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The Whipping Boy ()

Newbery Award Winners

This Newberry Award winning kids book is great good fun in the tradition of The Prince and the Pauper and The Princess Bride.  It's the amusing tale of a spoiled heir to the throne, so obnoxious that he's known as Prince Brat, and of Jemmy, the peasant rat-catcher's son, who is drafted into the King's service to stand in for the Prince when he earns a whipping.  Of course, having a whipping boy who gets punished in your stead leaves you little incentive to improve your behavior.  The Prince is so incorrigible that he hasn't even learned to read and write, though Jemmy has just by overhearing the lessons.  When one day the Prince decides to run away, Jemmy follows, figuring he has nothing to lose, since he'll be beaten for it anyway.  But things take an unexpectedly nasty turn when the boys are captured by two cutthroats: Cutwater and Hold-Your-Nose Billy.  The quick thinking Jemmy is able to convince the bandits that he's the Prince, since after all, he's the one who's literate, and tries to get them to release his compatriot; but the obnoxious Prince is so offended that he refuses to take this means of escape.  Gradually, as their misadventures continue, the boys learn to respect and even like one another and all, of course, ends happily.

One thing that occurred to me in reading this story is the way that Anglo-American literature turns the traditional fairy tale of mistaken identity on it's head.  The emblematic story of European tradition would be the Frog Prince, wherein the royal personage lies buried beneath a facade, but inevitably is discovered and accedes to his birthright.  American stories like this one and Prince and the Pauper have as their premise that the regal upbringing has left the heir somehow unfit to rule and only after experiencing life as a commoner can they rightly ascend to power.  The contrast obviously owes much to the underlying political philosophy of the respective cultures--the former supporting the idea of nobility being a function of birth, the latter premised on, if not consent of the ruled, at least a requirement of worthiness on the part of the ruler and an informed understanding of the plight of his subjects.

Kids needn't be concerned with all that though, they can just sit back and enjoy this amusing adventure for it's own sake.  We savvy parents will keep the subliminal democratizing message to ourselves.


Buy The Whipping Boy at

Dorothy C. Judd's review:

The Whipping Boy certainly lives up to its billing as a comic novel.  It reads much like a  Shakespearean play with ruffians, characters who swap identities, clever tricks, and amusing  dialogue.  However, it is totally predictable.  The peasant boy "realized that heíd lost his taste for
 ignorance, and Prince Brat , deserving of his nickname, was shaken "to learn that his  subjects dreaded the day heíd grow up and become king,"  Not to worry, there is, of course, a  happy ending for both.
In the meantime, there are colorful characters whom they meet along the way in their many close calls with capture.

This would make a great read-aloud for ten-year-olds and up.  I can picture a class of fifth-graders or beyond having a wonderful time acting out the story. Don't miss the authorís note at the end of the book.


Grade: (B)


Book-related and General Links:
    -SID FLEISCHMAN (Mona Kirby's Authors Corner)
    -BIO: FLEISCHMAN, SID (Educational Paperback Association)
    -Sid Fleischman (ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication)
    -Sid Fleischman On Writing: mini-lessons and activities for teaching writing and literature study, based on By the Great Horn Spoon! and advice from Sid Fleischman (Think Quest)
    -Teacher Cyberguide: to The Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman (Michele Wilson-Manos, San Diego County Office of Education)
    -REVIEWS: of The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman (The Reading Room KidView)
    -REVIEW: of Here Come McBroom: Three Tall Tales  by Sid Fleischman (Brittany, aged 9, from Scoot Township, USA, Raving Reviews)


I like the book that you made. I wounder how long it took to make this awsome book... do you know?

- Katrina Gosling

- Dec-21-2005, 17:09