“The Gift of Poise” — story by Elliott Negrin

Young Readers League 2016 Writing Contest

Category 2 (Age 12-14)

Honorable Mention


The Gift of Poise

by Elliot Negrin
14 years old (Grade 8)
La Canada High School

    It wasn’t the vibrant colors or musical sounds that first caught my attention, but the sense of whimsy, that brought my attention to Dame Bellefontaine’s Midnight Circus.

    I first visited at age six. My brother stood next to me, both of us paralyzed in wonder at the display before us. Hanging precariously, trapeze artists flourished across the bars, almost flying. The lion arched its back and released an earth-shattering roar, as a tamer stuck her head into his gaping maw. Elephants in well-adorned saddle tiptoed around the arena, and spun on their heads with effortless grace.

    Completely enamoured by the magic of it all, I fell in love. From then on, I trained and trained as hard as I could, determined to someday join their ranks.

    But Dame Bellefontaine’s Midnight Circus disappeared for the next seven years without a single trace. I scoured newspapers and websites desperate for any proof of its existence.

    Until one late night jog brought me to the circus, hidden deep in the forest.

    I sprinted into the largest tent of all, finding it mysteriously empty.

    I minced my way to the centremost circle and began ascending. At the top of the tower, I immediately felt vertigo. I’d never attempted tight-roping this high, but I knew I was capable.

    One foot, the other, soon I was in the center. I didn’t look down, only sprang forward, launching myself into a complex routine.

    I have never fallen in my entire life. I have the gift of balance. Just before the end, I made the mistake of looking down.

    I saw the entire congregation of the circus convened beneath my feet, all of them applauding.

    I promptly fell off the rope and into the waiting net below.

    “Welcome to the circus, gifted child.” Dame Bellefontaine said with a wink.


Contest info:

Tell us something about a new character joining a magical circus. What is their special ability? How did they come to join the circus?

Special thanks to our judges:  Allison Hill (Vromans), Nick Smith (Pasadena Library), Shauna Redmond (Pasadena Library), Tiffany Duenas (Pasadena Library), Jean Penn (Pasadena Library)

Sponsored by the Friends of the Pasadena Public Library


To view more stories from the contest, view the list:  http://pasadena-library.net/kids/2016/yrlcontest

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Teens blog about a variety of topics: book reviews, event recaps, book lists, poems, stories, interviews, and opinions. If you are a teen and interested in writing for us, please email Jane Gov at jgov@cityofpasadena.net. You must live in Pasadena and/or attend our events.