Pollinator by Sophie McGowan

Sophie McGowan, 12, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2020 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Sophie McGowan, 12, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Sophie McGowan)

Pollinator by Sophie McGowan has won The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 category.

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 2,000 students submitted their stories.

McGowan, 12, a student at Chaffey-Burke Elementary in Burnaby, B.C., writes about declining bee populations.

I try to wipe the powder off my fingers, but it only leaves a conspicuous yellow smear across my uniform. I walk over to the sink and carefully wash off the lemon-coloured dust caked on my hand. I take a slow and deliberate breath. People often underestimate the immense concentration that pollination demands.

When my break is over, I stretch a new mask across my face, covering my mouth and nose. I stroll outside and pick up my drone controls. The keys are slightly illuminated, but it's almost impossible to tell in the bright spring sun. I look out at the orderly rows of flowers, my eyes drifting over each vibrant bloom. Then I get to work.

My fingers dance across the controller, eyes fixed on the screen displaying the drone's view. I periodically look up to see it hovering above the flowers, a cloud of pollen accumulating below it as it collects the golden powder. I proceed to quickly but delicately fly it over the flowers of the neighbouring field, dispersing the pollen in quick bursts of yellow. Then I repeat. It's a time-consuming process, but we're told it's completely necessary. There used to be animals that would do this, but they're long gone now. I forget what they were called.

There used to be animals that would do this, but they're long gone now. I forget what they were called.

The drones are a brilliant yellow, with a single, thick black stripe down the centre. I see some other workers standing at the edge of the field too, wearing masks and dark sunglasses. Each operating their own striped drones. Watching them bounce from flower to flower reminds me of the delivery drones, dropping off packages and groceries to the residential units. The thought almost brings a smile to my face. People have always told me that I have a strange imagination.

The sun hangs low in the sky now. I land my drone in front of me and pick it up off the grass, carrying its sleek metal surface back to the storage unit. I hand it over to a man who then checks something off on his tablet. The B-keeper nods at me. I walk away.

As I'm walking, I turn my head and take one last glance back.

I wonder why they call the drones Bs.

But it doesn't matter. My imagination always tends to get the best of me.

About The First Page student writing challenge

David A. Robertson is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning author and judge of the 2020 First Page student writing challenge. (Amber Green)

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2170. 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 — were chosen by award-winning author David A. Robertson

Robertson is a Cree writer from Winnipeg who writes books for readers of all ages — including the Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book, When We Were Alone and the Reckoner Rises graphic novel series.

The winners were announced on CBC Books on April 13, 2021.

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.

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