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Title: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman It’s a 1987 Newbery Medal winner.
Jemmy is the unfortunate whipping boy for Prince Brat, spoiled and wayward heir to the throne. Feeling bored, the Prince decides to run away and takes Jemmy with him. In the outside world the Prince discovers that he needs Jemmy’s help, and the two boys develop a bond which neither one expected. Can the boys outwit a couple of cutthroats who are determined to catch them so that they can collect a ransom from the king?
I’ve loved this book since I was a kid! It’s very short and ideal for children who are reading beginner chapter books. There are occasional black and white drawings scattered throughout the book.
I don’t know how Fleischman did it, but he manages to pack a lot of personality and a great lesson into a very short story. Prince Brat and Jemmy have very nicely developed characters, each one making you either loathe or love them. The lesson contained in this book is about friendship and giving people second chances. Jemmy could have easily left Prince Brat to fend for himself, given how much he had already suffered because of the Prince’s mischievous ways. However, when the boys were truly in need, they had to rely on one another and they formed a bond which defied convention.
The Prince also got a look at life outside of the castle, which he had never been allowed to engage in before. He meets a couple of thieves, a young lady and her dancing bear, the hot-potato man, and a rat catcher in the sewer. He also has many first-time experiences such as shaking a commoner’s hand, going to the fair, exploring the sewers, and eating a potato. The new adventures and relationships he experiences set him up to be a more thoughtful and considerate ruler when his time comes.
I recommend The Whipping Boy to children who are beginning to read chapter books (though older kids would enjoy the story, too). It also makes a fun, quick family read-aloud.
- Some violence
Rating: 5 Stars
Until next time…