Story to Story

Global Youth VoicesMarch 1, 2019Storytelling and NarrativeFeatures

In this ongoing collaborative series, young writers around the world revisit stories important to their childhoods. Like many of the tales that shape our lives, these pieces flow into each other, creating a narrative that links contributors across continents and cultures. Savor each installment and don’t miss the accompanying videos that bring these young voices to life.

Long ago in a small Arabian village, there lived a young prince who wanted to understand the beliefs and grievances of his people in order to become a better ruler.

One evening he overheard three sisters having an argument in the marketplace.

The oldest sister said, “Wine is the sweetest thing ever. Taverns are filled with the happiest people in the world!”

The middle sister sneered and replied, “Nonsense! Love is the sweetest thing in the world! Think about how happy mother and father are!”

Then the youngest sister spoke up. “While love and wine may be sweet, nothing can compare to the sweet taste of a lie.”

The older sisters ridiculed her and walked away, but the prince was puzzled.

He approached her and asked, “Young girl, why do you think lies are the sweetest thing ever?”

She replied coolly, “Everyone lies. Even you will lie one day.”

“That can’t be true!” the prince exclaimed.

The young girl responded, “Allow me to live alone in your palace for three days and I shall prove it to you.”

Eager for answers, the prince agreed and ordered everyone to leave the palace.

On the third day, the prince returned with two of his advisors. The main hall was filled with thick clouds of smoke. He found the young girl beside a large bonfire, quietly muttering under her breath.

Suddenly, she arose and announced, “Welcome to the house of God!”

The prince skeptically rolled his eyes.

She said, “If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself. Look into the fire and you will see God, but beware for he only reveals himself to men who have never sinned.”

The three men nervously approached the bonfire.

The two advisors stared into the fire, but couldn’t see anything at all. They did not want to admit this for fear of being labeled as sinners, so they both claimed to see God in the fire.

Upon hearing his advisors, the prince felt severely embarrassed and foolishly declared he too could see God.

The young girl giggled and said, “But God was never in the room to begin with. He is a spirit. How can one see a spirit?!”

Watch KidSpirit editor Jaden Flach read "The Sweetest Thing in the World"

The three men bowed their heads and sheepishly admitted they had lied.

She continued, “You see, to avoid the bitterness of reality, people instead hope to taste the sweetness of a lie!”

That day, the prince realized that lies could deceptively twist life, so that they look appealing to the lazy, but in reality only strengthen our defects.

Meanwhile, in another village far from the prince’s, the exciting promise of a new adventure was in the air.

Meanwhile, in another village far from the prince’s, the exciting promise of a new adventure was in the air.

This village’s princess, Evelyn, got ready for the day. She put on her dress, black shoes, and crown.

Evelyn ran out the door. The other kids were playing. She walked over to Mary, and asked if she wanted to play “Queen,” but Mary said no. So Evelyn asked Tiffany, but she said no. Evelyn asked Lily, but she said no, too. Evelyn asked everyone. They all said no.

Evelyn didn’t understand why no one wanted to play. Sad, she went and sat all by herself.

As the day passed, Evelyn watched the other kids play without her. They laughed, ran, and jumped. She still didn’t understand. She was the princess, they had to play with her! Tears fell down her cheeks. She threw down her crown and ran inside.

“What’s wrong Evelyn?” Asked the Queen.

“No one will play with me!” Evelyn said through the tears. The Queen wiped them away.

“There’s a reason for everything. Figure out why they won’t play with you.”

The Queen was right. So Evelyn marched outside. She picked up her crown and walked over to Mary.

“Why don’t you want to play with me?” Asked Evelyn.

“Because you always want to play “Queen” and you’re always the Queen,” said Mary.

Watch Charlie read her story in this KidSpirit Shorts video

“Oh. I guess it isn’t fair that you’re never Queen. What if we play something else?”

“That would be fun. What do you want to play?”

“Hmmm, let’s play tag!”

“Okay. TAG! You’re it,” Mary said, then bolted.

Evelyn and the other kids played the rest of the day. Evelyn let the other girls be the Queen in their games. She played other games too. As spring fell into summer, the kids played from dawn to dusk. Everyone was excited to see what adventure awaited them next.

Everyone was excited to see what adventure awaited them next.

This adventure began in a remote village near the Mississippi River, in the days when coal was a vital material and boats were the only means of transport used were boats. A 14-year-old boy named Jack lived in an inn with his family. Together they kept the inn running, despite the health problems that Jack's father suffered. In fact, he and his mother worked even harder because of that.

All was peaceful and quiet until one Wednesday afternoon. Jack was calmly resting in the portico of the inn after an arduous day of work, when on the horizon he saw the silhouette of an old navigator who limped on one leg and wore old, filthy clothes that seemed torn by a fight. No doubt this physical appearance caused fear in the people who approached. Under his arm the man had a strange chest that looked as if it were the most important thing in his life.

It was not until the old man came shouting to the inn that Jack realized that something was wrong. Then the boy approached him, but the only thing the old navigator said was, "I want a glass of rum." It was then that Jack served him some rum, after which the old man started talking, saying things that were hard for the teenager to believe. But the moment the old man opened the chest, all the stories he had told Jack became true. In the chest there were things of gold and some other things of value, but nothing as valuable as the piece of paper that showed a road to fortune — the treasure map. Jack felt the map belonged to him from the moment he thought about the economic instability.

Juan reads his story "An Unimaginable Adventure"

Jack began to ask the navigator about the map, and the the old man said: "I've been a lifetime looking for it, but I've never followed it. I've had friends, but greed and envy made them enemies. " Then he addressed Jack once again saying: "You are the only person who has given me what I want and you seem like a good young man. I leave all my things to you. Beware of the thieves who seek me for what I know and for what I have."

The next morning, without preparation, the young traveller went out in search of an adventure that no one could have imagined.

The next morning, without preparation, the young traveller went out in search of an adventure that no one could ever have imagined.

She had no food and her red dress was completely soiled, but Margaret was looking forward to keeping her promise to her grandmother.

Her eyes welled up as she recalled what had happened the day before, when she was walking down a deserted alley to her grandma’s mansion. She hadn’t noticed the three men following her. Though she felt an odd chill as if something was off, she kept walking. As she reached her home, Margaret noticed the silence. No birds, no wind, nothing. She shrugged and entered using her key.

Approaching the study, Margaret saw her grandmother sitting at the table, oddly stiff. “Granny?” she asked. “I have scones for you.”

“Margaret. I was expecting you.”

Margaret frowned. She hadn’t told her grandma that she’d be home early. She asked, “Is something wrong?”

Granny replied, “Margaret, come closer to me.”

Margaret had realized by now that something was wrong, so she walked over to the table and looked over Granny’s shoulder. There was a note on the table in scrawny, rushed handwriting. It read:

Kidnappers watching, act normal, get out ASAP

Urging herself not to panic, she looked around the room for an escape route, but before she could, the three men from before walked in and grabbed both of them. Margaret was thrown into a dark closet and could barely make out her grandmother screaming, “Don’t give up!” before a gunshot. Hearing it, Margaret let out a gasp and felt the tears fall.

Watch Meesha read her story "Margaret" in a KidSpirit Shorts video

Scrambling around the bottom of the closet with her fingertips, she found a broken piece of glass and used it to cut herself free. Armed, she tiptoed to where the three men were talking, their backs to her. Realizing that they didn’t know the fireplace had a secret ladder, she crept up it, running out through the roof and into freedom, unable to look back. She ran and ran, finally stopping at a bench on the side of a busy road and curling up for the night.

The next morning? Margaret set off again, with nothing but her favourite red sneakers for company. A plan was the last thing on her mind.

A plan was the last thing on her mind.

My grandma, after completing middle school, was trapped in a dilemma. Civil wars were frequent at that time, leading to economic underdevelopment and poor living conditions. As the eldest daughter in her family, my grandma was destined to support her siblings through school. Uncertain about what to do at the moment, she went straight back home. Like many courageous young women, she hoped to join the work force and serve the country’s well being, which would also bring revenue to the family.

How would Grandma find a proper job, when everything was full of uncertainty, and the gap between life and death was never narrower? She roamed the streets, catching every last bit of news. One day, an advertisement for a free nursing school was put up, and she suddenly saw hope, like bubbles floating through the sky. She signed up immediately.

Her parents found out about her enrollment weeks later, but what could they do when their eldest daughter was just trying to shoulder some of the heavy economic burden? They encouraged her to be a loyal and patient nurse, and she did become a responsible caregiver. Grandma calmed down wounded soldiers and frightened children with all her attention and love. She treated them like her own siblings, but she was too busy to go back home from work. She poured all her efforts into her career as a nurse and later as a doctor, and won praise around the community.

Watch Xinru read her story in this KidSpirit Shorts video

However, like many successful women, she wasn’t skillful at balancing career and family. She was so busy that her three children grew up almost by themselves. My mom and uncles regarded the hospital as their second home, joining in a gang of doctors’ children after school when grandma was with her patients. With both sadness and understanding, my mom remembers my uncles taking care of her more often than grandma did. How everyone wished they had been together as a family all the time!

How everyone wished they had been together as a family all the time, as Nani Jaan (my grandmother) told our troupe of cousins her favorite folktale by the crackling fireplace.

The folktale tells the tale of a 14th-century king, Jam Tamachi, who once visited a fishing village in Sindh by the Kalri (Keenjhar) Lake.

In the village lived a tribe of fisherman, one of whom had a daughter named Noori. When everyone in the village got together to greet the great king, Noori stood out to him, and it was love at first sight. Eventually Jam Tamachi proposed to Noori and married her. She joined his troupe of six wives, becoming the seventh wife.

When Noori, the humble fisher woman, arrived at the palace, she was completely out of place. The wives would plot and plan to poison their husband’s heart against his new prized wife. Noori was not deterred and remained steadfast in marriage, not forgetting for a moment where she came from and belonged. Noori was the epitome of humility and stayed true to her roots even after embracing life in the great palace of a king. She always ignored the taunts of her husband's other wives and stayed devoted to him his whole life.

Watch Ryeean read his story in this KidSpirit Shorts video

Humility is perhaps the most important value any individual can possess, and my grandmother always emphasized this by telling us this folktale. Memories never leave one’s mind — stories we retell are testament to that fact. Noori now has a shrine devoted to her in the middle of Keenjhar Lake in Sindh, where she and Jam Tamachi met. She is buried there as a symbol of her humility. She never forgot where she came from.

“She never forgot where she came from,” my mom finishes.

She has just told me a story about my grandma and milk. It goes like this:

When my grandma, who I call Ammamma, was young in South India, a man with a buffalo would come every morning to her door. He would call out “Amma!” — the English equivalent would be “Lady!” — and she would come out with a jug into which he would milk the buffalo. I still find it hard to imagine, coming out of my house to see a giant buffalo and to get the day’s milk that way. That was how it was, every day for a long time.

Around 30 years later, when my mom was a baby, she moved with my grandparents to London and they lived in a tiny apartment, which they shared with another family. Every morning the milkman would come with whatever dairy each family wanted and leave it on the doorstep. For my mom and grandparents, it was bottles of milk and eggs.

Later, my grandparents moved out of the apartment and into a small house. The milkman still came every day, until the day when that custom was changed. From that day, every time my grandparents needed milk, they just went to the store to get it, like I do.

Watch Satya read his story in this KidSpirit Shorts video

My grandparents lived in that very house for a long time. Finally my parents convinced them to move to our home in Brooklyn. Now they go out once or twice a week to get milk from the corner. Each week my Ammamma comes up the stairs to look at our fridge and go to the store for milk. She sometimes seems far away.

“She never forgot where she came from,” my mom repeats, looking at her mum.

I drink the cold glass of milk in front of me.

Ameena Naqvi is in the 10th grade at Arbour Lake School in Calgary, Canada. Her hobbies include drawing, playing the flute, and reading. She has a passion for music and writing.

Charlie Cochlin is in the ninth grade at Robertson County School in Kentucky.

Juan Vicente is a 17-year-old boy who loves reading books about adventure, playing sports, and listening to music. He is always worried about doing things well and helping others.

Meesha Chotai, 13, is an avid reader and likes to write poems, create art, play music, and dance (ballet). Her current ambitions include becoming a stage-performer and re-reading all her favorite books.

Xinru Yin is a senior at the High School Attached to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. She enjoys the company of nature as well as well-woven thoughts of the most prominent humans.

Ryeean Chaudry is a 16-year-old student at Bay View Academy in Karachi, Pakistan. He is passionate about writing and debate.

Satya Shaw is a 6th grader at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, New York. He loves to read, write, and play Minecraft. His dream is to be an actor.