We teamed up with Planet Classroom to create a writing challenge. The results were amazing.
Back in 2020, during the pandemic, I was connected via a mutual contact to Cathy and Harry Rubin, founders of CMRubinWorld, an educational community with a worldwide reach. Their focus is the "Global Search for Education" - exploring what types of education are needed to prepare students to succeed in a rapidly changing globalized world.
Cathy had a new project in mind, and was searching for tech and media partners around the world to launch a new initiative during the pandemic - Planet Classroom.
The Planet Classroom Network brings together musicians, dancers, video game creators, filmmakers, learning innovators and emerging technologists from all over the world to entertain, educate and engage youth and to provide a rich cultural experience at a time when art and learning institutions everywhere are not accessible. The Planet Classroom Network is by youth for youth. Young people from around the world play a significant role in conceptualizing, creating, and producing the network’s vision and programming.Cathy Rubin
The idea was to set up a YouTube channel and website that would bring together content creators from around the world. We considered a few ways in which we might get involved, and decided upon a unique 1-page writing challenge in Book Creator.
The Book Creator writing challenge
The competition had to be aimed at the target audience, which was 11-18 year olds. We came up with a challenge that would work easily for kids across the world, in any language. We asked for them to create a 1-page story book (with a cover illustration) and have them read it.
We made a little tongue-in-cheek video to help promote the competition and Planet Classroom helped spread the word among their vast network of educators.
The result... 480 books* submitted from 25 countries across the world! We received entries from countries such as Guatemala, Thailand, Poland and Egypt.
*Of these, only 360 were submitted correctly - read the terms and conditions people!
We said that any genre was allowed, expecting a mix of science fiction, teen romance and adventure stories. We may have underestimated the teenage appetite for horror... around 30% of all the books were horror stories!
But there was an amazing mix of profound storytelling, unexpected twists, humour, pathos, and fantastic writing. Well done to everyone who submitted their books.
When it came to judging the books, we had a panel of judges from the Book Creator team and from Planet Classroom. We were scoring the books against a basic rubric as follows:
- Idea/concept. How original is the story? Does it stand out from the others? (30 points)
- Design. How creative have they been with the layout? Have they balanced decisions about font choice, colour, use of multimedia? (10 points)
- Communication. Have they clearly communicated the concept and characters in the story? Have they successfully conveyed drama, suspense, humour etc? We’re looking for well chosen words, speech, and illustrations that bring their book to life. (10 points)
We narrowed it down to a shortlist of 10 finalists, and then five judges scored the books out of 50, giving a total score of 250. It was very tight, and honestly, any one of them could have been the winning book. But there could only be one! So without further ado, let's look at the 10 finalists, starting with the winner, who receives a $100 Amazon voucher. Congratulations!
For each entry below, we start with a brief description of the book and author bio as provided by the author, then judges comments and scores.
As Flames Rise
by Cate Cole, age 11, Marblehead, MA, USA 🇺🇸
"This book is a fun and thrilling short story that makes you sit on the edge of your seat. It's about how something can change your life in a second, and how there is always light at the end of the tunnel. But yet, told by a wolf's point of view. With animals, shoulder to shoulder trying to outrun their greatest fear all working together.
Cate Cole is an author, rock climber, coder, and nature loving activist who fights for what she believes in. She spends her time writing fun filled novels, stories, and is even working on getting a book published. She's been working at/with her school to make it more equal among everyone, and more eco-friendly. She takes her time coding fun games for her friends, and always is trying to change the world."
You can tell from reading this book that Cate has a budding future as a writer. She uses such poetic language and has a writing style that belies her young age. It takes real talent to write from the perspective of someone else, moreso if it's an animal! The way she describes predator and prey coming together "shoulder to shoulder" to escape a common enemy is wonderful writing. And the way Cate reads the book is exceptional too - she could produce amazing audiobooks! A deserved winner.
by Amelie Babayoff, age 13, Even Yehuda, Israel 🇮🇱
"This is a short piece I wrote about my feelings towards online school. I really want online school to end and I hope we can return to normal life soon. I'm a human, shockingly. I am entering this into the competition because it really shows how I feel about online school and I think that a lot of other people will relate."
This is a profound piece of writing. It is poetic in both the writing style and the metaphor it is conveying. You immediately get a sense of the desperation that Amelie is feeling with remote learning, and she is right, this is something that students across the world will instantly relate to. You go into this book with no idea of what it will be about, and after reading you cannot help but pause and reflect on your own interactions with the world via your computer screen.
My Best Friend
by Daria Ghiba, age 12, Bucharest, Romania 🇷🇴
"My book is about an owner next to its dog, in their last moments together. I wanted to join this contest, because I have always enjoyed writing, and I have always wished to try to enter a competition. Writing is my way of showing my feeling, it's a "place" in which I can be myself and let my imagination run wild. I wrote this story, because I am an animal person, and I enjoy their company. I know what it's like to lose an animal and friend, so I wanted to show a bit of how I felt when that happened. It's hard when something like this happens, it feels like the "light" is off and there is no more happiness, but you have to remember that your small friends would not enjoy seeing you suffer, so try to move on and be happy for their sake. Remember them and enjoy the memories they left you."
Oh wow... Daria demonstrates that when you write from a place of personal experience - the result can be extremely powerful. And to think that she has produced this in her second language - amazing. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a pet will resonate deeply with the emotion conveyed in this story.
by Michelle Kreftmeyer, age 15, El Paso, TX, USA 🇺🇸
"A robot wakes up to his first moments of life. Hello, I am Michelle Kreftmeyer and I like to read and draw. I wanted to enter this challenge cause I wanted to see how good I can write. I chose the Sci-Fi kinda genre because it's my favorite and there is so much you can do in the Sci-Fi genre. Also cause I just really like robots."
Michelle's story really stood out from the crowd because of its originality. This is a nicely designed book with a unique and compelling storyline.
The Sole Survivor
by Samuel Bélanger, age 15, Montreal, Canada 🇨🇦
"A space pioneer is searching the universe to find a potentially inhabitable planet for humanity, which is facing the crisis of climate change. But upon his arrival back to earth, he realizes he is too late. I am Samuel, a 10th grade student who lives in Montreal. I entered this writing challenge because I believe that it was a great opportunity to put my writing skills to the test against other fluent English speakers of my age. I chose science-fiction as my genre because it is my favorite type of book."
Samuel has an interesting writing style, combining first-person perspective alongside a robotic, "status update" narrator. This short story is reminiscent of many science fiction tropes, but this one has an additional element - an all too real and uncomfortable truth.
The Final Shot
by Sadie Leve, age 15, Montreal, Canada 🇨🇦
"My story is a twist on a historical event/art portrayal (Goya’s 3rd of May, 1808) with some suspense to it. My name is Sadie, I’m a tenth grade student that entered this challenge as part of our school curriculum. I chose my subject because I’m really interested in art history, plus I love adding twists to real events (inspired by Tarantino’s work - Once upon a time in Hollywood and Inglorious Bastards)."
This is a beautifully written historical fiction that brings to mind the final pages of Hilary Mantel's brilliant trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, before a sudden twist at the end that will surely bring a wry smile to your face! A fantastic concept, very well executed.
Love, not hate
by Sophie Tan, age 11, Pasadena, California, USA 🇺🇸
"I wrote about a war scene, starring a hero who battles hard for his family. I am Sophie Tan and I wanted to enter this challenge partly because it was an assignment given from my teacher, but also because I really want people to know that I'm a good writer. I chose this subject because I think it's a good way to teach a lesson or to add my favorite figurative language."
Well, Sophie. You wanted to show people that you are a good writer, and you certainly did that. It seems incomprehensible that an 11-year old girl would be able to describe a war scene, but you must have an extremely vivid imagination! "As I let my love cover me like a blanket, I rose from the ground." — fantastic writing, and a powerful, hope-giving message. Thank you for submitting your story!
Henry the Hamster
by Laura Klein, age 17, Wrightstown, Wisconsin, USA 🇺🇸
"Henry discovers that he is, in fact, not a hamster. Laura Klein is a seventeen year old student at Wrightstown High school who is currently enrolled in a creative writing class. This book was an assignment and she saw a picture of a hamster and ran with it."
Henry the Hamster was an early entry to the competition, and as soon as it came in we shared it amongst colleagues in the Book Creator team as a standout entry. This book is short, simple, and very clever. It will appeal to anyone with a quirky sense of humour.
Tea Party of Terror
by Grace Wolverton, age 11, Marblehead, MA, USA 🇺🇸
"A tea party from a dolls point of view. I want to enter because it sounded fun and you can't win without trying, plus I like to write. I thought it would be cool to write from a different point of view."
A really clever concept and very well written. Such great use of language - "footsteps padded"; "I sagged with relief"; "a large hand jabbed at the teacup". Another story with a sudden moment of revelation at the end that helps elevate the prose.
The Kids I Played With
by Wasika Raida, age 13, Satwa, Dubai, UAE 🇦🇪
"A fictional story about a girl who spends a month in a village. I’m a very weird person who has interests in K-POP, Anime, Arts, Science and Graphic designing I also love to read Fanfictions. I’m a beginner digital artist and am 13 yrs old. I wanted to enter this writing challenge in hopes of becoming famous."
Congratulations Wasika... you are now famous! (Book Creator famous). This is a horror story with a twist in the tale, which leaves the reader with lots of questions...
The largest published Book Creator book in existence?
We had a lot of fun reading through these stories (well, mostly. Honestly... think twice before showing these books to your elementary students, some of them are particularly dark). On top of all the horror, there were some amazingly diverse themes - women's rights, bullying, addiction to technology, a real-life refugee story, depression, teenage pregnancy. I wonder how much these stories were influenced by the situation the authors found themselves in, or whether writing during a pandemic influenced them to focus on more challenging themes than they otherwise would have done?
These stories may only be one page long, but the result is an astonishing 721 page book! This might be the biggest Book Creator book out there (certainly the biggest we've ever worked on! Do you know of a bigger book?).
What do you think of these stories? What would your personal top 3 be from the 10 finalists? Let us know in the comments below.
Dan Kemp is Tools for School’s Marketing & Community Manager. He spends his time spreading the word about Book Creator and supporting people who use it.