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Authors: Phil Earle

The Bubble Wrap Boy

BOOK: The Bubble Wrap Boy
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2014 by Phil Earle

Cover art copyright © 2015 by iStock

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. Originally published in hardcover by Penguin Books, London, in 2014.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Earle, Phil.

The bubble wrap boy / Phil Earle. — First American edition.

pages cm.

“Originally published by Penguin books, London, in 2014”—Copyright page.

Summary: Fourteen-year-old outsider Charlie Han, known as “the short Chinese kid” at school, searches for a talent to improve his popularity, but when he discovers skateboarding, much to the disapproval of his overprotective mother, he also uncovers a huge family secret.

ISBN 978-0-553-51315-8 (hc) — ISBN 978-0-553-51316-5 (glb) — ISBN 978-0-553-51317-2 (ebook)

[1. Coming of age—Fiction. 2. Secrets—Fiction. 3. Family Life—Fiction. 4. Friendship—Fiction. 5. Skateboarding—Fiction. 6. Chinese—England—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.1.E17Bu 2015



eBook ISBN 9780553513172

Cover design by Matt Roeser

Random House Children's Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.



This book is dedicated to my friends Shannon Cullen and Becky Stradwick, who didn't laugh (or groan) when I asked for a favor….

here's a saying that I hate.

I know it shouldn't bother me like it does, because it's only a saying.

A sentence.

Six words. Five of which are one syllable long.

I'm sure there are more irritating phrases; in fact, I know there are.

For example, my skin itches every time Sinus hides his hideous lack of tact behind his beloved:

You'd rather hear it than be deaf….

Or my late, great, flatulent granddad's only pearl of wisdom:

Pull my finger….

Believe me, if he ever uttered those fateful words to you in an enclosed space, it was time to leave. Quickly.

The reason I hate this
saying so much is because of the number of times it's rolled out in front of me, like the heavenly answer to my (to date) underwhelming existence.

Good things come in small packages.

Okay, it's out there, burning my throat with vomit at its very utterance. But at least I don't have to say it again.

Have you ever heard a cornier, glibber, more patronizing sentence in your life?

What does it mean? It has no substance, no subtext, nothing.

All it is, is a gargantuan, ironic pat on the head from people who
want to tell you that your life as a short person is going to be packed with woe and anguish.

Come on, people. If that's what you're thinking, then give it to me straight. I have broad shoulders (for my size).

I reconciled myself to my height, or massive lack of it, long ago. Long before I started junior high and couldn't reach my locker, well before being mistaken for a nursery-school kid as I started my final year of elementary school.

It's how it's always been, no alarms and no surprises.

When I look in the mirror I see a short kid, or the top of a short kid's head, anyway.

And I think I'd deal with it even better if people didn't keep ramming
sentence down my throat.

I've heard it so often in the last two years that I've started obsessing over it, trying to prove the theory wrong with cold hard facts.

I want to blow their lame words clean out of the water and say (in the ridiculous squeaky voice that came with my stupidly small body)…

“HA! SEE?? I will always be a clumsy feckless failure, not the ‘big' package you claim I am.”

Let me give you an example. In fact, let me give you loads of them.

Here's a carousel of famous small people, and all of them,

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901)
Painter, printmaker, innovator, short-ass

So short was Toulouse that he turned to alcohol to drown his sorrows, inventing a lethal cocktail called the Earthquake, which he took to hiding in his specially adapted walking cane.

By the age of twenty-nine he was pickled in booze and rife with unseemly disease, and by the age of thirty-six, well, he was dead.

Toulouse was one of the success stories—at least he left behind the legacy of his work, unlike this next mob.

Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler: a collection of tyrants not bettered in ancient or modern history, and not one of them more than five foot nine inches tall.

Talk about
small-man syndrome.

Makes me wonder (for like a millisecond) whether I should consider a life in politics. They might have been hideous tyrants, but I bet they were tyrants with women hanging off them. And I don't mean their mothers. Mind you, I bet Genghis's mom was a lot more easygoing than mine.

It's not just historical short dudes who were losers either. Look around now and it's hard to find a positive role model. I mean:

Tom Cruise (nose)

Prince (The Purple Perv? They'd never have dared to call him that if he were taller.)

Diego Maradona (single-handedly cheated England out of the 1986 World Cup)

The Ewoks (ruined what would have been the best movie trilogy of all time)

I could go on, fill another page or two at least, but you'd get the wrong idea about me. I'm not bitter. It might read like I am, but I'm not, honest.

When opportunity comes my way, I try to take it.

Even if that means grabbing the nearest stepladder and leaning precariously from the very top rung. If that's what it takes, then fine—I'm up for it.

My problem is that every time I try, every time I reach up and try something new, the stepladder topples over in the most public way possible, and I topple with it.

The bruises might fade, but my reputation doesn't.

To everyone who knows me I'm Tiny Charlie from the Chinese takeout place. Clumsy, klutzy Charlie Han, who should know better but never learns.

And that's the bit that stings way worse than being labeled a shortie.

Because if there's a saying I
believe in, it's this:

Everyone's good at something

I do believe that.

I do.

I have to.

Because the alternative just isn't worth thinking about.

All I have to do is work out what my

The thing that turns me from an Ewok to…I don't know, Yoda?

Yep, Yoda. I'd settle for that in a second. A millisecond, even.

Despite the ears. Despite the green.

So that's it. Until I find my thing, I'm channeling one hundred percent pure, unadulterated Yoda.

Find it I must. My calling it is.

Note to self: Drop the Yoda-speak. Girls won't go for it.

BOOK: The Bubble Wrap Boy
7.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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