The Whipping Boy

by Sid Fleischman

Unconditional Recommendation: A bratty prince and his whipping boy have many adventures when they inadvertently trade places after becoming involved with dangerous outlaws.

Age: Middle Grade
Series: Stand Alone
Pages: 90
Published: 1986
Genre: Adventure, Comedy

Award: Newbery Medal

I read and watched the movie adaptation of this little novel in early high school and what I remember from it is simple: a terrible prince only responds to consequences when he’s the one who receives them!

Summary from the Publisher

Jemmy, once a poor boy living on the streets, mow lives in a castle. As the whipping boy, he bears the punishment when Prince Brat misbehaves, for it is forbidden to spank, thrash, or whack the heir to the throne. The two boys have nothing in common and even less reason to like one another. But when they find themselves taken hostage after running away, they are left with no choice but to trust each other.

Memorable Characters

This short, comedic read is told from Jemmy’s perspective. The antics of the two boys are funny because they don’t work together at all. Jemmy is clever and comes up with plans to set the prince free but the prince will have none of it. The prince seems to want to be shaken out of his dull state of life by sticking it out and seeing what will happen rather than going along with Jemmy’s ideas. Eventually, the prince learns what it means to be a whipping boy and is shocked to discover how other people see him. For as spoiled as the prince acts, the reader begins to see just what spoiling can do to a person. It can make them lonely, unhappy, irritable, and selfish. The prince is all of these things and more but because of Jemmy and the adventure they have together the prince gets a new look on life.

Enduring Theme

This would be a good book to read aloud as I think it would provide some laughs and even some topics of discussion. In the first few pages of the book, we read the unmistakable substitutionary role of the whipping boy. It could be a great launching point to discussing how Jesus became our substitute on the cross and took the punishment of our sin in our place. The whipping boy is just the same on a much smaller scale.

This is a short, enjoyable read with comedic antics that put me in mind of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. An interesting fact is that though the story is fictional, whipping boys actually existed at one time. Can you imagine?? Anyway, have some laughs and happy reading!

Books Like This: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Where to Find this Book: Amazon* or your local library!
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