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The Whipping Boy

by Sid Fleischman
90 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by niennasiblings

A quick and fun read with good lessons.

Plot

As the whipping boy of Prince Horace, known to the world as Prince Brat, Jemmy dreams of running away. When the prince becomes bored of his pranks, he orders Jemmy to accompany him on a hair-brained escape. Outside the castle, Jemmy has to choose between claiming his freedom or helping the boy he detests.

Morality

The boys run away. There are two robbers who kidnap two boys for ransom, and talk about other crimes they've done, but this is shown as wrong. Prince Brat tries to spice up his life by making other people miserable. Courage, humility and honest pride, loyalty, and being a true friend are all exemplified.

Spiritual Content

The devil and an "evil eye" are both mentioned for comparison. Hell is mentioned.

Violence

Throughout the story there are a lot of whippings. Two robbers are attacked by a ton of rats. Jammy tells two cutthroats that if they were caught they wound be slowly boiled alive, and there are a lot of such threats; a cutthroat says that if he were caught he would be hanged. But nothing is described.

Drug and Alcohol Content

One of the robbers chews garlic.

Sexual Content

None.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Slang is frequently used and there is a lot of name calling, but nothing crude. The exclamations 'gaw,' 'faw', and 'lawks' are used.

Conclusion

Though on the surface merely a fast, fun read, The Whipping Boy shows the good and bad of both the palace life and the street life, and sets an example of what it means to be friends. I appreciate how both boys grow through the story and the other characters, while being one-dimensional and not fully believable, are fun and make a nice background. On the other hand, many younger children, whom the story is clearly geared for, miss the boys' growth and see only the fun and predictable plot. It could be a good read aloud to allow for discussion.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: 8-10

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