A winning entry from The Bertie, 2017

THE BERTIE, a writing contest for middle-schoolers will open for entries on September 1, 2018. I thought you might like to see some of the winners from last year. First up is a story by Nathan Musgrove. Nathan won 2nd place last year ($75.00 dollars!) in the 10 and 11-year-old category.  Enjoy!


 Yutren andTagi, by Nathan Musgrove (11)

One windy day, a twig flew up in the air. Its thin stature enabled it to ride on the breeze, but its firmness kept it intact when it came in contact with a tree or solid of some sort. After a moment of drifting freely in the breeze, the twig came down to land in a circle, drawn out of the snow on the ground.

“Ha ha! I knew I could do it!” shouted a voice triumphantly in the distance. Yutren leaped out of the bushes, grabbing the stick and waving it to the older chipmunks. He smiled at them, the stick seeming to share his joy.

“Yutren… you do know that was only the first round, don’t you?” said one.

The stick slowly descended. “Oh,” was the crushed reply.

Yutren trudged over to the starting line, where he got in position to begin the second round. He raised his eyebrow at the others, expecting them to join him, but no one stirred.

“I’m not really in the mood for this anymore, Yutren. You can have the berries.” Said another one of the chipmunks. Yutren threw his hands up in the air and whooped. He rushed over to the stump holding up a plate of berries and snatched up one, tossing it carelessly in the air and catching it in his mouth. He swallowed gratefully, for fresh fruit was scarce in the dead of winter. The area cleared out gradually, and eventually Yutren was the only one left. He munched on the berries thoughtfully, thinking of how he had shown up those older chipmunks at their own game. He smiled to himself.


The next day, the sun was shining bright, and spirits were high. The food pile was piled high, and everyone was feeling lazy and comfortable. Yutren was strolling though the center of camp casually, enjoying the warmth of the sun despite the frost and occasional patches of snow that littered the ground. He looked up to the trees and stopped: there was a fresh green leaf dangling from a branch. When Yutren was very young, his mother would sometimes feed him treats. He shared it among his friends, but one day, his best friend Tagi came up with an idea. She thought it would be fun if one of them got to eat the whole thing. She came up with a challenge for each season, and the winter challenge worked like this: the first one to find a fresh green leaf still on one of the trees got to eat the entire chunk of meat. Now, this method did not always work, since sometimes there were no fresh green leaves still hanging on trees. Yutren remembered days where the pups would be called in to their nests because the sky would grow too dark to play.

Yutren never played this game anymore, but because there was nothing to do, and he was bored, he decided to take a shot at reaching it. Yutren rushed to the tree and raced up it, being careful to avoid all the twigs and branches sticking out from the thick trunk. Right when he reached the top and was about to snatch the leaf with his paw, he jumped.

“What are you doing up there?” A voice chuckled.

Yutren slipped on the frosted branch and almost fell off, but he managed to catch his balance just in time. He looked down. “What was that for?” He replied irritably.

Tagi laughed. “Well, it’s just kind of funny, seeing you scrambling up there for some old leaf. I thought you wanted to go hunting with me today.”

Yutren did nothing for a moment, gazing into Tagi’s crystal-clear beautiful blue eyes. He shook his head and answered, “Just getting some old nostalgia back from my puphood,” he said, sliding back down the trunk and hopping to the ground. “Sure, we can go hunting. I don’t really think we need to-“ he glanced at the food pile- “but it would be nice to spend some time together.”

Tagi smiled at him. “Yeah, I guess you could think of it that way. We’re both so busy now that we’re about to become warriors, and I haven’t had any time to just enjoy the day with you.”

Yutren smiled back. “Let me go back to camp and get my bow. Unless you think we should try to hunt with our paws alone,” he joked.

Tagi shook her head good-naturedly. “I think I’ve only done that once before, when you and I would play that game trying to find the-“ she stopped, and then looked up at the tree that Yutren had just descended from. “Oh,” she smiled. “That’s what you were doing up in that tree! I wondered about that. It looked like you were going to jump down so you could break a bone or something.”

Yutren shrugged. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I can survive a few injuries.”


By the time the pair returned from hunting, the camp was barely lighted by a few strands of light. There was dark gray clouds covering the sky. Tagi shook her head. “I was planning on getting some more stuff done today, but it looks like I’ll have to bed down for the night.” She looked at Yutren. “You gonna sleep too?”

Yutren nodded. “I want to get in my soft nest before the rain starts. I don’t need to be doing anything unecessary when I could be dozing off.”

Tagi laughed. She switched the subject. “I think we’re going to cross over to the warriors’ hollow tomorrow.” She grinned. “We’ve been friends for so long, I think we should move our nests to each other. What do you think?”

“Yes!” Yutren eagerly agreed. He realized he looked too excited. “I mean, sure, I guess that makes sense.” Suddenly, a giant bolt of lightning appeared out of nowhere crashed to the ground. It knocked both trainees back, dazed but not hurt. When Yutren got back up, he brushed the snow off his fur and then glanced at the spot where the bolt had struck. He gaped. The bolt of lightning had struck directly on a tree, knocking it to the ground. It was one of the biggest trees in the forest.

Tagi was staring at it too. She backed toward the trainee’s hollow. “Let’s get out of here,” she said, eyes wide. Yutren quickly agreed and they ran to the den together.


Yutren woke up to the sound of rushing water. For a moment, he thought that it was a creek, but then he remembered that there was no creeks anywhere near camp. He got up, and nearly yelped in surprise. The rain had been going on for days, never stopping for a moment. Any food that had not become too wet to eat had been stashed away for later, but there was not very much. Yutren and Tagi had been promoted to warriors, and were immediately put hard at work fortifying the hollows and huts that served as the chipmunks’ homes, despite the rain that poured on them constantly. Today the rain had become so severe that all the huts in camp were destroyed, leaving Yutren to sleep on the ground. Yutren whipped his head around, looking for Tagi, but she was nowhere to be seen. He got up and began searching for anyone else, but there was no one to be seen. Once Yutren managed to get to the edge of camp, he still saw no one. He was still practically swimming, but the water was low enough to stand in. Then he heard the worst thing he could have heard in that moment. “HELP!!” cried someone’s distressed voice in the distance.

Yutren knew the voice was not Tagi’s, but he rushed in the direction of the sound anyway. He almost immediately found a chipmunk performing CPR on a body laying helplessly on the wet ground, but it was clear he needed help. Yutren stared despairingly. The body was Tagi’s. Yutren pushed the other out of the way and did his own CPR, for he had been trained in it. After seconds, Tagi looked up. Her crystal blue eyes gazed into Yutren’s dark brown ones.

“A-am I still alive? Are you a ghost?” she gasped.

Yutren smiled. “No, Tagi. It’s me.”


It was two weeks after the flood, and Yutren had finished the greatest conversation with Tagi’s father ever. “Yes, of course. I will allow it.” He smiled. He was the oldest chipmunk in the clan, and he was soon to die. Tagi walked in. “Allow what?” she asked. Yutren turned around. “Tagi…” he said “I want to ask you something.” Tagi tilted her head. “Yes?” “Will you be my mate?” Tagi gaped. Then she smiled. “Yes! I can’t believe you asked!” They hugged each other, the sun shining happily through the doorway into the hut.


Thanks, Nathan for allowing me to reprint your story. Great job!

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