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The Whipping Boy

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Book Review

This adventure by Sid Fleischman is published by HarperCollins Publishers and is written for kids ages 6 to 10. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Jemmy, an orphan, is whipped whenever Prince Horace disobeys. The prince, also known as Prince Brat, is an extremely naughty boy and does not learn his studies. Instead, Jemmy learns them because he is frequently beaten in the schoolroom during class instruction. One night, the prince demands that Jemmy run away from the castle with him. Once on the outside, they are kidnapped. Because of Jemmy's ability to read and write, the kidnappers think Jemmy is the prince and Prince Horace is the whipping boy. Twice Jemmy comes up with a plan to free the prince, but the prince refuses to go along with either plan. Even though the whole mess has been the prince's fault, Jemmy knows he'll be blamed for it. When Jemmy tries to escape, Prince Horace tells the kidnappers where Jemmy has hid. Jemmy and Prince Horace finally escape together, and only then does Prince Horace realize how little he knows about the real world. Together, they find driftwood to sell, help pull a wagon out of the mud and flee into the sewers to escape the kidnappers. In the end, Prince Horace outsmarts the kidnappers and saves their lives. Prince Horace and Jemmy return to the castle as friends.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

The king wants to train his son without disciplining him. The king makes a whipping boy (Jemmy) receive all of Prince Horace's punishments. As a result, Prince Horace doesn't learn his lessons, and everyone calls him Prince Brat behind his back. Two cutthroats, Cutwater and Hold-Your-Nose Billy, kidnap Jemmy and Horace and are easily fooled. They think Jemmy is the prince because Horace can't read or write.


There is talk of beatings, torture and boiling in oil. Jemmy is whipped for Prince Horace, and the outlaws whip Prince Horace when they think Jemmy is the prince. Cutwater threatens Jemmy with death if Horace doesn't deliver their demands to the king.



Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • Why do you think there were designated whipping boys in castles?
  • Was a whipping boy an effective way to discipline royalty?

  • How would you feel if someone else was hurt when you did something wrong?

  • How would you feel if you were hurt every time someone else did something wrong?

  • Are others ever hurt when you misbehave?

  • How do your actions affect your family and friends?

  • Why do you think Jemmy can't leave Prince Horace behind when he has the opportunity to travel in the potato carriage?

  • Why does Jemmy do what is right by Prince Horace when the prince had always been cruel to him?

  • How does God want you to treat your enemies? (See Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-36.)

  • How does Prince Horace change because of what Jemmy did for him?

Additional Comments/Notes

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

6 to 10




Sid Fleischmann






Record Label



HarperCollins Publishers



Year Published



Newbery Medal 1987


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