The Whipping Boy
by Sid Fleischman
Age: 6 + (read to); 7 + (independent reading)
Interests: medieval times, adventure, criminals, carnivals and bears
90 pp. – 20 chapters
Next: there seems to be a made-for-tv version of this story, titled either The Whipping Boy or Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (1994), but I have not seen it
Also by this author: Humbug Mountain, The Ghost in the Noonday Sun, McBroom (series), The Bloodhound Gang (series)
Orphaned son of a rat-catcher Jemmy is plucked from the gutters to serve as whipping boy for the spoiled Prince, widely known as Prince Brat. It is strictly forbidden to strike the heir to the throne, so every time he misbehaves (which is often), poor Jemmy gets a hiding. Jemmy wishes he could run away but it’s the Prince who suddenly strikes out one night, dragging Jemmy along with him. Captured by criminals hungry for a rich ransom, Jemmy has to think quick to escape and the Prince tags along. As they flee criminals and circus bears, the impossible happens: the two actually become friends and learn to trust each other.
This slim volume is an action-packed romp through medieval times. The boys travel from the royal court to a foggy swamp, a peasant’s carnival, and finally into the village’s rat-infested sewers. The book doesn’t slow down to explain too much background, and it forsakes description and scene-setting in favour of action, but the fast pace should really draw in reluctant readers. The chapters are very short and rife with cliff-hangers.
Lively and irreverent, this book has a very modern, entertaining swing to it, without getting too anachronistic (modern slang), cynical or gross (How to Train Your Dragon-ish).