500 words get pupils an invitation to Buckingham Palace

Levana Jacobs and Yasmin Block met the Queen and a host of celebrities


Levana visiting Buckingham Palace when she attended a tea for the BBC's 500 Words writing competition

Two pupils at Jewish primary schools have celebrated reaching the final of the BBC’s 500 Words story-writing competition – with a tea hosted by the Queen.

Eight-year-old Levana Jacobs from Akiva Primary School in Finchley and Yasmin Block, seven, from Clore Tikva School in Ilford were two of 50 writers selected out of 44,000 entries. The stories have all been published on the BBC website and recorded by a professional actor.

The finalists were all invited to Buckingham Palace for a tea party and ceremony with the Queen to celebrate their achievement.  

Levana drew inspiration for her story, The Extraordinary Camel, from a camel trinket box her older sister acquired at Jaffa market in Israel. As Levana contemplated her entry for the competition in the lead up to Chanukah, the holiday sparked her creativity.

In Levana's tale, the unwrapping of a Chanukah gift from their Aunt Sbaba becomes the doorway for two children into an extraordinary journey, on which they are transported to the mystical land of the pharaohs. Levana has always been interested in ancient Egypt, so it was natural to head there in her story.

Mum Kerry said writing hadn’t always come naturally to Levana. “She said, at one stage, that she would never write again, but because the competition didn’t mind about spelling and punctuation, her imagination was allowed to soar.”

The eight-year-old loves stories. “Any story she hears, she gets very into,” Kerry explained. “She has a vivid imagination.”

Coming close to winning such a prestigious national competition has boosted Levana’s confidence, “She had to read her story out to the whole class and then tell the school about the visit to the palace.”

During the visit, Levana and her mum looked at one of Queen Victoria’s diaries and saw a mini Gruffalo picture book from the Windsor Dollhouse’s miniature library. 

“We’re very proud,” said Kerry, adding that since the competition, Levana had been writing more and more.

Yasmin Block told the JC how she got to shake hands with the Queen at the tea. 

Recalling meeting Camilla and celebrities, including Lenny Henry, Romesh Ranganathan and Roman Kemp, she said: “It was amazing, really fun and lovely. I was so excited.”

Yasmin, who hopes to become an author and illustrator in the future, said she was inspired to write Kindness Makes the World A Brighter Place after “reading lots of books”.

She added: “I really love reading, and I had the idea to write about a fairy who was making everyone in fairyland jealous.”

Head teacher, Margot Buller described Clore Tikva as a creative school with a “rich and innovative curriculum”.

Buller added: “I am continually impressed by the quality of writing across the school and the confidence and skill with which children approach writing both fiction and non-fiction.

“We are very proud of all the children who took the time to enter. I am so proud and delighted with Yasmin’s success and know this is just the start of her progress as a writer.”

Eight other children from the school got through to the semi-finals with their stories.

The competition was chaired by BBC Breakfast’s Jon Kay, and the judges were Sir Lenny Henry, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Francesca Simon, Charlie Higson and Malorie Blackman.

You can read Levana’s and Yasmin’s stories here

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