Feast With The Beast

Another month, another contest! This time I went down a rabbit hole when I was thinking of ideas for the Spring Fling Writing Contest. For some reason I kept on coming back to the earliest signs of spring in the woods where I grew up in southern Wisconsin. Especially because the contest asked writers to use a gif as the story’s inspiration, and this one was so great.

(Artwork credit: IMGFLIP)

In recent years my mom and I would look for morel mushrooms at the base of dead or dying trees (like the ones above). That got me thinking about the little ditty I grew up with.

We’re going on a treasure hunt, and X marks the spot. Three big circles and one big dot. Going up the trail, and down the trail, take three…big…steps…and…squeeze!

The version I learned in childhood

My mom used to draw the X, circles, and dot on my back, followed by her fingers running up and down for the trail and then a side squeeze. Even though we knew what would happen next, there was always a thrill to it. And a tickle. And the giggles.

I thought about turning that “treasure hunt” into a “mushroom hunt” version for the contest, but it wasn’t much of a story. Still, it was fun to write.

We’re going on a mushroom hunt and roots mark the spot.

Three old oak trees and a great big rock. 

Going up the hill and down the hill.

Take three…small…steps…and…freeze!

My mushroom hunt version

A few days after I wrote that, my sister posted this video of my youngest niece reciting the version I learned in childhood. The tradition is being passed on in our family anyway (and adorably, I might add), so I decided to abandon this mushroom idea. Besides, at 34 words it said what it needed to say, and I was trying to write closer to the 150-word limit for this contest anyway.

After freewriting for a few days and listing all of the flowers, fungi, and creatures I could think of, my mind went back to childhood (surprise!) and I thought about one of my favorite books growing up, “I Can’t,” Said the Ant by Polly Cameron. The story is essentially about an ant who sees a broken teapot in the kitchen, and all of the foods and utensils (and ants and spiders) try to mend her and put her back on the counter. Her illustrations, rhyme, and humor are so pleasing to take in over and over again. I especially love the lines, “Oh gosh!” said the squash. “I can’t bear it,” said the carrot. The lines are so corny and I’m here for it.

So I had fun with my version set in a forest, and mushrooms still make an appearance. When I was writing it also made me think of The Mitten by Jan Brett, another favorite growing up, with all of the woodland creatures piling into an object that’s too small. And although I thought about bringing a bear into my story, I thought I’d let kids use their imagination with what the “beast” looks like.

I’m getting more and more used to writing work that may never end up in print, and that’s OK! It’s fun to try out new styles, sometimes fashioned after mentor texts like these, even though that wasn’t the plan from the start. You never know where an idea might take you. Take yourself less seriously every so often — you’ll be glad you did. :)

Did you grow up learning a version of “The Treasure Hunt” or reading the other books I mentioned, too? Leave me a comment below — I’d love to hear more.

Happy reading, writing, and revising! And happy spring! Thanks for stopping by!


Write a story appropriate for children (ages 12 and under) with a maximum of 150 words (no illustration notes) inspired by a GIF!


A chance to win one of 20 prizes, including picture book manuscript critiques from various agents and authors, signed copies of books, and Zoom chats.

The GIF Inspiration:

My Submitted Story:

Feast With The Beast – 150 words

By Samantha Haas

I woke up from my nap to a gray, dripping sky. 

My home may be rotting but still keeps me dry. 

“Let’s get out of the rain!” said the crane. 

“The forest is this way,” said the blue jay.

“Can we fit inside that log?” said the groundhog.

“It’s a big hole!” said the mole.

“Give it a whirl,” said the squirrel. 

“This rocks!” said the fox.  

“A lovely abode,” said the toad.

“What’s that stink?” said the mink. 

“Probably chipmunk,” said the skunk.

“You’re one to talk,” said the hawk.

“Getting snug,” said the ladybug.

“Don’t squirm,” said the worm.

“Sorry, bad habit,” said the rabbit. 

“Was that a growl?” said the owl. 

“Big mistake,” said the snake. 

“Let’s get out of here!” said the deer.

“And miss the spring feast?” growled the beast. 

Before I could stop them, they scurried away. 

They mustn’t have wanted the mushroom buffet.

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