Story of the Year Contest: From golden goats to bungling burglars: Princesses and witches are joined by some odd characters in the 20 top tales

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THERE were some 2,500 entries, of a very high standard, in our children's short story competition. Congratulations to those on the shortlist below. The judges will select the three prize- winners and the top 10 for The Story of the Year 2 anthology on 9 June, so watch this space for the winning story soon after.

A Mouthful of Gold by Sean Taylor, London E1. A fable-type tale about a goat with golden teeth in which two evil brothers get their comeuppance.

Ned's Knits by Louise Timms, Tunbridge Wells. About an under-achieving boy who can knit amazingly.

Thousands and Thousands of Years by David Berner, Staines, Middlesex. A humorous fantasy about an ancient battle and tiny time-travelling warrior.

The Tale of the Bad Ship Torment by Sara Conkey, Birmingham. A princess falls in love with a pirate ship's cook, who concocts amazing recipes just for her.

Dear Norman by Robert Richard, Barham, Kent. A funny story, told in the form of letters to a boy who has decided to live in his tree house.

The Little Devil by John Holme, London NW6. A fantasy about a boy with healing hands and an evil little devil who is envious of his powers.

The Neighbourhood Witch by John Bank, Highgate, London. Inefficient burglars raid the house of a witch.

The Knight Who Lost His Marbles by Charles Lowndes, Ealing, London. A traditional knight/dragon story.

The School Trip by Ann Crichton, Sheffield. A nonsense story about a school trip where children take pets.

We All Belong to Glasgow by Ann Burnett, Ayr. When a family of aliens move into a house on Jimmy's street, his parents and neighbours are horrified, but they learn to live together.

Making Friends by Norma Clarke, London N4. A child makes a friend on a holiday abroad.

Fish Kiss by Jolene Gear, Bahrain. A surreal story about a fish who grants wishes for favours.

Nick and Floyd by Graham Laurence, Marlow, Buckinghamshire. A chicken and a duck, best friends, don't understand what a tug of war is, until they realise that they must pull against each other.

The Black Hole by Maggie Butt, London N14. A space story about two brothers who go fishing in a black hole and come up with all sorts of things, including a dog who does everything that begins with 'g'.

The Princess in the Tower Block by Finbar O'Connor, Dublin. A spoof, featuring an alternative princess and debunking nursery characters.

Joseph and the Word Feather by Jonathan Stroud, St Albans. A humorous fantasy about the importance of creativity.

Scrawny Scroggins by Lee Cornes, Battle, East Sussex. A boy doesn't want to eat what his parents give him, until they cook up a special recipe.

The Howling Hills by Alan Stone, London NW3. A dark story about a princess who cannot talk and her suitor.

Slinka the Snake by David Hayes, Exeter. A fable about a good snake who manages to persuade villagers that he means them no harm.

Weird-o Wings by Hilary Brown, London SE22. A boy sprouts wings and learns to fly.

Last year's winning stories will be read at the Hay Children's Festival of the Arts, Hay- on-Wye (28-30 May), where they will also be on sale. Details on (0544) 328424.

A shortlist will appear in tomorrow's Living page