Books·The First Page

A Postcard from the Past by Esmé La Lusis

A Postcard from the Past by Esmé La Lusis is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge of 2022.

2022 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Esmé La Lusis, 13, is a finalist in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge 2022. (Submitted by Esmé La Lusis)

A Postcard from the Past by Esmé La Lusis is one of 13 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 category for 2022.

Students across Canada wrote the first page of a novel set 150 years in the future, imagining how a current-day trend or issue has played out. More than 1,800 students submitted their stories.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada. The winners will be selected by bestselling YA writer Sarah Raughley and be announced on May 31.

La Lusis, 13, a student at Earl Grey Senior Public School in Toronto, writes about global warming and deforestation.


It was pretty. I couldn't stop turning it over in my hand. I looked at the front, the back, the paper was rough, yellowed. Inky pen marks covered the reverse, smudged and dark blue.

I stared at the image in wonderment. A lush forest, alive and full of life. The struggling potted violet in my room did not begin to compare.

It took me much longer than it should've to realize it was a postcard. No, I hadn't read it. It's a private message. It's invasive to read it.

My temptation quickly got the better of me.

"May 8th, 2019"

Right at the top of the page. First thing I saw. Written over a century ago. Suddenly, it felt heavy in my hand. Valuable.

"Dear Elliot,

I am writing to you from the Amazon Rainforest, probably the most beautiful place I have ever visited. I wake up to bird songs every morning and camp under the stars every night."

I tried to recall if I'd ever actually heard a bird song. Most birds were gone. The remaining ones were endangered, unless you counted bird hybrids, their chirps metallic and unpleasant.

I've never seen a star in my life, only pictures. I'd do anything to be able to lie under them for even one night.

Stars. The sky is too smoggy to see them. So thick you need to wear an oxygen mask outside. I've never seen a star in my life, only pictures. I'd do anything to be able to lie under them for even one night.

"The food is terrible, though. Bruised mangos and mushy rice. Dried meat."

I thought the food sounded wonderful. Fresh fruit is so expensive. I only eat it on my birthday.

"I worry about global warming and deforestation. It's so depressing. We really need to take action."

I nearly laughed. Everyone has given up on global warming. They gave up before I was born. It is what it is. That's what they say. It's too late now. The time to act was decades ago.

"I'll tell you everything when I get home.

Love,

Percy."

That was all. The end. No P.S. or anything. My window into the past closed.

Unless …

I closed my eyes and pictured crashing waterfalls, towering trees, clusters of ferns. I heard bird calls and monkey cries. I tasted fresh air and smelled wet earth.


About The First Page student writing challenge

The First Page student writing challenge asks students in Grades 7 to 12 to write the first page of a novel from 150 years in the future. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2172. They wrote the first page of a book set 150 years in the future, with the protagonist facing an issue that's topical today and set the scene for how it's all playing out in a century and a half.

Two winning entries — one from the Grades 7 to 9 category and one from the Grades 10 to 12 category — will be chosen by bestselling author Sarah Raughley. 

A writer and lecturer from Southern Ontario, Raughley is the author of the YA Effigies series — which includes Fate of FlamesSiege of Shadows and Legacy of Light — and the fantasy historical novel The Bones of Ruinfor ages 14 and up.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada:

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2022.

Both winners will receive a one-year subscription to OwlCrate, which sends fresh boxes of books to young readers across Canada on a monthly basis. In addition, each of the winners' schools will receive 50 free YA books. Special thanks to Penguin Random House, Raincoast Books, Scholastic Canada, Annick Press, KidsCan Press, Groundwood Books, Orca Books and Simon & Schuster for donating books for the prize.

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