Metamorphosis

The world began its search for Osama Bin Laden...and Benny arrived in our house

It's funny how the world works. September the 11th, 2001 changed many people's lives with terrorist attacks all over America.

September the 12th changed mine.

A black cat came into my life.

When I look back to the beginning of September, when the world began its search for Osama Bin Laden (who seemed to have disappeared into thin air) and Benny arrived in our house, the coincidence begins to seem too great. I'm not sure when the idea of metamorphosis first came into my head or if my memory of those early days is distorted, but I keep coming back to the idea: how come the world's only great superpower cannot find one man.

Well what if metamorphosis is possible? What if he could become this black kitten?

What better way to hide from the world?

No one would look for him in a village farm house.

I wonder when I see him asleep on the sofa or the bean bag if he knows that I know who he really is. I wonder when I see him chasing a catnip mouse if he knows that I know that that one white whisker on the end of his nose (that wasn't there when we got him) is really a radio ariel.

Can it be that when he disappears into the pile of straw bales in the farmyard he's really checking on the stash of guns and ammunition that all international terrorists must have?

It's only just struck me that all those black cats he plays with might all be in this with him. I just find it hard to believe that it's a coincidence that Benny can metamorphose and the black cats in the village are strays. They could just as easily as Benny metamorphose too.

It's funny to think that the biggest nation in the world is after him and they can't find him because he's in the store room asleep. Is it my imagination or is it just coincidence that he only hangs from the TV when there is news of the Afghanistan situation on?

When I see the Al-Qaeda network members wearing their black hoods with the slit eyes in Cuba I turn round and find Benny staring at the television with his head tilted to one side the way he does, looking as magical as ever, and I realise just how special he really is.

My face suddenly feels wet. I properly wake up. It's Benny licking my face. Oh what a relief it's just a dream - but then is it?

I stare into his eyes and all of these questions are still unanswered in the world and he's still here. Are you really just a black kitten? Oh, I do hope so.

I look back on September the 12th and all the happiness you have brought us and I don't want to believe in metamorphosis any more. I want you to be Benny forever.

Working with the extract

Before your pupils start their own writing, read and discuss this piece written by one of last year's primary-age winners. Help your pupils to understand the linguistic features that make this a successful piece of autobiographical writing. Autobiography can be defined as a story about the writer based on fact, on real experience, on memories.

* The main character is the writer so it is written in the first person

* It shows the writer's feelings, thoughts, reactions, beliefs

* The story is about key incidents in the writer's life In this piece the writer describes her imaginative response to the arrival of a new pet which coincides with a major world incident. Important events are taking place around us all the time. Sometimes these remain in the background of our lives; sometimes they combine with personal ones so that they come together in our memories. Not all events are tragic and frightening. For some people sporting events form important markers in their lives. What is interesting and original about this piece is the way that the writer combines the two events by imagining the transformation of her black cat into the hunted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.

Talk to your pupils about how imagination can make ordinary things seem different and strange. Discuss how small children often have imaginary friends or pets.

Suggestions for writing

Write about the arrival of a new pet in your life. This could be a memory of a real or imaginary pet from early childhood.

Write about the imagined secret life of your pet. The pet could be real, electronic or virtual.

About the author

Fiona Camm, aged 10, goes to Copthill School, Stamford, Lincs. She says that she still thinks her cat Benny is rather sinister and he still has his "aerial" whisker. Fiona would like to be a doctor one day and enjoys natural history.

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