Kelpies News and Features

The Kelpies Prize for Writing 2020 Shortlist

We hope you enjoy reading these extracts from this year’s shortlist! The winner will be announced at a virtual award ceremony on Thursday 13th May, keep an eye on our website and follow @DiscoverKelpies on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for details. You can also sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear about Kelpies Prize news.

Finola Burke

This extract is from Finola Burke’s laugh-out-loud adventure novel for 7-11 year olds, I Am Not A Naked Mole Rat!, in which Danny and his best friends Frankie and Oliver clash with their terrifying teacher, The Flicker, and their sworn enemy, Karen Hill, when the future of their school is threatened.

My mum says I talk too much. And that I don’t think enough. And that I really should stop talking and start thinking, or else I’m going to spend my entire school life in The Time Out Chair.

The thing she doesn’t understand is that I don’t actually mind The Time Out Chair that much. Because from The Time Out Chair, you can see everyone in the class. And you can draw them in your notebook, because when I ask The Flicker (that’s my teacher, Mrs Flick – she’s always picking her nose and flicking it when she thinks no one is watching) how long my time out is she always says “INDEFINITE”, which pretty much means forever. And when I ask her what to do she always just snarls, “KEEP OUT OF TROUBLE!”

In The Time Out Chair, all I do is draw and doodle. Usually pictures of all the people in my class. I spend so much time in the Time Out chair that I almost have a book full now.

I have hundreds of pictures of Karen Hill. Mostly covered in terrible boils and rashes or making hideous, terrifying faces.
Karen Hill loves getting people into trouble. She’ll only be friends with you if you’re girl and you have a mobile phone and you change your nail polish every day. And I don’t even change my socks that often, so I have no chance. Also, I would rather have my whole body painted in nail polish than be friends with Karen Hill.

The teachers love her and so do her friends Daisy and Ruby. And for some reason, even though everyone knows that she is actually Darth Vader trapped in a small girl’s body, they always do exactly what she wants.

Except for me. And Frankie. We’re like Han Solo and Princess Leia. Minus the light sabres.

A. E. Daly

This extract is from A.E. Daly’s Ice Machina, a historical steampunk adventure novel for 11-13 year olds, which follows injured Tom Ashwood – the last survivor of the Royal Navy ship Freya‘s disastrous voyage – as he is rescued from the polar ice by the mysterious steamship Hephaestus and its unconventional crew.

A-roving a-roving
I’ll go no more a-roving –

He was not singing. He had no voice left to sing with; his throat was a hollow stick that whistled and whined with every gasp of freezing air. He did not know the song. Sometimes he did not know himself, or where he was, or what had brought him here; the ice took everything – everything except the doggerel words of the sea shanty that had somehow snagged and caught inside him, capering alone like maddened and overwound clockwork. On and on.

Somewhere, guttering in the cold, lay a dream of what the song might once have signified: warmth, safety, humour, a rough and easy brotherhood. There had been a ship, forging strongly through the jellyfish slabs of pancake ice and black Arctic water, creaking, vast and purposeful, alive with shouts and clatter and song; a dream, brittle as glass, mocked by the tin whistle of his breaths and the drag of the bootless frozen club that was now his foot. The blood on his coat had long since dried, wine-dark and hard as pasteboard. A-roving a-roving. His mind hung from the tune like a rag from a row of nails.

All around him lay the ice, barbed and bitter and immense: the deep sigh and crack of it beneath his feet, the great fangs and sails of the pressure ridges. A grey world, a broken horizon, an endless bruise-coloured twilight. He felt the signet ring knocking at his breastbone, heavy on its chain, the one thing not yet frozen: as if his brother were tapping him lightly with a finger, the way he’d used to do when he was teaching him something. I’m sorry, he thought. I’m sorry, Will.

Fiona McKeracher

This extract is from Silver Wolf, Fiona McKeracher’s dramatic adventure novel for 11-13 year olds, featuring a young wolf called Rif who is separated from his pack while being transported to a remote Highland estate by a gang of animal traffickers, and lonely Zoey, a girl drawn into the dangerous fight to help him.

a whip of a tail,
a folding of wings,
a scrunch of a careless paw.
As more shadowy shapes rushed past, Rif pressed up against the nearest tree, his coat fading into the silver-streaked bark. Paw-pounds drummed the wild-ways, wing-beats thrummed the air.

Zree-zree, Plp,plp, whoomph, whoomph
Zre Plp,plp, Zzzsch- Zzzsch
Zre, ee, zre, Zreee, Whrrrr, Plp,plp
Zre Plp,plp, Zzzsch, whoomph.

The sounds trembled the sensitive points of his whiskers, twanged through his claws, until the length and breadth of the forest pounded in his chest like an alpha wolf’s heart.

A glimmer stole into the pit of his belly. His alpha father, the leader of a fierce wolf pack could do anything! His pack would be free of lorry and out looking for him.

Rif tilted his head back, inhaling the wilderness, and when he felt a cold, wild energy whirling about his lungs, he began his howl, straining every cell of his being as he pushed it out. “I am here. Come for me!” His howl climbed far above the tree tops, cascading out to the lonely moors beyond.

Rif waited for his pack to answer, his ears pricked hopefully. He angled his ears in different directions, his tail slowly dropping to half-mast. Only the screeches of a group of hunting foxes carried in the cold stillness. Panic jabbed like a claw in his throat – the screeches were growing clearer. The foxes had picked up on his unanswered wolf cry and knew he was on his own. An easy target. He had to leave this spot quickly.

Jude Reid

This extract is from Jude Reid’s The Nighthouse Keepers, a fantastical adventure novel for 11-13 year olds in which young Eilidh wants to follow in her family’s footsteps as a Nighthouse Keeper – part of a secret organisation responsible for guiding the souls of drowned sailors safely home – but instead finds herself caught up in a mystery that takes her into uncharted waters.

“Just a bit further,” I called over my shoulder, doing my best to encourage my spectral follower, and that was when my foot caught on the step in front of me and I fell face forward to crash into the ground like a sack of flour.

The match skittered out of my hand; its flame flickered, but it didn’t die. As the ghost and I watched, it teetered on the side of the step, just under the handrail, then it pitched over the edge and fell all the way down the stairwell to the bottom where it landed on the stone floor. The ghost hesitated for a moment, then plunged down after it. It hovered around the tiny flame until it burned out – then the ghost slunk back under the stairs again.
The lightroom door swung open, narrowly missing my face. Mum was standing in the doorway, her solid shape casting a long, spindly shadow in the light from behind. She squinted down at me, head cocked to one side.

“What are you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?” I hauled myself to my feet and pointed down the stairwell. “I got it up to here, then I lost it.”

Mum sighed. “Where is it?

“I don’t know. Back under the stairs.”

Mum’s dark hair was knotted high on her head, her sleeves rolled up above her elbows. “I’ll go down and get it,” she said. “You keep an eye on the light. We’ll put it out once the last one’s dealt with. All right?”

“All right.”

The Nightlight was burning behind her in the empty room, its fist-sized blue flame magnified over and over by the array of mirrors that beamed its glow in all directions out to sea, but the air still felt unnaturally cold.

“How many do you reckon this time?” I asked.

“A bad one, I think. I lost count at a hundred.”

“Did you recognise anyone?” Even asking the question made me feel like my guts had been scooped out, leaving nothing but a hollow shell between my ribs and my hips.

“No, love.” Mum smiled at me, though it was her new smile, not the one she used to have. “No one we know.”

It never was.