The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil EarleThe Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle

The Bubble Wrap Boy

byPhil Earle

Paperback | May 27, 2014

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The new book from the award-winning Phil Earle, author of Heroic and Being Billy. 'Have finished BUBBLE-WRAP BOY. If happy tears/snot smeared across face were legal currency, @philearle would be rich. So warm, and so funny' - Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers. All my life I've been tiny Charlie from the Chinese Chippie, whose only friend is Sinus, the kid who stares at walls. But I believe that everyone's good at something. I've just got to work out what my something is... Charlie's found his secret talent: skateboarding. It's his one-way ticket to popularity. All he's got to do is practice, and nothing's going to stop him - not his clumsiness, not his overprotective mum, nothing. Except Charlie isn't the only one in his family hiding a massive secret, and his next discovery will change everything. How do you stay on the board when your world is turned upside down? Phil Earle was born, raised and schooled in Hull. His first job was as a care worker in a children's home, an experience that influenced the ideas behind Being Billy and Saving Daisy. He then trained as a drama therapist and worked in a therapeutic community in south London, caring for traumatized and abused adolescents. After a couple of years in the care sector, Phil chose the more sedate lifestyle of a bookseller, and now works in children's publishing. Phil lives in south-east London with his wife and children, but Hull will always be home.
Phil Earle was born, raised and schooled in Hull. His first job was as a care worker in a children's home, an experience that influenced the ideas behind Being Billy. He then trained as a drama therapist and worked in a therapeutic community in south London, caring for traumatized and abused adolescents. After a couple of years in th...
Title:The Bubble Wrap BoyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:400 pages, 7.75 × 5.1 × 0.65 inPublished:May 27, 2014Publisher:Penguin UkLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0141346299

ISBN - 13:9780141346298


Read from the Book

1There’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 other 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 really 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 that 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, deeply flawed.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 do 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 something is.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.2I breathed deeply, nerves prickling beneath my costume.“Don’t be a clown,” I told myself. It wasn’t the most demanding role, after all. No time onstage with Romeo or Juliet; no lines or interaction either--well, apart from with the lifeless body of Mercutio as I dragged him offstage. Couldn’t imagine I’d be troubling the reviewers with the complexity of my performance.I waited for Matty Dias to stop milking Mercutio’s death, figuring my birthday would come around by the time he stopped writhing around, calling for his mommy (I didn’t remember that part in the original text).I wasn’t jealous of him, though. I hadn’t expected to find my name next to a main part when I ducked through people’s legs to read the cast list pinned to the bulletin board. It would’ve been a brave move to give a part to someone who sounded like they were addicted to helium.I’d hoped to bag a part with a name, though, rather than just Body Dragger Number Two. I’d run to the library to see what the script said it involved but couldn’t find a reference anywhere. Even Google threw up a blank. I knew then that it was going to be the bittiest bit part, the sort they offer up to the talentless kids, you know, just so they feel involved. There seemed little point in begging for a promotion to BD Number One. . . . It didn’t take me long to get over it; it was a foot in the door, after all. A stepping-stone.I just had to make sure I didn’t fall over it.As the lights finally dimmed on Mercutio, I adjusted my hat (which, like every bit of my costume, was way too big) and strode purposefully to center stage. Wiping a single imaginary tear from my cheek (my own exquisite addition to the role), I gripped the fallen warrior underneath the shoulders and leaned back, expecting his body to slide across the stage, just like it had in the dress rehearsal.Except nothing moved.I pulled harder, my body arching further, yet it was like Mercutio had been replaced by the deadest of weights.Whispers started to roll from the audience, followed by chuckles that only grew louder with every useless tug I made.“What are you doing?” hissed the resurrected corpse.“Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” I squeaked back quietly, though it must have come out as a stage whisper, as the first four rows threw back their heads and laughed.I tried to figure out what was stopping us, finally catching sight of his sword, wedged between floorboards, pinning him to the stage.“It’s your sword, it’s--”“Just pull, you idiot!”So I did, and after several monumental efforts the blade finally dislodged itself, sending both the corpse and me skidding backward across the stage.I fought to stay upright, but with Mercutio’s weight on top of me I delivered the most ungraceful dance ever witnessed on any stage. The Royal Ballet it wasn’t.There was a gasp from the audience as we thudded against a pillar, the biggest reaction there’d been all evening, and for a split second I wondered if I’d accidentally created a bit of real theater.But then I felt the pillar wobble behind me, accelerating quickly into a tilt. You see, the pillar was actually a pretty pivotal bit of the set, beneath Juliet’s balcony, so if it fell, well, the odds were the balcony would too. . . . Matty Dias was way ahead of me in his structural assessment, fully alive now as he ran, screaming, for the wings.I followed him quickly as the pillar hurtled toward the stage, watching in horror as the balcony started to shake.To make it worse, the stage lights were now back up, ready for the next scene. I saw Romeo (Robbie Bootle, our school’s most popular student) stride center stage, lost in his own grief, completely unaware that if the balcony fell he’d be the next person to be mourned.I had to do something, so I dashed behind the balcony to see the entire set lurching precariously forward. The stage weights holding it all in place were rapidly becoming dislodged, the main rope that anchored it at the middle unraveling cartoon-style.Without thinking, I sprinted for the rope and leapt on it. If I could retether it, then everything would hold still and Romeo wouldn’t die quite yet or quite as literally.It was the right idea--of course it was. At least, it was if you were of normal size and weight. But my impact on the rope was minimal, like a fly landing on an elephant, hoping to stop him from thundering on.Within a second I knew it wasn’t going to work, and as the balcony whooshed forward and I impersonated Tarzan on a vine, it was clear I could save either myself or the hapless Romeo. I may not be a coward, but I’m not an idiot either. With one final graceless movement I crumpled to the ground, shouting as I fell.“Jump, Romeo! Jump!!”I doubted he heard me above the cacophonous din created by the tumbling timber and three hundred terrified audience members.All I could do was roll into a ball and hope for the best.The fair city of Verona looked more like the battlefields of Baghdad.Splintered scenery jutted from the stage at unusual angles, and the stage lights swung perilously over the audience, highlighting that the damage wasn’t restricted to the set.There in the front row of the audience, spread‑eagled on the laps of the mayor and his wife, lay the love-struck Romeo, his chin savaged by the medal on the dignitary’s tie clip.No one moved at first, not even me (though I allowed myself to gasp for air in relief). The mayor’s wife had taken the brunt of the blow, but she showed little emotion. She simply sat there, frozen, hand suspended in the air, still clutching her bag of malted milk balls. Robbie had a lot to thank her love of chocolate balls for. It had given him the softest of landings.His head wasn’t quite so cushioned. The tie clip had gouged a jagged hole in his chin that was spraying blood all over the mayor’s suit. Mom would have had a fit if she’d seen it. Blood is murder to clean, apparently.I wandered to the front of the stage, leaning forward as I asked, “You all right, Robbie?”“Drop the curtain!” came the cry from the wings, which might have made me giggle if I hadn’t been in so much trouble.It was a bit late for that. Three hundred square feet of red velvet was not enough to hide this carnage, not unless they were going to drape it over the audience as well.The curtain fell anyway, swooshing into me with such force that it almost knocked me on top of Robbie. Fighting its folds as it enveloped me, I decided that now might be the right time to make a quick exit. It wouldn’t take anyone long to put two and two together and spell Charlie Han.I scuttled, crablike, toward the wings, head down, best “not guilty” face plastered on, but just as my feet hit the shadows my own name assaulted my eardrums.It should’ve been a moment, the moment, the one to define me--after all, I’d dreamed of hearing Carly Stoneham call my name since the start of junior high.Although in those fantasies she was calling it playfully, with a chuckle, as if I’d said something dazzling and witty.She certainly wasn’t bellowing it at me, every letter packed tight with rattlesnake venom.I think it’s fair to say she wasn’t in character anymore, unless Juliet actually turned out to be a kick‑ass hit girl, hell‑bent on avenging Romeo’s minor chin wound.She still looked pretty, though, even if her immaculately braided hair was as big a casualty as Robbie. Incandescent rage clearly suited her.“What did you do that for?” she yelled.“Do what?” I hoped she was as forgiving as she was pretty.“Let go of the rope like that! You knew it was anchoring the balcony in place.”My cheeks flushed with shame. “I couldn’t help it. The weight of it was lifting me up. If I hadn’t let go, I’d have gone flying.”“Well, better that than let it fall on Robbie. If he hadn’t been so athletic, it would have crushed him.”“He’s all right, though, isn’t he?” I cringed at the sight of him, chin still erupting. “He’s a center forward--diving’s second nature.”My lame attempt at humor was met with a volcanic look.“No, he’s not all right. He’ll probably have to go to the emergency room for stitches and the mayor’s wife’s gown will need dry-cleaning. Mrs. Gee has canceled the play and now I’m never going to go out with him, am I?”I felt for her, really I did. So much so that without a thought for myself, I volunteered to save the day by taking on Robbie’s part. But when that resulted in other cast members having to restrain Carly from attacking me, I realized I’d learned Robbie’s lines in vain.Still, it wouldn’t be a waste. I could regurgitate them in an exam soon enough. Learning Mercutio’s speeches as well might have been overkill, though I’d done it with the most honorable of intentions. He was a funny guy, quick with the rapier wit. If I were the fair Juliet, I might get tired of Romeo’s wailing and let his best friend cop a feel instead.