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Article  •  23 June 2020


FABOStory Winner

This week's story starter came from NZ author Kyle Mewburn. Congratulations to Juno Ireland for her winning entry. Read on for her story and Kyle's judging report.

Kyle’s Story Starter

As Lucy heaved her way through the dark hedge, her imagination whirled like an out-of-control merry-go-round. There could be anything waiting on the other side. A TOP SECRET government spy base patrolled by snarling watchdogs. An evil puffin’s secret hideaway rimmed with laser detectors and booby traps. Or even a whole other world, like in the Narnia stories she’d just finished reading.

Not that she really, truly expected to find anything exciting on the other side. Stuff like that didn’t happen in real life. But after a week of boring school holidays she was desperate for just a scrap of adventure. It didn’t even have to be an actual adventure. If she found anything even mildly interesting, her imagination could do the rest. Then the day would be exceptional.

Lucy barged ahead in a fury of flailing arms like she was swimming against a twiggy tide. Or wrestling a woody sea serpent. When the hedge suddenly parted, she sprawled forward into sunshine.

But the sun quickly vanished as a shadowy shape loomed over her…

Juno Ireland’s winning story

Lucy peered up at a tall, bulky man. He had a fluffy moustache, like a storm cloud, a cream shirt, sunhat and a nametag reading: Paul. Complete with his kind smile, Paul had the resemblance of a zoo keeper.

“What brings you here today?” he asked, blowing his moutache upwards as he spoke. Lucy hesitated, but before she could reply, Paul said “Ah yes, a free tour of the Italian dragons, deadly kitties and the Neanderthal giant. Right this way”. He beckoned towards a high iron gate, almost as unpleasant as the idea of giants.

Lucy shuffled backwards, alarmed. “What’s in there?”. The man looked astonished, then confused, and then chuckled. “Why, the Zoo of Monsters” he said. And with that, he began walking forward, gently guiding Lucy to the heavily armed threshold.

Desperately thinking, Lucy imagined escaping, but then the reassuring sun reappeared, brightening her mood. She was curious after all. Slowing to a halt at the gate, she noticed that it was flanked with burly guards, each possessing an enormous gun with the words: MONSTER VANQUISHER 2000.

Lucy shuddered. Surely monsters weren’t real? However, as the guards swung open the gates, terrifying monsters stared back at her. In fact, their captivating gazes were so utterly hard and sad that she found herself looking away to avoid their monstrous expressions.

Spiky, scaly, fluffy creatures were sprawled over scorched terrain. Some monsters’ main features were sharp, jagged teeth, or great bundles of fur, or sleek glimmering scales, which made them look content and simple, but their eyes said it all. They missed their homes and the discouraging brick walls between them weren’t helping.

Lucy turned to protest on their behalf to Paul, except he handed her a map. A path with enclosures on either side snaked through the zoo. “This way to see the Neanderthal giant” he announced, strolling down the path. Eventually they reached the enclosure which absolutely stunned Lucy.

The most immense, caveman-like figure towered over them. His face was like a big map, with wrinkles as routes, joining everywhere across it, and a chin like an upside-down mountain. His heavy brow gave him the ultimate Neanderthal effect, forming a ridge over his eyes.

Lucy’s breathing turned shallow. Many unanswered questions swam in her head. Suddenly a huge gnarled hand gently grabbed Lucy’s waist and lifted her up and up. Her map fluttered down like a dove. She had second thoughts about the giant. He was probably just as lonely and desperate as the others. Still, it was so nerve-wracking being whisked into the air as Paul turned ant-sized below.

Soon Lucy was face-to-face with the giant. She tried a soft approach, touching his face. Hi grinned impishly, which looked terrible with his wrinkles and eyebrows. Then he turned and lowered her into another enclosure next to his. Lucy lay dazed on a rocky surface, and looked around.

The enclosure was barren with heaps of barbed wire around the edges. Hearing an abrupt rustle, Lucy turned. An exquisite thing stepped forward. With gleaming feathers the shades of sunset, a powerful orange-scarlet glow, and graceful legs the colour of golden wheat, the creature of myths stood before her. The phoenix!


“This story holds some powerful imagery. I love the idea of the monster’s face being like a map, with wrinkles as routes and a chin like an upside-down mountain. The writing flows naturally and cleverly packs a lot of information about the setting and the characters into a small space. I like Lucy’s immediate emotional connection with the captive creatures (“their eyes said it all”), and the light dusting of humour (I wonder what a Monster Vanquisher 2000 does?). Juno’s story certainly gave Lucy the beginnings of the exceptional day of her dreams. I want to know what happens next!”​

- Heather Haylock (award winning author of Granny McFlitter, among others)


Read Kyle's full judging report here!

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