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Smoo Choo the Magic Moo & the Secret of Whispering Wood

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This is a story poem. It took me six months to complete. If I’d realised how difficult it would be, I doubt I’d ever have started it. Short stories for children are incredibly hard to write, especially when they rhyme. For anyone trying to undertake a task like this, there are two excellent online rhyming dictionaries; Rhyme Zone and Rhymer. Without these two websites, I’d never have completed this kid's short story.

Smoo Choo the Magic Moo and the Secret of Whispering Wood has not been published to date. However, it has been shortlisted twice, firstly in Children’s Writers annual competition where it made it into the final 12% of over 2,500 entries (so say; after the initial elation of being shortlisted, I re-read the letter they sent me and it came across like a sales pitch, telling me all about their writing courses and that only the top 12% of entrants who are short-listed are written to – why would they choose to miss out on selling to the other 88% of entrants? OK, maybe I’m becoming more cynical as I get older , but it just doesn’t add up...) and secondly in issue 118 of Writers’ Forum, the September 2011 edition (not chosen as a winner).

 

Smoo Choo the Magic Moo & the Secret of Whispering Wood by Christopher Fielden

Smoo Choo is a Magic Moo who keeps the land safe from harm.
He lives in the Devonshire countryside, in a cowshed on Milky Moo Farm.

He was an ordinary black and white calf, born in the farm’s north meadow.
A long time ago a wizard lived there, in a tower by the Higgledy Hedgerow.

The wizard’s magic oozed into Smoo Choo the day that he was born.
Now he can fly, has super strength and the longest and sharpest of horns.

Smoo Choo decided his magic gift should be used to work for good.
Now he protects the farm and the lands that surround the Whispering Wood.

Moo!

One day a strange looking visitor came to the farm at just gone noon.
She dropped from the sky in a rainbow-coloured, gigantic hot-air balloon.

She was a nymph, so perfect and small, that Smoo Choo’s heart skipped a beat.
Her eyes were blue, her lips were full and her hair dangled down to her feet.

‘Hello,’ she said, ‘I’m Nelly the nymph, are you Smoo Choo the Magic Moo?
Will you ride with me in my rainbow-coloured, gigantic hot-air balloon?’

So smitten was he, Smoo Choo could not see that he’d fallen under her spell.
Her twinkling eyes were black with delight as she rang the takeoff bell.

They drifted high up into the sky, so far that the view was amazing.
To the left was the moon, surrounded by stars; to the right the sun was blazing.

Up in the clouds Nelly’s smile became a nasty sneer.
Her pretty face now looked wicked and vile, her true nature was ever so clear.

‘I’m not a nymph, I’m the Fire Queen, I rule the Abyss of Dream’s Dread.’
Still under her spell, Smoo Choo watched as her skin turned all pimply and red.

‘I come from a cave in the depths of the Earth and I’m sick of all that is good.
That is why I’ve set a fire in the heart of the Whispering Wood.

‘It will burn and blaze and flicker and flame, it will kill the goodness within.
Then I can take the Wood’s spirit with me to feed the rest of my kin.

‘You are the only one with the power to stop the spread of the fire.
And so, silly Moo, jump into the sky, Whispering Wood will be your farewell pyre.’

Smoo Choo could see she meant him harm, but his brain was all spellbound and pappy.
He had to obey her every command; he had to make her happy.

But the Fire Queen had forgotten one thing, which for her would prove quite tragic.
Smoo Choo wasn’t an ordinary Moo, he was supercharged with magic.

The Fire Queen cackled loud with glee as Smoo Choo jumped into the sky.
But he didn’t fall, he’s a Magic Moo, and Magic Moos can fly.

Smoo Choo felt the Fire Queen’s spell begin to fade and flop.
She looked on in rage as he charged her balloon; his horns ripped it, making it ‘Pop!’

The Fire Queen fell into the Abyss, screaming for all she was worth.
Smoo Choo muttered some magic words to lock her into the Earth:

‘Queen of fire and hate be gone, aid me oh Sun that has risen.
Trap her forever deep in the Earth; create an escapeless prison.’

A sunray shot across star-spangled space, struck the Earth and made the rock crumble.
A landslide ensued which sealed the abyss with a deep and resonant rumble.

Moo!

Our hero then witnessed a terrible sight; smoky flame belched into the sky,
as animals fled from Whispering Wood for fear that they might die.

Swooping down, Smoo Choo saw a creature approaching the blaze.
It showed no fear and watched the fire with a steady, intelligent gaze.

Relief hit Smoo Choo as he saw who it was; his neighbour Daisy the mule.
She’s old and wise, strong of mind and very hard to fool.

Smoo Choo dived down to his friend hoping she would find,
a plan to save the Whispering Wood within her gifted mind.

Our hero landed on the ground, his stomach started churning.
Fear filled his mind as he realised how fierce the fire was burning.

Smoo Choo felt his magic power begin to fade away.
Nerves and doubt had sapped his will to keep the fire at bay.

‘We’ll never put out these flames,’ he said, ‘oh, Daisy, they’re far too strong.
I’m a Moo, not a god, the fire must burn, I’m magic and I’m never wrong.’

‘Don’t let doubt cloud your mind,’ said Daisy, stern and firm.
‘Whispering Wood has to be saved, we cannot let it burn.’

‘Why?’ asked Smoo Choo, embarrassed that fear had touched his brain.
Daisy said, ‘Take some calming breaths, sit down and I’ll explain.

‘Whispering Wood is a mystical place, it feeds the land all around,
with enchanted words, whispered by trees as their roots delve deep in the ground.

‘These whispered words dance on the breeze, their importance unknown to man.
They keep nature in balance, the land alive and have done so since time began.

‘Fear is nothing to be ashamed about my special friend.
You said it yourself, you’re a Magic Moo; on you we all depend.’

Then Daisy gestured with a flick of her scraggly-waggly tail,
to the many creatures gathered there upon the woodland trail.

Smoo Choo saw surrounding them a landscape filled with life;
rabbits, owls, stoats and deer, foxes, squirrels and mice.

The worshipping looks from the gathered souls led Smoo Choo to conclude,
that the animals all believed in him and belief is like magic food.

Daisy said, ‘Grab the Fire Queen’s deflated hot-air balloon.
Fly to the lake, high in the hills called the Pool of the Silver Moon.

‘Drag the balloon through the waters blue, fill it as much as you dare,
then fly to the wood and drop it from high to dampen the fire’s flare.’

Smoo Choo launched back into the air, towards the hills he sped.
Beneath him hung the hot-air balloon, just like Daisy had said.

Cresting a hill, Smoo Choo saw a valley filled with trees.
At the valley’s bottom was a pretty lake; flower’s scent hung on the breeze.

Zooming down, he dragged the balloon through silver waters cold.
It swelled and bubbled with a liquid that is worth far more than gold.

Smoo Choo gathered as much as he dared, then focused his magical flair.
It took all his strength and self-belief to struggle back into the air.

The water slopped and sloshed about, his flight was hard to control.
Speeding through clouds, he dropped from the hills, plunging towards his goal.

Above the heart of Whispering Wood, Smoo Choo felt the heat.
It swelled and surged, its awesome might, threatening defeat.

Fighting fear with all his strength, the balloon he then released.
The water tumbled - splish, splash, splosh - and all the burning ceased.

Moo!

A cheer went up for Smoo Choo had made the fire abate.
Whispering Wood was burnt, not dead, it would recuperate.

Tired, Smoo Choo hit the ground and rested on the floor.
Daisy came and nuzzled him, which Smoo Choo did adore.

Smoo Choo smiled; the day was saved, all was peaceful and calm.
So he laid himself down to sleep in the hay, in his cowshed on Milky Moo Farm.

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Smoo Choo the Magic Moo Re-Write

I am currently re-writing the story. Below, you can read the critique I received from Writers’ Forum. You will see the critique highlights some potential reasons why I might be encountering problems with having the story published and why I've decided to work on a re-write. After receiving Lorraine’s comments, I changed the layout into couplets and am working on the story as much as I can to aid the problem highlighted at the end of the critique.

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Smoo Choo the Magic Moo Critique

Hello Chris,
Smoo Choo the Magic Moo & the Secret of Whispering Wood
Thanks for entering the Writers’ Forum competition.
Presentation: Manuscript layout is generally good, but it might be better to lay out the couplets so that it is clearer that this is a story poem.
Title: Excellent.
Opening: Very good. This introduces Smoo Choo and his situation as well as setting the tone for the story poem to follow.
Dialogue: Minimal, but what there is works well.
Characterisation: Very good. All the characters are well fleshed out and easy to picture.
Overall: My only real concern about this well told story is the age group it is aimed at. The storyline and writing might be a touch too complex for very young readers/listeners, but it might be too simple for the age group who would understand the construction and be able to read it for themselves. However, I enjoyed it very much and am putting it forward for the next stage of judging. Should the story move forward to the top three, someone will be in touch to let you know.
Shortlisted
Best wishes, Lorraine Mace

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Pictures Inspired by Smoo Choo the Magic Moo & the Secret of Whispering Wood

Below is a picture by Janet Pearce, who was inspired by the story and very kindly sent me her artwork.

Smoo Choo The Magic Moo

Picture by Janet Pearce

Below is another picture by Jan Pearce, sent to me in November 2014.

Smoo Choo the Magic Moo & the Secret of Whispering Wood

Smoo Choo the Magic Moo by Jan Pearce

If you are an artist and feel inspired by the Smoo Choo story, please feel free to send me your artwork and I'll feature it on the site.

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About the Childrens' Story Market

I think I should also point out that the childrens' short story market is probably the hardest writing genre to break into as the competition is so fierce. Every parent who makes up a story to send their children to sleep suddenly thinks they can write. It’s not true. In this market, more than any other, you have to excel to stand out from the millions of other people trying to do exactly the same thing as you. Only the very best succeed.

Although I have another story in mind (Smoo Choo the Magic Moo & the Haunting of Higgledy Hedgerow) I’ve decided not to write it until I’ve had at least some success with the first story.

How to Write a Short Story book ad

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Pricey
Strongly suggest adding a \"google+\" button for the blog!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Pricey, I shall add one asap.

Allyssa
A better magazine theme will make the blog looks nicer :)

Jan P
I  like the Smoo story and I know it's a lot of hard work.  As I read it I thought what age is it aimed at.  It seemed to be aimed at little ones with the language but the story is for all ages. I couldn't wait to see what happened. It is so easy to criticise but I see Smoo as Smoo the Choo the Saviour of the Shires of DevonShire.  A cool calf with studs in his ears with his initials or an S with wings each side.  His magic wings only appear out of necessity when he has to stand up and be counted otherwise they are invisible hidden under black patches.

 I have never had anything published and have only just started writing so what do I know.  Best Wishes Jan

Chris Fielden
Thanks Jan, I love your vision of Smoo Choo - sounds great! And glad you liked the story :-)