In July this year, Read Manchester launched the Bee Ready Bee a Reader Transition Read project, gifting a free copy of The Kid Who Came from Space by Ross Welford to over 7000 year 6 pupils in Manchester primary schools. The aim of this project was to encourage children to read over the summer while giving them shared reading experience amongst peers to help gain confidence during the transition to secondary school.

Along with their free book, every child also received an enrichment pack with activity ideas linked to the book’s narrative, including a guide for making a solar system from household objects and for designing a comic strip. Incorporated into the activity pack was a 500 word short story writing competition, judged by Ross Welford himself.

When it came to reading the competition entries, Ross and Read Manchester were blown away by all of the imaginative writing that had been submitted. This meant that the competition was great fun, but difficult to judge! After much deliberation, Mahima was chosen as competition inner with her extremely creative story: Just do your best.

“Just do your best,” Great Aunty Bimba had said, as if eating something that big were the easiest thing in the world. Not only that, but it was alive, and getting closer, or rather sliding closer, as this thing was some sort of blueberry-pie slimy glob. It was purple, clumpy and it reeked of rotten sweets. Slithering out of its shortcrust pastry shell, the sickly entity opened its mouth to reveal little, sharp indigo teeth that were sloppily arranged, all the while making a weird, strangled gurgling sound.

The crowd, the judges and my pie-eating opponent, Pertunia, studied me carefully, watching my every move to see what I would do, making this whole situation a million times harder. To make matters worse, I could see Pertunia smirking smugly from the corner of my eye, knowing that there was a good chance she had successfully sabotaged me this time. I leaned to my side, whispering to Great Aunty Bimba, “Is this thing edible?”, but she just shrugged. This was shortly followed by a meek “Oh no,” as the sludgy monster started to roar and get even closer, even faster and even more horrifying.

I could almost see it furrowing its eyebrows as it started spitting blueberries everywhere, causing havoc in the crowd and with the judges. “Run for your lives!”, someone in the crowd bellowed, while another shrieked as she got pelted with the little blue bombs. Great Aunty Bimba ran for cover under the table, yanking me by the arm to come with her. Amidst this chaos, I thought to myself, “How did we get into the finals anyway?”, but then the most tremendous, genius idea overtook these feelings of hopelessness and annoyance: I planned to snatch a whale of a plate and a knife to use as a shield and sword; in one way or another, I wanted to defeat this mutant. I wasn’t entirely sure how the last bit would carry out. Regardless of all the plot holes in my plan, I took off, using the table ledge to help me up and gripping onto my weapons for dear life.

By now the whole stage was a mess with juice splattered everywhere, bits of blue peel dispersed here and there; it almost looked like a crime scene! The monster had finally cornered me, trickling forward with a pale magenta trail falling behind it. Only then did I truly realise what I had got myself into.

Ross Welford was very impressed with Mahima’s writing and wrote to her personally in order to congratulate her, explaining that to him, ‘The idea of a living, mutant, blueberry pie was both highly original and funny! Mahima really let her imagination loose – always important for a writer – and the result was a worthy winner. Congratulations, Mahima!’

Having won the top prize, Mahima received a signed copy of one of Ross’ other titles, The 1000 Year Old Boy, a certificate and a bundle of books.

As a follow up to the project, Read Manchester arranged for Ross Welford to make 9 online visits to Manchester year 7 classes who had participated in the Transition Read. These visits took place in November and were made available free of charge to the schools and participants. During the sessions, children had the option to either write their own story openings or learn more about what it is like to be an author through a question and answer with Ross.

Mahima took part in an author visit and so was able to feed back on her experience of the entire Transition Read project. Here’s what she had to say:

‘I received the books, they’re amazing, thanks so much to Mr Welford and to you all for them. I have already started reading the one I requested! I loved the autographs with the drawings too, they were very funny. Thank you also for the certificate and I had a great time asking my question to Mr Welford in the video call we had with my class.’

Ross Welford also saw great value in the Transition Read project, explaining ‘it’s a great pleasure to support pupils as they make the move to secondary school, through what has been a challenging time for everybody.’