The Whipping Boy Review

the-whipping-boyThe Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Peter Sis

Greenwillow Books, 2003. 978-0060521226

Winner of the 1987 John Newbery Medal

Synopsis: Because it is against the law to whip the heir to the throne, Jemmy, a young rat catcher from the streets, is chosen to be the prince’s whipping boy. But when Prince Brat (so he is called by Jemmy) becomes bored with causing trouble in the castle, he talks Jemmy into running away with him and begins for them a high stakes adventure that might make them learn to appreciate each other.

Why I picked it up: The book seems to pop up on shelves where I am browsing for my next great read, and when my local bookstore had a going out of business sale, I snapped up a copy.

Why I finished it: It’s not a very long book, but Fleischman has the gift of being able to draw the reader in and get them engaged in the story. Jemmy and Prince Brat are likable characters, even though they aren’t quite as three-dimensional as the heroes of a more modern novel. The details describing the setting are a little sparse, but the reader has a clear idea of the times in which the story has been set. Sis’s illustrations are a cross between woodblocks and Renaissance sketches, giving us a window into the life and times in which Jemmy and Prince Brat live and adding life to the characters. It’s a charming and highly imaginative tale full of high adventure with twists and turns and a darkly comic edge that will keep the reader turning pages until the end.

Other related materials: Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (movie); The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman; The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli; Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd; The Tale of Desperaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering; The Apprentice by Pilar Molina Llorente, illustrated by Juan Ramon Alonso; The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett, illustrated by Joyce M. Turley; The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff; The Medieval World by Philip Steele; The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Bruce Bowles; Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess by Richard Platt, illustrated by Chris Riddell

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