Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Whipping Boy

The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman, is a brilliant work of literature. A whipping boy is a boy plucked off the streets, and when the prince does something naughty or bad, like tying all the lords and dukes powder wigs to the chairs, the whipping boy is called in to take the prince's punishment.

The setting is long ago-there are horse drawn carriages, and powdered wigs, so it seems Georgian. Also there a boiled potatoes--so it has to be after the European discovery of America. The main events take place in a castle, a forest, a town, and a fair.

There are two main characters. First is a spoiled and obnoxious prince, known as Prince Brat. His silliest maneuver--while fleeing the castle (more about this later), he takes his crown with, probably to make villains kneel before him, says the narrator. The second is Jemmy, a boy from the streets, is the whipping boy of the title. Cool fact--Jemmy started out as a rat catcher, but as a whipping boy, he learned to read and write.

In this book, Prince Brat, who is probably one of the most naughty boys in the land, decides to get out of the castle because it is so boring. He has done every single prank he can imagine, and none of them are to his liking. So he decides to run away with his whipping boy...who by the end of the book is his best friend...Jemmy of the streets. In their journey they meet two of the most dreadful villains ever, Hold Your Nose Billy, and Cutwater. They take all the food the boys have, which was mostly packed by Prince Brat, and worse, they ask them to write a letter to the king saying that if he ever wants to see his son again, he will have to bring them a wagon load full of gold. A wagon load. How much is a wagon load? Probably if you got a wagon load full of American dollars you'd be a millionaire.

After easily running away from the baddies, the boys run into a girl with a dancing bear, who scares off the villains who are still on their tail. Then boys, girl, and bear hitch a lift with the hot-potato man who is going to the fair. There they run into Cutwater and Hold Your Nose Billy once again. They flee through sewers...will they be eaten by rats, or will they find some way to escape?

This is probably one of my favorite books. I first heard of it when it was used as a piece of literature we had to correct in my classroom, and my teacher suggested reading it. I looked in her library, but it wasn't there; happily, I found it in the public library. I liked it because the characters were very interesting, and the plot was great!

One especially interesting thing, I think, is that the chapter titles (things like "In which we observe a hair-raising even") treat you not as a reader, but as a character. My mom says this is just an old fashioned style of chapter titling, but I liked it!

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