Saturday, April 4, 2015

Newbery Review: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman (1987 Medal Winner)

When I first saw The Whipping Boy, thin, plastic-wrapped, and sitting on the library Newbery shelf, my mind flashed back to poor Humphrey Marlow in The Prince and the Pauper, begging Tom not to release him from his awful employment.

That must be dark, I thought.

When I finally did pick up The Whipping Boy, I learned it was anything but dark.

Orphan Jemmy serves as the prince's whipping boy. Being the prince's whipping boy isn't easy, especially when that prince's national nickname is Prince Brat. But Jemmy learns to read and write and to put up with his job, until a failed escapade gets them both lost in the woods with highway robbers. Wily Jemmy knows how to escape, but with Prince Brat's stupidity and noisy mouth, he may be stuck forever, or worse, be arrested as a kidnapper for that bounty the king put on his head.

The Whipping Boy is short, snarky, blunt, and unlike last week's reviewed read Crispin, completely un-educational. I don't think there's much more to add to that. It made me laugh several times, but you have to appreciate hardcore kid sarcasm from a day where self-enforced playground rules still applied and self-esteem wasn't really a thing. Jemmy's not afraid to tell Prince Brat like it is, and I'm pretty sure most of us would do the same in his shoes. Prince Brat lives up to his name, but Jemmy's eye rolls and accompanied remarks will keep you entertained.

Rating: 3 and a half stars

Favorite Character: Betsy

Recommended age: 8+

Content for parents: a couple instances of the h-word, kids are nondescriptly beaten (to be expected by the title).

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Reviews, visit Shannon's blog here


  1. I haven't had the chance to read this one, but your review convinced me to take care of that ASAP. Sounds like a good read-aloud too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I have this on the shelf still, but it hasn't gone out in a while. I will have to see if I can get this one out to someone today.

  3. It sounds like a pretty good book! Thanks for the review! :-)

  4. It sounds like a pretty good book! Thanks for the review! :-)

  5. Interesting. Thanks for the review. I'll try to check this out.