The following represent written classroom assignments which stand out in the esteem of the teacher and have been selected for publication.
By Sophia (5th grade)
A long time ago, there stood the most beautiful palace in China. The roof was encrusted with rubies and diamonds. On cloudless nights, when the moon shone brightly, the crystals on the castle twinkled like stars. One might think nothing could be more wonderful than this, but he or she would be wrong, for the gardens surrounding the castle were the most splendid the world had ever seen. Roses flourished and willow trees danced in the wind. But it was in spring when the gardens were most admirable, and the cherry blossom trees were in full bloom. In the middle of the gardens stood a centuries old birch tree. In it lived a hummingbird with turquoise-colored wings and emerald green tail feathers. She completed the beauty of the gardens. The hummingbird could hum any beautiful tune and make it even more exquisite. People from all over came to listen to the hummingbird and ask her to hum their favorite melody. Poets wrote poems and journalists penned stories about the palace gardens, and no one ever forgot to mention the hummingbird. Humans around the globe read the literature, even the emperor, Chang Boa, who lived in the castle. He nodded in approval when he read how the authors had made his garden seem twice as marvelous.
One night, Chang Boa was up late reading about his lands when he stumbled across the part where the hummingbird was mentioned. "Whats this?" asked Chang Boa, " I have never heard this bird sing! I must hear this hummingbird myself." He ordered his men to search his gardens for the hummingbird. "Our fine, silk cloaks will become dirty!" whined Chang Boa's men.
"I can make the washer women clean them." said the emperor.
"Our polished shoes will be covered with mud" complained the men.
"You can polish them again." answered Chang Boa
"We don't know where to find this fascinating bird" grumbled the emperor's men.
"I do," squeaked a small voice from the doorway. Everyone looked around and saw the kitchenmaid, Fa-Chun. "I can lead you there," said Fa-Chun
Fa-Chun took the men to the old birch tree. On the way they heard a cricket chirping. "I hear her!" shouted one of the men "She hums so staccato-like!"
"That is a cricket." said Fa-Chun.
Then they heard a horse neigh. "I hear her! What a deep voice for a tiny creature," marveled Chang Boa's men.
"That is a horse," said the kitchen maid, "not a hummingbird." A little while later they saw the old birch tree. "What an old tree!" exclaimed the tallest of the men,Guo Hong, "I will get the gardener to cut it down."
"Oh no! Don't do that!" cried Fa-Chun in distress.
"Don't tell me what to do, maid." said Guo Hong. All of a sudden the hummingbird came back to her home and began to hum a sweet piece called "Heart's Ease," from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Everyone fell silent. It was Fa-Chun who broke the silence. "Wonderful hummingbird, our great emperor wishes you to hum in front of him."
"I will be delighted to perform before Chang Boa, though my song sounds best in this tree."
The castle had been decorated and Chang Boa put on his best hanfu. The emperor settled himself in his golden chair and told Fa-Chun to let the hummingbird fly onto the glass perch that had been set out for her. The emperor allowed Fa-Chun to chose the song the hummingbird was supposed to hum. When the hummingbird began, the emperor was astonished. He had never heard anything so beautiful in his whole life. Slowly he rose to his feet. Tears filled Chang Boa's eyes. "You must be rewarded." said the the emperor.
"I saw you in your best hanfu," replied the bird, "and you allowed me to enter your palace and stand on your glass perch. That is suitable reward for me."
Chang Boa decided that the hummingbird must remain in the castle. She was given the name Jingyi, which means joy and harmony. It was her job to entertain the emperor's guests. Everyday she was allowed to stretch her wings, once at dawn and once at dusk. Fa-Chun was given the title of Official Hummingbird Walker, for it was her job to tie a silk ribbon onto the hummingbird's leg to accompany the hummingbird on her outings.
One evening Chang Boa was on his golden throne when Fa-Chun entered the room. She handed the emperor a box with a red ribbon and then bowed. "Your majesty, this is for you." The box was labeled "The Hummingbird." Chang Boa opened it, expecting to see the new glass cage he had ordered for the hummingbird. To his surprise, he saw a little wind-up hummingbird. The mechanical hummingbird was made of pure emerald. It had ruby eyes and a gold beak. When Chang Boa wound up the little bird, it sung "Blue Danube." The emperor was immensely pleased with his gift. He told Fa-Chun to fetch Jingyi immediately. But in all the commotion no one noticed that the hummingbird had flown out the open window to his old birch tree.
All the men that had found the bird agreed that Jingyi was a very ungrateful animal. "She was living a little bird's dream," they all said.
"I do not care," insisted the emperor, "I have this beautiful mechanical bird."
Soon after, Chang Boa arranged a dinner for all of China's residents in order to show his mechanical bird to the public. Everyone was delighted with the piece of machinery. But, like all machines, the fake hummingbird eventually wore out because the emperor had used it a little too much. Chang Boa had been listening to the mechanical bird when he heard
buzz! whir! zing!
Then everything fell silent. The emperor called for the veterinarian, but what could he do? He was no mechanic! So Chang Boa called for Dao-Gong, the maker of the wonderful mechanical hummingbird. Dao-Gong inspected the bird carefully. At last he said, "The bird I made for you has been used to much. Its gears are stiff. You may only use it once every six months." The emperor was quite distraught. How was he to please his people now?
Year passed and China had fallen into a state of depression. There was no hummingbird, real or mechanical, to make music for them. Under his silk sheets Chang Boa lay sick in bed and was said not to have much longer to live. One night, at exactly midnight, the emperor's window blew open and in crept Death. Chang Boa tried to sit up, but he lay back down again in pain. Death, wearing the emperor's best hanfu, sat on the end of Chang Boa's bed. Through the open window the great emperor's sins snuck in. Some surrounded the emperor and others watched the door to make sure no one came in. The emperor was very frightened. " Help!" he cried. Death covered Chang Boa's mouth with his gloved hand. "It's no use shouting old man. Your life is mine." All of a sudden a clear, sweet voice drifted in through the window. Death, Chang Boa's sins, and Chang Boa all turned their heads. The real hummingbird had heard the emperor's call for help and had come to calm him. Death whispered to the little bird, "Go away, shoo!" The hummingbird stood there like he was part of the window. Then, Death and the emperor's sins slithered out the window as quietly as they had come in. "You saved me, Jingyi!" said Chang Boa. "How can I repay you."
"I saw you in your best hanfu and you allowed me to enter your palace and stand on your glass perch. That is a suitable reward for me," replied the hummingbird. "Now lay on your satin pillows and allow me to hum for you."
That morning the emperor awoke and the hummingbird was still humming. "You must come back to my castle and stay with me at all times!" cried the emperor
"No. I appreciate the fact that you would allow me to remain in your castle, but I have other people to charm. Let me come and go as I wish but every night I will come and hum you to sleep." At that, the hummingbird flew away.
Fa-Chun opened the door, expecting to see the body of the emperor, but instead she found him in perfect health. "Good Morning!" he exclaimed brightly.
The Child of Joy
By Qiwen W. (5th Grade)
Long ago, four magical kings each ruled a season. The most powerful was the amiable winter king. His magnificent residence was adorned with glistening icicles, snowflakes, and ornaments, attracting visitors from around the world.
He'd once had a lovely wife named Elaina who had been admired by all. The royal couple badly wanted a child and were expecting, but tragically the queen died before she could give birth. The king was so heartbroken that he froze the seasons, causing winter to continue forever! His fellow kings tried to persuade him to release his winter grip upon their seasons, but so deep was the king's grief that winter remained.
One day, a young orphan girl wandered up to the castle. Teeth chattering and tears spilling down her cheeks, she pulled on a palace guard's uniform begging, "Please sir, a blizzard buried my house. I am hungry and cold."
Moved with compassion, the guard swooped the girl into his arms and carried her to the king. "Transfer her to the guest chambers and feed her well, then order her to leave!" the king said harshly.
"But she has no home. Please let her stay longer," the guard pleaded.
"Depart," the king ordered. The guard carried her down the marble hallway to an ancient staircase leading to the guest rooms. He opened the most luxurious room of all and tucked her into a bed with fluffy pillows and warm comforters.
When she woke up, the girl found a table full of luscious food. She ate until she was full. Then wishing to thank the king, she picked a bouquet of snow lilies and skipped to his chambers.
Kneeling before the king, she handed him the flowers and whispered, "Thank you. You have saved my life." The king's heart lightened, for he had given the same flowers to Queen Elaina before she died. Suddenly, he realized how much the girl resembled his queen. The girl told him her story, and he undid the spell, hoping the girl would consent to be his daughter. She agreed, and her royal name became Princess Crystal, of Winter.