Saturday, March 24, 2007

TORA'S FIRE by Neha age 12

“We kindle and char and inflame and ignite, drink up me 'arties, Yo Ho, We burn up the city we're really a fright, drink up me 'arties, Yo Ho, We're rascals, scoundrels, villains and knaves, drink up me 'arites, Yo Ho, We're devils and blacksheep, we're really bad eggs, drink up me 'arites, Yo Ho, Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A pirates life for me.”


"Alice?" his voice called through the smoke and confusion.

"Daddy?!" she screamed back squinting blindly through the suffocating smoke. His daughter panicked as his comforting voice became fainter. "Daddy I see you!" excitedly, she started to walk towards the familiar figure.

"Alice, no!" Her father's cry was too late, out from the smoke a scimitar lashed forward and cut across her smooth flesh. Pain rippled through her as she fell heavily to the deck clutching her face in pain. The man who ambushed Alice laughed in a guttural and low voice.

"You bastard!" Alice heard her father yell as he unsheathed his kitanas and locked them with his arch enemy. She struggled to open an eye but blood started to trickle in and she closed it quickly, afraid of going blind. The sounds of the burning ship crackled around her, adding to the confusion of the sword fight and planning her next move. The young girl scrambled to her feet, opening her left eye and still clutching her face. 'Get off the boat!' she told herself wobbling to the side of the hull. She looked back, worrying about her father. 'There's nothing you can do anyways,' she decided peering over at the choppy water below. Seeing it would be a rough swim, Alice quickly wiped off the dripping blood from her face and tore her breeches, wrapping them around her face to help stop the bleeding. Before jumping she listened for the outcome of the fight... nothing. Shakily releasing her face she jumped off the edge feet first. She closed her eyes as she plummeted downward and broke the water’s surface.

The freezing water felt like daggers, viciously plowing into her. The salt water seeped and simmered into her injuries making it feel like it was melting off her bones. She whimpered and then screamed trying not to touch the wound that would surely leave a nasty scar. Alice felt dizzy as she struggled to tread water. She closed her eyes wishing that this was all over and her father would find them another pretty boat they could plunder on together.

She heard mild voices of men paddling in a lifeboat. She opened her mouth to scream but to her horror not a sound left her. She tried again and again, slowly getting exhausted from being pulled down further into the ocean. Alice went almost completely numb. All of her senses had seemed to completely shut down in her. She was just mildly conscious when she felt herself being lifted out of the murderous water and into a tiny boat. Praying her good eye open she just caught the last glimpse of her father's ship snapping in half and someone jumping out just in the nick of time.

The sweet aroma of cinnamon floated into the fourteen year-old girl's nose. Her eyelids painfully creaked open and she started recollecting her last thoughts.

"Where am I?" she fretted sitting up in the cot she was in. An old looking man with gentle blue eyes was sitting at the side of the bunk closing the tube of cinnamon and pushing it inside a burlap bag. "Who are you? Where am I? What happened to my father?" she exploded wincing when her face moved.

"Calm down young one," the elder croaked stroking her hair like she was his daughter. "It seems like you've been through a lot. I'll explain." The stranger leaned back on the chair and sighed. "First of all, I'm Dr. Greivons." He held out his hand.

"I'm Alice," she shook it firmly. "We are captive on a pirate ship. I'm a kidnapped doctor from London. I’ve been kept here for three months now treating health problems of the pirates on the ship. I get paid a small amount though." He chuckled a little trying to lighten the tension in the room.

"B-but... what happened to my father? His boat..."

"Ah yes," the underpaid doctor remembered. "Captain Slaarvick sent out a few of his men to retrieve survivors from the burning ship last night. You were the only one they brought back."

"No!" Alice refused to believe it. "My father was... is the greatest pirate, he had to have lived!"

"I'm sorry dear.... he was great, Captain Christopher" he shook his head looking at the floor.

"This can't be happening." Alice held her head in her hands shaking in fear.

The door to the room flew open and a nasty looking pirate with crossed eyes scowled, "Which one of you is Alice?" Greivons and Alice kept quiet staring at the idiot that stood before them. The dumb man laughed after a minute or so realizing his own stupidity and then grabbed Alice's elbow and dragged her out of the room.

Alice quickly mouthed 'thank you' to the doctor before she turned to the pirate and yelled, "I can walk on my own I don't need your bloody help you crippled idiot!"

Taken aback, the crippled idiot threatened, "Why you little bilge rat!" He brought his fist in the air and attempted to ram it against her skull.

With a yawn, Alice stepped to the left avoiding the fist and watched it smash into the hard wall of the hallway.

"ARGH!" the pirate screamed clutching his fist and his two fingers that were broken.

"That's what happens when you tilt your wrist on a punch." Alice shook her head sighing. "I see you'll be of no good use to me, I'll see myself to the captain." she nodded to him and kicked him hard in the shin, kneed him in the stomach, and punched him in the face. Then she walked away from her 'escort' and onto the deck of the ship.

Alice observed the ship and shook her head in disgust. "It's filthy and tiny compared to father's ship," she murmured.

"Eh! Prisoner! Where's your escort?" a member of the crew rushed over to her. "You'll find him in the back hall with a broken nose, fingers and cracked shin," she replied pointing.

Frowning, the second escort led her to a furnished looking cabin with a bed, cabinet and some other pieces of useless furniture like a tasseled Asian lamp. A mean and tough looking man sat in the chair at a desk staring Alice down. He had a black beard and moustache and broad shoulders. He was wearing a red overcoat and a feathered tri corner hat. Captain Slaarvick looked at Alice's ripped breeches and cotton shirt that were both soaked with blood.

"Thank you Cave," Slaarvick nodded at the pirate who saw Alice in.

"Yeah thanks 'rock formation'." Alice snorted at his stupid name and leaned back on her heels happy to insult somebody.

"How old are you Alice?" Slaarvick asked when the door closed.

"Fourteen and a third," she replied, "How old are you?" she asked returning the question.

"Erm... forty-two." he replied with some hesitation.

"And what's your favorite color, eh? Avast! Mine be black for my own reasons."

"You think you're smart don't you?" the Captain thundered.

"Yeah, I do. At least I know I'm much smarter than your crew from the looks of it," she retorted.

"I was thinking about being nice to you but neva' mind!" reaching under his desk, he pulled out a human head. Alice screamed in horror recognizing her father's kind face. "You killed him!" she sobbed covering her mouth and ignoring the burn of her tears on her face. "Yeah, after twenty-five years I killed Captain Christopher of the famous Dragun Kitanas!" Slaarvick let out a maniacal laugh looking at Alice whimpering in the corner.

"Now," he said after he settled down, "Where are the Dragun Kitanas?" he rubbed his hands together greedily.

"You’re as stupid as your crew if you think I’m going to tell you!" she managed to mutter wiping away her tears.

"I thought your reply would be that," the Captain nodded. "That's why I'm challenging you to a bet."

"I don't own anything to bet on," she reminded him.

"Oh yes you do, your life. If I win the challenge you tell me where the kitanas are or your done fer. But if you win, your life is your own and let you free on the port of Japan. It's not like I need much from a child like yourself," he scoffed pulling at his overcoat confidently.

"What's the challenge?" Alice asked strongly standing up.

Captain Slaarvick laughed heftily and replied; "You have to fight in a pit with three hungry Sumatran tigers."

To Be Continued...

The last visit By Neha, age 12

She laughs like streams
And smells like gardens,
Her eyes… they never harden.
When she cries,It feels so soft
When she laughsI hear bells.
It just happened so fast.
Disappeared too soon.
A hospital smell,
Swallowing tears
Sweating palms
Away from all hope
And sanctuary
Thinking, hoping
Love and care
Stroking hair
Worried looks
And tired eyes
Pleading to Him…It always works
Except for now
Now when all seems lost
And cold and baren
Harsh and cruel
Don’t say you know how I feel
You don’t
Seeing her in so much pain
Makes me want to take her hand
Soft like wool and tough like hide
Hold it tight and
Pull her out of bed
Tell her how much I love her and…let go.
Maybe this was meant to happen
Don’t know whyI wish it was over
She’s disappeared
And now she’s reappearing.


Are shoes an article of clothing that guard your feet from rocks and rough terrain or are they pieces of art? We, women have a strange magnetism to these wonderful articles of costume. Our inexplicable attraction between woman and the shoe made me curious and led me to study the relationship. I am thirteen and I am already attracted. Why the magnetism?

The appeal of shoes could be what you are when you wear them. I have danced since I was three, and whenever I put on a pair of shoes, any type of shoes, I begin to tap dance in them. I do it unconsciously and rather amuse the sales woman. So whenever I think of shoes, one of the first pictures that I see is a pair of feet tap dancing away. Maybe other women think of themselves as a model or a powerful executive.

I talked to a variety of women to see if they would rather wear a more practical shoe or a more stylish high-heeled one. Most of them confessed that they would prefer a more stylish shoe. So I began to ask “why?” Why would women choose an uncomfortable yet showy shoe over a comfortable, practical one? Is it the media, the fashion magazines and the stores shouting to us, “You need these shoes!” People are being constantly bombarded with messages that they cannot be happy without a certain type of shoe. People listen to the propaganda, not their own feet.

Shoe marketers love film stars for they embrace luxury. People like to emulate celebrities. Who doesn’t want to be rich and well known? One shoe designer’s job was to outfit an actress with proper shoes that enhanced the movie, showed her personality, and also were comfortable. The shoe manufacturers also love film stars because they are walking, larger than life shoe models. It's obvious then that people who see a superstar wearing Prada mules immediately try and find a duplicate.

Dal Co., a shoe boutique in Rome, makes custom shoes for their well-heeled clients. They will make any shoe fit your feet perfectly. I could even design a shoe and send it into their boutique , and the shoe makers (and their elves) would tackle the project. Yet these shoes do not come cheap; the cost is about 500 dollars a pair. But this price does not stop people from visiting the shop and getting custom shoes made for themselves.

In conclusion, people have a great love for shoes, but this is ironic because women are in physical pain in many stylish shoes. I think that high heel shoes are like Chinese foot binding. Who can run or work in Gucci stiletto heeled boots? I would rather boycott heels and bond with flats. It's more likely that people will keep their relationship with shoes. Although it is hard to explain why, it’s true and probably will always be this way, but who knows maybe socks will have a major breakthrough.

Do Teens Have Enough Time to Develop a Healthy Social Life? By Katy E. Age 13

Do teens have enough time to develop a healthy social life? Are homework and extra-curricular activities getting in the way of kids learning about themselves and the world around them? These are the questions that haunt many people today including parents, well-known scientists, educators and authors. [November 26th, Parents, give children time to climb trees, day dream] Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recently stated, “free and unstructured play is healthy and - in fact - essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.” Teens need a break from their busy schedules.

My mom knows how important doing the things I like to do is for my growth and development. Being homeschooled loosens my schedule for free time. I have time everyday to go for a run, read, draw, or just think. We carefully choose my activities so that I am not overbooked. This, I believe, has helped my socialization in many ways. First of all, I have time to contemplate my feelings so I can help my friends who may be experiencing the same feelings or ideas that may be confusing to them. I also have more time to explore different activities to see which ones fit my personality.

Homework and scheduled extra-curricular activities are a large reason why kids are not getting enough time to themselves. My friend Abby F., 13, of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a public school student, complains, "I never really get any time to lie on the bed and think because I have so much homework.” Another friend, Mackenzie S., 11, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a private school student comments, “ I am not allowed to have any play dates from the beginning of school to Christmas; only homework get-togethers.” She goes on to say that she only has thirty minutes of free time every night, and that is not enough time to do anything that she really likes to do. Although kids do get social time they still are not getting enough time to just hang out and talk with each other.
Good socialization leads to healthy relationships and the key to good socialization is getting to know who you are today. Reading, drawing, running, journaling and reflecting are good ways to spend time with your self. If you do not have the time to spend (on yourself), then you really cannot learn who you are. Elkind, author of the classic book 'The Hurried Child' says, "Free play is a way children create new learning experiences for themselves.” If kids have time to discover without being graded or judged they can become more open-minded to the world around them.

In conclusion, teens can develop a good social life by having unstructured time to hang out with friends at the park, the library, or the mall. Teens need to loosen their schedules so they can spend more quality time with themselves doing the things they enjoy, while exploring new horizons. I believe everyone would gain immensely if kids had time to discover and reflect. For this leads to a better society, for the teens of today are in fact the adults of tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jimmy’s Trip By Robby B. Age 8, Grade 2

“Jimmy! Jimmy!” Twelve-year-old Jimmy woke up. There was his mom, nudging him to go to their cousins’ house. Too excited, Jimmy jumped out of bed and got ready then ran downstairs to eat breakfast. He turned the corner and there was Spot barking at him. He patted Spot and gave him a treat. Jimmy sprang onto the stool and shoved a sweet-tasting blueberry bagel into his mouth. When he was done, he leapt off his stool and ran back upstairs to brush his teeth. Soon he was thrusting Spot into the car. Jimmy hopped into the car. Then they took off.

Half an hour later -- hmpf, hmpf, hmpf. Suddenly, the car ran out of gas. Spot started barking. Little one-year-old Bessie began crying. Samantha, Jimmy’s eight-year-old sister, said annoyingly, “Not again!” Luckily, they were right by a gas station, but it was on a hill so they had to push the car up the hill. Eventually, they got the car up the hill and filled the tank up. The car started right up again and they were back on the road for five minutes, then another disaster struck. They had a flat tire! And, once again, Spot started barking, Baby Bessie started crying, and Samantha repeated her annoying phrase, “Not again!” So their dad got out of the sea-green jeep and changed the tire.

Next, it started raining, and they came upon a construction site where they were fixing the road. The traffic stopped and Baby Bessie started stinking up the car with her dirty diaper. “What smells?!” Samantha said plugging her nose. Baby Bessie smiled. Everyone rolled down the windows. “Oh no, I forgot clean diapers!” said mom. After two hours of being stuck in traffic, they finally got to a store and bought some diapers.

After six hours of boredom and disasters, they finally arrived at their cousins’ house. Then they rang the doorbell. “Ding dong.” Sadly their cousins weren’t home. Spot started barking, Baby Bessie started crying, and Samantha said her annoying phrase, “Not again!”
“What will we do now?” asked Jimmy exhausted and disappointed.
“We will go to a hotel,” replied dad. So they drove another half an hour to the hotel and checked in.

The next morning Baby Bessie’s crying woke everyone up at 7:30. They got ready and arrived at their cousins’ house at 10:00. Finally, the door swung open, and they walked in. Their cousins sprang up.
Jimmy yelled, “Finally!!!”
His cousin, Alex, who was also twelve years old, shouted, “What took you so long?!”
Jimmy’s dad, Mr. Brown, explained why they were late. Jimmy’s uncle, also Mr. Brown, said that they were so late they thought they weren’t coming that day and decided to go out to dinner.

It had been a rough start, but the rest of the week went just as planned. Both families had so much fun during their visit. They went fishing, tubing, and water skiing. Everybody was so sad that they had to leave. The drive home was totally different then the drive there. They didn’t get any flat tires, didn’t run out of gas, it didn’t rain, and no construction in sight. And, the drive only took three hours instead of six.

The End

The Car That Found a Friend By Robby B. Grade 2

“Humm. Buzz. Humm. Buzz.” As my parts were being built, I felt red-hot steam and smelled smoke. After I cooled, I was dropped in parts into plastic bags, which were then dropped into a box and sealed. It was so dark I couldn’t see anything at all. It was scary, and I was lonely. I could feel my pieces banging into each other. “They’re all done. Put them in the truck.” I heard someone say.

After a long drive, I was shoved out of the shipping truck. I must have been in a store because I heard a woman’s voice say, “Put the Legos over here by the ‘sale’ sign.”

After what I thought was a couple of months, I felt myself being picked up and carried someplace. “That will be $16.03. Do you want that to be gift wrapped?”


After a couple of minutes, I heard, “Daniel, please get in the car.”

“When’s the party, Mom?”

“Tomorrow at 12:00.”

“Yea! I can’t wait for Robby’s party!”

“I can’t wait too!” I thought. By tomorrow afternoon I could be opened and played with, and maybe Robby will be my friend.

The next morning I was yanked up from my spot. “Today is the party! Today is the party!” I heard. I rushed, I mean whoever was carrying me rushed down stairs. He brought me out into the cold winter’s day. Then I heard an engine start.

Next, I heard basketballs dribbling on a hardwood floor and lots of boys’ voices.

“Nice try, Robby!”

“Zack, you made it!”

Then someone placed me on a table with a thud. After awhile I heard, “Open mine next!” I felt someone tearing into me.

“Thanks Daniel!” This Lego set is awesome!”

“He likes me!” I thought. Later that day, my box was opened and I was in the light again. My parts were taken out and spilled on a tray. Robby started building me. After awhile I was a complete racecar! I felt fantastic, and Robby felt fantastic too. Robby played with me for hours. I finally found a friend.

Abby’s Speech, By Bailey B. Grade 5

03/13/07 Grade: 5
Abby’s Speech
By: Bailey B.

As Abby skipped out the classroom door, clutching her script in her hand, the dismissal bell rang with a loud DING! Abby grabbed her backpack and raced to her home at 21 Maple Drive, just three blocks from Kennedy Middle School. The blond sixth grader’s blue eyes shone as she gazed at the packet of paper. Just then her mom walked out as she saw Abby approaching the quaint, white ranch house. Abby reached the drive way and blurted out, “I get to make a speech for Senator Brown when he comes to see our school on Friday!” She ran inside before her mom could reply.

Abby stumbled into her bedroom. She circled, with a red marker, November 17th on her calendar. Then, she started searching in her purple desk for index cards. Abby scanned along her mustered-colored walls. She spotted the index cards sitting on the toy trunk at the end of her bed. As she walked and grabbed the pack of cards, Abby caught a whiff of the apple pie that her mom was baking for the ceremony.

Abby set the index cards on her desk. She started to copy down her script on the cards so it would not be so visible while she was reading at the podium. Then she heard a loud BANG!!! There was only one person who made that much noise. She opened the door and sure enough her older brother Andy walked in. “Hey! Abs! I heard you got the big part!”
“Yep!” Abby boasted.

“Cool! I remember my first speech. I froze up like an ice cube after the first sentence. I sure hope it doesn’t happen to you. Good luck!”

Something could go wrong at the speech?! Abby hadn’t thought of that yet. This new idea shadowed her all afternoon.

Abby was getting more and more anxious about the big speech. The weekend was normal, but on Monday Sophie, a good friend of Abby’s, said, “I can’t believe you get to make ‘The Speech’! I could never do it; I would freeze up.” On Tuesday, it was the lunch subject. And by Wednesday, it seemed like it all anyone ever talked about! Thursday her best friend, Lily, said, “Wow! I could never stand up to one or two hundred people and make a big speech. Maybe they have a hidden camera or something!”

That night while Abby was lying wide-awake in bed she tried to reassure herself that everything would be fine, but she didn’t trust her thoughts for a second.

Abby woke up. She looked at the calendar, 17th of November--Friday! “Abby hurry up or you’ll be late for your speech,” she heard her mom yell from the kitchen. Abby jumped out of bed. She got dressed, made her bed, washed her face, and brushed her hair all in the blink of an eye. She shot down the hall like a rocket. Abby ate breakfast and brushed her teeth quickly. She packed her bag and was out the door.

Abby stepped on to the stage. She opened her mouth and was about to say, “Please take you seats,” when it shut tight. Then, Andy’s words came back to her, “I froze up like an ice cube.” Abby stared at the audience. One-hundred, maybe two-hundred, people where there. And right in the front row was Senator Brown!

Then, Abby remembered something. Something that she learned along time ago. All humans make mistakes. “So what if I skip a word or miss a sentence.” she thought. Her mouth opened and she found her voice! “Please take your seats,” she announced. “We welcome State Senator Brown to Kennedy Middle School. It is our pleasure to have him here. Senator Brown says he is looking forward to seeing the school and giving it a great report. Elijah Andrew Johnson established this school in 1962. And over the years, the students of this school have done many notable things, such as…”

The rest of the speech was a success. Abby even got to meet Senator Brown. But the most important thing was that Abby overcame her fears.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Definitions by Taskeen, Age 9

What is Power?

If you have power, you’re respected.

Power is when most people like you and trust you and know you’re not going to trick them to do something that will harm them.

You have power if you can give someone courage to can help them climb the mountain even if they are sacred..

Power is you face what you’re sacred of. Courage is Power.

Power is believing in God even if your friends don’t believe in Him. You have to be the thick tree. You have the power to stay with what you believe even if your friends don’t.

What is Friendship?

Friendship is like Spring. It’s always growing and in spring everything grows and flourishes. If your friendship is like winter, it means you’re friendship isn’t growing, it’s dying because in winter things don’t grow, they die. And if you say your friendship is like all the different seasons you’re saying sometimes it’s growing and sometimes it’s dying and sometimes it growing and it goes in a cycle, like the seasons. My friendships are like Spring.

What is Happiness?

Happiness is when your heart lifts.

Happiness is a memory of or the anticipation of something you’re looking forward to.

What is sadness?

Loss of a loved and important thing or person.

Sadness is when you know what’s coming or what’s happening then and there, and don’t like it. Like getting a spanking.


An Interview with Author Rukhsana Khan

By Naazish YarKhan

Meet Toronto based Rukhsana Khan, author of Bedtime Ba-a-a-lk, Ruler of the Courtyard, Muslim Child, The Roses in my Carpet, King of the Skies, Dahling If You Luv Me Please Smile and Silly Chicken. Her stories are about Muslims and their causes. She provides young Muslims with characters they can identify with and at the same time offers non-Muslims a better understanding of their Ramadan observing, Jumaah praying, halal eating, hijab/ jilbab wearing neighbors! Her stories range from heartbreaking ( Roses…) to the wacky (Silly Chicken, Ruler of the Courtyard).

Rukhsana has wanted to be a writer since she was thirteen. And today that is what she does full-time. ( Did I hear someone just say ‘Never give up on a dream? )“ I write books about Muslims that are mainstream in nature. They're for everybody, not just Muslim. I've built up quite a following within the Canadian publishing industry,” she says.

“Basically being an author to me means thinking in non-linear terms. Most Muslims are very good at linear thinking, and learning, but my books are about non-linear thinking. There are definitely messages and morals in all my stories, but they tend to be interwoven into the plot.”

The response to Rukhsana’s books has been overwhelmingly positive. “I've had some pretty amazing experiences in the seven years I've been published. I've had a LOT of emails including one from a thirteen year old boy in Alabama who wanted to become Muslim after he read “Muslim Child” (thirteen times). When I asked him why, he said it just seemed like such a beautiful way to live. I sent him a book on how to pray and a prayer mat and a few other things. He was so cute!”

Rukhsana has a treasure trove of stories like that one. “When my third book came out, my novel, I was with my husband at his business booth at this festival called Word on the Street, when a black teen came by. She picked up my novel, “Dahling”, and said, ‘You know, I loved this book!’ I thanked her. Her mom was with her and she said, ‘No, you don't understand. She really loved that book. It's the first book nobody ever had to force her to finish.’ The black teen was nodding. I felt flabbergasted. I was so surprised. Then she asked me if I was working on other stuff. She'd gone to look for any other novels I'd written but couldn't find any. I told her I was working on another novel. I'm still working on it, but honestly, I was scared whether she'd find it disappointing.” Err.. Rukhsana..Chill girl. I’m sure it’ll rock!

Same book, different incident. “I was invited to a preppy private girl's school in a very well-to-do neighborhood. I was expecting the girls to be bored little snobs. But on the contrary, they were some of the nicest, most sincerely interested students I'd ever seen. The girls were in high school, and they were asking in depth questions about me, my writing and especially about the novel. One girl in particular… had obviously read the book and her questions were very well thought out. When I got home, she emailed me and told me that she'd actually pretty much given up on novels until she read mine. She found it to be 'true'.” Wow!

“I've been lots of different schools presenting. I went to one school in a posh suburb of Toronto where there was a real air of tension in the grade eight group I was presenting to. Then this black boy came in, wearing a bandana and baggy jeans tied low in that rapper style….”.

I was just about to begin when that black kid got up and left the room. I asked the preppy young girl who was … to introduce me, ‘Where is he going?’ She said, ‘I don't know. They probably asked him to leave. He's bad!’

I told her I hoped he'd come back. She just looked at me doubtfully. He did come back.

I started my presentation on my picture book “The Roses in My Carpets”, and when I began describing how I wanted to be white as a kid and the various things me and my sisters tried to lighten our skin, that black child … in the back yelled out, ‘YEAH! YEAH!’ All the kids whipped around and looked at him and he was still gesturing and shouting, ‘Yeah! Yeah!’ And I thought, ‘Subhanallah!’ He'd been through the same thing!” Awwww…sweeeet!

Many of Rukhsana’s books have nominated and/or won national and international awards. She even has one of the top agents in the North American writing field representing her work. That means that Rukhsana writes a story and her agent shows it to numerous publishers and eventually sells it to the one who offer Rukhsana the highest payment for her story.

Since she’s been published Ms. Khan has had some strange experiences too. “I've actually had Pakistanis email me asking me to match them up with a 'beautiful' girl so they can immigrate to Canada. I've also received numerous emails from people who can't write or spell, asking me to collaborate and write a bestseller, and split the profits. I told them: ‘Why don't you write it yourself? That way you can keep all the money.’ ” LOL.

What is it like being a hijabi author? “I felt a little self-conscious at first, wearing hijab, but I've actually found it to be an advantage. I attended numerous writing conferences and workshops, meeting editors and networking. As a result of the hijab, the editors always remembered me and were intrigued, wanting me to submit my work.”

“Editors tend to be on the liberal end of the spectrum. Very open-minded and tolerant people. I've experienced nothing but respect from all the various editors and publishers I've worked with. It was different with the Muslim publishers I initially approached. They wouldn't give me the time of day.” Hmm… I wonder what THAT’s about?

“I'm often invited to schools with significant Muslim populations because they see me as validating their experience. Especially in Canada there's a real drive to be inclusive and tolerant of other cultures, so I'm often brought in for that purpose. I'd often have the kids laughing and engaged for my whole presentation. Then the Muslim kids would come up to me afterwards and tentatively ask, ‘Are you Muslim?’

I used to get so surprised. I'd laugh and say, ‘Of course!’ The Muslim kids would grin, stand a little taller and say, ‘I'm Muslim too!’ But thinking on it later, I realized that they'd never really met a funny Muslim.” True, true.

Often, the teachers were changed by Rukhsana’s presentation even more than the children. “Because even though we've got such a multicultural drive in the educational field here, many teachers don't expect much from multicultural authors. I mean, they don't expect them to be entertaining and thought provoking. And I've often sensed a bit of hostility or sometimes apathy from some teachers who've invited me. It used to make me feel resentful, but I've learned not to write them off so quickly.”

“Often the same teachers will come up to me after the performance and say, ‘Wow. That was really good!’ I'm often tempted to say, ‘Well yeah!’ But I don't. I just say, ‘Thanks.’ It's often those very teachers who were so hostile and apathetic, who end up becoming some of my biggest advocates.

“I am a children's writer because I love children's books,” she says. And as a mother to three girls and a boy she has plenty of memories to cull from for stories for her books. Her oldest daughter is twenty-one, her twin daughters are eighteen and her son is eleven. She does have a novel geared towards adults in the works but plans to remain a predominantly children's writer. Is that a hurray I hear from Muslim children around the world?

To learn more visit: www.rukhsanakhan.com

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Time Machine by Bailey 1/29/07

Sample Introduction

Brian heard sirens blaring and saw red lights flashing. He spit out his sweet-tasting bubble gum as he tried to keep the door from slamming shut. Suddenly, he lurched forward. He looked around. The time machine had three tall windows that he hadn’t noticed before -- or had they not been there? The mischievous young boy walked over to the glass. Well, more like stepped over; the time machine was no larger than a telephone booth! Brian gazed out the window. It was amazing! Other time machines raced passed him. He was in what looked to be a steel tunnel. Then he saw posters on the walls of the tunnel with the year next to it. He could smell gunpowder as he jetted past the time of the Revolutionary War. Brain read one of the posters with a picture of the solar system on it. It said “The Big Bang.” Then he saw two buttons on the other side of the time machine. “Past or future,” he read aloud. Brian, not knowing what was going to happen, pushed on the button that read “future.” The machine stopped, spun around, and headed in the opposite direction

The Walk in the Park By Maddie S., Age 12

My friend Molly and I had nothing to do one sunny, spring Sunday afternoon. We walked outside onto my back porch and listened. We heard the high, fast chirping from the birds, and the announcer from the nearby stadium yelling, “…and now we have 27 to nothin’! Glenbard West is in the lea! Will Glenbard South catch up? I don’t know, folks!”
Then Molly had an idea. “Jane! Let’s run to the park! I’ll race you! Ready, set, go!” she yelled as she ran down the steps off the deck.
I ran down the steps, too, and followed where she was running. She climbed over the creaky, wooden fence behind old Jenny’s yard.
Once we where both in the backyard, Molly whispered, “Shh!” as she grabbed a peach off of the tree and bit into the juicy, orange middle. I too, picked one and when I bit it, peach juice dripped down my light red, sunburned chin. We dropped the peaches and leaped over another fence, and then another. Finally, we reached the park, where the stadium was. We both ran inside the big, black gates at the stadium, and grabbed one of the sizzling hotdogs, fresh off the griddle.
“Hey!” yelled the fat hotdog man. I quickly grabbed 5 dollars from my shorts pocket and threw it at him with a wave and ‘here you go!’
“Thanks!” he called back.
We ran to a grassy area that was near the stadium. We took off our brown and pink flip-flops, and hid then behind a few trees. The hot dirt that we walked on burnt our feet. I gazed over by the pond and saw a small meadow of flowers of every kind! I plucked a red rose and a yellow tulip from the brown, warm dirt. We both lifted our flowers up to our noses and sniffed. Ahh! The lovely scent made us both smile. Molly looked to the left and saw that the little rowboat was there!
“Jane! The rowboat is there today! Let’s get on!” she yelled.
“Huh? No, it’s not ours! We have to ask,” I replied.
Then, Molly looked at me with wide eyes. “You didn’t know there was a boat here for everyone? Its Glen Ellyn’s boat! Everyone uses it! It’s usually already taken because it’s so popular, so that’s probably why you haven’t seen it! Come on!” yelled Molly as she grabbed my hand and started running to the boat.
Molly jumped in and made the boat rock back and forth. Next, I slowly climbed in, trembling a little.
“Jane, there’s nothing to be afraid of! Don’t worry,” she comforted.

After 10 peaceful minutes of lying down and taking a little snooze in the cool boat, we climbed out and headed to the woods that were just next to the lake. Molly and I slowed down and stepped on the woodchips, leaves and other things on the ground. We heard lots of crunching as our feet broke the sticks. I listened and heard a waterfall flowing in the distance. We ran through the woods and down the green, grassy hills that led to another meadow of flowers. We each picked a yellow tulip and sniffed. The smell reminded me of Molly’s mother’s perfume that she wears too much of. I giggled at the thought and kept following the sound of the water.

Finally, we reached a little creek. We followed it up and up which led to a large pond with brown, clay stone as a bottom. There was a large waterfall and a few little waterfalls about one foot long. I saw frogs jumping in and out, butterflies fluttering around Molly’s dirty blond hair, and little tadpoles swimming around so fast. This way and that, we could barely see them! We rolled up our blue jeans and made them into capris as we stepped into the water. The cool water felt wonderful on our hot feet that had been through so much. Then I found a little turtle swimming under our feet.

“Look, Jane!” exclaimed Molly, as she pointed to the turtle.

“Aww! I want to hold him for just one second,” I picked up the little guy and held him up.

“Look at his belly! Its brown and white spotted! How peculiar!” Molly pointed out. “Now, put him back, ok?” I set him back right were I found him.

Just then, they heard a whistle, and a voice saying, “Jackie! Burt! Rachel and Pocket! Come ‘ere, dogs!”

I looked at Molly and signaled for her to follow. As we walked toward the voice, three big, black, brown and white Newfoundland dogs came running between us and toward their owner. Then came a small, brown and black dog, weighing probably only 10 pounds, after the big dogs. The little guy had a lime green collar with black “XOXO” written all around it. He stood out; seeing that the big dogs had no collar at all! We followed the dogs to a bulky man in old, ripped overalls and big black boots on his feet. He was carrying a fishing net and there was one fish lying inside of it. His face was smeared with sweat from the hot day.

“Hello, there!” he called to us as the dogs sat next to him and panted. “What are you two doin’ out ‘ere?”

“Oh, we were just playing in the pond. Do you mind if we pet your dogs?” I asked.

“Sure! They’re all real friendly, and love new people. This one is Rachel, this is Burt, this is Jackie, and this little guy over ‘ere is Pocket. He gets along real nice with the big dogs! He really does!” the man chuckled as he pointed to the dogs. Then, I felt a slight drizzle of water sprinkling down on my head. Molly, too, felt it.

“Oh, no! It’s raining!” I exclaimed. “We better be getting home now. It was lovely to meet you!”

“You, too!” He said as his sweaty hand whipped his sweaty face that was now smeared with dirt. We scampered off into the woods. Back up the hill we went! Our feet were splashing in the mud up the grassy hills, since the rain was slowly coming down heavier and heavier. Finally, we reached the park. The old, wooden boat rocked back and forth in the wavy water. We ran to the two trees and picked up our wet flip flops. We were so wet that our clothes were sticking to our skin like glue, and our hair had water drip, drip, dripping down from it. As we ran past the stadium, I thought that from an airplane, you would only see hundreds of colorful umbrellas. We ran back over all of the wooden fences and through Old Jenny’s yard. The peaches were swaying from side to side as the raindrops poured down onto them. Finally, Molly and I got back to my house. We walked in the door dripping wet.

“Oh, girls, you must be freezing! Molly and Jane, go change and then I’ll wash your clothes. Molly, you can borrow some of Jane’s clothes. I hope they fit you! Jane sweetie, are you cold?” my mother asked lovingly.

“Nope, it was so hot that it felt great. Come on Mol, let’s go,”

We ran back to my room and changed into fresh clothes. This was an awesome day.

Stevens Potosce Stones, PART 1 By Bailey B. Age 10

“Stevie, time to pack!” Mom called. Steven Green jumped off the couch and bolted up the stairs. He was very excited because tomorrow morning they would drive to northern Michigan and spend the whole five days at their cousin’s lakehouse for the first time. His cousins’ names were Andrew and his twin, Hailey. Steven was ecstatic because he was an only child and his cousin Andrew was like a brother to him. They were both twelve and had just finished sixth grade. Steven and Andrew were both very fond of sports. There was a special bond between them, that no one could describe.

Steven ran into his room. There his mom sat on the end of his bed with an almost full suitcase lying right next to her. Steven pulled from his blue dresser 8 t-shirts, 7 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of swim trunks and other necessaries he needed for the trip. He stuffed them in the suitcase. Suddenly, Steven heard tune of Y.M.C.A. Mrs. Green pulled from her pocket her cell phone, “Hello? …Oh hi…yeah…oh ok…I’ll tell him…sure …looking forward to seeing you … bye!”
She hung up with a light frown on her face.

Shortly after his mom left with the suitcase, he started to pack toys into his army green backpack, to entertain him on the 9-hour drive from southern Indiana to northern Michigan.
“Stevie time for dinner!” Mom called. Steven jetted down the stairs to the dinner table.

His head hung low and, tripping over his own feet, Steven dragged himself up the stairs and down the hall.
He collapsed on his sports themed bed overwhelmed with sadness. His mom had told him at dinner that Andrew was going to play football in the fall. Well, in order for that to happen he needed to go to football camp. And guess what week football camp was. The week he would be there! He was happy for Andrew but he was sad because Andrew would leave at 9:00am and come home at 5:00pm every weekday. And that meant that he would miss all the fun!

Steven’s eyes flew open. He looked wildly at his clock. In big, red numbers it read 5:08. He looked at his NFL calendar,
“Saturday, July 21st 2006!” he read out loud. He jumped out of bed and threw on his clothes. He ate breakfast and brushed his teeth. He grabbed his backpack and was out the door in a flash! He got in the blue-green mini van his mom already sat in the front seat! His dad hulled in the last suitcase in to car. Then, Mr. Green jumped in to the drivers seat and started the engine and they were off!

On the drive a thought occurred in Steven’s mind. As he was thinking about the vacation with out Andrew he remembered Hailey! Hailey? Hailey! Of course! He could play with Hailey! How could he have forgotten about her?! He could do some thing with her wile Andrew was away and play football with him when he got home! It was ingenious!!!
“Mom?” Steven blurted.
“Yes honey?” responded Mrs. Green.
“Hailey will be there, right?” inquired Steven.
“Correct.” She answered. The rest of the drive was almost silent.

“Steve we’re here!” said Mrs. Green. Steven dropped his book and looked out the window. They pulled into a dirt driveway. In front of them stood a yellow two-story cottage. Bathing suites hung from a line. He opened the car door and then he heard the voice he had been waiting to hear all week,
“Hey. Hey! Guys! Guys! Guys they’re here!” said a thrilled voice.
“Ha ha ha. We’re not falling for it again, Andrew!” said an annoyed tone. “How dumb do you think I am?”
“No, Hailey, I’m serious this time. “I promise!” Said the voice referred to as Andrew.
“Ok, ok! “Mom, Dad, they’re here!!!” said Hailey. Shortly after the argument, Steven heard both of his cousins’ voices screamed to his parents, “Uncle Andy! Aunt Sally!”
And then he heard himself shout “Aunt Lucy! Uncle Todd! Hailey! Andrew!”
No sooner that every one greeted each other that Andrew said to Steven “Throw on your swim trunks buddy and I’ll race you to Petoskey Island!”
“You’re on!” Steven replied.
Steven walked out wearing his swim trunks with the white hibiscus plants and red back round pattern. The screen door slammed behind him. “Ready?” he said.
“Ready!” Andrew replied and started walking to the dock. Steven followed. Once they were at the end of the dock Andrew said, “see that small island over there?” he pointed at an island that looked to be only about one acre “that’s Petoskey Island,”
“That one?” Steven pointed in another direction.
“No. That’s Alligator Peninsula,” Andrew said.
“Why do you call it Alligator Peninsula?”
“ Because it’s shaped like an alligator!” replied Andrew, “No. That’s Petoskey Island over there!”
“Oh! I see it! “You can swim that far?” Steven stared at the island. It was probably seventy yards away!
“Don’t worry. There are like, five sandbars on the way!” Andrew said reassuringly. “So, you ready?”
“I’ve been ready!” Steven said with zeal. They jumped in the crystal clear water and stared swimming!

( to be continued)

Poems By Taskeen

With Winter
By Taskeen K., Age 9

With winter comes flakes of snow. With snow come
Igloos made by children. With chilly children come
Nannas’ wiping boot-stained, wet floors. With wet floors, come hot chocolate and
Taffy Apples. With hot chocolate and taffy apples, comes
Everyone savoring a warm, blazing fire.
Relaxation settles over the house as everyone gathers around the table,
drinking hot chocolate while sticky hands clutch
taffy apple sticks.


I hear the wind swish
I hear the crows weaving nests as they go ‘caw’, ‘caw’
I hear a hawk swoop up and down and
catch its mouse,
then give out its shrill call to its mate
to tell it, ‘I found my dinner. Now you find yours’
I see and smell Caribou Moss
I hear a cricket. It’s calling its family.
This is my listening place


I see a cat prowling.
I see and hear a Toucan with its colorful beak.
I see a little hornbill.
I hear one Bird of Paradise.
I see another one.
I see the towering necks of family’s of grapes.
I hear and see a family of bamboos.
They have such vivid colors.
It is so quiet here.

BEAR STORY, By Matthew W., Age 10

Once there was a huge green forest filled with animals. On a beautiful spring day a baby bear was born. He lived happily with his parents. His parents warned him about the dangerous animals in the forest. If the cub ever heard a wolf, he had to find a place to hide. The wolves and bears have never gotten along with each other.

When the cub was a couple of days old his parents got into a fight with a pack of wolves. The two bears lost the fight and lost their lives. The poor little cub could hear the cries of pain from the two bears. He was scared that the wolves would come after him next, so he crawled backwards trying to get to a nearby bush but then he tripped over a small rock and landed head first in a river. It felt so cold against his face. He saw a lot of jagged rocks ahead of him. He was so scared he almost fainted. After struggling for about an hour, he finally got to the other side of the river. When he got out of the water he found a cave and went to sleep.

When the cub woke up, he decided to look for food so he wouldn’t go hungry. As he was out looking for food, he saw a tree snake coming toward him. He dropped everything he had picked and ran back to the cave. But when he looked around the cave, he saw the snake was already there waiting for him. He wasn’t sure what to do. He had never seen a snake before. Then, suddenly, the snake asked him,” What is your name?” “What is a name?” said the cub. “A name is what we call you.” said the snake. The cub was confused; he didn’t know where he would get a name. It seemed like the snake read his mind, because the snake asked, “Why didn’t your parents give you a name?” The cub started to cry when he told the snake the story of how his parents died. He really wished his parents gave him a name. He didn’t know how he would get a name.

After the bear stopped crying he said, “Wow, I thought only bears could talk to bears!” “No, Bears can also talk to snakes, but no other animals,” said the snake. “Well, then tell me your name,” said the cub. “My name is Ginberg,” said the snake. The bear was so hungry.“Please Ginberg, can you help me find some food?” asked the cub. “ I would be happy to”, said the snake.

The little cub and snake went off searching for food. They found all sorts of good things to eat. It was difficult for the bear to find food because it was hard for him to tell the difference between things that were food and things that weren’t. They mostly found berries and apples. They found very few kinds of meat. When the two got back to the cave the cub fell asleep. He was exhausted from working so hard.

When the cub woke up he saw a whole family of snakes crowding around him. The one snake that stood out the most was Ginberg, because of his striped pattern. Ginberg introduced the cub to the rest of the snakes. The snakes wanted to know what the cub’s name was. Ginberg said that the little cub did not have a name. The snakes thought about what they should name the cub. Most of them thought they should name him Joe. To Ginberg the name didn’t fit the cub. They decided that they would give him a name after they got to know him better.

Over the next few days Ginberg and the bear got to know each other. They would play, sleep and eat with each other. They were out playing in their favorite patch of grass, and heard a stomping noise. They turned around and saw a group of hunters coming towards them. Ginberg and the cub started to get away, but Ginberg couldn’t get over a fallen tree trunk. The cub turned around and saw that Ginberg didn’t make it over so he ran back and grabbed Ginberg and ran back to the cave. After Ginberg was better, the snakes picked the cub’s name. They decided to name him Brave Bear. “That name is perfect!” said Ginberg. Ginberg and Brave Bear were always together. They were never apart. Then Brave Bear became an honorary member of the snake family.

The End

The Adventures in my Back Yard by Tyler J., Age 8

Once upon a time there was a little girl with curly black hair and her brother, who had big brown eyeballs. Their names were Tt and Stuey. They had a lot of adventures in there back yard. One day when they woke up, they got out of bed, brushed their teeth, took a bath, then went out side to play. It was a sunny day. They saw robins, blue jays and morning doves. They even saw Oreo the rat. They also saw their dad. Dad was putting the fish in the pool while the dogs where taking a bath! We asked Daddy why he was putting our fish in the pool.

He said “ I am cleaning the pond.” He had to put the fish in the pool, because it was much bigger than a bucket of water. “The fish likes swimming in the pool with the dogs!” said TT.

Stuey and I went up the ladder to get apples in the apple tree, and we saw our big, fat cat, Miso, trying to get the birds. Miso had climbed the tree and was trying to catch the birds in the nest. The birds were yelling angrily at the cat. Stuey had an idea. Stuey got a can of tuna from inside the house, and opened it. Miso kitty smelled the tuna and ran to the tuna bowl. Her belly was swinging back and forth when she ran.

We wanted to see what mom was doing. She was picking flowers from a trawl net. Stuey and I had put the trawl net on the gate to climb on, but the next day we went outside, and there were pretty purple, blue and pink flowers growing on it. When we went to see Mommy, we saw Oreo, Tt’s rat, hiding in the trawl net. She was trying to catch a flower that had fallen from the trawl net because tuna had landed on it!

Stuey, TT, Mommy and Daddy went inside with all the animals. They had a long adventure. Star and Harry sat on the living room floor and slept. Miso kitty and Oreo sat on top of Star and Harry and slept. TT and Stuey laid down by the animals and fell asleep.

The End

Age 8
February 20, 2007

Poems & Stories By Mia D.

Oh where, oh where, does the cold snow go? Up to the clouds and far away.
Oh where, oh where, do the flowers pop up? All around, to guard our hope.
Oh where, oh where, do the caterpillars go, in their cocoons sleeping till noon? They fly, fly into a butterfly!
Oh where, oh where do the birds all go? Back to the world of their own nest.
Oh where, oh where do the mouselings go? From sleeping down in their nest, they pop up and say, “ let’s go play over the hills and far away!”
Oh where, oh where do the children go? They take off their clothes and out they go!
Into My World of Colors
by Mia Davis

Red yellow green and blue.
Red takes you in to my world of color.
Green like the grass and the flowing trees.
Red like the blood that is in our body.
Blue is the river stream, floating down the river.
Blue is the sky sinking down to rest.
White is the clouds that fly by.
Black is the night when you say good -bye.
A hug and a kiss and say good night.

Mia was inspired by the book My World Of Colors by Margaret Wise Brown.
Road Trip to Lake Geneva
By Mia Davis Age 6

I opened the door, got in and put on my seat belt. Wait! Suddenly, I was not in my car. I was in a shiny silvery pirate ship! The air had greedy and salty smell to it. “Ahoy mateys! We are leaving!”

The waves were bumpy and hilly. My mouth was hungry and dry. We docked into a Shell station to get treasure maps, water, gas and McDonald’s. We rowed back to the ship with our booty and sailed away.

“Arrgg! When are we there?” I asked. “We get there when we get there!” said the Captain.

Land ho! Yeah ho! We are finally there. We jumped off board and splashed into the waters of Lake Geneva. We swam and splashed and dug for buried treasure until we saw the Jolly Roger and the sun go down.


Welcome Budding Writers, Parents, And Lovers of Poetry & Dramatic, Wondrous Tales!

This blog will house stories that have been percolating at the Writers Studio. It's work by our students, some barely six years old, others on the verge of teen-dom, and still others young adults! It's also an e-version of our Doors Wide Open newsletter, which is edited and designed by our students. There's no substitute for practice and nothing like actually twisting the nuts and bolts, to hone your editing skills and writers flair. I'll be posting announcements of upcoming workshops here too.

Of course, if you know children who'd like to take their creative writing to the next step, I could have a workshop materialize around your dinner table!

Writers Studio will be at the South Asian Literary Festival, Kirti ( creation), in Chicago, April 26-29th, 2007. More about the festival at http://www.desilit.org/kriti.html.

Happy Reading!

Naazish YarKhan
Writers Studio and Doors Wide Open