Books·The First Page

The Lizard King by Rhiannon Krauthaker

Rhiannon Krauthaker, 14, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2019 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Rhiannon Krauthaker, 14, is a 2019 finalist in the Grades 7 to 9 category for The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Rhiannon Krauthaker)

The Lizard King by Rhiannon Krauthaker is one of 10 stories shortlisted for the 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. Nearly 2,000 students submitted their stories.

Krauthaker, a student at Garden City Collegiate in Winnipeg, tackles the climate crisis.


The wet, humid air in the rainforest was scorching. The tree branches formed a canopy, protecting us from the rainfall.

I glanced back at my students, to find that two of them were keeping pace with me, but Aleksiel lagged behind.

I yelled out, "Aleksiel! Pick up the pace!" and quickly turned back to continue my search.

We were in search of an epiphyte called Omafree. Epiphytes are plants that live and grow on the surfaces of other plants, especially tree branches and trunks. I know this, as I am a biologist. Omafree is an important ingredient in a medication that helps to cure cancer.

Beads of perspiration dripped down my face and onto my goggles. I stopped to wipe them on my soggy shirt, which did little to help the situation. As I glanced up, the deciduous and semi-evergreen trees seemed to reach the very top of the sky. It was truly an incredible sight. The Amazon Rainforest had been reforested miraculously. Around my feet, orchids, bromeliads and moss covered the ground floor.

"Have you found it yet, sir?" Riliane asked.
"No, but I think we're close."

The Amazon Rainforest had been reforested miraculously. Around my feet, orchids, bromeliads and moss covered the ground floor.

The journey continued through this stifling environment. Frogs could be heard amongst the screeches of birds and monkeys around us. My eyes darted out for any signs of snakes, especially boa constrictors.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw some movement in the foliage. It appeared to be…human? Again, I glanced behind to see if it was one of my students. But no, all three were still behind me. I froze, not wanting to move until I could figure out and see just who or what this figure was.

Naturelle stumbled into me. "Oh! Sorry Dr. Lemy!"
"Sssh.." my finger went up to my mouth to signal silence amongst the group.

I pointed to the figure that was now less than 10 feet away from us. It was difficult to see who it was, because of the branches and leaves, but it appeared human in its gait and stature...only... it appeared to have...scales?

"Should we run?" Naturelle whispered, frightened.

I could feel my heart trying to escape out of my chest, beating against my ribs. My voice seemed to have escaped me.
"Hand me my binoculars, quickly!" I yelled to Aleksiel.

"Quick, Dr. Lemy! We have to hide!" Aleksiel shouted.

The figure turned towards us.


About The First Page student writing challenge

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2168. 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.

Kelley Armstrong is the bestselling author of more than 40 books. (Kathryn Hollinrake)

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 YA author Kelley Armstrong, most known for her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series. The winner will be announced on CBC Books on March 11, 2020.

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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