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500 Words: Chicken tale tops pecking order at writing competition


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David Walliams with Esme Harrison-Jones, one of the two gold winners

A story about chickens trying to cross the road has outrun the competition at this year’s 500 Words contest.

The judges felt Why Did the Chicken… was so finger lickin’ good they made its author, Esme Harrison-Jones, gold winner in the 10 to 13 age category.

Snow Blood Window Frame, a modern spin on Snow White by Eve Molloy, was the gold winner in the 5 to 9 age category.

The competition, now in its ninth year, invites under-13s to write a story about any fictional topic.

The winning stories were revealed – and read out by celebrities – during a live broadcast from Windsor Castle on Friday.

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Helen Oxenbury (right) illustrated Eve Molly’s story, which Helen McCrory (left) read out

Comedian and author David Walliams read out Why Did the Chicken…, while actress Helen McCrory read Snow Blood Window Frame.

The runners-up in the two categories were read by Hugh Bonneville, Konnie Huq, Michael Sheen and Sandi Toksvig.

John Newman, Tom Walker and Matilda actress Francesca McKeown performed during the ceremony, presided over by the Duchess of Cornwall.

DJ Chris Evans, who created and launched 500 Words in 2011, was also in attendance in his capacity as chair of the judging panel.

The two gold winners will receive Evans’ height in books and a tour of a CBBC production, while their schools will be sent 500 books for their respective libraries.

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Tom Walker, pictured with Zoe Ball, performed at the final

The six finalists also had drawings created for them by such well-known illustrators as Helen Oxenbury, Tony Ross and Briony May Smith.

The 2019 final was broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and hosted by Zoe Ball, who presents the station’s breakfast show.

Some 112,986 entries were received this year, taking the total number of stories submitted since the competition’s inception to more than 900,000.

Some of the children who sent in stories this year were chosen at random to attend the final.

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