8 Feb 2017

James' tale of belonging takes out top award

11:53 am on 8 February 2017

A 10-year-old Auckland boy has beaten thousands of other entries to take out first place in a Commonwealth story writing competition.

James Balston says he is still shocked with his win.

James Balston says he is still shocked by his win. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

James Balston, from Waitakere Primary School, entered the Commonwealth Class Writing Competition in the 7 to 10-year-old category last year.

He recently found out his story, which is about native animals and his sense of belonging in New Zealand, won.

Over 3000 stories were entered from Commonwealth countries all around the world, but James' rose to the top with the judges saying it was wonderfully vibrant and vividly described.

"We were asked at school if we wanted to enter the competition and I thought 'Why not?'"

James said he was still shocked with his win.

"It feels incredible. I honestly never thought I would win. I can't comprehend it, I am still thinking it is all a dream."

He said his story was inspired by his love for swimming and animals, especially water-dwelling creatures.

His story about tuatara, Hector's dolphins and fantails won a set of books for his school and a book voucher worth $170.

James said he already had plans to buy his favourite book series, Percy Jackson.

"I would just say to anyone that is thinking about entering a competition is do it because you may not expect to win but you could be surprised."

James's proud father, Graeme Balston, said he helped with grammar but his creative son drafted and wrote the story all by himself.

"When I got the email saying that he'd won I had to read it a few times. We sent it away about two or three months ago so it was out of the blue - it's great.

Mr Balston said family and friends were over the moon with James becoming an award-winning writer.

James said he already has his eyes set an another writing competition later in the year.

James drew this picture to accompany his story.

James drew this picture to accompany his story. Photo: Supplied

James' winning story

My parents often tell me that I belong in a monkey cage at the zoo.

I, most certainly, do not agree! I don't believe that I have much in common with your average monkey.

If someone said to me, "oh you little monkey", I would think, "why on earth would it cross their mind that I have any affinity with a monkey!"

As I was thinking of this, I wondered where I would belong in the unique animal kingdom of Aotearoa/New Zealand and which environment I feel most at home in.

I could be the graceful Fantail that perches on the rim of my trampoline as I bounce, defying the laws of gravity. He hovers just above me chittering away like there's no tomorrow, and I wish I could fly like him, but I don't think air is the environment in which I belong.

Alternatively I could be a Tuatara, the ancient reptile of Aotearoa. Each movement is precise and they are voracious carnivores, just like me.

But the thing with Tuataras is they live in burrows under the ground. I don't belong in a subterranean home.

I may be a human, adapted to live on land, but the environment I feel I have the greatest sense of belonging to, is the water.

I love the sensation of gliding through it and its coolness refreshes me. I feel exhilarated when I high dive into the deep blue water at my local swimming pool, or when I power through the waves at Orewa Beach. I become weightless and graceful, just like Hector's dolphin, known to Māori as Tutumairekurai, or 'special ocean dweller'.

That's me, not a monkey in a zoo, a bird in the air, or an ancient reptile, but a special ocean dweller. I belong in the waters of Aotearoa.