December 21, 1961. Chicago, ILvm1961w00847-03-mc An injured person on the ground surrounded by police and a crowd

Vivian Maier Winners Collège B1

Posted by Speakeasy News > Friday 04 February 2022 > Pedagogy

We received thousands of fabulous entries to our Vivian Maier creative writing contest. Here are our favourite collège texts  entered as B1. 

And the winners are, in no particular order:

Camille, Antonio and Raphaëlle from Ms Le Gendre’s class, Collège Barbey d'Aurevilly, Rouen;
Aurore, Bradley and Calvyn, Mrs Guillet’s class, Lycée Français Charlemagne, Pointe-Noire, Congo;
Mila and Neska from Mrs Toyer’s class, Collège du Bois d’Aulne, Conflans Sainte Honorine
Kenza and Lisa, Mr Brosseau’s class, Collège Kennedy, Allonnes;
Nathan from Mme Hullar’s class, Collège Tomi Ungerer, Detwiller;
Sophie from Mme Calonne’s class, Collège Les Provinces, Blois;
Constance from Ms Saulière’s class, Collège Cassignol, Bordeaux;
Renzo from Ms Pham’s class, Lycée Stendhal, Milan;
Kassandra and Jade from Mme Massardier’s class, Collège Roger Ruel, St Didier en Velay;
Souraya from Mrs Dufaux’s class, Collège Saint-Exupéry, Rabat, Morocco;
Marius and Max from Ms Steinmann’s class working with M. Ambroise, Collège Foch Strasbourg;
Rose from M. Combier’s class, Collège Georges Brassens, Paris;
Lucie, Apolline and Charlotte from Ms Mokhtari’s class, Vichy

Scroll down to discover their amazing texts!

Camille, Antonio and Raphaëlle from Ms Le Gendre’s class, Collège Barbey d'Aurevilly, Rouen

(Photo above)

Chicago News

The “Humpty Dumpty Pandemic”

On the 11th of September, in the evening, some passers-by saw a very strange man on Chicago Avenue.

He was wearing a pink buttoned coat and a purple scarf.

He was wandering around in the street at random, doing round trips: some people said they saw him more than seven times.

Around 8 p.m., this weird stranger just lay down in the middle of the street and styed there all night.

He started reciting the famous nursery rhyme, “Humpty Dumpty”, tirelessly, more and more quickly.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

This strange individual only stopped this creepy song in the morning. He was dead. And he was only the first victim of what we now call the “Humpty Dumpty Pandemic”.

On the 12th, the poor baker Monica Lodge, died of this mysterious pandemic.

On the 13th, it was the turn of James Cooper. On the 14th, Cyndy Blossom. On the 15th, Kathleen Luna, on the 16th, Joe Wetherbee and so forth…

A police investigation is underway, but they haven’t found any explanation for the moment. We will keep you informed. If you know anything about this matter, pleas call 911.

We hope you stay alive and this macabre pandemic will cease.

The next two entries were both about the same photo, one which inspired many of you.

Aurore, Bradley and Calvyn, Mrs Guillet’s class, Lycée Français Charlemagne, Pointe-Noire, Congo

A girl with her arms crossed wearing a stripy T-shirt and a larg watch, outside a shop

The girl on the picture is Stalina Castilla, she is Russian, Colombian and American because her father is American and her mother is Colombian. She lives in Chicago in a remote neighbourhood. She is 8 years old and she’s a student in a school named Grammy. She’s troublesome at school and everyone is afraid of her because she likes fighting and hits everyone around her, like her classmates.

When she’s not at school the girl is the head of a gang in her neighbourhood. Stalina likes to do a lot of things when she isn't at school like street fighting and playing football. But at the moment Stalina is waiting for her neighbourhood mates in front of a clothes shop and she is all dirty because she has just come back from a fight.

Stalina is like that, that is to say troublesome, a brawler and rebel because of her family who is very strict, especially her father because he is very violent with her and she doesn’t receive any attention from her parents. The girl feels so lonely that she spends most of her time with her gang to be the center of attention and not to be alone.

Mila and Neska from Mrs Toyer’s class, Collège du Bois d’Aulne, Conflans Sainte Honorine

In real life

It’s the story of a little girl who doesn’t have money. She lives in the street alone. But one day, someone gives her money so she goes to a grocery and buy a chocolate bar to eat.

After that she decides to walk in the streets and she sees one of her friends. His friend is poor, like her, but he has a family. She talks with him and she decides to share with him her chocolate bar. But after she told to him that, her friend tells to her:

“Hey, someone wants to give you money.”

So, she turns around, of course, to take the money, but there is nobody. She turns to her friend for asks to him: “Why did you say that, there is nobody?”

In reality her friend robbed her chocolate bar, and now he is running.

She decides to not run after him because she knows why he do that: he doesn’t have money so he can’t even eat. The little boy is hungry and thirsty, like her. He is tired of asking people: "Can I have money please?” like her. It’s so difficult!

She is alone, she doesn’t have money, doesn’t have a family, doesn’t have a house and nobody wants to help her… It’s very useless to continue, so she  cried, cried, just cried.

The moral of this story is: “You can be generous, but don’t forget yourself!Do you really need all of you buy?”

Kenza and Lisa, Mr Brosseau’s class, Collège Kennedy, Allonnes

A small child running out of the door of a wooden booth.
Kiddieland, Sandwich, IL, 1966

Mum isn't looking after me so I'm exploring the funfair. It's funny all the noises but it gives me a headache I'm going to go left this time because mum scolded me yesterday when I went right. She won't see me absence this time. It's so nice on this side. There's candyfloss and candy apples, I'm going to try to catch one, but I can't, I'm too small! I'm going to go inside: there are attractions for older children, I'll try to get in. It's a maze, but it's special. There is a very scary clown, he scares me. I'm going to get out of here, but which way do I go, left or right? I go right, and I have to run. The clown is chasing me! I'm lost! I go left again and then right. I am lost! I'm stuck in the maze! I go and hide between the corncobs so that the clown doesn't find me. He is there. I see him coming. he found me he caught me I'm scared. I want to go home. I'm scared I think he's going to take me to a scary place. If I scream he's going to let me go, he doesn't want to let me go I see my mommy. She's coming towards me. She's worried. The clown is taking off his mask: but it's my daddy!! He's scaring the hell out of me! I don't think I can go there anymore: it's too scary.

Nathan from Mme Hullar’s class, Collège Tomi Ungerer, Detwiller

On a Secret Mission

1960s. Chicago, IL

“Hello, my name is Dog-Dog 007. I’m waiting for a phone call from James Bond. His call must be coded. I have to protect this city from evil people. Wait, someone is calling me. “Hello?”

“Hello, this is Beluga Pizza. Did you order a pizza with pepperoni?”

“No, I didn’t. Sorry, you got the wrong number.”

“Oh, OK. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“No problem, bye. That wasn’t the right code.”

(A few minutes later.)

Oh, I have another call. “Hello… Hello? Is there anybody out there? Hey, could you answer please? No? So be it. Good-bye.” Damn it, why is he not calling me?”

(A few extra minutes later.)

Oh the phone is ringing again. I hope it is James this time. “Hello?”

“Hello, I sell TV sets for an extraordinary price. Are  you tempted?”

“Oh, it is you, James!”

“Yes it is, Dog-Dog. Ready for the plan?”

“Yes I am. I will be waiting for you behind the building.”

“Agreed, let’s go.”

Sophie from Mme Calonne’s class, Collège Les Provinces, Blois

A girl looking out of a car window directly at the camera.
August 16, 1956, Chicago, IL

Asha was 14 when she fell in love with Andrew.

Someone looking at her now would think she had all the chances in the world of being able to go out with him.

She was pretty, she wasn’t too poor, she was nice, her parents were kind, and most importantly, Andrew loved her back.

But Asha knew he would never go out with her, and it could not be changed.

Asha was Indian, and that, for Andrew’s parents made the idea of their son going out with her absolutely out of the question.

As she sat in the car, her chin leaning on the window, Asha dreamed. She dreamed that she could change the world. That she was in charge. That she could make everyone equal, and that she could help all the people who weren’t just pure Americans, and who suffered because of it.

She dreamed of a perfect world, where she could be with Andrew, and where nobody could stop them.

Then she saw Andrew and his parents appear at the end of the road. When they passed her, his parents threw her disgusted looks, while he looked sadly back.

But nothing could stop Asha dreaming

Constance from Ms Saulière’s class, Collège Cassignol, Bordeaux

A little boy looking out through the glass pane of a door
May 5, 1955. New York, NY

I’m always at the same place. Behind the window, I can observe the world.  The real world. That world where everybody walks, laughs and where children like me play. My own world is just my house, and my family, composed by my parents, my brother Mike, and I. My parents never let me go out but Mike can because he is twelve years old. I find it unfair. I’ve just one friend. It’s a homeless guy who is often sitting on the other side of the street with a placard between his feet. He smiles to me and to other people all the time. Mike told me on his placard is written: I JUST WANT A SMILE

I think that is why he smiles every time. Today, my friend is on the pavement, and I decide to talk to him, to ask him why he is here all the time and where does he live… So I break my window to meet him. I run on the street and I hear a shout. All my family is looking at me while a car hurt me. Everything becomes dark and I feel the pain seizing all my body and my soul going far away.

Renzo from Ms Pham’s class, Lycée Stendhal, Milan

A man holding a mirror he seems to have lifted from a pile of rubbish. Vivian Maier is reflected in it.
Self-Portrait, 1955 VM1955W03420-05-MC

I woke up at 6:00 am to get there before the others. I took my truck to the dump and started working… I found broken things and fixed them for a living. All I owned was in my truck. I managed to make room in the back for a little workshop where I repaired the things I found, and I also built a tiny furniture depot where I sold my “products” after I was done fixing them.

When I arrived, a few of my friends were already walking around, hunting for goods to sell. I waved at them and I got down to business. The trick was to look for the piles from the rich neighborhoods for a better chance of finding good quality objects: rich people bought expensive stuff and threw it away because they didn't want it. What a waste of money! If I were them, I would spend my money on the essentials instead of throwing it around.

I stumbled upon a washing machine in perfect condition. Furthermore, I found a mirror with a golden frame! It shimmered in the morning light like the first star of the night.

I started thinking about the things I could buy with the money I would get by selling the frame. I could finally have a decent life. I kept dreaming of huge mansions and expensive clothes when I finally got to the mirror. I lifted it up and looked at myself. “Soon this will change,” I told myself.

I lifted my eyes up and in the reflection of the mirror, I saw a woman of average height, with brown hair. She was holding a camera with both hands. She looked happy, but she didn’t seem to have a lot of money, actually, she seemed quite happy with her camera. The woman smiled at me and pressed the camera’s button. I saw a flash that blinded me for a few seconds. I turned around, but she was gone. Perhaps I didn’t need a fancy house with expensive ornaments. Perhaps I could be happy without all this stuff, and that was when I truly understood the meaning of happiness.

Kassandra and Jade from Mme Massardier’s class, Collège Roger Ruel, St Didier en Velay

A boy looking into a box that is taller than him in the street
New York, NY

Hey! It’s me Oliver. On this picture I was only seven years old. It was on March the 6th in 1950, the day when my life changed.

During this morning, my mother received a new box for her shop. As usual, I climbed on the wooden top to see what was inside.

Suddenly I noticed a letter between the clothes. I picked it up, but I didn’t recognize the language.

My mother arrived to take the box, she saw me with the letter. As she was curious, she wanted to read it. Fortunately, this letter was written in German and my mother was German. Some members of our family still live over there. In this letter it was written:

“Hello, my name is Elvira, I live in Germany but my country is at war. I beg you, come and save me, my parent are dead, I am with my little brother and we live in Berlin at 6 Apfel Street. Help us please!!”
Elvira Springer, 1950

My mother took her phone to call my grandmother.

Three days later, my grandmother found Elvira and his brother Diether. They found them in an old church. My grandparents took them to my house in New York. Since this day, Elvira and I are inseparable.

Souraya from Mrs Dufaux’s class, Collège Saint-Exupéry, Rabat, Morocco

A glamorous woman standing outside New York Public Library
New York, NY

As we all say, every moment comes to an end. I did not want this particular one to end.

Last night was magic. I felt like a princess waltzing in his arms. His eyes were grey, shiny like the storm on a black night sky. When he looked at me, my heart began beating faster, I felt special. His smile could make the coldest heart melt. He danced with me until 3:00, grabbing my hand and wrist delicately, pulling me to his chest as if I was a fragile precious thing that he had to protect no matter what. I had a strange desire to never quit his eyes. Harmoniously, we waltzed, and did not stop looking at each other eye to eye. We whispered compliments, he said I was the most beautiful lady he had ever waltzed with. Our joy bubble popped when he suddenly left the dance. He excused himself, and ran away from the dance floor. I chased him through the hallway and stairs, my shoes were hurting. While running, he dropped a little black velvet box. Inside, there was a pearl necklace with earrings. I looked at him one last time, our eyes met, and he left.

I spent the rest of the night looking for him in the streets, not knowing a single bit of information about him. All I know is his eyes. I know them by heart.

Now, it’s 9 o’clock in the morning. This street is full of people. He disappeared. I am heartbroken, now he has left me.

I got attached to him within a night. He is my prince charming. All I have now is his beautiful eyes engraved in my brain, this necklace and these earrings.

Will I ever get to meet him again?

Marius and Max from Ms Steinmann’s class working with M. Ambroise, Collège Foch Strasbourg


A crumpled newspaper ona sidewalk with a shadow of a person in a hat covering it.

I saw it. I know it’s somewhere. I even took a picture of it.

It was during a day of summer 1977. I was taking pictures of street things as usual.

Suddenly, I saw a shadow, but it was not an ordinary shadow. No one was linked to it! I had just enough time to take a picture of it, before it disappeared.

It has now been three years that I’ve looked for it. Sometimes the shadow comes to me in the street. I think that it is the shadow of a man who is approximatively thirty years old. It often wears a hat and a large jacket.

During these three years I have discovered many things, I found out that his favourite location seems to be Oak Park in Chicago and it appears when there is no one. To take another picture of it, I’m going to Oak park tonight… So, I need my camera and a notebook, to write what I see. Well, I found all I need, I’mnow ready for this expedition.

It’s 11 p.m., I go out of my house. There is no one in the street, the park is empty. To light the area, there are just four standard streets lamps. Suddenly a shiver runs into my veins. I can see it! The Shadow! It is going from one source of light to an another. At the same time, the bells of a church start to ring. The shadow begins to be faster. When the bells stop ringing, the shadow disappears. And a voice says: “it’s me the shadow…”

Rose from M. Combier’s class, Collège Georges Brassens, Paris

Several men in a train dressed identically and reading the newspaper
1950s. Chicago, IL

I was on a train, looking for inspiration, again. And I saw them, those men, they all seem to have the same life. With their hats and newspapers, they were all the reflection of one another. I found them ridiculous, but I don’t know them, and I don’t want to. I am just judging them with an image, like you are.

Maybe they’re finding themselves ridiculous too. Maybe they’re wearing those hats just because society asks them to.

Maybe they’re trapped in their own life.

Look at the first one, he seems so comfortable in his first class seat. He probably has a wife waiting for him at home with his two children and a job that allows him to live his well arranged life.

Maybe he is thinking about these things, maybe he’s happy with it. Or maybe not, who knows…

I call these people the “first classes”, I think that’s the title I would give to this photo if I wanted to publish it. But I don’t.

Lucie, Apolline and Charlotte from Ms Mokhtari’s class, Vichy

Black women against powerful white men

In the foreground, two smartly dressed young black women, looking back at the camera, out of focus. On the other side of the street a group of white men, with an American flag in the background.
Chicago, 1959

The light is red. My friend and I are waiting to cross the street. On the other side, we can see a group of white businessmen ready to cross the street too.

We are black women in New York city. For ten years, we have been fighting for the equality of rights between black and white people.

Look at them. They are taking all the space on the pavement, not ready to share the space with us, black people, women. They want to be the center of attention. They want to have full control over society and people. They want to show their supremacy. At this moment, many questions come to our mind.

Will be let us pass through? Or will they bump into us? Or force us to move aside?

What are they thinking of us?

The light is green. We are moving towards them. As expected, none of them moves. They look at us with contempt, with a defiant look.

When will they realise that we are also human beings who have feelings too? Who would like to be judged by the color of their skin and not by their character of humanity? They don’t think about the pain we might feel, all the trials we have endured. How can we believe in the American dream?

Is it possible that one day we will finally be free? And that one day, Martin Luther King‘s dream, our dream, will come true?