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Authors: Sheila Grau

The Boy with 17 Senses

BOOK: The Boy with 17 Senses
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PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Grau, Sheila, author.

Title: The boy with 17 senses / by Sheila Grau.
Other titles: Boy with seventeen senses
Description: New York : Amulet Books, 2016. | Summary: A retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” on the unusual planet Yipsmix, where every resident has synesthesia, including Jaq, who travels through a wormhole to Earth, where he must rescue a fellow Yipsmixer with the help of a kind Earthling giant.
Identifiers: LCCN 2015051081 (print) | LCCN 2016012675 (ebook) |
ISBN 9781419721199 (hardback) | ISBN 9781613120828 (ebook)
Subjects: | CYAC: Fairy tales. | Synesthesia—Fiction. | Senses and sensation—Fiction. | Magic—Fiction. | Giants—Fiction. | Science fiction. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations. | JUVENILE FICTION / Science Fiction. | JUVENILE FICTION / Humorous Stories.
Classification: LCC PZ8.G7477 Bo 2016 (print) | LCC PZ8.G7477 (ebook) | DDC [398.2]—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2015051081

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2119-9
eISBN: 978-1-6131-2082-8

Text copyright © 2016 Sheila Grau
Illustrations copyright © 2016 Adam Rex
Book design by Chad W. Beckerman

Published in 2016 by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS. All rights reserved.
No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.

Amulet Books and Amulet Paperbacks are registered trademarks of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Amulet Books are available at special discounts when purchased in quantity for premiums and promotions as well as fundraising or educational use. Special editions can also be created to specification. For details, contact [email protected] or the address below.

ABRAMS
The Art of Books
115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
abramsbooks.com
amuletbooks.com
@abramskids

Mere air, these words, but delicious to hear.

—SAPPHO, GREEK POET

1

THE TASTE OF
W

T
o the people of Yipsmix, the word
wipper
tastes like spoiled milk. It's a rotten and sour taste, which perfectly fits the rodent that bears its name. The wipper might look creamy white and furry, but it is the most sharply unpleasant animal on their planet.

To be fair to wippers, most
w
words have this sort of taste, unless the
w
is paired with
o-r
, as in
world
or
worm
. Those words taste earthy and fresh, like a rich mushroom soup. The word
wonderful
doesn't quite make the jump from disgusting
w
to delightful
w-o-r
. It has an average sort
of taste, like white rice, which is a shame. Imagine—you describe something as
wonderful
, and the other person has to take your word for it because his mouth is telling him that it's boring.

But back to those annoying wippers, because everything that happened to young Jaq Rollop can be traced to the day the wippers showed up in his garden.

“There's no doubt about it,” Jaq said at breakfast. “We've got wippers.”

His mother and grandfather both winced at the word, as if it had struck them across the face.

“Great moons, no,” his mother said.

“Chimichanga,” Grandpa said, to get the bad taste of the word
wipper
out of his mouth.
Chimichanga
has a nice, meaty-crispy flavor.

Jaq lifted his pant leg and showed them the bite marks on his ankle. Wippers love to bite ankles.

His mother pressed some damp tea leaves onto the bites to stop the poison from spreading. Then she gave him a kiss good-bye and a lunch bag filled with tasty words written on a piece of paper that Jaq could read as he ate the very bland ripweed sandwich. The Rollops were poor; they couldn't afford fancy foods like lunch meats or juice.

Young Jaq Rollop was in his seventh year of rudimentary school, which meant he was forty-nine years old. That's a little over twelve Earth years, or seventy-three and a half Epsidor Erandi years, for readers on those planets (Hello! And,
Erip nu!
). I'm not quite sure about the equivalent years on Zanflid, because of the complicated dual-sun situation and its extremely elongated elliptical orbit. Suffice it to say, in his species Jaq was medium-sized, and his second molars had just come in.

The Rollop family lived on a farm at the far edge of Cruxlump, where the land was baked by the sun and as dry as a stale cookie. They grew ripweed because little else would grow in that unfriendly soil. Ripweed tastes wonderful, or, rather, it tastes like the word
wonderful
tastes, which is boring.

Jaq also had a garden where he grew a few brickleberry vines and some vegetables beside their one-room house. He did most of the chores on the family's small farm because his father was gone, his mother worked all day at the hushware factory, and his grandfather had trouble moving because he was lazy.

Jaq plowed the soil, planted the seeds, and pulled the weeds.
He sold whatever he grew at the farmers' market, and his mom let him keep half of what he earned, which was barely enough to buy himself a large, sweet, double-shot, extra-hot saltmint drink with heavy whip on the way home from school.

He needed that sweet treat. Farming was hard work on a normal day. Farming on top of school and homework was painful drudgery. When you throw in a nest of wippers, it's enough to make a guy cry like a twenty-two-year-old.

The wippers took him by surprise that first morning. He was picking brickleberries for breakfast when he saw a flash of white scurry by his foot and disappear into the next row of vines. Jaq chased after it, but instead of running away, the small rodent turned around to face him.

Jaq smiled. The little critter was just a big-eyed bundle of white fluff, no bigger than his foot. It had a twitchy little nose covered with whiskers and floppy ears that perked up like curious lightbulbs. Just as Jaq was thinking about how cute it was, it sneered at him.

“You looking at me, farm boy?” it said.

“W-w-what?” Jaq was stunned. The wipper wasn't scared of him at all.

“Stop following me,” the wipper said. “Jeez, you're going to step on my tail, you clumsy fat-foot.”

As Jaq stood there in shock, another wipper snuck up behind him and bit his ankle. When he turned around to kick it, the wipper catapulted itself away, jumping higher than Jaq's head.
Boing!
As Jaq watched, a third nipped him from behind. They were small bites, and only mildly poisonous to Jaq, but after six or seven, it got really annoying.

After that, every morning and afternoon was the same. Jaq would go to work in the garden or in the fields, and the wippers would attack. He found that he was mostly immune to the poison of the wipper bite, but not so immune to the sarcastic taunts that flew out of the wippers like spit. Imagine a field of older siblings, popping up unexpectedly to insult your outfit, or that pimple on your nose, or to tell you that you throw like a toddler. That's what a field infested with wippers is like.

“Hey, dummy! I'm beginning to think you couldn't grow a weed in a field of manure,” one would say.

“I know, right?” another would agree. “How hard can it be to grow brickleberries?”

“I bet he couldn't grow mold on an old piece of cheese.”

“You did plant seeds, right? Pebbles don't sprout, in case you were wondering.”

Jaq put out traps for the pests, but the very next day he
was served with a cease and desist order from the Wipper Protection Society. That's right, those pesky wippers are a protected species, which meant that Jaq couldn't kill them; he couldn't even rough 'em up a little. The members of the WPS are city folk who think that if an animal is cute, it can't possibly be a pest. As a result of this protection, wippers aren't afraid of farmers, because they know the farmers can't touch them.

There is only one animal the wipper is afraid of: the freasel, known affectionately by farmers as “the wipper-slinger.” Jaq needed a freasel, but to get a freasel, he'd have to get permission from his mother.

And unfortunately for Jaq, his mother's favorite word was
no
, even though it tasted like fish paste.

2

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