The Whipping Boy
by Sid Fleishman, published 1986
“What was he looking for, a prince in fine velvets and a crown cocked on his head? Was it clothes that made a prince, Jemmy wondered, just as rags made a street boy?”
What a great children’s book this is! I first heard of it last year when the fifth grade class in my Waldorf Charter school was reading it, but I never had a chance to read it cover to cover until now. A superb example of writing with humor, and capturing an era of the past. I believe the fifth graders were studying the period of history when castles and serfs were sorting out their roles, and this book really nails the royalty issue. But it doesn’t take it head-on. Rather, it’s an adventure in life outside the castle, and learning what it means to fend for oneself. Lots of humility, trust, and friendship is developed along the way. And of course the great lesson that the grass isn’t always greener is there. However, the book makes a more important point that it is worth while to venture out, so that you come back changed. Or as T. S. Eliot put it,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
No question that boys will love this children’s book, but I wonder how the girls in the class handled it, especially the last scenes in the sewers with rats. Yuck, is all I can say. I had to keep reading with my eyes closed 🙂 .
Great children’s book for study of history, or just fun to read.