Remote learning has produced some wonderful examples of inspired work. In their Text Transformations in English, Year 8 students have been looking closely at the writing style of authors as varied as Bram Stoker, Barbara Smucker and Roald Dahl. The students have responded with their own writing. Using the beginning of The Landlady by Roald Dahl as a guide, the students wrote a description of a pleasant, reassuring scene and interspersing with signposts to the reader that all was not well. Here are just three examples of their fine work.
Billy Weaver was travelling down from London on the slow afternoon train, with a change at Reading on the way. By the time he would’ve reached Bath, it would’ve been about nine o’clock in the evening. However, there was a delay, as the train halted to an immediate stop and skidded along the rails, five minutes away from Billy’s destination. Already, the moon was coming up out of a clear starry sky over the houses that were just about visible through the misty windows. But the air looked deadly cold and the windows were like a flat blade of ice on his cheeks.
Billy would have to wait for generations before the train would progress on again, so he decided to relax and read the daily paper. Most of the articles were quite uninteresting, however, one article did catch his eye.
Archie Royle was jailed for being a criminal leader of the Clove Clan. This group performs rituals and sacrifices of live bodies. Archie Royle has not given any further information on this deadly clan of criminals. However recently he has escaped his highly securely guarded cell and killed 3 highly trained officers.
The train gradually started rolling on again and within five minutes, Billy had descended from the train, already forgotten what he had read a few minutes ago. Whilst heading towards the line forming in front of the ticket collector, he rummaged around in his deep duffel coat pocket for his ticket. As the queue shortened, Billy was finally nearing the front of the queue and detected an odd fragrance as he neared the slouching ticket collector, a sweet, charcoal, burnt odour, reminding him of a barbeque. Billy handed over his wrangled ticket.
“Excuse me, is there a fairly affordable cabin or motel nearby?” Billy asked politely.
“Are you not familiar with this area?” the ticket collector inquired.
“No, this is my first time,” Billy explained.
“Oh, nice! Yeah, try The Clover Motel. Turn left and carry on walking straight. There will be a big sign, you can’t miss it,” he responded in a curious tone, his face lighting up and changing from the grumpy face Billy had first set eyes on, to a small wry smile. As the ticket collector handed over the clipped ticket, Billy noticed an odd tattoo of a small dark green flower in between his index finger and his thumb.
Paying no further attention, Billy took his ticket and carried on with his journey, exiting the station and turning left, before heading straight towards The Clover Motel.
Billy slowly trudged his way down towards The Clover Motel along the long, dark, windy lane leading to a run-down shack-like motel, well lit up. Every time Billy turned around looking past the sets of tall trees, he could’ve sworn that someone was there. It felt as if someone was following him, watching his every move, like a shadow touching him on the shoulder or someone peering over him. Billy sniffed the air, smelling the same sweet, charcoal, burnt barbeque odour. He didn’t dwell on the thought, as he saw a large, bulky sign of a dark green clover right in the centre, around the boldly coloured words ‘The Clover Motel.’ Shivering, he rushed towards the cosy-looking motel.
As he entered the motel, a group of people huddled together, then shuffled past him. Before walking up to the landlady, he shut the door gently behind him, however, before he could, the howling wind blew a waft of the air towards him. The air smelt exactly like the sweet, burnt, barbeque odour, although this time, a much stronger version.
“What’s that barbequey smell?” Billy asked intrigued.
“Oh that. Ummm… that’s the farmer behind us burning crops,” she replied.
“Okay. Is there a room that I can stay in for the night?” Billy asked respectfully.
“Yes, room number 13,” she responded.
Looking him up and down, from head to toe several times, she then said: “There’s no need to sign, it’s a complimentary room we give to people for their first time here,” and with that, she grabbed all the sign-in sheets and dumped them in the nearby drawer. Billy saw a list of people’s signatures, signing into the motel and thought that it was a bit peculiar that he wasn’t supposed to sign in. Did she mean his first time in this motel or his first time in this town?
As she handed Billy his room number card, Billy noticed the tattoo of a small dark green flower, in between her index finger and her thumb, exactly like the ticket collector’s he saw earlier. Whilst thinking that that was strange, he made his way upstairs.
As Billy dragged his weakened feet up the old raggedy, dust-covered, carpeted staircase, thoughts pondered into his drained mind:
– Crops? This isn’t crop season, that was seven months ago.
– The dark green flowers were the same as the ticket collector and it was in the same place.
– The tattoo wasn’t a dark green flower, it was a dark green clover.
– The sign and name of this motel is (a) clover.
– The group Archie Royle lead, was named the Clove Clan, sounding similar to Clover.
– Free room? Not signing?
“What if…, no, it couldn’t be?” he whispered to himself, quivering. “Maybe they want to get rid of me, and then there would be no proof or record of me ever entering this motel. Am I the next Clove Clan sacrifice?” he asked himself, suddenly trembling, as a sharp chill shrieked through his spine. Pausing, he took a deep breath in and out numerous times and relaxed, calming himself.
“These are all just coincidences right? I’m just being paranoid, aren’t I?”
Billy wrestled with his these thoughts but finally went into a deep sleep. If only he would put all the puzzle pieces together. If only he would trust his instincts. If only he knew the truth…
Students wrote a prequel or sequel to their favourite book, following the style of the author. The following text is the first chapter of a sequel to Deeplight by Frances Hardinge.
“Hark!” The familiar voice echoed in Hark’s head. After three years of listening to the wonderful stories of people scattered all over the Myriad, Hark decided he would pay a visit to Sanctuary. Nothing had really changed- the familiar scent of seaweed and salt still filled the rustic rooms, the stories of the treacherous Gods of the Undersea lingering among the large dusty corridors.
Hark turned around. “Kly!” He exclaimed.
“You haven’t changed a bit,” said Kly, “you should have visited more often.” Hark nodded, slightly embarrassed that he didn’t know what to say. “Well, I suppose you heard about Moonmaid.”
“What about her?” Replied Hark. Moonmaid was one of the few priests that had experienced and survived the Cataclysm- the disastrous event where the vast Gods of the Undersea killed each other, not only resulting in their death, but the deaths of many across the Myriad. Over Hark’s time at Sanctuary, he had learned that the Gods were more than just perilous creatures who would wreak havoc over life on the Myriad, but had the hearts of people with feelings and emotions, thoughts and memories. Hark should know. Nevertheless, the Gods were dangerous and most people among the Myriad were glad that they were gone.
“She died. But we still aren’t sure why,” Kly said, biting his lip, “Moonmaid has always been one of the more physically healthier of the priests. However, about three days ago, I found her lying on the rocks just in front of the harbour.”
“Just lying there? Was she dead?” Hark questioned, confused.
“No, she was awake and she wanted to be there,” Kly said, “but her eyes had gone blue and her skin pale. I took her back to Sanctuary of course but no potions would revive how frail and cold she was. And then… she died later on.”
Hark stood still, pondering. The Undersea did strange things to people, it enriched minds with fear and Marked skin with strange and unique shapes, but nothing like that had ever happened when one was above it. “I’m sorry to hear that,” Hark hesitated, shamed that that was the only response he could think of.
Kly smiled sympathetically, his light eyes glinting sincerely. “I know the priests have been talking a lot about you. Positively, of course. Why don’t you go and visit them? They have missed your storytelling.”
“Of course,” Hark said, nodding as he started to walk down one of Sanctuary’s many corridors. There was a particular feeling of comfort and community that only the air of Sanctuary could bring. He told the priests stories about the mighty Gathergeist and its unknown friendship with the Hidden Lady, and the priests listened in wonder, cherishing the stories as if they were their own memories.
After a long day telling his captivating stories to the priests, Hark made his way back onto the craggy shore, ready to return back to his home island of Lady’s Crave. He hopped into a sailboat perched next to the harbour and began the journey home. The surface of the Oversea wobbled like a blueberry jelly as the sailboat rocked through it, the azure transparency glimmering in the sun. Four hours passed, and Hark finally reached the washed-out sandy shores of Lady’s Crave.
“Hark! Hark!” Another familiar voice, but this time, Hark knew exactly who it was.
“Captain Rigg? What are you doing here?” Hark said incredulously, rubbing his eyes. Hark had no pleasant memories with Rigg and her gang, besides Selphin, Rigg’s daughter, the freckled girl about Hark’s age, who had accompanied Hark on a fatal journey to the Undersea. She, Hark and a wise priest named Quest had gone plunging into the Undersea in a screaming submarine, three years ago, to prevent the release of a new God. Hark and his accomplices were the only reason that people of the Myriad weren’t living in fear.
Hark continued to walk along the shore. He tried to act confident, but Rigg was the most feared gang leader back on Lady’s Crave and just being in her presence felt intimidating and uncomfortable. “Come with me, I need your help,” said the husky voice that made the hairs on Hark’s neck raise. Hark didn’t dare argue- he knew what Rigg was capable of, and that is what worried Hark. What couldn’t Rigg do that she needed Hark’s help to do it? Knowing that Hark would follow, Rigg began to stride along the shore, her dominant stride morphing into a hurried tiptoe. There was something different about Rigg, she was more humane, more vulnerable. She led Hark to a wooden jetty, that was stilted on the far end of the shore. Scattered along the jetty were large white metal scraps and pieces, mottled with scratches and age. Sitting on the jetty was something Hark had hoped he would never see again. Rigg’s bathysphere. The bathysphere that killed Jelt.
Hark’s hands became sweaty. Just looking at something that defined such a big part of his life made him feel uneasy. The bathysphere’s small interior was tatty, stained with patches of seaweed residue and its glass walls cloudy and cracked, held together with stingy amounts of God glue. As he neared the bathysphere, through the glass Hark could see a figure sitting in it. It was Selphin. Hark’s heart skipped a beat. He was silent, and so was Rigg. But his mind screamed a thousand different thoughts- how is the bathysphere still working? What does Rigg want from me? Why is Selphin…?
Hark glanced over to Rigg, who was shaking her head. “I found her three days ago trying to lower the bathysphere. Blackmailed Sage into working the crane for her,” Rigg said, her voice smooth but melancholy like a sapphire, gesturing towards the metal pieces on the side of the jetty. “I destroyed the crane of course, but now Selphin’s refusing to get out.” Hark shrugged, confused. “Hark, she wants to go to the Undersea. She won’t tell me why but I need to get her out.”
Hark had been to the Undersea before, and so had Selphin. The Undersea was fantastic, alluring, its tender purple iridescence illuminating the white sand below, the water so pure and magnificent that one could breathe it. But the journey to it was savage, wild, the torrent of black waves crashing among the border of the Oversea and Undersea, the descent so rough that one could break their limbs.
Hark’s jaw dropped, Selphin had always been utterly afraid of the sea. Then, a thought dawned upon Hark, “But Rigg, I thought you’ve always wanted Selphin to like the sea. Remember, you…”
“I know Hark! But that was before!” Rigg interrupted, running her mauve boots through the sand. Her anger cut through Hark like a plummet of rain on a mellow morning. Then sighing, she said gloomily, “I was in jail for the past four years.” Hark’s eyes widened, although Rigg had done things that she should have gone to jail for a long time ago, he had never pictured her actually going. Perhaps it was the certainty in her actions, or the respect she had gained from others through her superiority, that made everything she did seem right. “And now I’m out,” Rigg continued, “but they’re saying I need to compensate for it, they drowned my gang and…” a thick glow came over her eyes, “I can never go in the sea again, nor can I even go within two metres from it.” Rigg gestured to the bathysphere sitting on the jetty, inches away from the sea’s surface. “You see, I need to visit the governor tomorrow, but I need to bring a witness with me to say that I have not so much as touched the sea since our last meeting. Selphin’s the only one who knows exactly where I’ve been. If I miss the meeting, I’ll go back into jail.”
“Can’t you just lie?” Asked Hark.
“The government are too clever for that. They’ll know.” Rigg stated, as if she had asked herself the same question multiple times.
“What do you need me to do?” Hark responded blandly.
“I need you to talk to Selphin,” Rigg was being surprisingly tolerant, “apart from me, you are the only person who knows her well enough.” Hark nodded, not knowing whether to be frightened or flattered, and began to stumble towards the jetty. No matter how fast his heart was beating, the tides continued to roll in leisurely, manoeuvring and twirling around the jetty’s stilts.
As he approached the bathysphere, his view became clearer of Selphin. Her face was feeble and her eyes shone cobalt; her skin was rigid and freckles faint; her smile diluted among her expressionless features. She was a bright rock, that needed to be pushed out of the dark. Selphin? Hark signed. His sign language had improved a lot over the past three years, listening to all different people, some who were sea-kissed just like Selphin. What was wrong with her? Why did she look so different? No matter how much Selphin had changed, the stubbornness still shone through her, like it always had. Her eyes flickered in Hark’s direction but then quickly retreated back to its gaze upon the bathysphere’s controls. Her stillness was uncanny. Hark didn’t quite know what to do, Selphin had always been the easiest person to talk to, until now. Gently, Hark knocked on the bathysphere, the glass vibrating as he did, and Selphin’s still icy eyes met his. Selphin, Hark signed, What happened? Come on, tell me.
Selphin brought her hands up, about to sign something, but then dropped them back down. Then, suddenly- that’s the thing, signed Selphin, her hands seemed forced as they morphed into different shapes. Hark was surprised that just a few of his words were enough to turn Selphin around. I don’t know, she added. Hark could almost glimpse Selphin again, just behind her colourless complexion. But it’s not just me who’s like this.
What do you mean? Signed Hark, confused. Then, Hark remembered- pale skin, blue eyes. Pale skin, blue eyes. Just like Kly had said Moonmaid had just before she died. Hark gulped. What was going on? You know about Moonmaid? He continued.
No, signed Selphin. But look over there.
Hark turned. Standing in a meticulous line along the shore was what looked like a hundred people. All of whom Hark could recognise from his adventures among Lady’s Crave. At first the view was incredible, all these familiar faces lined up, bringing back a cascade of stories and memories that Hark found rather enjoyable. But as Hark got a closer look, he could see that their faces were pallid and their eyes an ultramarine blue, all gazing into the seafoam sheen that danced in their presence. They looked sad, lifeless. The scene seemed still, eerie and mysterious, although the waves continued to swirl and Hark’s heart continued to beat.
Something was lurking deep down, luring people in. Something manipulative and vast. Something clever but merciless. Something familiar, but unfamiliar. Something had returned. It wasn’t Rigg’s troublesome gang. Nor was it Jelt. It was a God.
A prequel to Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
“I’m home! Mum, dad?” I called as I tiptoed into the kitchen and peered behind the door.
“Oh, hi sweetie, how was your day at school?” asked mum in that gentle and almost afraid tone she always spoke in.
“Urmm, yeah it was ok I guess.”
Mum and I aren’t really that close. When I was younger we would play with Barbie dolls, bake cookies and do all the things that a mother and daughter would do. But then dad died, I cried for days on end whilst mum just sat curled up on her bed in her locked bedroom. We didn’t talk about it much, but that was fine by me, I guess.
Mum stopped going to work so much and instead went to the bars, daily. The income got lower and lower; some days I would go to bed hungry or just stay at Josie’s house (my best friend) for dinner and then for a few nights after. It felt like my whole world was crumbling and there was nothing I could do about it. That was when Joe turned up, my soon to be step-dad, a hero in my mother’s eyes. A devil in mine. They met at the bar one evening and “instantly fell in love” is what my mum said. She said she loved him and they’ve been together ever since!
He would bring my mum flowers (probably stole them from the nearby supermarket) and me an out of date microwave dinner. I hated him so much but he made my mum happy and so I was happy. I hadn’t seen her smile or laugh since before dad died and that was two years ago. I put on my happy face for her and everything seemed to be better already, Joe even acted as though he almost liked me. There was more money, no more debt in the house mortgage, dinner every evening, a warm house once again where all the lights in the house worked and I hoped that maybe we would be a happy family together.
I was wrong.
He hit me.
He hit me lots and he hit me hard.
Mum has stopped going to the bars and instead rushes around after Joe like a slave; she buys him food and beers, cooks him food and constantly gives and then buys him more beers. I never really see mum sitting down anymore; reading a book or watching something on the television, or even seeing her friends and family much. Joe on the other hand practically lives on the sofa; he watches things I’m not allowed to watch whilst eating fry ups and downing beers. He stinks. He never does any exercise or reads a book or goes outside or takes me to school or picks me up from school. Nothing. I can’t say that I mind him not being a father figure to me though, I miss my dad so much and each day is no easier than the day before. No one could ever replace dad; especially not Joe.
I’ve found ways to escape the mess of my life at home; I go on runs, see my friends, go to the park or the cinema, and take our golden retriever Lily for a walk. These are all things that don’t involve being around mum and her boyfriend, soon to be husband. Another thing I love to do is to read. My all-time favourite book is ‘The Lord of the Flies’ as the characters are so interesting and different and the story line is so mesmerising! I also like how there are no adults to boss the children around.
I remember when I was younger and dad built me a large white bookcase which runs along the floor by the windowsill. I used to sit in the middle between mum and dad whilst we read. Dad would read and put on lots of different voices for the animals and different people like foxes and pigs, astronauts and fairy princesses. Mum and I would laugh until we cried as dad bounced around the room, pretending to be the kangaroo from ‘No Matter What’ by Debi Gliori.
He also painted a beautiful scene of a flower garden on the other wall. There were pink, red and yellow roses, ivy climbing up the brick wall, robins, rabbits and other cute creatures all chirping and hopping. I loved it, it was beautiful! But now somehow the wallpaper has started to peel, I’m not sure how though. My bookcase is also a bit broken as well as some of the books. I’m missing a few books too, but not ‘No Matter What’ or ‘The Lord of the Flies’; I keep them in a safe and secretive place beneath my pillow.
The smell of beer, rotting eggs and other smells I can’t describe wafts through from the living room to my nose. I cringe. Mum doesn’t usually clean and so I wish we had a cleaner; unfortunately there is no money for a cleaner as it all goes to Joe’s beers and Joe’s motorbike which he only takes out a few times a year. He says he will only be gone for a few days with his mates, but three weeks later and he’s still not back.
I hand mum my report card, I think I did quite well and am looking forward to seeing mum’s reaction. She always said I was her little superstar, so bright in so many ways and that I was going to be so successful when I was older. She looks at me confused,
“What is this?”
“It’s my report card of course.”
“Oh yes, silly me, I’ve just got up from my nap – I mean I’ve been working all day so I’m probably just a bit delirious from that. Well, I don’t think it could be any better than last year, it was amazing, I was so proud!”
“Well I think it might be.” I say crossing my fingers, hoping for an even better report than last year as I didn’t actually do that well; I’ve no idea what mum is talking about. Joe was really abusive, I didn’t know a way to escape and so fell behind on work and sleep. I think it’s fair to say I had a pretty rubbish past few years.
But it’s all in the past now, I’ve learnt how to deal with Joe and I feel that my grades have improved so much!
“Wow, yes darling this is wonderful! I’m so proud of you! Suzanne you are my superstar, you are so caring and talented, I love you and I don’t know what I would do without you!” Wow, mum hasn’t said she loved me in ages!
“Yay! Really? Did I really do that well?”
“Yes of course you did!”
“Yes, I’m so happy! This is so much better than last year! I love you too!”
“What do you mean this is much better than last year? This year is by far the best report but last year was still really good.” I’ve no idea what mum is talking about, I don’t know why she is getting so confused. Oh well. I just say,
“Yeah I guess,” as I’m so tired and don’t have much energy to quarrel over such a silly thing. We had P.E. last lesson and we were playing football, which I love but is very tiring. Then I had two hours of dance after school; I had tap and modern and I even got to teach some of the younger children my modern piece from when I was their age! I’m exhausted and fortunately I have no homework from today so I can just listen to music and read in my room.
I head upstairs, steering clear of the living room, when I see mum holding her head in her hands. She pulls her fringe to the side and what I see next scares me… A large, green and purple bruise is taking up most of her forehead! Mum is sitting on the floor of the kitchen, I can see she is trying to hold back the tears but can’t; they start streaming down her face silently. She turns red in the face.
“Maggie! Where’s that beer and packet of salt and vinegar crisps I told you to get me? I’ve been waiting for ten minutes!” yelled Joe in his cockney accent. ‘Why don’t you get off your lazy bum and get them yourself?’ I say to myself, but not out loud as I know there’ll be trouble if he hears me. Mum wipes the tears with the palm of her hands and gets up to follow Joe’s orders. As she stands, mum seems as though she was about to collapse or fall over, but steadies herself and gets the beer and crisps.
“Finally!” spits Joe as mum heads back out into the kitchen. She sees me standing on the stairs. She stares at me. She looks scared. I no longer feel that I, nor mum are safe.
I go quickly up the stairs, missing two at a time. I take off my school uniform and pull on a pair of grey trackies, sports bra, oversized hoody and a fair of pink, fluffy socks. Sitting on my window seat, I put my earphones in, put on the complete Lewis Capaldi album, turned up the volume and get my new book out. I’m reading ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon, Josie bought it for me recently for my birthday and I love it! It is written so well and I love how all the characters are portrayed in the brilliantly thought-up storyline. Reading and listening to music helps me escape my nightmare of a life.
I’m reading so I don’t hear the knock at my door.
“Suzanne. Suzanne? Suzanne!” I jump at the sound of his voice. I’m surprised at the fact that Joe is upstairs, outside my room, outside of the living room for the first time in what seems like forever.
“Oh yes, sorry” – my mind was completely frozen.
“Yep, coming.” I always lock my door for privacy and safety too. I unlock it and see that Joe has bits of crisp in his beard. He’s holding my report card. Oh no!
“Your mum told me your grades are really good,” – Phew!
“But firstly, I DON’T THINK THAT THEY ARE, YOU DID RUBBISHLY, YOU’RE SO STUPID! AND ANYWAY, EVEN IF THEY WERE GOOD, NO ONE LIKES A SHOW OFF! OKAY? YOU’RE SUCH A DISAPPOINTMENT!” screams Joe at the top of his voice. I’m crying. Tears streaming down my red cheeks. My heart’s pounding. I’m scared. I’m shivering. Joe is drunk I can tell, his breath stinks of beer and he’s falling all over the place. He shouts a lot; but never like that.
I think that’s it, he just came upstairs to shout at me, nothing else. Joe stumbles towards the door; finally he’s leaving. But then he twists around quickly and races towards me, his fists in the air, he’s shouting at me but I don’t hear what he’s saying. I scream. He hits. It hurts. It hurts a lot! I’m crying and screaming for him to stop. He doesn’t.
I dodge slightly and see my mum standing at the door. She’s crying too. But she doesn’t help me, she doesn’t tell him to stop. She just stares whilst she cries. Finally he stops. He turns and leaves; my mum quickly moves out of the way!
“I’m going to the bar and then out! Don’t know when I’ll be back!” the front door slammed behind him and we sat in silence, listening to the sound of his motorbike get quieter and quieter as he drove off into the distance. Mum runs over to me and we cry and hug each other tightly, neither of us want to let go.
She whispers in my ear,
“You are so brave; you are so strong, I’m so proud of you! Are you okay? I’m so sorry, I didn’t know what to do! If I stepped in then he would have hit me too!” That’s the thing about mum, she says she’s sorry but if she was really sorry then she would tell Joe to leave, or take me and go somewhere, anywhere but here. But she doesn’t. And I hate her for that. Also, I thought that parents would do anything for their children, put their lives at risk for them. My mum isn’t your average mum though; she would rather stand far away and watch Joe hit me than save me and risk getting hurt herself.
I tell her I have to go, I have to get out of the house for a little bit. I don’t want to leave her but I have to. I gather a few essentials like my toothbrush, toothpaste, clothes, money, my Oyster card and of course my birth teddy which mum and dad gave me. Mum looks heartbroken, just sitting by the window, she looks scared to be all alone with Joe. I would be too, but she does nothing to help me and so I must leave. I kiss Lily goodbye for now and head to Josie’s house. I run, and I run, and I run. I’ve never run this fast, my heart is pounding and I’ve got a stitch, but I don’t stop.