Title: The Whipping Boy
Author: Sid Fleischman
Genre: Middle Grade, Medieval, but not exactly Historical Fiction.
About the book (Taken from Goodreads):
A shout comes echoing up the stairway "Fetch the whipping boy!"
A young orphan named Jemmy rouses from his sleep. "Ain't I already been whipped twice today? Gaw! What's the prince done now? It was forbidden to spank, thrash, or whack the heir to the throne. Jemmy had been plucked from the streets to serve as whipping boy to the arrogant and spiteful Prince Brat.
Dreaming of running away, Jemmy finds himself trapped in Prince Brat's own dream, at once brash and perilous.
In this briskly told tale of high adventure, taut with suspense and rich with colorful characters, the whipping boy and Prince Brat must at last confront each other.
Award-winning author Sid Fleischman again blends the broadly comic with the deeply compassionate in this memorable novel.
1987 Newbery Medal Winner
There are a lot of big words, old words, and old British slang that will make this a difficult read for some middle graders. Example: “Your Pa ‘ll scrag me with his bare hands! So I’ll be obliged if you’d help me nip out o’ here.” For this reason, the book works best as a “Read to.” I recently read it aloud to a group of 2nd-3rd graders and they loved it, but we had to stop repeatedly and clarify what the characters were saying and the meanings of some of the more uncommon words.
Despite the difficulties of language, this is such a fun story, full of adventure and escapes. Plot-wise it is pretty simple to follow, though the twists are not at all predictable for younger children, and they did great trying to guess what Jemmy’s schemes and escape plans might be.
I can recommend this book as a classroom read, but not necessarily as a Historical Fiction as it is often labeled. It reads more like “The Prince and the Pauper” as it is set in a Medieval-ish era. Neither the events nor the ending are believable enough to label it historical fiction.
Overall: Five stars. For such a short book, quite a lot happens, and despite the difficult words, I have found most children really enjoy the story. There is a moral, but it is not overly “moralistic” nor does it talk down to the reader. The “lesson” is buried deep in the adventure, and although the ending is not particularly believable, it ends well.