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When I was young, I hated my afro.
“Oi! BRILLO PAD!”
That’s what followed me around school from the kids with their
straight super-hero hair.
Waiting in line at the canteen was the worst.
And when they saw my flat-top, all tall and proud, they
When I was younger I used to hide my shame under a school cap.
My sisters used to spend hours getting their hair done, with
cake and crisps, movies and ice-cream.
But me: I got the carpet scissors.
My mum was a lovely white Welsh lady, but the closest she’d
come to my kinda locks were sheep.
“Watch your ears!” she’d say as she raised the foot-long
When I got to big school I knew I had to do something.
Dax Wax Wave and Groom.
Afro hair products should come with an environmental warning.
I think Thatcher drilled in the North Sea, just to keep me in
But it was worth it.
Because my curls shone.
Like a movie star.
Each curl perfectly defined.
Kids were blinded by the reflected light.
The downside was that my pillow became a fire hazard.
That’s when I discovered ANDY’S.
The local hair salon and a whole new world.
Boys and men hanging out.
Banter and laughs.
It was love at first sight.
ANDY was my first crush.
And he took my unruly mane in his big hands and tamed it.
A FLAT TOP.
I don’t exactly know who came up with the hairstyle.
But ANDY would spend hours perfecting it.
A smooth side-fade.
The perfect razor-edged peak.
It was magnificent.
And every time I left I felt like a king.
ANDY had no idea I was a love-struck puppy.
How I’d daydream about him on the cricket field.
But it would have ruined the jokes and laughter if he had.
Besides, now when I heard “BRILLO PAD!” or when hungry kids
would pull on a curl, just to mess with me...
I. Did. Not. Care.
I’d learned to love my ‘fro.
Now, years later, I’m all grown up – and my crown has gone.
But I still go to ANDY’S.
Together with my husband.
Beards have come to the bald man’s rescue!
And each time with a fist-bump I thank ANDY for giving a young
man his Afro Pride.
Sol lay in his room, looking out into the huge conservatory on the other side of his window. This is perfect, he thought. The conservatory was full of tall trees and twining creepers. Brightly coloured birds flew in and out of the branches, pecking at fruit and sipping nectar from huge, flamboyant flowers.
Everything he could see was beautiful.
Inside his room, the walls were lined with screens and machines. The screens told him that the world beyond the conservatory was ugly and cruel and unfair—but that didn’t matter. His machines could make anything he wanted, so he never needed to leave his wonderful room. He stretched out on the bed and smiled.
All at once he noticed a small brown bird beside his window. Small and brown and dull. He frowned. What was that doing in the conservatory?
Then the little bird started to sing. Sol couldn’t hear it through the glass—but he saw all the other birds stop to listen. And suddenly—
CRI-I-I-ICK! His window cracked. A huge piece fell to the floor and the little bird’s song poured through the hole. It was the loveliest sound that Sol had ever heard.
It made him want to join in. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth.
And all the other birds joined in too. The conservatory was full of trilling and cheeping, whistling and squawking and tweeting. One by one, its big glass windows cracked and fell out, letting in the cold fresh air. With a rush of colour and a flutter of wings, the birds flew out of the conservatory. Toucans and finches, humming birds and parrots, bee-eaters and lorikeets and birds of paradise streamed across the sky, flying free.
Only the small brown bird was left. It put its head on one side and looked at Sol.
Sol knew his machines could make new windows. He could use his screens to order more birds. All he had to do was give the instructions.
He looked at the little brown bird.
It opened its beak and sang one more phrase, lovelier than all the rest. Then it spread its wings and flew away. And Sol climbed through the window and followed it, into the ugly, cruel, surprising, beautiful world.
It was monster day and everyone had brought in their pet monsters. Rochelle sat at the back of the class and looked at hers. It was scraggy, grey and asleep. She called him, Snore. “Wake up!” she said.
Snore opened one eye, “Don’t worry, Rochy,” he mumbled, as he fell back to sleep.
“Your monster is tiny!” said Taylor, looking down from her Dino-monster that was like a T-rex, but with purple fur. Everyone loved Taylor’s monster and took turns riding it to school. Rochelle didn’t though, she hated heights.
“Your monster is boring!” said Farouk as his monster burped huge globs of slime and everyone laughed. Rochelle ducked because she didn’t like getting dirty.
Their teacher, Miss Pitt, bustled in. “Now, class, I bet you can’t wait for Friday’s assembly when we’ll show your parents your monsters’ fabulous talents.”
Friday was going to be a disaster.
Robbie’s Glitter-monster blew spangly bubbles all over the classroom.
“Save it for Friday!” yelled Miss Pitt.
That night, Rochelle held Snore in the palm of her hand. “You must be good at something? Can you boogie?”
She played some music, but Snore didn’t move.
They tried football, but Snore kept falling over. He couldn’t rap, or make jelly flavours like Raz’s monster. “You’re rubbish!” said Rochelle, fat tears running down her face.
As Snore huddled in her lap, Rochelle stroked his soft fur and fell asleep.
It was the day of the assembly. Everyone was nervous. Dino-monster started racing about and Slime-monster couldn’t stop burping. Miss Pitt was looking worried. Rochelle stroked Snore because she didn’t like the noise. As the assembly started, Taylor yelped as Dino-monster slipped on Raz’s jelly blobs and then bumped into the glitter bubbles.
“Enough!” said Miss Pitt. “Sit down!”
But it was too late as more slime, glitter and jelly spewed over the parents and even Miss Pitt. Rochelle hated the mess; she clutched Snore as a gunk glob splatted towards her.
“Don’t worry,” said Snore, and as the gunk was about to hit – he opened his mouth and ate it! Rochelle was amazed. She had an idea and whispered it to Snore. She’d never seen him move so fast – whizzing around eating up all the slime, glitter and jelly until there was nothing left.
“What an amazing talent!” said Miss Pitt.
Everyone clapped and Rochelle smiled. Snore didn’t – he was asleep!
You won’t have heard of me. But you’ll definitely have heard of him – Amit Arrow. THE Amit Arrow. Funny thing is, he wouldn’t have been him without me. I started the whole thing. I made him famous.
But here I stay. Buried deep in his back story. I doubt he even remembers my name – but I want you to know my name. I’m Curtis Button.
Things to know about Curtis Button:
- I am 12 years and 4 months old. As far as I can tell, I don't get any older than this. I'm exactly the perfect age they need me to be.
- I have a surprising number of hobbies including fishing, birdwatching, stargazing, canoeing, geocaching, den building and...waiting.
- Today is the longest day of the year and I am on my way to Stonehenge.
I’ve decided it’s time to change the script. I’m always the kid that needs bailing out. The kid who made a bad choice and needs saving.
Full disclosure, was it a good idea to go orienteering when a storm was due to hit? No, it really wasn’t. Was I scared when the rain blinded me and I ended up hanging upside down, from a small shrub, by my shoelaces? You bet. Was I relived when Laela Lambast saved the day with her crew of highly trained flying hamsters? Yes, I was.
I try and say thank you to the superheroes who save the day by saving me, but they don’t really pay me any attention. They laugh. Drop a funny one liner like, ‘Remember, it’s dangerous hanging around up here.’ They even ruffle my hair. They don’t see me. Not really.
So, today, I am going to change that. I’ve heard the stones can help. I’m sure nothing can go wrong.
A tale inspired by Chinese dragons, which have no wings.
River is a tiny dragon with freckles and no wings. He lives in a rural village in China called Dragontown.
It is his first day of school. River is excited to meet new friends – he has a huge smile!
The dragons at school have beautiful emerald skin. River is ginger. They have four sturdy legs, shimmery scales, and impressive talons. But River has two skinny legs, small claws, and is furry.
A young dragon shouts at River, "Why are you red and hairy?"
"He has two twiggy legs!" yells another dragon.
River accidentally trips and faceplants on the floor. Ouch.
"Ginger snaps!" they laugh.
A tearful River leaves school and scurries back to his cave, located at the bottom of a big isolated hill in Dragontown, separated by a river. River's mom strokes him on her lap and tells him how special he is.
A few months pass. River is now too big for his cave! But he refuses to leave it. River is the reddest he's ever been, and his tiny fur has grown into glimmering feathers.
One night, heavy rain pours violently in Dragontown. A loud rumble! Mud starts to slide.
There's screaming from the village. River's mom leans out of the cave, but oh no! She bellows. A big rock has fallen down the hill and traps her tail.
River roars. Using his body, he smashes through the rock. As he crashes through and frees his mom, his latent wings spread wide apart, and he flies!
River marvels at his newfound wings. His mom gives him a smile, and nods.
River lights up like a fireball and zooms into the village. Diving into mud like a lightning bolt, he grabs every trapped dragon out of danger.
As River puts the last dragon safely on the hill, the landslide stops. The dragons look up to River in the sky, the sun shining bright behind him like a magical halo. The whole village lights up a golden red from River's feathers.
"I always knew you'll do great things!" says River's mom.
A young dragon asks, "Are you a chicken?"
An old dragon shouts, "Chickens can't fly! He is a phoenix!"
"Call me River…," River says shyly, and then adds, now confidently, "...River Phoenix."
All the dragons bow to thank River as he flies into the golden sunset.
“A brand-new kite!” Raj cried. “I’m going to fly it so high it scratches the sky!”
So, he went to the park, and he tried. But the kite kept crashing to the ground. In the end, Raj burst into tears.
Raj’s dog – whose name was Woofle – watched sadly. ‘Don’t cry, Raj,’ she thought. ‘I’ll help you.’
Woofle picked up the kite string. She started to run. Tugged along behind, the kite lifted into the air.
‘I’m sure I can fly it higher,’ thought Woofle.
Nearby, a hot air balloon was getting ready to launch. Racing along, Woofle leaped into the balloon’s basket. The balloon rose upwards and the kite bobbed and blew all about it.
‘I’m sure I can fly it even higher,’ thought Woofle.
‘Higher?’ said a passing pelican. ‘Sure! Come with me.’
Woofle jumped from the basket and onto the bird’s back! The pelican puffed and flapped higher into the air. The kite twirled through the clouds.
‘I’m sure I can fly it even higher still,’ thought Woofle.
‘This is as high as I can go,’ said the pelican. ‘But, look!’
An aeroplane was taking off from a nearby airport. The pelican placed Woofle on the wing of the plane. ZOOM! The plane climbed steeply. Woofle held on tight as the kite fluttered and flittered.
‘I wish I could fly it so high it scratches the sky,’ thought Woofle, ‘like Raj wanted.’
Then a shiny space rocket raced up close to the aeroplane. The alien inside wound down his window.
‘Hello, dog,’ said the alien. ‘Want to go higher? Hop on board!’
So, Woofle did. The rocket shot up so fast, her ears nearly blew away! The kite cartwheeled around like a colourful diamond until – SCRATCH! – its sharp edges cut the clear blue sky. Darkness peeped through the scratch, and stars started spilling out.
Together, the kite and the stars whirled and waltzed while Woofle watched in wonder. But up here so high, she began to feel dizzy. Very dizzy. She closed her eyes…
And when Woofle woke up she was back in the park. Raj was hugging her to his chest.
“That’s how to fly a kite, Woofle!” he cried. “However did you do all that?”
Woofle spied the rocket ship whizzing out of sight and smiled. ‘When we have friends to help us,’ she thought, ‘there’s nothing we can’t do.’