“The Journey”: The Winners of the ALCS and CILIP CKG 2016 Writing Competition

ALCS is a long-time supporter of the hugely successful CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals annual shadowing scheme, in which tens of thousands of children in schools and libraries across the country read the books shortlisted for both Medals, argue with each other over which is the best, post reviews and vote for their own favourites, before the official winners are announced.

Winner: Sejal Gautam, aged 12, Kendrick School, Reading

Good bye

“Haridwar, please.”

The taxi driver smiles at my accent as I stumble away from the airport in the sweltering heat and flop into the air-conditioned yellow taxi, clutching the urn of ashes. I grit my teeth in fear as the driver ignores the dreadful traffic, horns of cars and the bumps in the road that make me feel privileged to have safe drivers in England. The next four hours stretch out in front of me.

Two days ago, before my father had appeared in my life and given me my dead mother’s ashes alongside a ticket to India, I thought I was an orphan. It turns out I am half Indian, have relatives in India and a father who I didn’t know existed. I was shocked.

As we begin to reach Haridwar, an important Hindu pilgrimage where people spread ashes and wash away their sins, I wonder who my mother was. What did she look like? Why did she abandon me? A tear rolls down my cheek as I realise how lost I feel- in an unknown place with the ashes of the mother that I would never know. The taxi splutters to a stop and I pay the driver.

A sea of people in orange clothing bathe in the River Ganges as tourists buy food from food stalls. I take a deep breath and approach an old woman who holds a sign with my name on it. My grandmother. She realises and, sobbing, folds me in her arms, whispering loving words in my ear. My anger subsides into grief.

We approach a priest who gives us flowers and tells us to kneel by the river. I open the lid to the ashes and gently pour them into the river, watching my mother be free, with the water.

Second place – Jessica Rufus, aged 12, Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar, Sidcup



She chatted eagerly – and almost endlessly – as he listened.
From the shelf he looked down at her and smiled warmly. He looked back at the shelf and picked up a box of cereal, which he carefully placed into the basket that hung from his left arm, before then reaching out his free hand for hers to hold.
She took it and grinned, her beautiful young face bright and flawless.

Together they walked; until she spotted the toys’ aisle.
She tugged gently to signal for him to let go, and then skipped over to look, leaving him behind.
For some time she carefully surveyed the rows upon rows of stuffed animals, dolls and plastic models; before suddenly remembering the brother she’d left behind.
She spun round to see him, but only to greet – nothing.

And a horrible realisation dawned upon her.

She hurried past the meats, the milk and bread, her anxiety building.

She wandered aimlessly, weaving her wat through the maze of shelves and people.
She paced, barely containing the fear she could sense welling up inside her.
She began to count her steps; 7 strides past the shelves of soaps. Two right turns into the medicines aisle. Another 18 strides. Straight forwards, into the bakery aisle again.

By now she was panicking.
She slipped to the floor and almost burst into tears-
She suddenly heard a familiar voice, calling out to her, calling her name.

Instantly, she was on her feet, bounding towards the sound.
She approached the end of the aisle, turning the corner only to find…

Before he could react, she had already embraced him, holding as if she’d never let go.

Finally, she stepped back and smiled.

He reached his hand out for hers to hold.
She took it and together they walked.


Third place: Alexandra Vargova, aged 14, The Hammond School, Chester

The Journey that Changed Everything

There once was a girl called Alex. Alex was six years old living with her mother and her father. Her favourite hobby was martial arts. Everyday Alex came home with purple bruises on her limbs. In her room, with gold, silver, and bronze medals hanging on her bed, she practised and practised until she could no longer stand.

“I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, never liked pink never wore skirts and I was mainly friends with boys.”

Each day after school her and her best friend Lexi trained hard for competitions.

“When I’m in that room I feel powerful, I feel like I don’t have to be scared of anything”

Alex was the smallest girl in her school, very fragile, until it came to 4:30. That’s when she became herself.

Years went by and Alex’s mother decided it was time to move. But this was a bigger move than anyone expected.

“And that was the last time I saw that place.”

They travelled six hours from Slovakia to England. Alex was very anxious and very nervous. However, there was a bit of excitement flowing inside her blood.

“It’s the first day of school and I’ve never been more nervous. I walk in and everyone is staring at me, I feel different.”

Alex soon learnt English and was getting better and better each day. Two years passed and Alex is thinking about high school .Out of nowhere the principal told Alex to audition for The Hammond. A performing arts school.

“I have never danced in my life before and now I have to audition to go to a ballet school? God help me!”
There once was a girl called Alex. Alex is 14 years old living with her mother, father and sister. And Alex is a dance student at The Hammond School.