mr. Cake spotted Mrs. Cake. She was very nervous and afraid. Once they arrived home, Mr. Carl carried both of them to the fridge, where they met Lil’ Cake. Mr. Cake overheard Mr. Carl saying he was going to marry Mrs. Caroline, but he didn’t have a wedding cake, even though he already went to every bakery in town. So Mister, Misses, and Lil’ Cake all got a great idea. They all hopped on each other to form the greatest wedding cake of all time. (Best Cakes in the World gave it a 10/10.)
And after, that Mr. Carl and Mrs. Caroline had a great wedding, and Mrs. Cake and Mr. Cake could be together forever with their child, Lil’ Cake.
“I think they only married me for the cake,” said the regretful groom later.
The Wooden Family
Hundreds of years ago, when kingdoms clashed and monsters roamed, a story would unfold, its many pages and details worn and lost by the gripping hands of time. While war stories of gore and swords dominated the years, it sometimes came to be proven that the most seemingly trivial of tales are the ones told best.
And so there would come to be a man, his face tattered by age, who reeked of broken dreams and chances that never came, whose only light in his eyes was his love of nature, all courtesy of the malevolent forces of poverty. He was a farmer, married to a simple woman, whose name, like his, had been lost by time, perhaps deemed trivial, and then neglected until the memories faded entirely.
They both had a profound passion for all things in nature and loved each other just as much. They had no children, but were content to adopt a rabbit or likewise for some days in place of a baby.
By a cruel twist of fate, it happened one day that famine, as it occasionally does, reached the man’s village. His career as a farmer was torn apart, as if it had been a house of cards in a hurricane. He was forced to hunt, stalk, and slay the animals he loved.
The day he began hunting fell sometime in autumn. The crisp morning sky was filled with the scent of dew and dying leaves, which peppered the ground with crimson and a dark brown. The man had hung a net between two trees, almost invisible against the lush green forest.
A young bird had flown into the net. The man looked at the struggling animal and wondered if he could really bring himself to make it his next meal. Reluctantly, he brought his knife down.
No. He couldn’t.
Swish! The knife came down, it’s metal blade reflecting the terrified bird’s eyes. Soundlessly, he cut the net, freeing the bird. Wasting no time, the bird flew to a tall cedar tree that shot up above the green forest canopy.
And then the tree spoke.
Slowly, words came. “Thank you,” the tree began. “You… spared… this bird’s… life. How can… we… repay… you?”
The man spoke of the famine, and asked if there was a way to end it. After several minutes of silence, the tree spoke.
“Take… some… of my wood… and… crush it… into dust. Then… throw it into… the air… and the famine… will end…”
The man obeyed. It worked like a charm! In an instant, clouds filled the sky and started to rain wonderful rain. Animals came over the hill in hordes, and flowers went from seed to bloom in seconds. It was a miracle.
More than a year passed. The man yearned for a son. Once again, he came to the tree and explained his dilemma.
“Take… some… more wood…” the tree said, “and fashion… a bowl… with it. Feed… your wife… from it… and she will… have… a child.”
“Thank you,” said the man. He bowed and set to work.
Another year came to pass, and the man’s wife gave birth to a young, beautiful boy. Tragedy struck, and he fell dreadfully sick. Pus oozed out of his pores and he coughed blood. Desperate for his son’s life, the man came to the tree one last time.
“Oh, tree, is there nothing we can do to save his life? Must he die like this?”
“No…” said the tree. “I can do… one… last… thing. You… must take… my heart… and give it to… your… son.”
The man looked upon the tree, horrified to learn what he must do to save his son. “No!” cried the man, aghast. “I will not bring an end to your life. Is there no other way?”
“There is is… one… last way, but… I would… rather… you not… do it. Come here… with… your family… and become… part… of me… forever.”
“I will do it,” said the man. “We will give back to you, the one we have taken so much from.”
And so the family came to the tree. They arrived at its roots, sitting together as they watched branches cover their final view of the forest.
No one regretted a thing.
They would be together forever.