(Alla Dreyvitser/The Washington Post)

Last month we challenged readers to come up with an animal story in no more than 500 words. That was a tough assignment, but nearly 120 kids were up to the task. Their tales featured lots of cats and dogs, but also horses, elephants, monkeys and even a tick.

And the winner is . . . Nina Allen from Silver Spring! Nina, who is a fourth-grader at Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School, wrote about a girl and a puppy who both need a friend. Nina modestly said she thought twin sister Sydney’s entry about a tick was better. “Hers was way more creative.”

Neither girl is a stranger to animal friends. The family has two dogs: Simba and Nala.

Nina said she used to love to watch “The Lion King,” which explains the dogs’ names. She said the Allens thought they were getting yellow labs, with lionlike coats. They ended up with a chocolate lab and a black lab mix, but the names stuck.

Nina received tickets to Tuesday’s event at The Washington Post with award-winningauthor Kate DiCamillo, a selection of animal-themed books and a KidsPost goody bag.

Contest winner Nina Allen, of Silver Spring, walking Nala, one of the family dogs. She named her dogs after characters in “The Lion King.” (Family photo)

The Wanderers

By Nina Allen, Age 10

Emily Rezt looked at her home for the last time before she left. Her three-story brick home that she had lived in for her whole life, stared back at her. Ever since the fire at Nanna’s house had killed Nanna and her parents . . . no I have to stop thinking about the past. “I have to start a new life,” she thought. “Get in the car,” Aunt Roselie called. Aunt Roselie had taken Emily, but she lived in an apartment with her husband and two kids and it was tight with all of them, so her aunt had looked for a good foster home for Emily. Sure Emily loved her aunt, but sometimes she felt like no one understood her, a feeling only parents can understand. As she hopped in the car she felt a sense of dread. She was starting a new life without the comfort of her parents.

Frisco knew he was miles away from the home he had lived in for a week of his life. Frisco also knew that he was the runt of his puppy litter (whatever that meant) and he had to be dumped because he was too small to be sold. And that he was very hungry. The strangers who had dropped him off in front of the woods had not given him food. “Oh how a warm home would be nice,” thought Frisco as he walked toward a light in the cold, dark night that he hoped was a house.

The foster home was in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town was miles away and they were right next to the forest. There was even no Internet! No phone, TV or computer. “Oh how will I live?” Emily thought sadly. Well at least the house was big and cozy and her foster parents were awesome. They had no kids so she would have them all to herself. But still she felt lonely as she followed her new mom, Mrs. Carra, upstairs to her new room.

Frisco got to the house just as dark descended. He scratched and whined at the front door until a girl with the longest hair he had ever seen came to the door. When she opened it the light from the room made shadows on the dark ground. Smells of chicken and laughter wafted down the long hall. “Aw, aren’t you cute” she said until she really took a look at how small, cold, scrawny and hungry I must look. “Mrs. Carra,” she called through the long hallway, “come and see this” — as a woman stepped out from behind a door. The girl picked me up so the woman could see. The girl’s touch was soft and warm. “Emily,” the woman instructed, “Get him a blanket and sit with him near the fire.” The woman came in and whispered something to Emily. Then Emily picked me up and said, “We may be strays, but we found each other now.”