The Fire in Darkness

The Ember Terrain is where a great all-powerful god lives. His name is Sir Gallant. People call him Knight of Fire.

Before he came to be a knight he was a neurosurgeon who did surgery on people’s brains. At his home he had many awards and trophies not only for all of his successful surgeries, but also his skill at playing tennis and wrestling lions. He only became a doctor because of his uncle, and even though he was very successful at it he did not really enjoy it. He had always wanted to be a knight and go on adventures. So that’s how he became an all- powerful knight “Knight of Fire”.

Sir Gallant chose to be the Knight of Fire because he moved to an enchanted land called The Ember Terrain. The place is super dark but there’s a reason for that. It’s because they believed in the god Inferno. They light the place up with fire. Sir Gallant had read many stories about Inferno when he was a boy about how he had earned his magical ax, Blaze. 

Sir Gallant hoped some day he could earn his own magical weapon too. He also loved Harry Potter. 

All of a sudden,monsters were invading the land and Sir Gallant fought but he was outnumbered. The god Eclipse came and saved him. Sir Gallant was very impressed with Eclipse’s skills and asked if he would teach him some of his battle moves. But this offended Eclipse, who was insulted that a mere Knight would ask to be shown his secrets. “The only  way I could teach you is by throwing you into the sun,” said Eclipse. 

“WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” said Sir Gallant. 

“Yeah I’m a god what did you expect. Did you think I was going to give you a dog to make you learn responsibility.” Said Eclipse.

Sir Gallant thought carefully about what he should do next. He wanted to be an important knight, and how else could he become one unless Eclipse taught him his battle skills? Maybe he could survive being thrown into the sun, Sir Gallant thought. If I wear as much armor as I can put on, maybe he won’t be able to throw me that far, and he will still tell me his secrets. So he said “Nes.” “I mean yes”.Sir gallant asked for 10 min. He came back with a full suit of armor. Eclipse Said “I’m gonna pretend that you are not doing that.” Eclipse used his telekinesis to throw him into the sun. Sir Gallant thought he was so heavy that he wouldn’t be able to carry him, but he never thought about telekinesis.

The next thing he knew, he was wearing 200 pounds of armor and boiling in the heat of the sun. This made him immediately think of the god Inferno, so he called out to him, “Inferno! Save me!”

Inferno comes in and says “Why should I”. 

“because you’re the god of fire and I’M BOILING IN THE SUN!!!!”

“Did that stupid Eclipse throw someone else into the sun? I am getting really tired of having to save the mortals he tosses up there,” grumbled Inferno.

After Inferno saved him Sir Gallant felt this power inside of him. “This is amazing!” He exclaimed. “Does this mean I have the fighting skills of Eclipse now?” 

“Of course not!” Inferno roared. “He just tells people that so he has an excuse to throw them into the sun. You have fire powers now; anytime the sun shines on you, you will have superhuman powers. You’re like me.” sadly muttered Inferno. “But I have a quest for you”

“Yes Inferno”

“Recently I had a fight with a water god Floe, cousin of Poseidon. I need you to tell her that fire is better.”

“Should be easy enough”

“By fighting her.”


“You now have fire powers; if you do not defeat Floe to prove fire is better, she will never give up trying to defeat us.” 

“So where do I find her?” Sir Gallant asked. 


Sir Gallant had never heard of such a place. “How can it be so bad if it’s named ‘Nice Ice Land?’” he thought to himself. He accepted the challenge. 

Inferno told him he would provide him with two dragons to take with him on his journey. These dragons, named Kakashi and Naruto, could shoot fireballs with incredible aim. They would be a great help to him on his quest. 

“Unfortunately I have to go with you. On the worst land ever,” Inferno sighed. “I am not allowed to send anyone to Nice Ice Land without escorting them there. It is the law of the volcano gods who rule my island.” 

“That is why I have to come with you” said Inferno

“Rude”muttered Sir Gallant.

“What did you say?” Inferno asked.

“Nothing” Sir Gallant said nervously.

Of the two dragons, Naruto was the bigger one, so of course Inferno wanted to ride him. At first Sir Gallant was jealous about this, but once they were flying through the air he realized that Kakashi was much more cooperative and easy to fly. While he cruised the sky easily, Inferno was being bucked around and jostled by Naruto, who wanted to do tricks and flips in the air. “Aaaahhhhh! I mean – wheeeeee!” Inferno yelled, pretending to be having fun, but Sir Gallant knew he was having a hard time. 

“WE have come to this place. Oh no there is an obstacle course surrounded by fierce lions.”

No problem, Sir Gallant thought to himself. He had run obstacle courses on his horse many times. He didn’t think he would have too much trouble with this part of the challenge.

But – Naruto had other ideas. He took one look at the obstacle course, flared his nostrils, and with one breath shot fire at the entire thing and burned it to a crisp. 

“I’m not sure Floe is going to be happy about this,” Inferno muttered, but he patted Naruto on his head happily. “Good boy,” he whispered. 

“We were never here, got that.”said Gallant

“Yes. and stop acting like a leader. I’m the leader.” Inferno said sadly.

“Sure, of course you are,” said Sir Gallant. He wanted to ask which way they should enter the territory now that the obstacle course was gone, but he waited for Inferno to speak first. Inferno kept looking at him like he was waiting for Sir Gallant to speak….as time passed the dragons started getting antsy and puffing smoke out of their nostrils. Finally Sir Gallant could take it no more. He cleared his throat. 

“Ahem—er, maybe we should figure out another way to enter the land? What do you think?”

Inferno looked at him like he was crazy. “Why do you think we have to take another way? We are just going to walk right into the territory and pretend like the obstacle course was already burned before we arrived.” 

“Mhhm. How are we going to explain the dragons.”

The dragons are exploding fireballs out of their noses.

Inferno said “I’ll hide them in my invisibility cloak I brought.”

“YOU, WHAT!!!!!!!” screamed Gallant.

“Yeah, doesn’t everybody have one?” Inferno asked. 

“Um, no, they don’t,” said Sir Gallant. “I have heard about them but I’ve never even seen one.”

Inferno rolled his eyes. “Of COURSE you haven’t SEEN one, it’s INVISIBLE.” 

“I didn’t even know you brought one” said Gallant

“ ‘cause I didn’t tell you.” simply stated Inferno.

Inferno reached into a large pocket inside his coat and from what Sir Gallant could tell he pulled out the cloak. He couldn’t see it of course, because it was invisible, but the way Inferno was gesturing made it look like he had a cloth in his hands. He gestured towards my dragon like he was throwing the cloak over him, and just like THAT the dragon disappeared. But of course Naruto burned it into a crisp. They weren’t surprised. They parked the dragons outside in the pond because dragons can disappear when they touch water.

“Well, that takes care of that, but sorry about your invisibility cloak,” Sir Gallant told Inferno. 

“Don’t worry, I will get a new one at the magic store,” Inferno said back. 

Again Sir Gallant was surprised. “What? You mean anyone can just buy an invisibility cloak?”

“Why yes,” Inferno said. “I mean the technology has been available for years now. Lots of different places sell them. Where have you been that you didn’t know about that?”

“I don’t like shopping,” Sir Gallant grumbled irritably. 

“Sucks to be you,” Inferno laughed. “Now let’s go find Floe.”

There they were at a tennis court? 

“Why are we here at a tennis court?” asked Sir Gallant.

“Because we need to play doubles tennis” simply stated Inferno.

“Ok, let’s play.” Said Inferno while he was warming up.

“Or we could go through this hole that was made by Poseidon like in the fairy tale.” Said sir Gallant while pointing at the hole. 

“Yeah lets go with that” Said Inferno Saying like it was his Idea.

The hole was barely visible because it was behind a big waterfall that came cascading down from the very top of Floe’s castle. They would have to sneak past all the tennis players to get to it and then get past the waterfall without getting crushed by the water. 

“I knew about this but I just forgot about it and it was super long. We should go up the waterfall.” said Inferno

“Ok”said Sir Gallant. “But how are we going to climb a waterfall without drowning, falling, or being seen?”

Inferno’s eyes burned like fire. “Have you forgotten about our dragons? They are strong enough to climb this waterfall  AND since it is made of water, they won’t be seen.” 

“Ok that all sounds great,” said Sir Gallant. “But we will still be seen, won’t we?” Inferno Whistled a loud whistle.

That’s when Eclipse came in and gave inferno 2 Invis cloaks. Inferno said “Thank you!”

“No problem!” Eclipse said. “They were having a big sale on invisibility cloaks at Lightning Stop,” Sir Gallant heard this and shook his head – did everyone know about invisibility cloaks but him? “And plus I owe Inferno a lot of stuff.”mumbled Eclipse. 

“Perks of being a top notch GAH-OD”Sang Inferno quietly.

Eclipse went on his way, and Inferno and Sir Gallant draped themselves in their cloaks so they could go get their dragons. The problem was that when they got back to the pond they couldn’t see them because they were invisible, and the dragons couldn’t see THEM because they had on their cloaks. 

“DUH – we have to take our cloaks off so they can see us,” Sir Gallant said. 

“Of course, I was just about to suggest that when you said it,” Inferno said. 

“Sure.” Said Sir Gallant sarcastically.

Inferno just rolled his eyes, which Sir Gallant couldn’t see because they were still invisible. Just then, though, they took off their cloaks and watched the ripples of water the dragons made as they swam towards them. The ripples stopped just at the shore – the dragons were smart enough to know not to step out of the water so they wouldn’t be seen. 

Just then Inferno pulled a bag of something out of his invisibility cloak. He looked at it and smiled. “Eclipse sure thinks of everything!” he said. Then he showed the bag to Sir Gallant – it was a bag of balloons. 

“What are we supposed to do with balloons?” he asked. 

Inferno took out four balloons and dunked them into the water so that they filled up. Then he stretched the balloons onto the feet of his dragon. “Now when Naruto lifts up out of the water and into the sky, he will still be invisible!” he said. 

“How is it not popping?” said Sir Gallant in confusion. 

“ ‘cause why not,” said Inferno. “After all, this is our story.”

 Sir Gallant was still in confusion but he just let it go.”But won’t the balloons be visible?”

Inferno sighed. “Yes, but balloons floating through the air is not unusual,” he said. 

“Oh yeah, I knew that, I was just checking to make sure you did,” Sir Gallant said.

“Sure,” said Inferno sarcastically. 

And with that, they hopped onto their dragons with their balloon feet, and flew over to the waterfall. 

“So wait a minute,” Sir Gallant said as they were in the air, “If our dragons can fly over to the waterfall, why do they have to climb it? Can’t they just fly over it to the top of the castle?”

“Of course,” Inferno said. “It’s a magical waterfall. You can’t touch the water, you have to go over it. Remember I thought of this.” said Inferno. 

“Let’s go with that.” Sighed Sir Gallant. 

And with that, they flew right up to the top of Floe’s castle. They were so excited to finally be getting on with their plan that they forgot about the water balloons on their dragon’s feet. When they landed, there were eight very loud popping sounds, and they had to tell Naruto and Kakashi to hurry away to hide back in the lake before anyone saw them. 

But Naruto of course didn’t stay there and Floe found him. Kakashi was his brother so he went in to save. AND THE BATTLE BEGINS. DUH DUH DUUUUUUUUN


When Floe found Naruto she immediately threw a rope around his neck and started dragging him to her dungeon. This caused Kakashi to chase after her and shoot flames at her, but because Floe was made of water the flames disappeared as soon as they touched her. But the flames burned the rope. 

“Nooooooo!” Floe shouted as Naruto flew up and away. But that was not the end of things, because Floe was able to shoot a spray of water at Gallant himself but Gallant took a skinny wood and blocked the water. As he jumps he gets this dual sabor. And slices her arms off and wins the battle. On the bright side he got a sweet new weapon. 


by Harish Rajesh, Grade 5

Poetry by Hansika Tadmilla, Grade 4


I think of you day and night

Even when it snows

As I fly my pretty kite

I wear my shiny bows


What a tough day

I might as well say

A ball is in my hand

I rule the land


What the heck?

Green means go.

Eww there’s mice!

Ow my neck!

Look at my toe!

You’re super nice!!!!!!!!!!


I might look super quirky

But I love turkey

Great Aunt Joe

You’re really slow


I want a tip

They don’t treat me with respect

I take a sip

While they inspect


flowers bloom

apples fall

I grow super tall

I hope it’s autumn soon

I look at a big wall

I see old plug

I have a pet slug

Now I am small

The Myth of Veaderous, the God of Video Games

       The journey began in Mount Olympus as Veaderous was walking down the steps of to the entrance because he was banished for arguing with Zeus. He jumped off the stairs to take a short cut and slowly glided down thanks to his tattered wings. 

       “I bet Zeus made that happen because I argued with him,” Veaderous thought as he landed on Earth inside of a Best Buy. He ended up landing right in front of the television section where he heard the news being televised over about 50 flat-screen TVs: “This is a breaking news bulletin. All of the video games in the world have suddenly malfunctioned. Companies are losing money on the stock market by the second and panicked investors have started selling out. Riots are occurring on suburban streets as angry gamers trash local Game Stops looting for solutions like batteries, new consoles, and toilet paper. The president of the United States is asking for calm and also telling everyone to stay inside unless they have an emergency. More updates to come as we get more information.”

       He turned to the nearest exit and started moving at hurtling speeds, then he put his shield in front of him and crashed through the exit, shattering all the windows and leaving a trail of blue flame, but abruptly he stopped at Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte.

       “Hey, give me a break!” He shouts at the stampede of customers rushing into the store to get caffeinated for the riots. “We don’t have Starbucks on Olympus; let me through!” Veaderous knew he would not get many more chances for pumpkin spice latte since they were probably going to sell out soon, plus it was after the holidays and soon they would be discontinued until next fall.

       “What is your name, sir?” the barista asked him.

       “Veaderous,” he said, with an expectant sigh.

       “Victor?” She asked him.

       Veaderous let out a groan. “Vead-er-ous,” he said slowly.

       “Um, can you spell that for me?” she asked, as the crowd behind him started to get impatient.

       “Victor, just call me Victor,” Veaderous said grumpily as he paid for his order.

       Of course, he immediately forgot he said his name was Victor and they had to call his name three times before he remembered, so when he got his latte it was cold. “This is not a good sign,” Victor said to himself. Oops, I mean Veaderous said to himself.

       He then left but not without a fight for his latte by everyone named Victor. “The gods of Olympus are nothing compared to those absolute destructive forces of nature,” he mumbled, then proceeded to head out to the nearest GameStop – as he could teleport from one to the other – but saw a fake GameStop called GagStep and sighed. “I know it’s a trap, but well, I guess I have to check.”

       Veaderous suspected GagStep of being behind all the chaos. He knew it was under the protection of King Glitch, and this situation seemed like something that evil King would do. But he knew if he went bursting in there without a disguise, GagStep would trap him in some sort of game, which was something they were very good at doing. He looked at his Starbucks cup that had “Victor” written on it and that gave him an idea.

       He took some tape, put it on the bottom of his cup, removed the piranha plant that was normally on his head, and stuck the cup up there.

       “This is probably a mistake but it has to be done,” he said to himself, as he hid his shield and his sword behind a trash can. He walked into GagStep holding the piranha plant and said, “Hi there, my name is Victor, and I am selling piranha plants. I was wondering if anyone here would want one.”

       “Why do you have a Starbucks cup on your head?” asked the GagStep employee.

       “Because that’s what you have to feed your piranha plants,” Victor, I mean Veaderous, answered.

       Then suddenly out of nowhere two men in full black outfits pushed Veaderous into a pitch black room, then the light turned on, and he looked around the room with a sigh, “Why oh why does it have to be an escape room; I hate puzzles so much!” He ripped off his Starbucks cup and threw it at the locked door.

             “Welp, I have to do something,” Veaderous said, then proceeded to hit the door repeatedly as the piranha plant tried to pull him in the other direction.

       Since banging on the door wasn’t working, Veaderous moved on in the direction the plant was taking him. He could see that on one wall of the room was a row of gibberish – letters spray painted in no particular order.

       He sighed. “I can’t read it without something to decipher it.” Then he walked around the room and found a piece of paper that seemed to have been torn in half with the words blue is good red is bad written on it.

       Veaderous went back to the wall and noticed that the letters were all either blue or red. He looked only at the blue letters, which read L+Ox2+K; then a blue arrow pointing down; then the word THE; and then AIR + CH.

       “Look down the arch?” Veaderous guessed. His piranha plant shook her head.

       “Hmmm. How about this – LOOK UNDER THE CHAIR.”

       Conveniently, there was a chair in the corner. Veaderous approached it very slowly, looked underneath the chair, and found the other half of the note, which said: 3 steps forward, 2 steps left, another 3 left, and 1 downwhat is the encoded password and object?

       “I hope no one is filming this,” Veaderous mumbled as he followed the steps. He took 3 steps forward, then 5 steps left – but what does 1 down mean? He thought about it for a minute, then got down on his knees.

       After a minute of thought, he looked back at the note and said, “Oh I really really hope no one is filming this,” and then an announcer chimed in saying “It’s your lucky day! We’re live! You have over a million viewers!” Veaderous saw a small camera on the roof, then proceeded to pick up a chair and throw it at the camera, saying, “Dang, that chair is durable!”

       The chair hit the camera, but instead of smashing the camera into pieces, it bounced off the ceiling and transformed into a mechanical bird. The chair, meanwhile, transformed into a set of stairs. The metal bird flew over to Veaderous and dropped a tiny key into his hand, then vaporized with a little POOF! The stairs came down to the ground and stopped right in front of a tiny door located at the top of the wall.

       Veaderous ran up the steps and tried to open the door, but it was locked. Then he tried using the key. It worked! He was now back in the GagStep shop, and by the look of it, the employees were not happy. They saw him and took off running, and two people who were dressed in black suits had a coffee cup with Victor II written on the side. Veaderous saw it and grabbed it while knocking the two guys out, then smelled the coffee and said, “I 100% need this pumpkin spice latte after that.”

       Veaderous downed the latte in two gulps. “I wish they’d ordered a venti but oh well,” he said. On his way out of GagStep he stopped to collect his shield and his sword from behind the trash can. As soon as he did this, he heard something weird coming from inside the can. “Hellllp meeeee,” a little voice said from underneath all the trash. “Ew,” Veaderous thought. “Do I really have to dig through all this trash to see who that is?” 

“Helllllp meeeee,” the voice said again, and Veaderous thought yes, he really was going to have to dig through the trash. So, he started digging. The next thing he knew, something sucked him inside the trash can and everything started spinning around him.

       Then before he knew it, he was in a retro-type area and said,“Out of all the games, why oh why does it have to be Cuphead? I heard that this game is so hard, someone took it up with the CEO of the game, saying he’d never beat it and no one had; the CEO then went to Mount Olympus and the gods said the same thing.”

       I saw a huge shadowy figure in the distance and said, “Wait, isn’t that the final boss of Cuphead? Doesn’t that mean that I don’t have to fight all the bosses?” Then Veadrous headed to the final boss and challenged him. 

The final boss asked, “Do I know you?” 

Veadrous responded with, “No, probably not, but I challenge you to a fight.” 

The final boss said, “Well, is that so – only on one condition: if you lose, you have to sell your soul to me.” 

Veaderous frustratingly said, “Well, I have no other way out, so I accept.” 

The boss said, “Great, get ready to sell your soul to the boss, kid!” 

Veaderous’s vison went black, then came back, and the first thing he saw was a huge throne and the boss ready to kill him. Then he heard a voice say “Start!” and the boss began to attack. Veadrous, being him, decided to dodge instead of using his shield; hr saw the boss spinning the trident but also saw how tall the boss was – then he had a brilliant idea. 

Once the boss spun the trident, Veaderous grabbed the hilt and whoosh! it spun close to the boss’s face. Veadrous kicked his head right off, then grabbed his cup that said Victor, caught the head in it, then said, “Either accept defeat or you’re going to have trouble finding your head!” 

The boss responded with a voice that echoed through the cup.‘Okay, fine, you win,” he said, then the same voice that started the match said Knockout! and Veadrous’ vision went black again.  

Once it came back, he saw the boss and said, “Now I want out.”  The devil snapped his fingers and Veadrous’ vision went blurry; when it came into focus he saw the outside of Gagstep and the trash can that he was sucked into, and said, “Never again will I be trapped in a trash can,” and started walking off.

       But before Veaderous walked away, he spied a shiny silver ticket on the ground. Thinking it might be a coupon for a free pumpkin latte, he picked it up. As soon as he touched it and started to read the words: THIS TICKET CHALLENGES YOU TO – he was whooshed off into space.

       When the world stopped spinning, Veaderous looked around, confused. It appeared he was in some old-fashioned city village, surrounded by shops and restaurants that looked very British. Then he heard the roar of a motorcycle charging past, and the cheers of people who were riding along. He felt the whoosh as the roller coaster rushed past him and knew immediately where he was – the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida! That sound he heard was the Hagrid ride. “I always wanted to ride that coaster,” Veaderous thought, but there was no time for that now, as he was starting to get an idea of what he was being challenged to do. 

The dragon that sat atop Gringott’s Bank was just about to shoot the flames out of his mouth, and a small crowd had gathered around to see it happen. But all those curious faces soon turned to screams as the wings on the supposedly fake dragon began to move. Then its head turned right towards Veaderous! Here we go, Veaderous thought, another challenge.

       The dragon hurled flame at Veaderous so he used his shield and blocked the fire from hitting him or his plant. His thought process was if the dragon was real, so should everything else be, so he rushed into Ollivander’s and grabbed a wand. Then a golden spotlight shown on him, so he knew it was the right wand.

He rushed outside and said as many spells as he could think of. He knew a lot of spells because a year earlier he got a backstage pass to meet J.K.Rowling, who taught him some. He knew that normally a dragon should either be confused or dumbfounded by how many spells he shot at it, but instead, this one just lunged at him. Veaderous barely jumped out of the way as the bricks of the alley sputtered everywhere. Naturally he assumed that the dragon would out-speed him eventually, so he ran into the closest broom store and grabbed a Firebolt. As soon as he got on the broom, it lurched to life and charged like a rhino. 

He thought, “I have some experience; I stole Apollo’s sun chariot one time – spoiler it was a crash landing – Apollo was very mad, but this time I hope I don’t crash,” so he went out of the alley and went to Hogwarts, which at that moment had a light show on it, which seemed to scare the dragon, so he decided to cast the luminos spell. It frightened the dragon, but once it wore off he could tell how angry it was, so he then cast a patronus – which believe it or not was a piranha plant – which then attacked the dragon. That made it rush at him, so he was flying and being chased by a dragon; he could hear music coming from a shop below him, and at that second Veaderous thought,  “Isn’t the name Imagine Dragons ironic?” and he rushed to the gryffin ride, and there was a live gryffin, and guess what happened? It first tried to kill him, yes, but then attacked the dragon which somewhat relieved him; instead of fleeing like he should have done, he cast an impressive spell on the dragon and bound it to a necklace which he happily threw into the ocean later.

       Well, as it turned out, all the guests in Harry Potter World thought this was all one great big show, and as soon as the dragon was vanquished cheers rang out all over Disney World. Veaderous thought the cheers could be heard from space. Then suddenly there was an announcement over all the speakers in the park: “WOULD THE STRANGE CREATURE WHO VANQUISHED OUR DRAGON PLEASE REPORT TO DISNEY HEADQUARTERS – YOUR REWARD IS WAITING!” and the crowds cheered again and high-fived Veaderous as he walked towards the big blue building at the edge of the park.

       The farther away he got from Harry Potter world, the less people recognized him. This part of the park was quiet and unfamiliar; he had never been there before. Maybe this is a new section they are adding later or something, Veaderous thought. Anyway, soon he was the only one in the area. As he approached the big glass doors to what he thought was Disney Headquarters, he expected to be getting a reward – maybe a lifetime FastPass or something – but as soon as Veaderous stepped through the doors he heard a WHOOSH and was astounded as everything around him transformed from a bright blue shiny Disney building to…THE BIGGEST, DARKEST GAGSTEP HE HAD EVER SEEN.

       What would you expect from a person who just walked into a large building they knew nothing about? You would expect them to leave, right? Ha ha, nope – instead Veaderous stupidly decided to go forward into a giant room which housed a massive mechanical mammoth that apparently was out of commission. He quickly tried to leave, but no – the doors locked and the mammoth sprung to life. Veaderous assumed he had to fight it to escape, but it instead broke down the door and let him through. Sometimes configuring a giant mammoth is hard, so afterwords Veaderous clicked the collapse button and it folded it into a neat box. Once he was back at Olympus, he would brag about defeating the beast, but for now he had a bigger problem. 

He went through the opening and saw another set of doors. Now he was wondering how much they spent on doors. Luckily it was open, and there it was, Veaderous’s lifelong Fastpass. But there was another door that was more like a gladiator gate. He stepped through and instantly the gate closed along with the door that was the room with the Fastpass. I knew it was to good to be true, Veaderous thought, and just as he thought that, King Glitch fell from what appeared to be the sky; it was confusing. CGI projection is so good these days, Veaderous didn’t even know how he felt. 

Then King Glitch said, “You are lucky to have gotten this far,” but because he was far away Veaderous heard it as “You big silver onion, I’m going to eat you.” He tried not to laugh which took a lot of strength, and then they started to fight. 

Veaderous realized when King Glitch signaled for cannons to shoot at him that his new shield could withstand the cannonballs as it was the latest edition one with all-in-one cannon protection. He blocked a few of them, and the others flew past him; the King’s cannons were hard to aim. King Glitch seemed annoyed that Veaderous was still alive and yelled up to the cannon: “You had one job! One job! What do I pay you for!” and one of his minions retorted, “You pay with lifelong Fastpasses; that’s it!” but as Veaderous was far away he heard, “Why you no squash the onion? He is an onion, so why you no squash?” Deeply offended at being called an onion, he ran at King Glitch and stabbed him with his sword while his piranha plant bit at the king – which surprisingly did more damage than the sword. Veaderous took a mental note –  don’t make my piranha plant angry – and whilst his plant was chomping on King Glitch’s neck, he rushed in for another blow.

       And with that blow something amazing happened. King Glitch started to dissolve right before Veaderous’s eyes. There were blue and red and yellow lines flashing across the atmosphere like a camera about to break. King Glitch fuzzed in and out of focus, and as that was happening all the lights in the building were flashing on and off. Beyond the building Veaderous could hear cheers as all the rides that were down for maintenance began to work at that very moment. All the long lines started moving so fast it was like everyone had lifetime Fastpasses. “No fair!” yelled one of King Glitch’s minions, but they too were dissolving in and out of shape. His piranha plant made short work of the minion by snapping off his head, while Veaderous used his sword – which was growing larger, he noticed – to lop the crown off King Glitch’s head. All the car alarms in the parking lot starting going off at once. The fireworks, which were not scheduled to be set off for another two hours, all started exploding at once. Veaderous felt something weird happening to his small, tattered wings that were only good for gliding – they were growing bigger and more powerful. They were also getting sharper. Before he knew it he had lifted himself off the ground and flew straight at King Glitch. And with one quick and strong strike, King Glitch was gone into the air. 

Once Veaderous calmed down he realized his wings were fixed and he could fly; he began soaring through the air. He also noticed one other thing: there were two unlimited Fastpasses on the ground. He knew that one was for him but was confused why there was a second; then remembered his MVP – most valuable plant –  and gave the second one to his piranha plant as a token of his gratitude.  Zeus was going to be soooo  jealous he had lifetime Fastpasses. With that battle won, Veaderous felt that King Glitch was not truly gone, because let’s face it, there is no lag-less internet, but he would be ready for when the devious King bobbed his head up again, or whatever he had in the place of one. The main point was, Veaderous was ready.

       The journey back was much better because he could fly, but somehow his piranha plant still beat him back to Mount Olympus. I am putting that in the new Unsolved Mysteries book, Veaderous thought to himself. 

When he got back everyone was congratulating him, even Zeus, although Veaderous thought he was just worried about losing his level in Candy Crush. Veaderous was proud to be a hero and everyone knew it. He spent a good minute rubbing it in Zeus’s face that he had a lifetime Fastpass, and the internet didn’t have any glitches for a very, very long time.

Sadness of Dawn

by Harish, Grade 4

The day I felt sorrow                        

It felt like I was full of melancholy

The way the bird put an eye on me, it was a sparrow

I felt like I was full of bird’s feathers fluttering softly

Birds move on, as we move on

As the night turns into dawn

The memories we have are ecstatic

They will always be happy in our hearts

The fun time we had together was static

Even though it’s sad, we must drift apart


Birds move on, as we move on

As the night turns into dawn

The Myth of Drachma, the god of money and wealth


The Myth of Drachma, the God of Money

          Once there was a demigod named Drachma who lived in New York. He loved going to the bank and seeing all the dollar bills coming out of the cash register. “I wish they were mine though?” Drachma sighed. His father Hephaestus was a god but still, Drachma wasn’t allowed to go to Mount Olympus for some reason. One day Drachma was walking down the street when he heard something.

          “This is a special news alert!” he heard coming through people’s cell phones. “Something has gone wrong with all the ATM machines in New York. It appears that at the moment, no one can access their money through any machine in the city, and the banks also can’t access people’s accounts. That is all that is known right now, and we will bring you updates as we get them. It is important that nobody panics and everyone stays calm. The authorities will fix this situation as soon as possible.”

          When Drachma heard the words don’t panic, he immediately realized in the next 2.78 seconds that the population of New York city would go wild. Drachma decided to take this into his own hands. “Only after I get up from getting stampeded,” he thought. Sure enough, he heard the roar of crowds and the thundering of human feet as people raced to the nearest money machines to see if they could get cash before they shut down. Drachma sighed. That isn’t going to work people, he thought, but everyone was going to try anyway just in case. When they found out it was really true, Drachma knew, the city was going to react with terror, and might even start to riot for toilet paper, water, and gift cards.

           Drachma knew that someone had stolen the money from the Big Apple. There was no way the biggest market in the USA would lose all its money. Drachma thought for a few minutes and decided to call upon his brother Plutus. Plutus never came – and that’s why, Drachma knew, he was the best son. He called upon his father Hephaestus and he came. Drachma asked, “I know someone stole this money but I am not sure who. What do I do father?”

          “Here is a staff I have been working on for 3,000 years and been wanting to give to you ever since you moved here.” Hephaestus said.

          Drachma reached out to take the staff; it was heavy as it was made of pure gold, like everything his father made, and at the top it had a diamond-encrusted dollar sign. “Um, hey, dad?” Drachma said, “This is really awesome and all, but do you think walking around right now with a staff of solid gold and diamonds is a good idea while the city has no money?”

          “Oh, you are right son,” Hephaestus laughed. “I didn’t even think of that because on Olympus no one is ever poor. Here, I will enchant it for you.” And with that, Hephaestus waved his big strong hand and poof, the staff shrank down to pocket size. “Now you can hide it in your pocket, but when you need it, take it out and it will return to its normal size.”

          Drachma thanked his father and went to find the thief. As he wandered around the city he eventually realized that this would take along time. He looked for places to stay nearby so he wouldn’t have to go all the way back to his apartment, and found one place that caught his eye: Money Inn. Drachma went and searched through Money Inn because it appeared to be totally empty – until he found a man sitting down on the floor. He said hello to the man, and the man replied in a deep voice, “Why you come here?”

          Drachma thought about asking how he could rent a room, but something about this man seemed unusual. Maybe he can give me information about the thief, Drachma thought. He wanted to ask, but he knew he had to be careful.

          “Terrible thing about all the money in New York being stolen, huh?” Drachma said casually.

          “What money?” the man replied

          “All of it, I guess?” Drachma said a little bit suspiciously. The man stood up and he was a giant. The man called to someone by the name of 45 and told him to come. This man, who Drachma named simple “the giant” grabbed Drachma and put him in a chair and told him to wait. Drachma was hungry and was about to ask for food when the giant gave him a small piece of an apple and said to eat it.

          Except it really wasn’t a small piece of apple because it was from the giant, so it was giant sized. “I guess you could say this is a really BIG APPLE, get it?” Drachma joked. The giant just stared at him.

          “Giants aren’t known for their sense of humor,” said another voice from behind him.

          The giant turned around and said, “45. You late. Why Late?”

45 snapped his fingers and the giant was on the floor. 45 made his way over and took away the “Big Apple” and gave him an actual small piece.

          He looked at the giant and snarled, “You fool. Why did you give him a big apple!”

“Sorry,” the giant whimpered as he lay on the floor.

Drachma stood up; he felt more courageous now that the giant was on the floor, and 45 was normal-sized. “Look, this has been fun and all, but why exactly am I sitting in this chair watching you yell at a giant?”

“You will do whatever I tell you to do,” 45 replied, smoothing his hand over his green hair.

45 left the building and for the next 20-30 days, Drachma had either been starved, attacked by millions of demons when he was sleeping, given a milliliter of water for his only drink of the day, and deprived of money to pay his mounting hotel fees.  Drachma felt weak and tired. He wanted to leave this place but never had the energy. Then a thought came.

          He had forgotten all about the staff Hephaestus had given him. It was still shrunk down to a small size and hiding in his pocket. He still did not really know what it would do, but he figured now was as good a time as any. He took the staff out of his pocket and sure enough, it began to grow. “Here goes nothing,” he said to himself, and pointed the staff at the wall.

          100-dollar bills flung out of the staff and slammed against the wall and almost broke it. “Wow.” He said slowly. Drachma decided this would be reasonable to use. Then he realized he couldn’t get out of the room because the money had blocked the door.

          He picked up the hotel phone and called the front desk. “I know I haven’t had the money to pay my rent for the past 30 days,” he told them. “But if you come to my room right away, I can slip some money to you under the door.” Of course, the manager hung up right away and Drachma could hear his footsteps running up the stairs.

          Drachma used his staff to blow some of the money under the crack in the bottom of the door. Once he thought he had blown enough out to make the manager happy, he told him, “If this looks good to you, there’s plenty more where this came from. Gather everyone together and meet me back here in half an hour and you’ll see just how much more I have to give away.”

          30 minutes later, everyone inside the hotel forced their way inside the room and started taking all the money. Drachma decided to run, and when people started chasing him, he pointed his staff at the door and 4.87 seconds later, the entire exit of the hotel was sealed with money.

          People who were walking past the hotel started shouting and grabbing at all the 100 dollar bills. Drachma used the crowds as cover to slip away. “At least some people will have a nice dinner tonight,” he thought as he sprinted off to his next location. As it turned out, for all the days he was mistreated in the hotel, he also heard a lot of conversations, and although they didn’t know it, he thought he heard some of 45s henchmen talking about where his headquarters was.

          Just then, he heard a clink noise and realized that his staff was turned miniature and was on the floor somewhere. He turned around and saw a man take it and run away. He tried to catch up, but the crowds pushed him the other way. About 5 minutes later, Drachma decided to give up and just go home.

          When Drachma got home, he thought about how he could get his staff back. He was afraid to go to Mount Olympus and tell Hephaestus what happened because it might make him angry, so he knew he had to figure something out for himself. He remembered hearing that 45’s headquarters was somewhere in Trump Tower, but how would he get in there without anyone knowing? And how could he find out what floor 45 lived on? Drachma got on the internet to read up on Trump Tower, since it was such a famous building, so he went to Yelp and saw hundreds of reviews about how bad the building was and how everything was always breaking, so he decided to dress up as a repair man and pretend he was there to fix something. Now all he had to do was figure out which floor 45 lived on.

          Drachma went to the nearest store and got a repair man suit. The owner looked a little bit suspicious looking at a 5’4 guy wanting a 6’3 suit. Drachma got the suit and rushed out of the store. He decided to cut the pants and shirt until it fit him.  Drachma eventually fixed it, and then he put it on. Drachma then thought about how he was going to find 45. Then, a thought came up. Drachma remembered how rich 45 was and realized he probably owned the entire building. Drachma went back on Yelp and saw it was owned by anonymous, which was probably 45. As he went to open his front door, he saw an envelope had been shoved under it that said, “Use Me.” Drachma in a hurry, so he simply shoved the envelope into his baggy repair man suit and told himself he would open it later.

          It didn’t take long to get to Trump Tower. It was easy to find because it was so tall and had TRUMP TOWER written in gold across the top. Drachma walked through the revolving door and was shocked when he almost stepped on the tiniest man he’d ever seen also going through it at the same time. After dealing with a giant at the last hotel, he wasn’t too surprised to now see a man the size of a hot dog. So, Drachma just followed this tiny man through the lobby, and in his repairman suit no one questioned him. He got on the same elevator as the little dude to see which button he jumped up to push. Then, Drachma noticed this tiny man had a tiny little staff sticking out of his pocket! Hephaestus must have cursed it to shrink anyone who tried use it other than him! Now all he had to do was follow the tiny man and he was sure he’d find 45 there.

          Drachma followed the man until he saw a pit of fire. Immediately Drachma knew he had to stop the man. He stepped over the man (Literally) and stopped in front of him.  “Do you want money?” he asked.  

In a childish voice the man replied, “Well. No. I got a lot already and plus, how would you have more money than me? By the way, do your work!”

          Drachma remembered the envelope, reached into his pocket, opened it, and took out what was inside. He also heard the man asking what the staff did. Uh oh. Drachma dropped the card and immediately, there was a voice in is brain. “Name a number,” it said. Drachma said “34500.” His hand filled with 1, 5-, 10-, 50-, and 100-dollar bills. Drachma had the ability to count fast so he recognized it to be 34500. Drachma picked up the card and held it up towards the man. Little did he know, the card fell again.

          Drachma said to the man as he handed the money, “Here.”

          But then, a voice popped into Drachma’s mind saying “Name a number.”

          At the exact same time, the man said, “How much is this?”

          Drachma said zero, just wanting to take the voice out of his mind, but the little man heard him.

“Is this a scam?” he said.

“No sir. Not at all,” Drachma replied.

“Well zero dollars seems like a scam. What do you want!”

Unfortunately, when Drachma said the word “Zero,” the 34500 that had been in his hands had turned to zero. Enough dealing with this guy, he thought to himself.  

“Hey, where did you get that staff you have in your pocket?” he ask little man.

“None of your business,” the man said back.

“It looks pretty fancy for a tiny businessman to be carrying around. Prove to me it’s yours. Use it for something why don’t you?”

Annoyed, the tiny man took the staff out of his pocket. “Seriously?” he shouted at Drachma. “I am not going to take any more attitude from some plumber or whatever you are. Just buzz off!” He yelled, and as he said this, he stomped the staff on the ground. Immediately, it shrunk him down so tiny he disappeared with a ‘pop.’

Quickly, Drachma picked up the little staff and placed it back in his pocket. There weren’t that many rooms on this floor, so one of them had to be 45’s headquarters. Drachma decided to go home and make some better plans before storming in there. He wanted to be sure his attack was successful. New York was running out of more money by the second, and he needed to be sure he had a plan that would work before everyone went totally bankrupt.

Drachma picked up the card and decided to put glue on it so it would stick to his clothes. Drachma put a spy fly in the floor as he left. He could hear anything and everything.

That night when he went to plan, he heard, “You fools. That boy knows. He knows! Why would you let him in. Why!” Immediately Drachma knew that “boy” referred to him.

          Drachma knew this meant he had to act fast. 45 knew he’d been located. Then he heard something else that both scared and encouraged him: “We have GOT to find that one working ATM before that boy does. If he finds it – we’re done for! All our hard work will be ruined and everyone will get their money back!”

          “How are we gonna do that, Boss?” one of the men in the room said. “It could be anywhere.”

          “I have two ideas,” 45 said. “You don’t get to be as big and powerful as I am by just coming up with one idea, you know,” he bragged. “First, we need to get a few men on the trail of that kid. Maybe he will find the ATM before we do, and if he does, we need to be right there to stop him from getting to it before we do.

          “Second, we control all other ATMs in New York, right? So, all we need to do is use the Main Bank of New York Computer System to locate every single ATM in the city and then get as many of our men as possible to go out and test every one of them. Eventually someone will find the ATM that still works.”

          “That’s gonna take a lot of men,” one of the workers in the room said.

          “So what? I’m rich and powerful. And people are broke right now. I will put an ad in the paper that says I am offering jobs to people who are willing to travel around the city, and we will make them sign an agreement that says they can’t talk about what we ask them to do or they won’t get paid. That way it will all be secret.”

          “That sounds like a great plan, boss,” one of the men said. “I don’t see how anything could go wrong!”
          Drachma felt a little funny after he heard this. Should he go and find the ATM by going undercover again, or should he do something else? The thought circulated in is mind for about an hour. But he knew something – he had to act fast. Drachma decided that at dawn he would go and find that ATM. And if there were people following him, he would go a random route, hoping he could lose them.  He chose to sleep and have a rest before the adventure.

          That night, he had a dream. Outside his apartment was a terrible storm. The entire city was lit up like a Christmas tree due to all the lightning. Drachma was standing on his balcony watching the rain, when all of a sudden, a huge lightning bolt shot from the clouds. It was shaped like a giant hand that was pointing an electric finger right at the New York Executive State Mansion in Albany, NY. Drachma woke up and shot straight up in bed. “That must be it!” Drachma recognized the lightning bolt as having come from Zeus, so he knew he first had to visit the Little Zeus Food Truck on 112th 50th Street, to give him an offering of thanks before continuing on his quest.

Drachma got up and decided to go. Once he reached the food truck he said, “Um hello. Where ca-“

          “We’re closed.” The replied blatantly.

Drachma thought the man looked familiar. Wasn’t he the guy at Trump Tower who put him in the chair? The man must have realized that he was Drachma because he squinted his eyes at him and said “What’s your name kiddo!” Drachma quickly grabbed a loaf of bread and offered it to Zeus, and when the bread disappeared, the man jumped on him. “Hey! I am just a kid.” Drachma said. He rolled to the side and ran off. “Oh no,” he thought. Drachma zoomed past everyone and ran all the way to Albany.

As he neared the Executive State Mansion, he heard a car horn beeping behind him. Oh no, he thought. What if that was 45’s men catching up to him? He would be leading them right to what he was pretty sure was the working ATM. He turned around and saw – the Little Zeus Food Truck! The real men who owned the truck had followed him there!

          “Hey! Hop in, mister!” they shouted. “We saw how you offered that bread to Zeus and it disappeared. We figured you must be a special guy if you could do that so we decided to follow you!”

          Drachma got his staff out and pointed it at them. It did absolutely nothing. Drachma sighed. He took a turn left and kept running. He then saw it. A 234-foot monster with large wings. Drachma then saw a green light on an ATM. “I’ve got to get there and use the credit card that I have,” he thought. Drachma saw a store inside the building. He saw a door and went in it. When he realized no one was chasing him, he took a breather. He’d ran so much that he almost fainted. “Not now,” he said to himself. After about 5 minutes, drachma decided to go and save the Big Apple. “Let’s go,” he told himself as he was ready for some action.

          The store he was in was attached to the Executive Mansion, which was on the second floor. As he exited the store, a huge stream of flame shot across right in front of him. Drachma jumped back and looked in the direction of the flame. There stood the monster, and in front of it holding onto the chain that was attached to the monster’s neck, was the Governor of New York.

          “Not so fast, pal,” the Governor said. “That ATM is for my personal use only. No one is allowed to use it, that’s why it has that green light at the top. Green is my favorite color.”

          Drachma smiled, “It’s my favorite color, too,” and with that he pointed his staff right at him. A stream of money shot right at the Governor’s face, and he burst out in laughter.

          “Now, you’re my kind of guy!” the Governor said happily. “Green is my favorite color because money is my favorite thing in the world! How can I help you?” he asked, as the monster roared another shot of flame in Drachma’s direction. “Hey, knock it off, Pebbles,” the Governor said. “This is one of the good guys. We’re going to let him have access to the ATM if he can give us a good reason why he’s here.”

          “I am here to use that ATM to get all the other ATMs in the city working. Only I can do it. And if 45 gets to it before I do, he is going to take control of that one too, and then he’ll control everything.”

          The Governor thought for a moment. “You know, I admit it’s been kind of nice to keep this ATM secret and be the only person in New York with any cash,” he said, stroking Pebbles’s big scaly paw while he talked. “But eventually the entire city is going to blame me for this whole mess if I don’t fix it soon, so I guess it’s good that you’re here to fix things for me. I just have one condition before we get started.”

          “What’s that?” Drachma asked.

          “You have to let me take the credit for getting all the ATMs working,” the Governor said.

          “I will do that as long you do something for me,” Drachma said.

          “OK, what?”

          “You have to tell everyone in New York to burn $10 a month. It will really be in honor of me as the god I am sure to become if I succeed, but they don’t have to know that,” Drachma told him.

          “I have no problem with that,” the Governor said. “I’m sure I can come up with some reason for them to burn the money.”

          Drachma went and got the credit card he had .001 second before he could put it into the machine, the card got swatted away. Drachma turned around to see 45’s big eyes staring at him. 45 took his leg and dragged him all around the place until Drachma broke free and ran. 45 came running but Drachma swatted at him with his staff. “Stand back.” Drachma said. 45 threw his shoe at Drachma and the card flew out of his hand. “Okay. I guess I have to fight this one.” Drachma said.

          It was him versus 45. Drachma moved in a swift direction as he jabbed at 45 with his staff. 45 fell to the floor but got back up and snapped his fingers which caused giants to appear. One of the giants stood out. It was the giant from Money Inn. Drachma was in trouble. But he continued fighting. He took out most of the giants with his staff. Then, it was just 45 and THE giant.

          Suddenly, Drachma heard a voice in his ear. “Remember,” the voice said, “everyone has a weakness.” It was the ancient Greek hero, Achilles. Achilles had been dipped in the River Styx as a child, but there was spot on his heel where his mother held him that was vulnerable. One arrow shot into his heel is what killed him, even though the rest of him was invincible. Achilles was trying to tell him something – but what was 45’s one weakness? His staff started to quiver, and he felt it pointing directly at 45’s chest. That was when Drachma realized what his weakness was.

          His wallet.

          But first, the giant. Drachma told the giant a joke knowing he didn’t have a sense of humor. The giant stood there confused as Drachma defeated it. The only other person left was 45. Drachma eyed his wallet as he was ready to charge.

          The wallet was in the inside pocket of 45’s suit jacket. It was huge and stuffed full of money. But at the last moment 45 saw how Drachma was looking at it and held onto it with his hand. “Oh no you don’t!” 45 shouted as he took off his jacket and threw it up into the air, where it turned into a hot air balloon and started to float into the sky.

Drachma decided to get the wallet. He grabbed his staff and threw it at the hot air balloon and it popped. 45 shouted in anger and charged at Drachma. Drachma swiftly dodged 45’s attack and ran to the wallet. When he reached the wallet, he looked up and saw the giant’s ugly face. “Uh oh” Drachma said.

The giant grabbed the wallet before Drachma could reach it. He looked at it curiously. Then he said, “I work for 45 many years. He never pay me. I think I take payment now.” And with that, he lifted up a big green foot and squashed 45 like a bug.

But unfortunately, the wallet was a regenerator. No wonder the wallet was so special. It had kept him alive for so long. 45 decided to do this a different way: Reverse psychology. He said, “Fine, I give up, you can have it.” In .23 seconds, every single person looked at him. Even Pebbles. 45 then said,” So… that’s it, right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Drachma replied.

“I’ll give you the wallet, then I can be the good guy, maybe,” 45 replied.

“Sure, but I prefer being the good guy,” Drachma said as he held onto the wallet.

45 thought he was being clever, but Drachma hadn’t forgotten the real reason he was there: to get to that ATM. Maybe he could use the wallet situation to distract 45 long enough to get access to it and fix all the other ATMs in the city.

“Hey Governor!” Drachma shouted. “Catch!” Then Drachma threw the wallet to the Governor, who was still standing beside Pebbles.

As the wallet flew through the air, 45 laughed out loud and shouted “Sucker! I’m gonna catch it and then it will be mine forever!” But while he was chasing after the wallet, Drachma zoomed towards the ATM machine.

45 saw Drachma going for the ATM and chased after him. But 45’s lives were basically in the Governor’s hands. The Governor fed the wallet to Pebbles and 45 fell to the ground as he disintegrated into a pile of pennies. “Thanks, Gov,” Drachma said.

“DON’T EVER CALL ME THAT,” the governor said.

“Chill,” Drachma said as he put the credit card in the ATM.

The all the atm’s started working and people started rampaging at the ATMs and people were getting run over. The Governor got an alert on his phone that told him what was happening. “Drachma, now there’s violence spreading all over the city because everyone is rushing to the ATM machines! Can you get this under control?”

Drachma rolled his eyes and handed the credit card to the Governor. “I think I’ve done enough for one day,” he said. “You’re the Governor, after all.”

The Governor sighed, but he got on the phone with emergency services right away to fix the problem.

Even though Drachma didn’t help with the stampedes after the ATM machines were fixed, he still got his big promotion to god status because of all the work he’d done. Drachma was now in charge of money and wealth. He would fix a problem with money if there was any. Drachma was happy. And the Governor passed a law that put Drachma’s face on all money as well as a special edition credit card. And once a month, everyone burned $10 in honor of him, just like he’d asked them to do.

-by Sarvesh, Grade 6

The Myth of McOiless, the goddess of cooking oil


The Myth of McOiless, the Goddess of Cooking Oil

          McOiless was surrounded by gods and goddesses with very important roles. She was very jealous of those with roles because she didn’t have one. Not only that, but most of the gods and goddesses were strong, majestic and beautiful, while she was small and no matter what she did, she still had oily skin. Her mother, Persephone, encouraged McOiless to go talk to her uncle Dionysus since he often had good ideas in spite of the fact that he was never 100% sober when he came up with them. 

          “You should try and search far and wide for your specialty,” Dionysus told McOiless when she went to his vineyard, “instead of just searching in one area.” Dionysus was concerned because all of his sister’s kids were special and McOiless seemed useless, and McOiless had tried to search on Mount Olympus for a specialty to no avail.

After Dionysus had consumed two bottles of his own vintage wine, he was drunk enough to come up with the brilliant idea of McOiless going to Earth to find her role.

“That’s a brilliant idea,” McOiless squeaked with excitement, “but if I go to Earth, I will need something to protect myself. I have never ventured far from Mount Olympus.”

McOiless went to her grandmother Demeter to see if she had any ideas about a weapon for protection on Earth. Demeter thought for a moment, and then reached into a cabinet under her stove where she was making bread. She pulled out a plain black frying pan.

“This frying pan can knock out a mortal for two hours with a single tap of the surface,” Demeter told her. “It can also do another power, but that is for you to figure out for yourself.” She winked and handed the simple-looking pan to McOiless.

McOiless looked optimistically at the pan. “I was thinking of something different, but this will work,” she piped.

McOiless asked Hermes to transport her to Earth, and since he was so helpful, he agreed. Once she arrived on Earth, she found out that she quite liked it. There were so many things for her to do and discover that were not on Mount Olympus, like allergies and towels. While searching for her role, she met Saladus, the god of salads, who was enthusiastic about healthy food, and watched over people on diets to make sure they worked.

Saladus was green and very fit due to his attention to his health. His hair was curly and fuzzy like a broccoli floret. He also wore a necklace made out of cherry tomatoes.

“I see that you are trying to find your role. I can help you find it through the power of diet and salad; a healthy diet strengthens your brain and your body so that you have more energy on your quest.”

McOiless was happy, because she was desperate and had no one to help her on her endeavor. She accepted Saladus’s offer and went with him to his temple made of celery pillars and a cauliflower roof.

McOiless’s breakfast every day was a single carrot. Her lunch was a vegetable smoothie in a bowl with added celery or lettuce chunks. Her dinner was a burrito – but only made of vegetables and the tortilla was more lettuce. Finally, for dessert she had three strawberries.

This went on for a month. Then McOiless realized that vegetables and healthy eating were making her feel weak. She wondered how she would ever be able to find her specialty if she continued. She bravely decided to approach Saladus and tell him she wanted to leave.

“You take my help so ungratefully!” Saladus’s voice grated. “See if anyone else will be so kind to help you find your role!” He bid her a very angry goodbye, but went into his broccoli lair and cooked up a plan. 

He schemed how to make McOiless’s journey so tough that she had no choice but to run back to his vegetated castle. He thought hard about McOiless’s weaknesses, and realized that without her gear, such as food and weapons, she would pretty much be left for the rats. He then mixed up a brilliant plan.

“Tomato vultures! I need your assistance,” he called out to his trusty pets. The red vultures came to him and sat upon their celery perch. “I need you to seek out this goddess,” he said, “She has long oily black hair, oily skin, and wears a toga the color of oil. She’s just oily in general! Go find her! She sticks out like frozen butter in a pool of oil.”

The Tomato vultures never spoke, but Saladus knew they understood. Without another word from him, they tossed off. Their red glistening tomato bodies contrasted against the light blue sky.

While McOiless was winding down and creating cool oil out of her skin pores in order to avoid the blazing sun, she realized that her oil technique wasn’t as strong as it used to be. I knew that those darn green vegetables were doing harm to me! she angrily thought.

Just as she thought the worst was over, she realized that her bread bowl bag was gone from her side. A bubbling surge of panic rose within her and she desperately searched around her surroundings for her bag. Where is it! Oh no, I cannot go without my bag.

She then heard a squawk above her head and looked up. A very ugly tomato looking bird was circling above her, carrying the bread bowl bag, as if it were mocking her.

“Hey! Give it back you stupid bird!” She jumped up and reached, but slipped on the oil puddle she had made. But she was never going to give up. When the bird swept just low enough, she grabbed one item out of the bag.

The bird squawked loudly and flew up, but made the effort to take a tomatoey bird poop on McOiless’s head.

McOiless was angry, humiliated, and upset. She then checked what the item was she had grabbed, and saw the magical frying pan.

“I guess you’re all I’ve got now,” she mumbled.

“Hey are you OK?” McOiless heard a voice behind her. She spun around and saw a partially-costumed clown standing there. He was tall and had clown makeup on, but he had taken off his clown wig and big floppy shoes.

McOiless sighed. “I guess I am,” she said.

“Are you sure? Because I just saw a bunch of flying tomatoes steal your stuff,” the half clown said. “Why don’t you come to my booth and I will give you some supplies.”

He handed her a balloon animal and she took it, then followed him up the street to where a fair was taking place. “What’s your name?” the clown asked her.


“Hello McOiless. I am Donald the Clown. And this is my booth!” he said as he approached a small red and yellow building surrounded by children.

Unfortunately, the children all started crying when they saw Donald without his clown wig and floppy shoes. McOiless distracted them by giving them balloons while Donald got fully dressed. When he emerged from behind his booth, the kids cheered.

“Here you go, pretty lady,” said Donald, handing her a plastic bag filled with napkins, a loaf of bread, a compass, some water bottles, and some ring pops. The bag was tied to a red balloon with a yellow D, for Donald, on it.

I hope all humans are as nice as this Donald guy, McOiless thought, as she thanked him and went on her way. Hopefully someday she would be able to repay his kindness.

As Saladus was making a salad, the tomato vultures flew in and dropped the bread bowl bag. Saladus was delighted and quickly rummaged through the bag for her belongings, getting disgusted at all the oil. He realized that something was not quite right.

“Where’s the frying pan?” Saladus glared at the vultures. The vultures nervously looked at each other.

Saladus was fed up with anger and tossed his salad at the birds. They both squawked and attempted to dodge the flying cucumbers.

“I said to get everything!” Saladus angrily shouted, “Maybe you weren’t a ripe enough tomato for the job! I guess I’ll just have to get a bigger obstacle.”

Saladus thought, then remembered something stored away in his jalapeno cellar – away from the eyes of any mortal or immortal.

He walked to get his olive candle and walked down the fifty flights of eggplant stairs. He then arrived at the jalapeno cellar and heard a low growl from the cage. The bacon dog.

McOiless was getting nowhere with her journey, and every day she was getting oilier and oilier. Her forehead was like a beacon from the shine. And a plane would know where she was by the glow of the oil and the slimy trail she left.

Then she heard a loud howl and stopped in her tracks. She seemed drawn to it, yet it felt like common sense to be afraid by it. McOiless clutched her frying pan and ran towards the sound of the howling.

She was met by a large dog that seemed to be made of raw pieces of thin pork. It had two heads and a sloppy tongue of bacon. Its eyes were fried eggs, and it had an avocado seed nose.

The dog seemed to stop howling when McOiless approached it. She was drawn to the dog and all of a sudden felt a deep need to save it for an unknown reason.

All of a sudden, it started growling and barking, flicking its tail and knocking McOiless off her feet. In defense, she involuntarily made a geyser of oil come out of her back to prevent her from falling. The dog continued to charge at McOiless and she summoned fried chicken from her pan and threw it at the dog. The dog ate the chicken, and McOiless was left defenseless again. The dog charged at McOiless, she shut her eyes and put her hands up to defend herself, unknowingly shooting out hot boiling cooking oil from her hands. She heard a sizzle sound and opened one eye cautiously, and saw a cooked bacon dog with a slobbery bacon tongue.

“What-?” her sentence was cut off when the large dog tackled her, licking her oily face and wagging his bacon tail. McOiless laughed and scratched the back of his ears, making him roll on his back so she could rub his bacon belly.

“If you look past the fact you’re just all bacon, you’re kind of cute,” she smiled, “I will name you Baconeus.”

McOiless then got to thinking, how was it that she could make oil on command and as a defensive technique? She played fetch with the dog while deep in thought. While things flipped through her mind, she finally put the burger together. Her specialty was simply cooking oil!

“Baconeus! I finally found out what my purpose is!” She excitedly squeaked, and her pores generated more oil from overexcitement. “Let’s go back to Mount Olympus! We need to tell everyone!”

As she mounted Baconeus, she felt something drop on her head. She picked it up and saw a cherry tomato. Her heart dropped and her throat felt thick.

“You really thought you could just leave?” A booming voice was heard from above. McOiless looked up and saw a lettuce chariot with red onion reins and cauliflower seats. The horses were made of potatoes and had green bean eyes.

“Leave me alone!” McOiless shouted up, “Or I will dunk you in deep fry oil!”

Saladus raised a carroty eyebrow, “So you have found your specialty? I knew something was wrong when you rejected my expertise.”

McOiless was done with Saladus’s bossing around. “You don’t scare me!”

“We’ll see about that.”

Saladus hopped down from his chariot and made a floor of cauliflower below him, breaking his fall. McOiless hopped back while Baconeus growled at Saladus.

          McOiless quickly made oil and shot it at Saladus; he made a wall of lettuce to protect himself from the unhealthy grease. McOiless ran in panic as Saladus approached her slowly.

          “You’re nothing but a goddess who has no specialty, who turned to such unhealthy desires as fried food.”

          McOiless stopped in her greasy tracks. She could feel anger bubbling deep in her soul and oil seeping from her pores. Her face dripped with grease from anger.

          “You have no idea what you’re talking about!” She turned to Saladus and yelled.

          Saladus spun his carrot spear around in his hand, “Let’s see what’s more powerful: health, or some junk.”

          Without a warning, his spear turned into a carrot bow with toothpick olive arrows. He shot them at her and McOiless ducked in defense, spraying oil out at the arrows. I have to think of a way to defeat him!
          McOiless rubbed her eyes, deep in thought, and some of her own oil got in her eyes. It stung a little – which gave her an idea.

          “Baconeus! I need you to distract Saladus!” She told her dog. Baconeus gave a faint nod and ran towards Saladus, biting one of his green legs.

          “Get off me, you mutt!” he shrieked.

          McOiless readied her stance and waited for the right moment. She watched Saladus’s every move and saw him pull back the carrot bow. Now’s my chance!

          She felt her palms get warm and bubbly and shot out boiling hot oil right at Saladus’s eyes, and the oil dripped down his neck and chest, burning his green skin.

          Saladus cried out in pain and clutched his eyes. The steaming sound was painful to hear. He ran quickly towards his lettuce chariot, tripping over his feet, and took off.

          Baconeus came running up to McOiless’s side. “We did it, Baconeus!” she shouted with joy, as they watched Saladus’s chariot fly erratically off into the sky.

          McOiless’s feet were tired as she finally climbed the last rock towards Mount Olympus. The gate was opened for her and there she saw her mother Persephone.

          “Oh, you’re finally back with your role I hope?” Persephone asked McOiless.

          “Yes, I have my role,” McOiless smiled brightly. “It’s cooking oil.”   

          Persephone smiled back at McOiless. “Well, we need to put the importance of your role somewhere.”

          McOiless thought for a moment and then came up with a great idea, inspired by a nice human she met on earth.

          “What if I make a place called McDonalds, and it could rest on the side of Mount Olympus,” she pointed to an empty area of the mountain, “right over there.”

          Baconeus, Persephone, and McOiless walked over to the area she pointed at. But McOiless slipped on the oil trail she made.

          “Oh, my bad, it’s just very slippery to walk on oil with feet.”

          Persephone shook her head, “You should go to Zeus about that, I’ll call Hephaestus to build McDonalds for you.”

          McOiless walked to Zeus’s temple with Baconeus at her side. Zeus saw McOiless come in.

          “What brings you here?” Zeus asked.

          “I’m having trouble walking on the oil trail I make, as my role in Mount Olympus is cooking oil.”

          Zeus clapped his hands, “I have the perfect thing for you! It won’t hurt at all.”

          Suddenly, her legs started to move on their own. The skin around them created so much oil she thought she would slip and crack her head. Then, she couldn’t even feel her two legs anymore and they felt like one solid piece.


          McOiless looked down and saw a snail body under her waist like a centaur, but she was half-human, half snail. She was the first Snailtaur! A big shell sat on her back that created oil to keep her comfortable and to slick the floors to help her move without creating an oil trail for the other gods and goddesses to trip on.

          “Wow! This is amazing! Thank you!” McOiless slithered around. Baconeus got excited.

          “You’re very welcome.”

          McOiless left the temple and saw two golden arches in the shape of an M at the area she showed Persephone. A small red and yellow building sat behind it.

          She slid towards it in amazement. Hephaestus was also admiring his work.

          “This is truly great! I can now serve all the deep fried food I want!”

          “Yes, McOiless, you can,” said a booming voice behind her. Everyone turned around to see Zeus approaching. He almost never left his temple, so this was truly a sight to behold.

          “This is a great day for all of the gods,” Zeus said, putting a huge hand on McOiless’s shell. “Not only do we now have a goddess of all things oily and fried, but we can all benefit from the bounty of your greasy feasts,” he said. “And also, you have defeated that overbearing god Saladus,” he grumbled. “I know that guy means well, but he is just so annoying and obsessive. And now he cannot keep such a watchful eye over everyone who is on a diet. I know that means some diets won’t work now, but to be honest mortals are too obsessed with dieting anyway. I mean, it’s not like they are going to live forever!” And at that, everybody laughed.

          “Fried chicken for everyone!” McOiless announced.

          Everybody cheered and filed into the red and yellow building for a huge fried feast that lasted for 30 days.

-by Rebecca, Grade 8

Inferno, the God of Fire and Heat


The Myth of Inferno, the God of Heat

          It all started on Mount Olympus, where Inferno lived with Heptius, Zeus, Apollo, and the rest of his family. There had been talk for some time about how Poseidon was causing trouble on Earth. One day Zeus told Inferno that Poseidon was telling everyone that he was going to make water the strongest power on earth and that all heat would be eliminated, unless someone could beat him in battle. “Which is why I am putting you on a quest,” Zeus said.

          All of a sudden, his father Heptius told him to go to an ancient volcano and jump in. Inferno said he would visit the volcano but would not jump in, however, once he was there he tripped into the volcano anyway. For some reason it felt like he was a god, then Heptius told him that he was actually the god of Heat. Hephaestus said “I can pass down my power of fire to the next one who jumped in the volcano and that was you.”

  Zeus told Inferno to “Go into the labyrinth and go to Poseidon’s base, but I warn you there will be some booby traps.”

          So, Inferno headed down from Mount Olympus towards the underground labyrinth to find Poseidon’s base. Luckily, he found Daedalus. He asked to help him navigate the labyrinth. Daedalus told him to keep on walking forward and as he walked, Daedalus realized he couldn’t go any farther because he was the son of Athena, and Athena and Heptius did not like each other very well.

So, Inferno kept walking and suddenly fell in water; he realized it was bottomless. He was taking a lot of damage; after all, he was the god of heat. He tried to swim up, but the water was making him take so much damage that he couldn’t get up. But then, because he was the heat god, he spread lava to create obsidian below him so he could just step out. He would die if he stayed for 10 more minutes, then he would lose his powers. When it became 1 minute left, he finally got out. Now he was scared to see what came next.

He kept on going forward until what he saw in front of him was the legendary Scylla, the three headed water monster. He thought he met his match. He thought he was doomed!!! Since Scylla couldn’t move he put a fire border right next to her and walked right past. Sadly, he was under the sea of monsters and he met the legendary Charybdis. Inferno went inside Charybdis’s tummy and burned a hole to get out to the other side. Now he would go to Poseidon and fight him.

Inferno found Poseidon at his golden castle under the sea. He was busy making tidal waves that were crashing onto the shore of Italy. Because he was so busy, he did not see Inferno sneak up behind him with his axe.

Then he shouted “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH” and hit Poseidon on the foot. He saw the trident and remembered that one strike could change Poseidon from bad to good. But sadly, it was in Poseidon’s hand. Inferno needed to get it from his hand. He needed options. Inferno was fighting for his life and thinking at the same time.

Inferno noticed how much Poseidon was shaking the ground as he made tidal waves. His nickname was “the earth-shaker,” after all. Each time he did this the trident shook in his hand as if he might drop it. So, Inferno waited until the next time Poseidon was about to strike the ground and right when he did, Inferno kicked the bottom of the trident and it fell out of Poseidon’s hand and towards the ground.

Inferno knew when the trident fell there would be massive damage, so just in time he caught it and hit Poseidon with it. He had to do it fast because the trident was made of water; it almost burned his hand off. But he did it.

He had won, so he brought Poseidon back to Mount Olympus and Zeus rewarded him. But before that, they needed to stop the tidal waves. Zeus told some of the other gods to take care of that.

Then Zeus said, “Congratulations, you won. This is a gift of victory, this fire axe that increases your powers to the max.” Inferno said, “Thank you, I shall name this axe of fire Frax.” And every god that was there clapped.  

  • by Haresh, grade 5

Greek Mythology – create your own Greek god/goddess

The Myth of Penguinisteus, The God of Antarctic Penguins and Fish


During the Great Antarctic Seal War II of 2000 BC, the penguins were losing the war due to lack of equipment. Penguinisteus was sent to dig all the way to the seal’s headquarters.

At first, Penguinisteus did not want to fight in this war. So, he pretended to be insane so he would not be sent. He put on a tuxedo jacket and a blue crown covered in fish drawings and started waddling around the town. This did not work, however, because everyone thought if he was insane he would be the best person to spend days underground, so they decided he was the best penguin for the job. Unknown to the rest of the penguins was the fact that Penguinisteus was a demi-god, and was immortal.

Penguinisteus then started digging to the seals’ headquarters. While digging he met a god by the name of Glaucus. He gave Penguinisteus a scroll named “The Scroll of Thee Tiny Penguin!” Using this would make him tiny for five minutes.

“To use this scroll you have to count to ten, then spin around 3 times, eat a piece of wheat bread, and then say I WILL BE A TINY PENGUIN,” Glaucus told him. “And then sign it with the tiny pen that comes out, oh – and here is a piece of wheat bread.”

“What can I do as a tiny penguin?” Penguinisteus asked him. “Anyone can just catch me.”

Glaucus laughed his loud, fishy laugh. “That is what is so great about The Tiny Scroll,” he said. “You will retain all the strength of a full-sized penguin.”

Penguinisteus thought that this sounded pretty good, so he thanked Glaucus and kept digging. Soon he heard a deafening chomping sound. The ice around him began to shake. Then he saw rows of sharp teeth heading straight for him! As quick as he could, Penguinisteus constructed himself a super-sharp spear made of ice. He had done this many times back home when he wanted to spear fish with his friends. However, he thought maybe it would not work when he saw the huge, 8-foot-high, 9-foot-wide piranha in front of him. Penguinisteus said a quick prayer to Glaucus because he was a fish god and piranhas are fish – and then, with all of his might, he thrust the ice spear into the back of its throat. It did not die, but it started to cough and got distracted, so Penguinisteus quickly dug himself away from it.

Penguinisteus kept digging and then he heard rumbling noises; there were tiny snow chunks falling from the top of the cave. Suddenly, snow started coming down rapidly. He was suffocating, but he started to eat the ice and was having good progress. Soon he had enough space to breathe, and then he kept digging.

 He started to feel really full from eating all that ice. “Well,” he thought to himself, “Since I’m stuck here anyway, I will just take breaks when I need to and get out of this eventually. As long as I chew away enough space to keep breathing between breaks, I should be OK.” This seemed like a good idea, and it worked for about four hours. But then something went terribly wrong.

He heard a digging noise approaching directly in front of him and prepared for battle quickly, making a new ice spear. Once it got close enough for Penguinisteus to see it, he discovered it was an enemy seal digging to the penguins’ headquarters! Penguinisteus stabbed the seal, which gave him an idea: “I should kill this seal and wear its skin.” So, he grabbed the ice spear with his flipper and stabbed the seal in the throat. It was a fatal hit, and the seal soon died. Then, Penguinisteus put on the skin of the seal and kept following the path the seal made.

Penguinisteus was pleased with how much easier it was to reach the headquarters once he found the seal’s path. With his seal costume, he was getting very confident that he would be able to execute his plan with ease now. Alas, Penguinisteus was too confident, and he stopped being cautious as he approached the end of the seal’s ice tunnel; he popped up out of the ice, without looking around first.

Once he got up, nine seals noticed him, and all of them were asking, “Did you make it to their headquarters?” Clearly, they all thought he was the enemy seal Penguinisteus had conquered in the tunnel.

“Oh yeah, I did, um…” Penguinisteus was panicking. He hadn’t planned for how he would explain returning as a seal without any equipment. Then he remembered that back home where his brothers and sisters were, they had no equipment, which was the whole reason he started digging towards the seals’ headquarters in the first place. “The thing is, once I got there, it turned out that they have no equipment, so there was nothing to steal,” he told them, trying to make his voice sound seal-like.

Then one seal named Rob Boss noticed his webbed feet poking out from under Penguinisteus’s seal suit, and realized something was off.

Rob yelled, “HEY DAT SEAL GOT WEB FEET!” Everyone then started looking at Penguinisteus’s feet and then jumped on him, knocking him unconscious. 

When Penguinisteus woke up, he knew something was wrong. He could open his eyes, but other than that he could barely move. And even though he was a penguin, he was quite cold. When he tried to look around, he noticed everything seemed blurry and distorted. “What’s wrong with my eyes?” he wondered, and tried to move his fins to rub them – but they were frozen at his sides. The seals had trapped him in a block of impenetrable ice! “Good thing I am immortal,” Penguinisteus thought to himself. “This is definitely a setback, but I can wait until this ice melts just the tiniest bit, and then I can use my secret weapon to get out of this. And the seals will never see it coming!”

Penguinisteus waited for hours and hours until the ice started to melt, he took out his wheat bread, counted to ten, spun around three times, ate the wheat bread, and then said I WILL BE THE TINY PENGUIN. Then he signed his name to the scroll with the pen that was 0.000000001283921783412 micrometers smaller than a normal pen.  He started shrinking drastically until he was only .000000001283921783412 micrometers tall. Then he got out of his ice block and prayed to Apollo to perform Bunshin no Jutsu, making a clone of himself. Then he put the clone Penguinisteus inside the ice block and hurried away.

Now that Penguinisteus knew the seals had no weapons either, and that a tunnel leading directly to their lair had been dug by the dead seal, he returned to the land of the penguins with a new plan. At first, his journey was easy because he was infinitesimally small, but after five minutes he began to grow back to normal size, and the tunnel was a bit tighter. But he made it back in record time and leapt up out of the ice hole to exclaim to his penguin friends: “New plan everyone! The seals are also out of equipment, but now we have a direct path coming up from under their headquarters! Let’s use it to sneak attack them before they figure out it’s there and try to do the same to us.”

All of the penguins dove into the tunnel, but Glaucus told Penguinisteus to stay behind. Once everyone left for the sneak attack, Glaucus told Penguinisteus to sit down and close his eyes. Then Penguinisteus did another special ritual: he ate a piece of white bread, spun around 23 times, jumped 24 inches in the air, and then counted to 142. After that, Glaucus told Penguinisteus to open his eyes. Then Glaucous said, “You are now a god.”

It was not long before the penguins returned, having successfully overthrown the seals when they took them by surprise. Only 18 penguins perished in the battle. This put a stop to the seal war, and the penguins gained access to a new headquarters.

That night, the penguins had a huge celebration. Everyone jumped into the ocean and caught a ton of fish. Then Glaucus called for everyone’s attention.

“Fellow penguins,” Glaucus said. “I present to you your new god – Penguinisteus, the god of Antarctica and anywhere else penguins live.

From now on you will all have to put nine fish in front of the Penguinisteus statue we will build. These nine fish will represent the nine seals who almost captured our god. Also, you will have to blink in morse code the number nine to this statue every day. And if you do these things, you will always be blessed by Penguinisteus. 

If you do not honor Penguinisteus in this manner, he will ensure that all the fish in the area are repelled by a special force field that keeps them away until you all starve.”

And then all of the penguins cheered and started making Penguinisteus’s statue of honor.

And they all lived penguin-ly ever after.

  • by Sid, Grade 6

Why Grades Are Not the Best Measure for Success

As an academic coach, I am always amazed at how much my students teach me with their feedback and observations. A few days ago, one of my students made an observation about grades that reinforced for me how unreliable they are as a measure of success.

I am not at all anti-grading in saying this. I am fine with the concept of studying hard and receiving a grade in return to reward the effort. In life, we are all ‘graded’ in some form or another at our jobs, and getting feedback from others is essential to growth in whatever form that feedback takes. So on the surface, a student goal of making A’s in classes makes sense, and is such a habit for most students and parents (and, I admit, for me as well) that I sometimes forget there’s a better, more measurable goal to set than looking at grade reports – until a student comes along and reminds me.

This student was feeling frustrated because he was having a hard time measuring his success from week to week due to the lack of grade updates he was receiving in some of his classes. He may have studied hard for his tests and quizzes, and turned in some late assignments to teachers to eliminate some zeroes, but when the teachers didn’t get those grades and makeup assignments entered into the online system quickly, he was unable to get confirmation that his efforts were working.

It can be frustrating to look at low averages week after week when the student knows they’ve made up some of their missing work, or re-taken a test to up the score, but I do think we need to give teachers a break here. As a former high school teacher, I know how overwhelming a job it is, and the truth is grading and entering those grades takes time that has to be carved out from the myriad other responsibilities teachers have to juggle from day-to-day. While waiting weeks to get test grades entered certainly isn’t acceptable, it makes sense to give teachers several days to get them posted. On the other hand, I always tell my students that one of the many benefits of turning in work on time is getting to see the grades in a timely manner, and that a teacher isn’t under much of an obligation to quickly grade and log assignments that missed the deadline. Resolving the consequences of your lateness, and the low grade that results from it, isn’t going to be a teacher’s priority, and for the most part, it shouldn’t be.

All the more reason for realizing a measure of success that relies less on the teacher, and more on the individual student. So how is this done? The student can think about the actions he or she is going to take to accomplish the goal of improving grades, and make those actions the real goal. Saying, “I am going to bring all my low grades up to passing” or “I am going to bump my Bs to As” is a great idea, but again, the student doesn’t control how or when that magic happens. But, a goal that states, “I am going to turn in all my homework on time this grading period” or “I am going to study for 30 minutes every day for 4 days before my tests, instead of trying to cram everything in the night before” is not only more clear and productive, but it’s entirely dependent on student action, and therefore, immediately measurable, even if it takes the teacher another week to enter grades.

Setting goals that are outside our realm of control is a habit that is tricky to change, especially when it comes to academics, because the big reward is generally to get that glowing grade report at the end of a semester. But it is worth checking in with ourselves every once in a while, especially when we’re feeling frustrated with our lack of progress, to see if part of the problem is that we’re relying on someone else to give us the feedback we need to know whether or not our efforts are paying off. It’s not about abandoning the goal of making good grades, it’s about being as proactive as possible in working to achieve them. Measuring  success against a student’s own actions provides much more immediate feedback than waiting for grades to post (which puts them in a reactionary position that doesn’t serve them). This also provides students with a more concrete and useful evaluation system if something goes wrong grade-wise – sometimes, in spite of their best efforts, students fail a test or miss a deadline, and the more detailed a student’s action goals were, the easier it is to go back and evaluate what went wrong along the way and make changes.

It may sound strange to say that grade reports are not the proper measure of student success, but in reality, action-oriented goals that focus on how a student will behave from day-to-day are, in the long run, a better form of measurement. Students need to be able to evaluate themselves regularly, without waiting for feedback from others to validate how they are doing.

How to Study: Think Like a Teacher and Test-Maker

It’s a common refrain: students don’t know how to study. It’s true that for the most part, kids wants to pull out their notes and review sheets, stare at them for an hour or so, then consider themselves done; but there are a few tried-and-true methods students know about that aren’t that hard to implement and actually are effective. And aside from those few, what else can kids do to study more effectively?

In a 2013 article published in Scientific American, a group of psychologists reviewed over 700 studies on commonly used techniques to evaluate and rate their effectiveness. An archive of the entire article can be found at the link above, and is worth a read, but I’d like to focus on a few of their findings and elaborate with some ideas of my own that I’ve seen work for students in the past.

The article identified two primary strategies as having the greatest effectiveness: self-testing and distributed practice. In other words, those two-sided flash cards are actually a fine idea, as well as any other method a student can devise to quiz him or herself over the material (distributed practice simply means it’s better to study a little each day over a longer period of time than it is to cram a lot of study in a night or two before an exam). Building on this, I’d like to throw out a few other effective self-testing methods that students don’t usually consider.


If you work in a study group, arrange to teach a certain amount of your study materials to the other group members at your next study session. Have other members take on different sections of the textbook or notes to teach, and as a group you each take turns sharing what you’ve learned with the other members. It’s important not only for you to know the material you are supposed to explain, but to ask questions of the other members when it’s their turn to ‘teach.’ In this manner, a discussion is generated about the material, instead of just rote memorization or review. It’s a more effective manner of using a study group than simply looking over the materials together at the same time; everyone comes to the group prepared both to teach and to learn.

If you don’t have a study group but work with a tutor or peer, you could do something similar, or just practice ‘teaching’ material to yourself by assigning yourself a topic, preparing to teach it, and then putting the study sheet away while going over it as if you’re teaching it to someone else. You don’t have to stand up at the front of the room and talk out loud to do this, just think of it as constructing the information into a different form from what’s on the review sheet or in the text. Facts are not malleable, but the way in which those facts are presented is, and any time you take what you know and re-shape it into another form you’re deepening your understanding of it. Look at it this way – you’re never totally sure how you are going to be asked to show what you know on an exam, so the more ways in which you are able to look at the information and understand it, the better.


Not only does thinking like a teacher help students perform better on exams, so does taking on the role of a test-maker and actually writing your own test questions. Here’s why: coming up with a test question and the proper response is easy, but coming up with three other wrong answers is a challenge, and having to do so reinforces the right answer in your brain. It’s another way to work with the material you’ve been given and manipulate it into a different form so you know it inside and out. Many students move into their freshman year of high school still expecting every test they take to ‘match’ their notes and reviews, only to find that this is not the case – more critical thinking is required. Aside from the fact that you have too much information to memorize anyway, you have to understand the information instead of regurgitate pre-supplied answers. Generating your own test questions out of study materials is an excellent way to add depth to your understanding.

For example, let’s say you take one chapter of a Biology text, and create 10-15 test questions for it as if you are going to give it to someone else. Then, if possible, actually give the assessment to someone else, see how they answer, and go over the results with them. No essay or short answer questions – create 10-15 multiple choice questions, with four answer choices for each one. Reviewing the questions with someone else, if possible, and letting them ask questions  so you  explain your answers will also help you understand the material – and if you find an answer that isn’t correct, it helps you know where your knowledge is falling short.

This all may sound like it takes too much time, but if you’re following the second recommendation of the Scientific American study (distributed practice), you’re only doing a little bit of this at a time over the course of a week or several days rather than all in one big session. It’s more engaging, it generates interesting discussion and thought processes, and it helps you understand the material as well as giving you test-taking practice. You can’t get all of that from simply looking over the notes and textbook and hoping you’ll be prepared. 


Creating your own test questions out of your study material is also excellent test-taking preparation. Creating test questions gets you comfortable with answering them, and gets you inside the mind of a test-maker, which is more valuable that you might think. Once you’ve gone through the process of creating multiple-choice questions yourself, you have a better idea how to break an exam down and understand the ‘tricks’ of that particular trade.

This not only helps you when you are trying to decide between answer choices on an exam and are not sure which one is best. It can also help you at those times when flat-out guessing is necessary (it happens to all of us). In addition, tips such as these from Brigham Young University  are essential for learning how to navigate the different types of test questions you encounter on a typical exam. Print out these tips and commit them to memory – they will save you more often than you might think!


As with everything else regarding your education, communication with the teacher is key. You should never go into an exam without knowing what sort of test is going to be handed out: is it multiple choice, fill in the blank, essay, matching? A combination of all of these? If so, how much? Some teachers will give the class all this information in advance, down to the number of each type of question, the amount of time each one should take, as well as how many points each one will be worth. But some won’t tell you a thing unless you ask them – so if they don’t tell you, you must ask! Knowing an exam is all essay means you’ll prepare differently than if it’s matching, true/false, or multiple choice, so you  need to arm yourself with that knowledge.*

Another overlooked key to successful assessment: you must go over your exams with your teachers – at least the first few, if not every single one. It’s imperative that you understand how the questions you missed should have been answered; you need to know the teacher’s expectations and testing style to better prepare for his or her exams. If you do not go over at least the first exam with each teacher, you are not going to perform to your full potential on assessments in that class. It’s that simple. Every teacher tests differently, and you need to understand why you missed what you did, and how the teacher constructs their tests and quizzes.

Of course, many teachers go over exams with the entire class, but many do not, for various reasons. A teacher’s curriculum is overloaded, and there often isn’t a lot of time for test review. And student absences are a problem – a teacher can’t go over the answers for a test when several students still haven’t taken it. Then often, by the time those kids do take it, too much time has passed and the review gets overlooked (hint: please don’t be that student. If you miss a test due to absence, make it up as soon as you return. It’s better not only for you, but for everyone). If you receive your exam back without getting a review of it in class, email your teacher and request to meet with him or her during a tutoring session to go over the questions you missed. Then, as you do that with your teacher, be sure you understand why you missed them. Pay attention to how the teacher explains the construction of the test too – there’s no reason to memorize those 100 vocabulary terms you are given at the start of each unit if the teacher only tests that vocabulary by throwing those words into test questions, for example. Understand that you need to have enough knowledge of them to figure out their meaning in context, and move on to other information you know is going carry more weight on test day.

So, think like a teacher, test-maker, good guesser, and engaged learner, and you can improve your study skills for quizzes and exams. If you put into play the concept of distributed practice, wherein you teach and test yourself a little bit each day, you’ll be prepared for pop quizzes and last-minute tests as well (it would be nice if every teacher gave you two weeks’ notice for every exam, but we all know this isn’t the case). Don’t settle for reviewing class material in the form it is given to you, re-construct it in creative ways to gain deeper understanding, and as always, involve your teacher in this process by asking questions both before and after the exam. 

*There may be times when a teacher does not want to reveal what form a test is going to take. Quite honestly, sometimes this just means they’ve yet to create it, but there are other reasons for a teacher to do this, and it shouldn’t be assumed the teacher’s being stingy or mean. Some teachers are committed to preparing students for college by expecting them to prepare for any sort of test without being told beforehand; it’s a legitimate situation students face in college, so it makes sense teachers want to prepare you for this in high school. Another reason could be student perception: sometimes getting the information in advance leads to less preparation rather than more. For example, I found  when I taught middle school that if I told students they were having an essay test over a novel, they interpreted that to mean they didn’t need to study for it since “we’ll be able to use our book and there’s only going to be one question.” Sigh. I tried a few times to convince them otherwise, and I thought their low test scores might do the trick if on my own I could not, but in the end I had to stay silent about what kind of test they were going to take in order to ensure they prepared for it. If you do encounter a teacher who chooses to keep the form of a test secret until the day of, it’s going to be even more important for you to review that test with him or her after it is graded so you can keep it in mind for the next one. Chances are they will test and grade in a similar manner in the future, even if they don’t tell you in advance what it will be like, and you’ll have to keep that in mind. 

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