Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Curse of Al Amin

This post and its author have been in hiding for some time. I first posted this in March 2008 but started getting some web traffic from Brian's school with the search "Curse of Al Amin" and later on another search with an entire sentence in quotes. I subsequently saved it as draft, and it's been hidden since.

Why the searches from school? I know that Brian's Grade 4 teacher had passed his composition on to other teachers who then read it out to their respective classes. So I suspect that some teachers, probably including Brian's own, suspect that the composition or at least part of it was plagiarised.

At first, I was quite insulted. I mean, Brian had worked hard on it over an entire weekend, spending many hours thinking, typing and editing. When I half-teasingly told Brian that his teachers think so lowly of him that they thought he must have copied this story, he grinned and quickly cited the story of a famous author who as a child was caned by his teacher because his story was so good his teacher thought he must have copied it from somewhere.

Well anyway, this story is coming out of hiding. And I'm hoping the hidden author will too. Brian has been frustrated by his attempts at writing PSLE-style compositions and we've come to quite a number of bust-ups over this. I couldn't give any constructive criticism, I just knew a bad composition when I saw one. He'd get mad at me for only telling him how bad his attempts were, yet not showing him how to improve, except to say, this is not good, just practise more.

Luckily, Monica, whose P6 daughter writes so very well, looked through a few of his compositions and managed to point some very useful tips our way. He still has some way to go, but his writing speed has improved a little and he is putting more focus on the middle section of his compositions, usually his weakest. And an important tip we got from Monica is that a title is actually needed for each composition. We never knew that!

So thank you Monica from the bottom of our hearts. In the meantime, I'm hoping the hidden author in Brian emerges in time for PSLE.

May the Curse of Al Raiter's Blok be lifted!


Original post dated 31 March 2008.

Since leaving his British prep school last June, Brian has not come home with any sort of 'creative writing'. He's not one to write voluntarily either, something I have to accept is just him, ie read lots but don't write at all. Nothing wrong with that, according to Susan Wise Bauer (Thanks Hsien for the link, that'll stop me fretting for a month or so :)).

Still, I was glad to hear that he's been getting creative writing lessons this week in school. And on Friday, he came back with a writing assignment. The kids were asked to choose a picture to write a story about. Brian chose the picture above of a sleeping girl with an open book and tendrils on it.

I remembered Hsien's suggestion for him to type out his thoughts instead of write (he has some problems with fine motor skills)...and I think it worked. I helped him with paragraphing (if you left it to him, he'd have the whole story in one paragraph!) and some minor editing, but most of this was his work.

The Curse of Al Amin by B Leong

If you asked anyone in Cairo to describe the Al Amin Library, his or her first sentence would be, “It is the quietest and most peaceful place in all of Egypt!” For it was true. There was hardly a sound in the library at all. It was free from the hustle and bustle of the traders and market dealers outside. The Al Amin Library had an excellent reputation as one of the best libraries in the world. Until about two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, Mohammed Azerbah had borrowed a book about wild cats, written by Phee Lyne. Mohammed had fallen asleep while reading that same book, with the book left open. In the morning, Mohammed was found dead, with a huge orange Bengal tiger prowling around the house. Neighbors said that they had heard a disturbance at midnight.

The police thought that they had heard the last of it. They were wrong. On the day the victim was buried, a ghostly sound emanated from the grave of Mohammed. The sound echoed through the streets until it reached the Al Amin Library, then it went in. I know sounds don’t enter or exit, but that was the only way to describe this strange phenomenon.

That was not the end of it. Similar cases were popping up everywhere, the only difference being how the victims died. All the victims had borrowed their books from the Al Amin Library, left their book open when they slept. In all the cases the disturbance started exactly at midnight, the victim was always buried on the return date stamped on the book, and the ghostly sound always started at the end of the funeral and went into the library.

There's more than a thousand words so the story continues here.


Baoying said...


Lilian said...

Thanks for the encouragement...all forms of critiques, edits, grammatical corrections are welcome :) I know there are many English experts out there, and Bao, you're one of them!

Hsien Lei said...

Good grief. Thanks for creeping me out. That picture is creepy enough then the story.... AHHHH!!

Seriously, that is an impressive piece of creative writing. Brian's using multiple forms of expression and makes it all plausible. And, he wrote a whole heckuva lot with a nice cliffhanger at the end! Well done. *applause*

Lilian said...

Well, he did bounce his ideas off of me...ahem. *takes credit*

And the reason he wrote so much was cos he didn't quite know how to end it at first, so he just went on and on with the riddle etc. I had to keep bugging him to end the story already, bribing him with Cartoon Network once he's done with the story.

I had to laugh at the name he chose for the Bucktooth Parrotfish's author -- Polly Wanda Cracker!! Definitely the writing of a 10-year old there.

And thanks for the tip on typing, it really helped him.

bACk in GERMANY said...

Grippingly captivating...

Agree with Hsien totally on the cliffhanger. Can't wait for the sequel!!!

Well done, Brian!
I'm certainly looking forward to a German version... He'll need a FL when he's back in Sg, for sure.

Lilian said...

Thanks PP...he'll do German as a FL if you promise to be his teacher/tutor, deal?

Alcovelet said...

Wow! It starts off in such a harmless way, and then, bam! Murder! Boy did it catch me unawares! My son made me read it twice btw, and then wouldn't let me out of sight! That was some awesome writing, Brian!! I especially liked the bee you see, and kay. A spooky brain twister with a happy ending too!

Lilian said...

Oooooh...BOO! RK will have a good excuse to sleep in your bed tonight :)

bACk in GERMANY said...

Hi Lilian!

The pleasure will be mine!
I will look out for a B Leong when I return to work! :)

Will make sure he's my star student every year!!! ;)



Very impressive for a 10 year old.. Brian has a cohesive writing style which married suspense with mystery with little effort.

Lilian said...

Thanks Xtralicious. I was pleasantly surprised cos he's not written anything in such a long time. I guess the cohesive writing style only emerged as he grew older and became more mature.

Tsu Lin + + said...

I read that last night and was totally frozen on my seat. I have not been so engaged reading a novel for such a long time (Albeit a short novel. But it suits my short attention span)

He puts many to shame with his, yes, (using this word again from "xtralicious style") cohesive and engaging writing style. Kudos!

Lilian said...

Thanks Tsu Lin :)

My attention span has also become too short to finish a novel, I blame it on the manic random surfing of the internet that I've been doing too much of in recent years.

monlim said...

Wowzers!!! This is absolutely brilliant and imaginative. You know, I find it hard to reconcile the writer of this story with the reluctant one whose compos you sent me... shows you how much inspiration plays in writing!

Don't mention the leetle help I gave lah, more like just pointing him in the right direction. At least you know the genius writer is in him, you just need to awaken it more often and on cue :D

monlim said...

PS Even Hellen Keller was accused of plagiarism back in her time cos her writing was so beyond her years. So take heart, Brian!

Lilian said...

It's not Leetle at all! You practically salvaged our mother-son relationship haha. And your tips were concrete, you helped pinpoint where his weakness was.

You're being very nice to use the term 'reluctant' writer, I wasn't so diplomatic. Like I said, still a long way to go, and writing a substantial piece on cue within the time limit, really gotta work on that.

Helen Keller too? The author Brian was referring to was Roald Dahl. Anyway, the one who felt offended was me, not him, cos I thought the teachers were thinking an Asian kid can't write like this. Maybe I was just too sensitive.

bACk in GERMANY said...

This one goes into the DSA portfolio!
This is a winning piece! ;)

Lilian said...

Thanks Cindy, you're always super encouraging! You're just meant to be a teacher lah.

monlim said...

I don't think the teachers thought Asian kids couldn't write like that, I haven't met an 11-year-old who can write like that, full stop!

You're most welcome re: the tips, very glad to have been able to help :)

Anonymous said...

Very impressive!!! I actually held my breath while reading the part when the witch trying to kill Hana!!! I'm definitely getting my gal to read this after she comes back from her sch camp.


Alcovelet said...

I remember this piece so clearly when you 1st posted it. Still sends chills down my spine, yikes! Good writing never stops giving, and this is one of them.

Frankly, I'd be half insulted but also half proud that people thought I'd plagiarized if I'd written it, because this piece is seriously good.

Once again, well done, Brian!

Lilian said...

Thanks thanks...dunnolah, maybe he was really, really, inspired that weekend. He hasn't come up with anything close to this since.

Alcovelet said...

Crikey. I just asked RK to read Brian's story and at first glance, he suddenly stiffened. He said he read it last year when I left your blog open, and it scared him to bits. And then he scuttled off in a hurry!

Sounds mean, but ... bwahahahaha!

Lilian said...

hahaha, you're so mean. You know he has such an active imagination!

Anonymous said...

*jaws dropped* I am speechless! Brian is such an amazing writer. Not only is he good at math, he also writes so beautifully. I think you can submit this story for a competition and it'll definitely win!

Btw, I started reading your blog after I stumbled upon Monica's. Been enjoying reading all of your posts :)

Penny (from Malaysia)

Lilian said...

Hey Penny, thanks, Brian will be happy to read your comment.

Which part of Malaysia are you from?

Anonymous said...

Hi Lillian! I am from Sarawak :)


Lilian said...

:) I once had a penpal from Kuching, but that was a long, long, time ago.

breve1970 said...

Brian is AMAZING! A very riveting story indeed! Well done, Mr B Leong! Hannah is going to read your story later.