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