For Ages
10 to 99

What does it take to turn a bully into a hero? Empathy and the power of forgiveness take center stage in this poignant novel by the award-winning author of The Boy at the Back of the Class.

Getting in trouble is what Hector does best. He knows that not much is expected of him. In fact, he gets some of his most brilliant prank ideas while sitting in detention. But how far is too far? When Hector plays a prank on a homeless man and is seen and shamed by a schoolmate, he reaches a turning point. He wants to be viewed differently and decides to do something that will change his fate for the better. But will anyone take him seriously?
 
This moving story told with humor and heart presents readers with some recognizable characters, like a bully and a teacher’s pet, and introduces them to some they may not be so familiar with— like those who are homeless, who live on the street, and whose stories are equally meaningful and important. Readers will feel motivated to see the best in others and hopeful that bad things can be overcome with effort.
 

An Excerpt fromThe Night Bus Hero

Two Snakes and the School Soup

“HECTOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRGGGGGH! STOP RIGHT THERE!”

I froze with my hand hovering above the large vat of bright red tomato soup. It would have been a perfectly ordinary pot of soup, if it hadn’t been for the long, bright green rubber snake that was now floating around right in the middle of it.

“HECTOOOOORRR! I’M WARNING YOU!”

I slowly turned to look over my shoulder. I could see all the lunch ladies in their bright blue uniforms staring at me with their mouths wide open, like doors someone had forgot to shut. Everyone in the cafeteria had frozen. Except for Mr. Lancaster. His mouth was open wide too and getting wider like a big black hole. I could tell he was getting ready to explode, because his face had gone as pink as a baboon’s bottom and his nose was starting to twitch.

“Don’t you dare,” he hissed, glaring at the second rubber snake I was holding in my hand.

I looked down at the second snake. This one was bright red. Almost as bright red as the boring soup Mrs. Baxter had made.

I knew I had two options. The first one was to not drop the second snake in. I would still get punished for the green snake, but maybe it wouldn’t be quite as bad.

The second option was to drop the snake in. That would make Mr. Lancaster even madder than he already was and make Mrs. Baxter really mad. But it would serve her right for being the worst lunch lady we’d ever had—­always narrowing her eyes and giving us the smallest spoonfuls of the things we wanted, and plonking giant spoonfuls of the things we hated onto our plates. It was about time someone got her back. Plus it would make Will and Katie, my two best friends, laugh.

“WELL? WELL?” said Mr. Lancaster.

Looking back at Mr. Lancaster, I grinned and let go of the snake. A gasp echoed around the cafeteria as the second rubber snake joined the first with a splash. Blobs of tomato soup flew out everywhere. A splodge landed with a SPLAT on Mrs. Baxter’s head. A second lump hit with a SCHLOP on another lunch lady’s cheek. A third struck with a GLOOP on Mr. Lancaster’s twitchy nose and oozed down to the floor with a drip, drip, drip.

“RIGHT, YOUNG MAN! YOU’VE DONE IT NOW! COME WITH ME!”

That’s a thing people call me when they get really angry—­“young man.” It’s as if they’re so mad they can’t remember my name. In fact, no one ever says my name normally anymore. It’s either “young man” or “HECTOOOOOOOORRRR” shouted in a voice that tells me right away that the person is angry with me. Even Will and Katie just call me “H.” But I don’t care. I used to, but I don’t anymore. Most people are so stupid that it doesn’t matter what they think of me. They’re like those tiny annoying flies that buzz around you when you’re trying to eat ice cream. The worst part is, the stupidest, most annoying bugs in the country all seem to be at my school.

I imagined what it might be like to swat people with a giant fly swatter, as Mr. Lancaster started to march me out of the cafeteria. I gave Will and Katie a wink on my way out—­after all, I had won our bet! But they were laughing so hard I don’t think they even saw me.

“SIT RIGHT THERE AND DON’T YOU DARE SAY A WORD!” snapped Mr. Lancaster, pointing at the detention sofa.

Mr. Lancaster is the principal, and sometimes I wonder if the certificates on his wall are really secret awards given to him for being the stupidest and most annoying principal in the country. The funny thing is, he thinks he’s clever. He’s always watching me and waiting to catch me out just so that he can cry “HECTOOOOORRRRR!” in front of the whole school. When he does that, the veins in his neck go from being two-­dimensional to three-­dimensional. He’s always giving me weird warnings too. Last week it was: “ONE more time and you’ll be out on your ears so quick, your head will be spinning like the solar system!”

Today it’s: “You’re THIS close to getting your legs chopped right off from under you, young man! And then what will you be? Legless! That’s what!”

If Mr. Lancaster really wants to get rid of me or my legs, he’ll have to do a better job of catching me. He got lucky today ’cos I guess he must have been spying on me extra hard. But he doesn’t know the half of what I get up to, because I can see his stupid traps from miles away. Like the time he installed tiny cameras that looked like shiny black beetles outside the boys’ bathroom; he was hoping to catch me taking payment from those who didn’t want their hair washed in the toilets at lunchtime. But of course, I saw the cameras right away. Now I wave to them every day as I walk past, before taking all my payments in the far corner of the playground. It works out well for everyone. No one gets a toilet dunking, and I get a steady supply of other people’s pocket money and sweets.

Then there was the time last year when Mr. Lancaster made all the school prefects into lunch monitors and gave them huge shiny badges. Their job was to try and stop me from tripping people up when they were carrying their lunch trays to their tables. But I just tripped the lunch monitors up instead, and they all quit the very next day.

“HECTOOORRR! ARE YOU LISTENING?!” Mr. Lancaster’s angry voice interrupted my happy memory of tripping up Katie Lang and watching her tumble head over heels across the cafeteria while her bowl of chili splattered half of her schoolmates. “YOU HAD BETTER NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT MISSING DETENTION TODAY!”

Before Mr. Lancaster could continue, the school bell began to ring as if it had also had enough of him. Trying not to grin, I nodded and slowly—­very, very slowly—­made my way back to my classroom. By the time I reached it, everyone was already inside getting out their workbooks.

“Hectorrrr!” sighed Mrs. Vergara, picking up the class roster again and shaking her head. “Why must you ALWAYS be late?” she asked, scratching her head now too.

I shrugged and slumped down into my chair next to Rajesh. Mrs. Vergara is always shaking and scratching her head at me. It’s as if she secretly has lice and only remembers that they itch whenever I’m in the room.

“OK, OK. Settle down,” she said, walking over to the whiteboard with a bright green marker in her hand. “Now that everyone is finally here, let’s recap the events leading up to the Great Fire of London.”

I realized my workbook was in my drawer at the front of the classroom and gave a silent groan. Not that I cared really. I sat and watched as Mrs. Vergara’s pen made big, loopy letters on the board, leaving behind a shiny green trail just like a slug’s.

“Psssssst! Rajesh!” whispered a boy’s voice from the table in front of us, where Robert and Mei-­Li sat. A small piece of folded paper landed near my elbow.

Before Rajesh could reach for it, I grabbed the note and opened it up. It was a funny drawing of Mrs. Vergara with flames coming out of her bum as if her farts had caught on fire. The words “How the Great Fire of London REALLY started” were written above it. I looked over at Robert, impressed. I didn’t think that a brainiac like him would have the guts to draw something so funny about a teacher. Usually any bits of paper he passed to Rajesh had math equations on them or said something like “Meet me in the library by the chemistry section.” But then, from over his shoulder, I saw Karina looking nervously at me. It was obviously her drawing that Robert had been passing along.

“Hectorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Something keeping you busy, is it?”

I quickly scrunched the paper up in my hands. But it was too late. Mrs. Vergara was already standing in front of me.

“Give it here. Now,” she said softly, her head tilting to one side.

I looked over at Rajesh, whose eyes were popping so far out of his head they looked like they were going to fly across the room, and then glanced at Mei-­Li and stupid Robert. Mei-­Li was frowning at Robert, and Robert was sitting up straight and looking at the ceiling as if he had never seen it before. I could see Karina doing the same thing too. Giving them all a scowl, I handed the drawing over to Mrs. Vergara.

Under the Cover