The Son Leaves in November by Sasha de Leon

Sasha de Leon, 14, 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

Sasha de Leon, 14, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 7 to 9 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Sasha de Leon)

The Son Leaves in November by Sasha de Leon is one of 10 stories shortlisted for 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.

De Leon, 14, a student at Garden City Collegiate in Winnipeg, writes about climate change. 

Even after all this time, every time I close my eyes, my last memories of Ezekiel flash vividly through my mind. His small body being escorted by the enforcers, his hands held on his back tightly, his soft smile that looked so brave yet sad, and his eyes that couldn't lie. Despite how undaunted my little brother tried to look; his eyes filled with fright.

It was the fifth of November. The day of the first snow. My little brother had begged me if we could wait at the city square to capture the scene of the first snow falling and put it as the view of his techglass window. That's all he worried about — having a cooler room than his older sister.

We arrived late to the middle of the city square, trying to find the huge fountain Ezekiel talked about. His olive skin contrasted with fallen snow that covered the whole city square and the snowflakes that fell down from the sky so softly. With the tall fountain in the middle of the open space, surrounded by beautiful skyscrapers, my brother was right. It was worth waiting for.

The mesmerizing moment only lasted for so long, as I felt the glance of one of the masked enforcers by the fountain. There were five of them, wearing white armor-like uniforms, standing exactly where we wanted to go.

I knew immediately why they were there. They're here for Ezekiel.

Like they were waiting for us.

I knew immediately why they were there. They're here for Ezekiel.

He had done nothing. When we took him in, we knew he was from the South, but how could a human being send an innocent baby back to where even its air is too polluted to be breathed in freely? Most of its people are in poverty, food and water is something to fight for, half of its land is inhabitable or underwater, and where the Earth's wrath seems to fall without giving it time to adapt.

This is the fate of a child born on the other side of the Tropic of Cancer.

"Ezekiel!" my throat let out a strangled cry as I watched his figure get farther and farther. With two enforcers restraining me, it was all I could do.

"I'm okay, Leona, promise you won't cry, 'kay?" he said, as his voice broke, before he entered the van. I remember it all too well.

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 — will be 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 winner will be announced on CBC Books on April 16, 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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