Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Whipping Boy

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman was illustrated by Peter Sis. This was a very quick read and full of mini-adventures that would probably entertain most children. The illustrations were in black and white and quite the match to the story. We have all probably heard the phrase "whipping boy" and while we knew what was meant by the words, I know I was not really sure how the terms came into use. The Phrase Finder provides some history of the term and traces it to the 15th and 16th centuries in England. It is interesting to note that the practice was NOT to use street urchins, but to select one of near-noble birth...this is contradicted by the story by Fleishhman.

So, on to the story: Jemmy was the orphaned son of a rat-catcher who lived in the sewers of the city before he was brought to the castle to serve as the whipping boy for Prince Brat, as he was not so lovingly referred to by his subjects. Each time the Prince did something wrong, Jemmy was whipped. Because the Prince was bored, he decided to run away and Jemmy was to go with him to serve as his man-servant. The two soon run into trouble and many fabulous characters as they navigate around the city hiding from the king's men who were searching for the Prince. As the two boys overcome many obstacles, they slowly become friends. They eventually make their way back to the palace where all is forgiven and the two boys remain friends and companions - with no more whippings!

In the author's note at the end of the book, Fleishman says, "History is alive with lunacies and injustices." I suppose that is why I spent six years of my life studying history with all of its insanity!


PS. If you are a librarian (or even if you aren't I suppose), check out the YouTube post at my work related blog, LibrarysCat. It is a wonderful affirmation of what we, as librarians, should be doing to move the field into the 21st century! Also, this book post will be posted at my book blog Now that my required work blogging is done, I can concentrate more on reading!


Sandy D. said...

Bit of trivia here - Sid is the father of Paul Fleischman (author of "Joyful Noise". Father-son Newbery winners.

Library Cat said...

I saw that! What a family legacy. I also meant to write that the illustrator was Czech and actually sought political asylum here in the US - he now has many books to his name, but this one was his first success as an illustrator.