The Cat’s Meow

Juliette headshotBy Juliette

The sun beat down on the hot car as I gazed out upon a lawn of dry and brittle grass. It seemed like it could crumble in your hands. I watched the door of the house with the unhappy grass glint in the sunlight as it slowly swung closed behind my mother and father’s backs.

I sat in the car clueless why we had parked here. I wondered my sister and I couldn’t go inside too. On our drive here, just  moments earlier, I had asked, “Where are we going?”

“To get something,” Dad replied.

“Is ‘it’ for us?” Ivy, my younger sister, asked.

“All of us!” Dad exclaimed as he grinned at us from the driver’s seat.

I had my suspicions about what “it” could be. Did the owner of the house want to sell us a new piece of furniture? But why, then, were we not allowed to go in with mom and dad? And it would have to be big if we were were to share it, so how could we get it home? I kept quiet, listening to the thoughts raging in my head as I look out the smudged window. I turned my back to the house with all the secrets it held inside.

In agony I waited in the sweltering car, watching swooping birds graze the fingertips of the old trees for what seemed like forever. Finally someone spoke.

“What do you think ‘it’ is?” asked Ivy, who could wait no longer to find out. I couldn’t give a satisfactory answer, so I shrugged my shoulders hoping she would stop pestering me. Her question excited me and made me even more curious. As an eight-year-old, I couldn’t stand surprises. I had always figured them out. I shivered with excitement as I turned to the window facing the house just in time to see my mom step out, saying, “Thank you so much!” and waving good-bye.

My dad was following her down the concrete steps, gingerly carrying a large bag. As he walked closer to me on the path leading from the house to our car, I could see the bag clearer. It looked like a large duffle bag, but with black plastic mesh netting on three sides. I craned my neck over Ivy’s head, trying to see the curious object. As soon as Dad opened the car door, Ivy and I both asked, “What is it?”

“Why don’t you take a look”” replied Dad. He carefully set down the bag between Ivy and me. I leaned over, straining against my seatbelt to see inside. Much to my surprise, three tiny kittens stared back at me with oversized, unblinking and irresistibly cute eyes. One was gray and seemingly gentle, the second was striped and gray with eyes like lethal weapons.

The third was the most adorable thing I had ever cast my eyes upon. It was a Juliette with catperfect tuxedo cat. He had white mittens, nose and a white belly. The tip of his tail was dipped in white paint. Best of all, he was so fluffy! For a few moments I just stared at the baby cats. My heart warmed as a huge smile spread across my face. I wanted to hug the kittens and never let go.

I looked at Ivy’s icy blue eyes and I could see that something had exploded inside her too. At the same moment we broke into high-pitched screams, “Eeeeeeee!”

“So,” Dad said from the driver’s seat as soon as we were driving. “Do you think the black and white one looks like a Pangerban or a Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy?” I was speechless the whole short drive home.

Juliette is a sixth grader in Wheaton, IL. She loves cats. Her drawing won an award in the Reflections contest, and she hopes to illustrate the books she writes.

Attack of the Fluffy Gray Monster

A true story by Ivy

A small breeze whistled through the maple tree’s leaves in my backyard. I jogged past the maple to the very back. I was looking for the sugar snap peas that we had planted under the trellis in the spring. I smelled their sweetness in the air. They must be ripe! I whispered to myself. My mouth watered.

“Tweet, tweet,” a bird chirped nearby.

What’s that? I wondered.

Looking around I noticed a fluffy gray baby robin perched on the trellis. It can’t hurt to try and touch it, I thought, as I crept forward. I had attempted to touch wild animals before but never succeeded.

I continued creeping toward the baby robin. As I moved forward, slow as a sloth, I gradually stretched out my arms. Just as I was about to snatch it, the bird leapt from the trellis. It landed on my head, jumping and flapping its wings.

“MAMA, MAMA!” I shouted as the bird’s claws poked my head. My heart pounded. My mom rushed out the back door and onto the porch. She gasped as she ran toward me. Just when she arrived, the bird hopped off my head and onto the ground. I was still trembling, and so was the bird!

“Did you see what happened?” I felt a little light-headed from shouting so much.

“Yes, are you all right, Honey?” My mom asked.

“Did you take a picture?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t have my phone with me,” she said, examining the bird.

I giggled. The fledgling bird looked like a ball of fluff hopping around on the ground. It flapped its fluffy gray stub-wings, seeming eager to fly. My heart fluttered and warmed as I watched it.

I laughed again but suddenly stopped. I thought about the neighborhood cats and dogs that got into our backyard sometimes. Will the baby be safe? Who will take care of it? I wondered.

We decided to set the baby robin in a basket full of green leaves and soft paper towels to help it feel more at home. We gently placed it in its temporary home. My mom hung the basket on a sweetly scented lilac tree. The bird flapped about, but soon settled down.

“Should we feed it something? It doesn’t seem to have any parents,” I asked.

“Let’s wait a bit longer,” my mom replied.

We backed away and began watching from a distance. The baby robin wasphoto no longer alone! Two grown yellow finches, smaller than the fledgling, were feeding it small worms and bugs.

I snuggled up to my mom and watched the adoptive parents caring for their baby. I sighed deeply and smiled.


Ivy, 9, lives in Wheaton, IL. She loves to be with animals. Ivy hopes to be a fiction and fantasy writer someday. 






Meeting Melo

Last week between sampling chocolate donuts at the library coffee shop, our budding writers diligently sweated over three drafts of articles describing life-changing moments. They worked to incorporate the five senses and the concept of “show, don’t tell” especially regarding emotions. Animals reigned supreme as this week’s theme of choice. Paige, an incoming 6th grader, penned “Meeting Melo”:

My family and I were driving back from our vacation in Missouri. On our way back we were going to pick up a five-month-old puppy named Glacier. Unfortunately we didn’t like his name, so we tried to come up with a better name–Savannah, Gizmo, Marshmallow and Snowball were options. But we wanted a name from his Cuban heritage, so we narrowed it down to Savannah, Gizmo and Melo (short for “milagro” which means “miracle” in Spanish). We still couldn’t agree.

We pulled into the driveway of a ranch style house with three dog cages lining the small fence around the house. Each cage was big enough to hold two horses but instead held at least 20 dogs each.

I jumped out of the car and skipped past my family. I started hopping up and down on the gravel like a toddler with a sugar rush. A middle-aged woman waved and grinned at us.

As the rest of my family approached her, I started sneezing like I was allergic to everything there. Than I realized that I was–hay, grass, mold, dust and unfortunately dogs. Luckily Glacier was hypoallergenic.

As the woman talked with my parents about caretaking, my brother Trey and I went exploring. We glanced at all the dogs in the large crates and let them lick us, although they slobbered all over us.

A lush, green forest seemed to consume the house, shading the area. There wasn’t much of a breeze. A layer of autumn leaves covered much of the gravel.

As I was about to climb into the greenery, my mom called me to the garage. I was just in time to see the woman glide out the front door with a little white bundle in her arms. This was Glacier.

I wanted to shoot out like a bullet and snatch him up, but the hush that fell over everything stopped me. My mom and dad each took a turn to hold him.

When it was my turn to cuddle him, I gazed into curious black eyes and knew he was Paige and Melo relaxingperfect for us. He was so soft, like a newborn lamb. I let his sandpaper tongue brush against my cheek. As I stared lovingly into his eyes, I sneezed right in his face. He closed his little black eyes tightly and started licking my face furiously, almost as if he were sorry for me. But I was sorry for him. I pitied him for a second reason–he stank badly, like fresh manure. Even so, I loved him like nothing else.

I gently passed him to my brother, not wanting to let go. But as the soft folds of his fur left Paige and Melo formal shotmy fingertips, I whispered in a hoarse voice, “He looks like a Melo.” All of a sudden the bugs, dogs and even the wind spoke up, whistling through the trees. My family spoke too and they agreed.

“That sounds perfect,” my mom said. I nodded, “Just like him!”

Paige, 11, is going into 6th grade. She loves her puppy, Melo, and enjoys playing volleyball. Paige hopes to be a journalist when she grows up.

If I were one inch tall

Our second crop of budding writers is brimming with creativity! This week we have three talented girls in a workshop we created upon request. Custom workshops are tailored to fit schedules and to enable friends to write and flourish together.
Juliette M. allowed us to share her journal entry, “One Inch Tall.” She initiated writing it in a poetic form.

If I were one inch tall, I could spend the day in my fairy garden, frolicking about the pansies and playing with the flowers.Juliette M one inch tall illustration

If I were one inch tall, I could fall asleep on my pet cat, sleeping to the sound of his soothing purring.

If I were one inch tall, I could dive into the sink, my own private pool, and listen to the sound of rushing water as I hit the surface of the still pool.

If I were one inch tall, I would dash about the house avoiding the giant feet that could smash me flat.

If I were one inch tall, a bar of chocolate would last for days.

If I were one inch tall, I wouldn’t drawl and drawl and drawl on about what I’d do if I wereJuliette M cropped headshot one inch tall.

Juliette M. will be a sixth grader this fall. She dreams of writing philosophical and fantasy books someday.


The Day I saved 1,000,000 Lives

We assigned our students a personal experience article describing a day in which their lives were somehow changed. This one’s by Addison, who shares her compassionate heart.

Have you ever been to a country with malnourished kids? Many of the countries of Africa have malnourished kids. Most of Africa is desert so they don’t have plants or animals, which means they don’t get food.

That’s where Feed My Starving Children comes in. It’s where you make meals for the hungry. I come every year. Feed my starving children logo

The room is like a big kitchen with an additional warehouse. The warehouse smelled like cardboard and the kitchen smelled like soy and rice. The soy smelled like powder and the rice smelled nutty. The kitchen is very loud and it does not help when the music volume is very high!

When I got on a team, we gave each other jobs. The jobs are: bagger, boxer, weigher, counter, sealer and pourer. The pourer in your team pours soy, rice, vegetables and vitamins in the bags.

Each team is given a country to work for. Our team suddenly chears, “Ghana, Ghana, Ghana,” excitedly. AddisonIt makes me feel great.

My favorite part is either seeing how many boxes you have packed or tasting what you have made. It takes like baby food and the consistency is like watery oatmeal. The day can be stressful, but at the end it feels great.

Addison is a fourth grade student at Wheaton Montessori. She loves her teachers. Her favorite hobbies are gymnastics, especially tumbling, and art.





Winning a Free Xbox

If you want to be a published writer, you must write, but then revise, seek and accept feedback, revise again and polish. It’s hard work. Our budding writers created three drafts of their personal experience articles in our four-day workshop. They heard feedback from fellow students, incorporated the principle of “show, don’t tell” and more. Our student Levi had already learned the rewards of hard work, as he describes in his article, “Winning a Free Xbox”.

“Oh, look, you can win an Xbox,” my mom pointed out.

“Really?” I sat straight up at the thought.

Many years ago, I was enrolled in an extracurricular learning program called Kumon. A lot Leviof kids around the world have this program in their country. This study center is designed to focus on many different elements of language arts and math. It was also created to help students excel in their classes.

Kumon opened up a program in which you could claim various prizes, from lava lamps to Samsung tablets. The way to claim prizes was simple: Earn points.

Since I had been a member of Kumon for a long time, I had accumulated a boatload of points. When I was on the computer looking at the prize catalog, a particular prize caught my eye: An Xbox 360. My brother planned to earn himself a tablet.

“Mom, can I have the Xbox?” I questioned.

“If you get enough points,” she explained.

My work began to speed up. As I completed assignments, points were added to my total. Eventually I had enough points to claim an Xbox.

Days later I happily ran to the front door to grab the package with my Xbox inside. Not only had I earned a big prize, I had also learned a big lesson: Study and hard work can lead to many great things. This applies to all people.
Levi is a 12-year-old who goes to Monroe Middle School. He has dedicated himself to writing poetry and fiction. Levi has been writing since kindergarten.

Our next Budding Writers workshop is July 18-21, 1-3:30 p.m.
Email us for more details at

*Please note, Budding Writers200 is not affiliated with or endorsed by District 200.

My Pet Furball

Our eight budding writers in this week’s first BuddingWriters workshop selected a picture snipped from a magazine to stimulate their writing journal entries. They could choose to create a fictional story or describe a memory sparked by the image.

Czarina, an incoming 4th grader, selected a graphic of a mysterious furry creature swinging on Czarina bencha playset. She gave us permission to share her account, entitled, “My Pet Furball”:

“Wake up, sleepy head!” shouted my mom. “We’re heading to the pet store.”

As soon as I heard those words, I leapt out of my bed, sped to my closet and changed into my lucky blue shirt with white stripes on the shoulder.

As I tiptoed downstairs, I could smell mom’s fresh golden pancakes and homemade blueberry bagels. I went even faster down the stairs.

“Hey, Kiddo,” said my mom as I sat down. “Go ahead and start eating.” The pancake melting in my mouth was like heaven.

Minutes flew by and I was excited as we got in the car. You could even see my head bobbing up and down with excitement.

Throughout the ride I kept asking, “Are we there yet?” until my dad finally said yes.

My sister helped me choose an animal. She told me to get something that didn’t cost a lot. I examined the room then happily pointed at a furball.
“Are you sure?” asked my mom, dad and sister.
“Yup,” I replied.
After convincing them, we bought it and went home.

furballThe furball and I played with each other every day and night. He was the cutest furball ever. He was big, hairy and covered with flowers (I added those). He had cute horns to scare away the monsters under my bed.

Wait! I can’t end without telling you his name! It’s Smackle Smottle.

Czarina just completed third grade. She loves being on her gymnastics team, “The Springers.” She is working on a book for young adults called The Light. Czarina  collects smooth rocks and loves her baby brother.

As you can see, the creativity of Czarina and all of our budding writers this week is delightful. We’ll be posting more of their personal narrative assignments here soon. Check back for more!

*Please note, Budding Writers200 is not affiliated with or endorsed by District 200.




Our budding writers are penning imagedaily entries in their writing journals this week. We don’t critique them and sharing what they wrote is completely voluntary. Of course, we hope they’ll journal regularly on their own for life. Yesterday our writers chose a superpower they’d possess for a day. Lauren, a future 5th grader, gave us permission to share her piece:

My superpower would be the ability to use other [people’s] powers. I would have to touch the person who has the superpower and would only be able to have one power at a time.

When I wake up, I touch my brother, who has the power to always be full. I taste a burst of strawberry and am full.

I then touch my dad who can make any technology work. I go to the basement and fix our broken Xbox.

Blake [my brother] and I
play MC at lunch. I touch Blake again, taste a jelly sandwich and am full.

My mom says, “Clean your room.” I touch her and run to my room, wave my hand and am done.(My mom has the power of super cleaning.) It’s dinner time then…

How about you? What superpower would you choose for a day?

The night I hunted for John Adams’ bones

The eight budding writers of our first workshop this summer scribbled the beginnings of their first writing assignment. We’ve tasked them to write a personal narrative focused on a life-changing moment. They may not have won the Nobel prize yet, but everyone has an experience to share. I penned my own example, entitled, “The Night I Hunted for John Adams’ Bones:

The wind scuttled frost-bitten leaf carcasses across the circular walkway surrounding the cc8f5d0d-a662-43c0-81d1-393e2e14b6cdfountain. On warmer nights all paths led to the heart of the Adams Park, this fountain. It splashed happily for children, mothers who watched them anxiously, and college students holding hands. But tonight the icy wind slapped my face and tore at my scarf. The dark fountain was almost ghostly and the deserted park did not welcome us.

“Why are we here, Matt?” I asked.

He was a fourth grade teacher, so I had believed him a few minutes earlier when he pulled his black Jetta up to the park without warning that March night. Matt had muttered something about researching our country’s former president, John Adams.

“Adams’ bones are supposed to be buried in this fountain,” he said, pointing at it.
Incredulous, I asked, “What?”

“Look,” he said, “If you look closer over the ledge you can see them!”

I like to think now that my brain was frozen by the chill. Gullibly, I leaned over the cement edge, grabbing cold stone. A shallow, icy layer covered the fountains’ dark bed, through which I discerned shapes of coins and litter. Spying no bones, I righted myself.

The view shocked me: Matt kneeled on one knee, holding up a black velvet box that revealed a glittering ring. “Will you marry me?” I felt as if I was turning upside down.

We had found the diamond and white gold ring at Stones jeweler’s on Front Street together a few weeks ago, so I knew a proposal was likely someday. But I had still fallen completely for John Adams’ bones.

Luckily for Matt, I was ignorant of both Wheaton’s and the presidential history. John Quincy Adams, who moved to Wheaton in 1876, and built his home on the block that is now Adams Park, was only a distant relative of our 2nd and 6th presidents.

I also fell for Matt Jewell, a guy who values permanence and community, which is why heMatt, Dawn 10 year anniv chose Adams Park. “I figured it would always be there,” he said. “It’s never closed and you can go day or night. It’s at the center of Wheaton.” And the rest is history.

Come back for more updates and hopefully excerpts of our budding writers’ work!

3, 2, 1 Write!

“If you wish to be a writer, write,” said Epictetus, the early Greek philosopher. So, this week i am a writer imagewe, Matt and Dawn, are launching our first workshop of Budding Writers200 with eight budding writers in Wheaton, IL. Our young scribes range from 4th-7th grade and enjoy narrative writing, poems, stories and more. Together we will interview three local authors and one LA Times journalist: author Margaret Philbrick, novelist Tony Romano and LA Times Pulitzer-prize winning copyeditor Boaz Herzog. We will also develop journal writing skills, practice group writing, learn interviewing and note-taking techniques, hone descriptive writing skills and create a publishable article. Check back to view our budding writers’ works published here! In the meantime, peruse our site:
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