Our Bedtime Story Competition 2017, which saw children aged between 5 and 11 write a story on the theme of friendship, came to a close earlier this month and now we have our winners. To find out more about the competition and to read all about the shortlist, check out our Winners Announcement blog post. We were amazed by the talent shown in all our entries and so we'd like to share some of the shortlisted stories with you. 7 year-old Jackson Mendoza was the winner in the Age 5-7 category and therefore one of the runners-up in this year's competition. The title of Jackson's story is Jackson and the Marrow and it is inspired by an unusual friendship he developed over the summer. Have a read of Jackson's fantastic story for yourself...
It was the beginning of the school holidays. Jackson was already bored. He had played with his toy soldiers, he had played with his toy cars, he had played with his Lego. He wanted someone to play games with him though.
Jackson was visiting his aunt and uncle. All the grownups were sitting round the kitchen table talking. "Jackson stop rocking on your chair" said his mum. "Jackson stop fiddling with that" said his dad.
Suddenly Jackson saw something out of the corner of his eye. It was in the fruit bowl but it wasn't like any fruit he had ever seen. It was ginormous! "What... is.. that?!" he said out loud. In his head he wondered "is it a giant green alien slug?" "Oh that" said his aunt "it's a marrow. Our neighbours on the allotment grow them; but there's only so much marrow you can eat." "Take it!" said his uncle eagerly. "please...! you can have it!" Jackson approached the huge green object nervously. He reached out and stroked it. It wasn't slimy. It was firm and solid. Jackson lifted it up. It was surprisingly heavy. Jackson studied it. It was a mixture of greens and also yellowish white stripes. Jackson smiled and gave it a hug. "Hello Marrow! Let's go and play!" Jackson took Marrow and ran out into the garden.
At the end of the visit Jackson's parents tried to persuade Jackson to return Marrow to the fruit bowl. "Noooo, I love Marrow. I will keep him forever and he will be my hair loom...when I die I will pass him down to my children and my grandchildren..." "I'm not sure Marrow will last that long" said Mum "and its heirloom not hair loom". "He's a fruit so he's meant to be eaten not passed down from generation to generation. He would be pretty mouldy by then". Jackson's uncle gave him a wink... "He is your Marr! ow now Jackson. You do what you want with him". Jackson climbed into his car seat, but not until he had wrapped Marrow in his fluffy jumper to keep him warm and cosy and put a seat belt across him to keep Marrow safe from Dad's driving.
For the rest of the summer holidays Marrow and Jackson were always together.. Jackson painted Marrow's portrait, Jackson made Marrow a fortress out of bricks and together they battled the toy soldiers and had toy car races. Jackson often dressed Marrow in a tie to make him look smart, and when they stayed with Grandma and Grandpa they even let Marrow go swimming with Jackson in the bath (although he wasn't allowed at the local swimming pool).
Then one day towards the end of the summer holidays mum heard a shout from the garden and rushed outside. Jackson was in the treehouse with an eyepatch and a foam sword. Lying on the grass below the treehouse was Marrow. But Marrow's eyepatch had fallen off and was lying crumpled on the ground. Marrow was in three pieces. His shiny green skin was split apart and his cream coloured insides were showing. "We were pirates..." Jackson whispered. "Marrow wanted to walk the plank". Mum gave Jackson a hug and together they picked up the pieces of Marrow. "I'm sorry" said mum. "I know you and Marrow were friends". "It's ok" said Jackson quietly. "I think Marrow knew I would be going back to school soon and he didn't want to go mouldy and have to be thrown away".
Together Jackson and mum washed the pieces and looked up recipes for stuffed marrow on the Internet. "It's what he would have wanted" said Jackson. "If I eat him he will become part of me". Mum, Dad and Jackson all talked about their favourite memories of Marrow while they ate. No one got told off for rocking on their chairs or wriggling around and Marrow had been so big there was enough for everyone to have second helpings...even after one serving got accidentally knocked onto the floor during an exciting retelling of the time Marrow had bravely travelled with Jackson in a cable car.
That night was the first night Jackson had slept without Marrow next to him on his pillow since the day they had first met. But after bedtime story and just before lights out Dad brought up a small pot and put it on the windowsill. Jackson smiled. He snuggled down with his cuddly walrus toy. They hadn't eaten all of Marrow. They had saved his seeds. In the pot was one of Marrow's seeds. Jackson's children, and his children's children, might not get to meet his Marrow. But Jackson could get to meet Marrow's children. Next summer the seed would have grown into a new Marrow and their adventures could begin again.