Oct 1, 2010

Nostalgic Friday: The Whipping Boy

Welcome back to Nostalgic Friday! Since I love all things historical (culturally, physically, and personally) I do a post on Fridays honoring some awesome book that is a bit older. Many of them are books I enjoyed in my teens and others are books that I discovered as an adult that I think are relevant to YA readers.

I have uncovered a book that I had completely forgotten about! The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman was originally published in 1986. This is a fabulous book for both guys and gals that involves adventure, fairness, and even a prince.

Jemmy is the Whipping Boy for Prince Horace. Whenever the Prince does something naughty, Jemmy is the one who must take the punishment for the Prince's actions. Tired of being beaten repeatedly for things he didn't do, Jemmy has decided to run away. With the basic education he has obtained while living in the castle, he's determined to set off for a new life with the freedoms he once enjoyed.

Unfortunately,the Prince has the same idea. Dragging Jemmy along as his servant, the Prince and Jemmy set off. It is not long before they are intercepted by dangerous highway criminals Hold-Your-Nose Billy & Cutwater. The highwaymen want to ransom the Prince back to the castle. Seeing an opportunity for escape, Jemmy claims that he is the Prince. After a clever trick, the boys are free again and continue on their journey.

Of course their freedom only lasts until the highwaymen catch up with them again. Still believing Jemmy to be the Prince, and knowing it to be a crime to harm him, they determine Horace to be the Whipping Boy and beat him instead. Beginning to understand the reality of Jemmy's existence, Horace's character shifts. Soon he is working with Jemmy to get them back to the castle to have the whole situation sorted out. But there are people out there who want the reward that has been posted and the boys must find a way to make it back without being captured again.

This is a fun, educational story. You don't really know that you're learning a moral lesson until you get to the end and put all the pieces together. Jemmy is a wonderful character with such values and standards that one has a tough time reconciling him with the awful child that is Horace. Obviously in this story, money and breeding do not necessary make the most conscientious minded people. The dichotomy between these two boys was staggering and it really helped put the moral in perspective.

The setting really allowed the story to flow easily and the plot moved quickly. This short novel packs a lot of action, intrigue, and fun into just 112 pages. A must-read for all ages, The Whipping Boy is simply fabulous!

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