1987: The Whipping Boy (or, a really long chase sequence)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating 3/5

Sid Fleischman’s The Whipping Boy is a quick and easy read that focuses on the crazy adventures of a prince and his whipping boy. What it lacks for in plot, it makes up for in character development, through teaching a lesson on how friendship can evolve between two people of different social backgrounds.

The plot begins when the prince decides to run away from his castle and takes his whipping boy with them. They are captured by two ruffians – at which point the book turns into a long chase sequence wherein the two protagonists must escape their captors and a gypsy bear that chases after them in the woods.

The two contrasting personalities of the protagonists help give this book some color and flavor. Prince Brat, a spoiled prince who plays pranks and refuses to act befit his station is someone you wish you could slap, while his whipping boy, Jemmy, who is punished every time the prince gets in trouble, is easy to sympathize with as it is quite easy to feel his exasperation towards his bizarre situation. Essentially a fable, the author tells a basic story on the meaning of friendship that kids can easily understand.

The Whipping Boy is entertaining with its juvenile humor that borders upon slapstick comedy. The simplistic characters make the humor shine, as none of the characters are particularly smart, except for Jemmy. For example, a fairly funny sequence happens when Jemmy is tricking their captors to release them by pretending to be the prince, but the prince keeps messing things up with his big ego and his inability to grasp what Jemmy is doing. The prince constantly makes every situation worse without knowing it, but it’s told in such a way that it’s easy to laugh at their absurd situation.

Overall, The Whipping Boy is a breezy read that doesn’t require much concentration. I remember reading this in fifth grade and thought it was enjoyable back then so I would definitely recommend it to younger readers. It’s a satisfactory read for people who don’t like long, complex and emotional novels and prefer short stories with a bit of playful humor.

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