A poem about a dastardly Nintendo villain has helped a local writer win a national writing contest.
Sam Daly, a Grade 4 student at Leo Nickerson Elementary, was named one of the nine winners Wednesday of the 2012 Book Week Writing Contest. The contest, run by the Canadian Children's Book Centre, challenged Grades 4 through 12 students to put forth their best poems and stories on any subject they chose.
The contest was meant to get students interested in reading and writing, said book centre spokesperson Shannon Howe Barnes. A lot of kids love to write but don't realize they can make a career out of it, she said, or don't think they can make their own books. "Adults want to hear their stories as well."
A panel of Canadian children's authors judged the entries from about 2,000 Canadian students who entered this year's contest, Howe Barnes said — far more than the 500 they had last year. Winning entries included a sci-fi tale about a nanotechnological menace, a priest's confrontation with the devil and a sombre reflection on the death of a pet.
Daly's entry, an oddly Shakespearean ode to the video game character Waluigi, beat out hundreds of others to place first in the Grade 4 category.
Daly, 9, said he was shocked when he heard the news. "I don't think I'm the best at writing," he said. "I really thought it would be someone else."
Waluigi is a character from Nintendo's Mario Brothers series of videogames, which star the heroic plumbers Mario and Luigi. An evil counterpart to Luigi, Waluigi is a nefarious trickster, and can be recognized by his purple clothes, wicked moustache and the inverted "L" on his hat.
A talkative video game fan, Daly said he was a fan of poetry, particularly the works of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, author of Where the Sidewalk Ends. "I think reading is fun. It's especially fun when there's pictures too." He was more of a cartoonist than a poet, he explained.
Daly said he thought it would be fun to write an old-time poem on a modern subject, since his class had been studying odes at the time.
"I think Waluigi is cool because he's really smart, he's tricky and he's actually pretty fast," he said. Daly says he's also a prankster like Waluigi. "I like to prank my sister."
The epic 27-line ode praises the character's genius, stealth and craft, and asks, "Why dost thou not have thine own video fame?" (Waluigi has yet to star in his own Nintendo game, although he has had bit parts in many.) It goes on to speculate on the character's perpetual bad mood ("Art thy purple knickers in a knot?") and to wonder what he would be like as a friend.
Daly said he's a big fan of Waluigi and frequently draws sketches of him. "I think they should make a game with him. It would be fun."
Judge Sheryl McFarlane, author of works such as A Pod of Orcas, praised Daly's work for making a hero out of an oft-ignored secondary character, something all of us feel like sometimes.
No matter what you do in life, McFarlane said, you need to be literate, and it's important to teach kids the importance of reading and writing.
"We need creative and good, solid writers in every field," she said. "Sam is a great example of that. His story was just wonderful."
Daly will receive a $250 gift certificate to the bookstore of his choice for his efforts. He wasn't sure how he would use it, but said he might get an e-reader with the cash.
The winning entries can be found at www.bookweek.ca.
Ode to Waluigi, By Sam Daly
Oh, purple-moustached clever Waluigi.
Thou art such a genius when it is thy time to attack Mario and Luigi!
How thou attach springs to thy shoes, know I not!
Why dost thou not have thy own video fame?
Art thou enraged that thou dost not have one?
Why dost thou fight the Mario brothers?
Thou art negative and wicked when shooting fireballs at thy green plumber, thy foe!
Why art thou always cranky?
Art thy purple knickers in a knot?
Perchance Alvin Earthworm annoyed thou with his YouTube video.
Why art thou so tall and slim?
Perchance a Power Flower fell in you mouth when thou wast a baby.
Why dost thou wear a purple suit?
I like thy violet outfit for its unique hue.
Shouldst thy brother Wario and thou fight so repeatedly?
Is Bowser the Dragon-turtle your fiendish companion?
I dost wonder what it wouldst be like to be friends with Bowser and thou.
Dost thou own the Vicious Petey Piranha Flower?
Dost thou like the kind Princess Peach?
If thou couldst own a Yoshi wouldst thou?
Thou art so sly and crafty our slippery Waluigi.
Dost thou fight Geno the Explorer dangerously?
Why art thou not in Super Smash Bros Brawl?
Perchance thou art sad for being excluded from that rough game.
Why art thou so nimble when thou escape the police?
Thy symbol is an upside down L.
Oh, thou art sneaky, secretive and tricky, mine own Waluigi!