Monday, December 14, 2009

The Whipping Boy

Fleischman, Sid. 1986. The Whipping Boy. New York: Greenwillow.

Once I while, I take time out to catch up on older classics. To that end, I recently read Sid Fleischman’s Newbery Medal winning book from 1986, The Whipping Boy. I’m not sure if it would win a Newbery Medal if it were published today, because later stories (like Kate DiCamillo’s, The Tale of Despereaux and The Magician’s Elephant), perhaps inspired by this comical, yet moving adventure story, have set a new standard for this style of writing. Nevertheless, The Whipping Boy is an amusing tale with plot twists and turns, as the kindly whipping boy is forced to accompany the hated, Prince Brat as he flees from King and castle. Lies and deceptions, murderous thieves, and compassionate peasants will keep the reader guessing about fates of Prince Brat and his whipping boy. Unlike DiCamillo’s stories, The Whipping Boy is a tale of historical fiction, revealing the lifestyles of both medieval royalty and peasantry. And yes, if you’re wondering, according to the author’s end note, “some royal households of past centuries did keep whipping boys to suffer the punishments due a misbehaving prince. History is alive with lunacies and injustices.”

A quick read with black and white illustrations by the renowned Peter Sis, The Whipping Boy is still relevant today, more than 20 years after its debut.

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