Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Whipping Boy

Sid Fleischman's The Whipping Boy won the Newbery in 1987. It's a light-hearted book, unlike many of the other Newbery winners (here's a couple posts on the serious nature of many of these books).

I thought it was a little too light at first, actually - it reminded me of a weird combination of Mark Twain (both Huck Finn and The Prince and the Pauper) and The Tale of Despereaux (though it should be noted that The Whipping Boy preceded Despereaux by over a decade). I guess it's the medieval folk tale style. Except in The Whipping Boy, Jemmy says "Gaw" a lot instead of "Gor," which was peppered throughout The Tale of Despereaux.

I didn't really care for the illustrations so much either (though I didn't hate them), but like the story, they grew on me. By the end of the book I was thoroughly enjoying both the story and the pictures, and was pleasantly refreshed by the lack of angst, death, and horror.

I think The Whipping Boy is one of the Newbery winners that is well-suited for younger readers as well as older ones (like this adult). If you'd like to read a short, relaxing story about the adventures of Prince Brat, Jemmy, Cutwater, and Hold-Your-Nose Billy in a castle, at a fair, and in the sewers with the hordes of rats that live under a brewery, check it out. I'm going to recommend it to my eleven year old. I think he could use a mental break after he finishes Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (a companion book to The Giver, which is set in a very medieval post-apocalyptic village).

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