Warm Up to Writing This Holiday Season - Unit 5: Writing from Pictures
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December 2014 Newsletter

Warm Up to Writing
This Holiday Season

Unit 5: Writing from Pictures
Dear Readers,

The holiday season is here, and Christmas is just around the corner. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from the Magnum Opus Magazine! Even through the busyness of the holidays, we encourage you to “warm up” to writing this season. With excitement, inspire your kids to write about their experiences this Christmas or share a memory from the past. Winter is a perfect time to grab a cup of cocoa, curl up by the fire, and write!
Congratulations to our student writers and illustrators who are published in this newsletter:
  • Aaron Blank
  • Sam Cuentas
  • Gabrielle Fu
  • Katie Kellam
  • Haley Krause
  • Avery Richardson
  • Abby Smith

Thank you to all who submitted work. Keep writing and submit again!
Upcoming deadlines for homeschooled students:
  • Newsletter #5 Poetry – December 22, 2014
  • Newsletter #6 Unit 6 – January 12, 2015

Visit our website for writer’s guidelines and additional information: All submissions should follow the guidelines, and should be emailed to

Keep writing, and have a blessed day!

Megan L. House
Magnum Opus Magazine Managing Editor
800.856.5815 x5101
The Essential Credential
by Avery Richardson, age 10
Illustrations from U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons, Volume. 1

Would you be disposed to deliver a crucial yet illicit message in subzero climate while battling against a fierce gale and with British soldiers trailing you? Would you swim in a bitterly cold stream in order to help America protest against King George’s heavy taxes? On a blustery, bleak Boston night in 1773, a boy on a sleek black horse briskly made his way through the town. The boy, John Quincy Adams, had been entrusted with the secret written plan of the Boston Tea Party. Pounding in his ears, the voice of his father, John Adams, had echoed, “Remember, John, if this letter falls into rival hands, we are lost.” John gulped at the thought of what might happen to their family if they were found out. He clenched the letter firmly. The letter must be deliberately presented to his uncle, Samuel Adams, and to no one else. When John peered apprehensively left and right, his throat went arid, and he halted abruptly.  Flanking the cobbled road, five British soldiers were stationed to guard. He must take a detour. Without further ado, John urged his horse into a gallop. Faster and faster they hurtled. Rain clouted his face. The wind tugged at his coat. Lightning whipped the sky. Behind him, John heard a muffled yell. The British were on to him and gaining. Relentlessly, John nudged the horse’s flank, yet the fatigued horse was already careening as rapidly as it could. John swerved off the road and cantered into the dense forest. Still in pursuit, the British horses’ hoofs, beating the soft earth, grew progressively nearer. Approaching a clearing, John distinguished a river running like a shimmering silver serpent. As he dismounted, John’s feet sank in the mud. With no other choice, to deliver the message he would have to swim for it and leave his exhausted horse.

John began to swim as the British, ineffectively searching for John, sauntered into the clearing. Icy and wild, the water was raised to twice its standard dimension because of the rain which had persistently pelted and poured over Boston. As John heard rapids ahead, he vainly tried to get on land.  Because the rocks slipped under his numb hands, he could not hold on, and the current dragged him away. Before long, he must get on land, or he would get lost and meet more British soldiers. With an ultimate rupture of energy, John lunged toward the bank and took hold of a tree branch, which reached over the river. Although John may have gotten out of the river, he could not rest. He must finish his task.  Running with all his might, John raked the horizon for a glimmer of light. He was saturated, cold, and tired. Persistently, a sharp stitch ran up his chest. Just as John was ready to relinquish, he made out a tiny house with smoke billowing from its chimney. Uncle Samuel’s house! John staggered forward and rapped on the door, thankful that he had escaped the British and was no longer floating in the freezing river.

In the dead of night, John Quincy Adams handed his uncle, Samuel Adams, the essential credential. The creaking door swung forth, and the light that poured from within the house dazzled John. “Well done,” said his uncle. “Get some rest. We will build a fire.” Immediately, John slumped back onto the pillows and fell asleep even before the fire was stoked. When morning came, he journeyed home feeling content that the imperative document was in the right hands and that he did not have the burden of carrying it. John rejoiced to himself that the job had been done, and done well. Witnessing the stunned British faces when the colonists flung tea into the sea, John thought trudging through the mud, swimming in the frigid river, and risking his own life to deliver the message was well worth it.
Glad to Be Safe
Aaron Blank, age 12
Illustrations from U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons, Volume. 1

The family was ready to move to Oregon. They were excited and worried. They knew of the dangerous rivers, animals, and Indians who attacked travelers like a snake striking a mouse. Sadly, their farm had failed. Having heard of fertile land, the family had decided to move. Because it would be a hard trip, they had prepared for months. Into the wagon, all their possessions had been thrown. Since they were leaving early in the morning, they had tearfully wished their family and friends good-bye. The family started their endeavor to Oregon.

After two days of peaceful traveling, the family encountered a river which was hostile and raging. Because it had stormed all week, the water was high. Quickly, Pa jumped out of the wagon to lead the horses as they could not cross themselves. Giving the reins to young Connor, Pa asked, “Can you handle it?” “I’ll try,” yelled Connor. Connor nervously gripped the reins with sweaty palms. The waves tossed the wagon as they beat and battered Pa. In the end, the family crossed the river safely.

Now the family was safely in Oregon. Along the way, God had given them courage. Pa asked God for the strength to construct their lone homestead. They knew it would be difficult because the land was perilous. They must trust each other. While they must mutually muster the strength to continue, they would also receive it from God. Continually, the family must trust in God, who is the Creator of the universe. Praising God, the family was glad to be safe.
The Unexpected Ending of John’s Adventure
by Katie Kellam, age 13
This story is based on “The Runaway” painting by Norman Rockwell.

Wearily, a young boy trudged through the park, where he promptly sat down under a tree to unpack the contents of his red knapsack. As he rested and chewed his lunch, which was a partly squished sandwich, he wondered if perhaps he had not thought this through. This boy’s name was John Fisher, and he was a sturdy eleven-year-old. At the time it had seemed like the only option, but it was his second day since running away from home, and he was starting to regret it. Why had he run away in the first place? John could not remember. Depressed that he had nearly finished his food, he consumed the last of his scanty meal. Packing up his knapsack, he sat surveying the park under the welcome shade of the tree with his back against the rough bark.

Suddenly, two shiny black boots came into his line of sight, and he looked up in alarm. A burly policeman looked down at John, his warm brown eyes twinkling. “Are you lost?” he asked. John shook his head, staring up at the policeman. “No, sir,” he answered. Then he looked down and mumbled, “I ran away.” With a knowing nod, the policeman sat down beside John on the grass. He pushed his police cap back on his head and ran a hand through his curly brown hair. John supposed it looked as unruly as a bird’s nest he had found once, though he rather liked it. “Hungry?” The policeman inquired casually. When John nodded, he continued, “Because I was just going to get ice cream at this place I know down the street from here.” Grinning, the policeman stood up again, waiting for John, who sat dumbfounded as he stared at the policeman’s boots.

Later in the diner, John and the policeman talked like old friends. The amiable policeman introduced himself as William. Smiling cheerfully, he added, “But everybody calls me Will.” John, who was quickly beginning to like the policeman, grinned back. “I’m John. Nice to meet you, Mister Will.” Licking his ice cream cone between words, Will talked cheerfully about his family and his dog, Bernard. As he talked, John began to feel homesick. John stopped demolishing his ice cream and looked down at the countertop sadly. He missed his dog. He missed his parents. He missed home. Will chuckled, “Would you like me to walk home with you?” he asked kindly. John told Will all about his house and his family as they got ready to leave the diner on their way back to John’s house. John mused about how unexpected the ending of this adventure had been.
The Wonderful, Creative Manuscript
by Gabrielle Fu, age 11
Illustrations from Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course Level B

Ricky promptly took a sheet of paper to do his homework, which was his favorite assignment yet. In this project, he was supposed to write a composition about his pet. As he had so many pets, he considered writing about his goldfish, cat, guinea pig, rabbit, and dog. Ricky unanimously decided to write about his Walker hound, Duke. Starting to write the manuscript, Ricky whistled for Duke, since he wanted him as a model. Duke watched inquisitively. Excitedly, Ricky described Duke. Quickly, he finished his absorbing homework.

Reading his work to Duke, Ricky felt proud. “Duke was a great dog,” he read. “Terribly, he sometimes bites.” The Walker hound listened enthusiastically. As the reading progressed, Duke’s face grew long, which testified his disappointment. Ricky described him as an arrogant dog, while he also stated that Duke was always picky. In a short time, Duke did not take pleasure in the paper that provided Ricky with so much pride.

Turning to Duke, Ricky finished reading the essay to the dog. Concerning the new manuscript, he asked his brooding hound if he appreciated it. Duke haughtily sauntered away with his muzzle in the air. Ricky revised the paragraph. Unwillingly, Ricky dragged himself to school, fearing the worst because he believed that if his pet did not enjoy the essay, which was actually a very creative one, his teachers would not approve of it either. Although he had pondered this unceasingly, the teacher gave Ricky an A+. Ricky still wondered why Duke had not enjoyed the wonderful, creative manuscript. 
Perhaps it was only a dream...or was it?
by Haley Krause, age 17
Illustration from the Writing Source Packet

It is December 1st, and as always I had a ritual every year of reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to kick off the Christmas season. I suppose I inherited it from my family because we are all avid readers, enjoying the classic tales and stories of all different genres. Neighbors call us creatures of habit, but we call it tradition. As I dove into my holiday reading, there was always comfort in snuggling by a toasty warm fire while the wind and snow howled outside. But this year things were a little different. I recently moved into a larger house before Thanksgiving to be closer to my family. The house included an enormous library in the bargain! I was beyond excited to hunker down in the library and read to my heart’s desire this season.

Walking into my library, I noticed a large chill about the room. “I can fix that,” I muttered as I began a roaring fire in my brick fireplace. I warmed up my hands, smiling at how blessed I was to have such a beautiful library with my family around me during such a wonderful time of the year. Grabbing A Christmas Carol from one of the many bookshelves, I strolled over to one of my big red chairs and made myself comfortable. As I settled myself, I slowly put the book up to my nose, inhaling the scent of the rich novel (don’t judge!). There is nothing more enriching in this world than reading a fantastic book and learning new words, places, and characters. The power of knowing that anything you want to know is right there, encased in the hardbound book in your lap. The ability to lose one’s bearings from a well-written novel honestly makes me giddy with excitement the moment I enter a library!

Taking a deep sigh of peace and contentment, I opened the novel and read the first sentence of the first page: “Marley was dead, to begin with.” The wooden clock on the shelf ticked ceaselessly as I lost myself in the book, absorbed with Scrooge and his hardness toward Christmas, entrapped in London during the bitter winter, so entrapped that I felt as if the chill whipped across my face. Seconds and minutes ticked on as I lay there in my cozy chair transported to another world, when all of a sudden I heard a laugh in the corner of the library. Following the sound, I looked up from my peaceful reading to the left side of the room, and what did I find but my eldest brother swinging back and forth on the chandelier!

“Goodness gracious, Henry!” I cried out. “What are you doing on my chandelier?” Ignoring my cries of surprise, he shouted out: “On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer!” He smiled and laughed going back and forth through the room. His black striped tie blew back and forth as he continued this charade. He obviously was quoting from “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and enjoying it from what I could tell. “Henry, you are going to hurt yourself! Now get down from there,” I demanded, remaining immobile in my chair. “Oh, boy, who is the oldest here?” I thought to myself. I turned my head in each direction he went. He still ignored me, continuing to have his fun. Suddenly, I jolted awake, becoming aware of my surroundings. Looking up, I realized that Henry was not there, and the chandelier, in its spot, looked undisturbed. The fire continued to blaze, and my book was still in hand. It felt so real, yet everything was just the way it was supposed to be. That was until out of the corner of my eye, I discovered a black striped tie lying on the floor below the chandelier. “Perhaps it was only a dream,” I thought to myself. “Or was it?”
Never Forget the Night
by Sam Cuentas, age 14
Illustrations by Abby Smith, age 10. Republished from the Magnum Opus Magazine Winter 2014 Edition

Majestically, the vase sat still in the silent house. Earlier that night, the family had held many festivities with friends prior to giving in to the call of a good night’s sleep. Brilliantly, the artificial pine tree was lit up like a firework on Independence Day, and an angel perched upon the top. Only the calm dog’s snoring disturbed the halcyon scene.  Amidst this tranquility, the antique flower-filled vase continued to stay unwaveringly still on the table.

Uncontrolled, Santa’s snowball GPS flew towards the precious artifact. Utterly exhausted, Santa had come down the chimney. Finally, this was the last house—the 5,293,487,156th home to be exact. Stepping out of the fireplace, he did not notice the plate of cookies on the hearth. He slipped on the plate. His pocket came undone. The GPS flew.

The vase lay shattered on the floor. The snowball GPS had collided loudly with the antique. Menacingly, the pictures of the family on the wall stared down at him. Unbelievably upset, he tried to calm the awakened dog. Ideas of how to fix his fault rampaged around his brain. What was he going to do? He cleaned the broken knickknack. He replaced it with a new one under the tree. Obviously, he would never forget the night he shattered the vase.
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