Authors: Matthew Ward
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
USA / Canada / UK / Ireland / Australia / New Zealand / India / South Africa / China
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
For more information about the Penguin Group visit penguin.com
Copyright © 2013 Matthew Ward
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Wendie and
Henry & Miles,
who continue every day to secure my
records for Luckiest Husband on Earth and
World’s Luckiest Dad, respectively.
ll the members
of the Whipple family had managed to be born in the same month on the same day: March the first. All, of course, but one.
Arthur Whipple had been so eager to join his amazing family that he decided to make a surprise arrival into the world at eleven thirty-four
on February the twenty-ninth, just twenty-six minutes ahead of schedule. But to Arthur’s astonishment, his family was not as delighted by the surprise as he had hoped. When the doctor placed Arthur in his mother’s arms, she smiled lovingly down at him—but he could sense a hint of sadness in her eyes. And when the nurse came and carried him out for his first bath, he turned back to catch a glimpse of his mother quietly crying as the door shut behind him.
Arthur’s father sent the marching band home early that night, after they had performed but one song. Charles Whipple was a good man, but he found it hard to conceal his disappointment in his new son’s poor sense of timing.
Seeing that something was troubling the baby’s father, the doctor sought to reassure him. “Congratulations, Mr. Whipple. You have a healthy baby boy. His heart rate is normal, and he is breathing very well. Furthermore, he has the proper number of fingers and toes, and—”
“Really?” Mr. Whipple interjected. “Well, that
good news! I was under the impression he only had ten of each, but…”
“Well yes,” replied the doctor. “Ten fingers and ten toes. That’s generally considered to be the proper number.”
“Oh. I see,” sighed Mr. Whipple. “No one must have told you.”
“You were expecting a different number of digits?”
“We were really hoping for
fourteen of each…. Are you quite sure there were only ten?”
“Uh, yes. Quite sure.”
“And there is no way he might sprout a few extras in the near future?”
“Um. No,” replied the doctor, who was beginning to look noticeably uncomfortable with Mr. Whipple’s questions.
“Oh, well, there you have it,” said Mr. Whipple with more than a hint of despair. “This is just a disaster.”
The doctor made an expression that was somewhere
between a smile and a grimace, then turned, whispered something to the nurse, and walked out of the room. One could hardly blame him for feeling uneasy. He was used to people being overjoyed when he gave them the news that their child was healthy and normal.
But, of course, the Whipple family was anything but normal, and Arthur’s being so had shocked his parents to their very cores. In truth, they would have been less surprised if Arthur had been born a duck-billed platypus. For the Whipples had long been regarded as extraordinary, due to one simple fact: the Whipple family had broken more world records than any family on earth.
After a few minutes, Arthur was brought back into the room and returned to his mother. Perhaps sensing he wasn’t measuring up to his family’s expectations, the baby looked as though he might be trying to think of something remarkable he could do to prove himself worthy of the Whipple name. Unfortunately, he had just been born, and apart from gurgling, there wasn’t a whole lot he was capable of. In the end, he apparently decided on attempting the world record for Longest Time without Blinking—but only made it forty-two seconds. Luckily, no one really noticed. He didn’t know it then, but this was the last time his shortcomings would go undetected. From that moment on, each of Arthur’s failures would be documented, analyzed, studied, and graphed.
Outside the hospital room, the crowd of well-wishers was buzzing with anticipation. In some parts of the crowd,
there was a rumor circulating that the latest addition to the Whipple family had been born with polka-dotted skin and a full set of teeth. In other parts, it was whispered the baby had weighed 22
pounds and was covered with fur. Some people were even saying the infant had refused the doctor’s help and simply delivered itself.
A crack of the door sent a hush over the crowd.
Mr. Whipple stepped into the hallway. He stood smiling awkwardly for a moment and then addressed the onlookers.
“Thank you all so much for coming. I am happy to report that my wife has given birth to a son—and that he is healthy, happy and…” Mr. Whipple paused, grappling with the next word. “Normal.”
The crowd looked puzzled. Surely he was exaggerating. He couldn’t have meant
normal. After all, this was a Whipple they were dealing with. Certainly the word “normal” had an entirely different meaning in that family.
One man spoke up. “So what records has the little one broken in his first hour? Birth weight? Shoe size? Arm length?”
“Actually,” replied Mr. Whipple, his smile straining a bit, “Arthur has not broken any records at this time. We are sure, however, that with the proper guidance, he will soon join his siblings in the pages of
Grazelby’s Guide to World Records and Fantastic Feats