Focus on the Family

The Whipping Boy

A book review for parents

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.

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


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.

Other Belief Systems


Profanity/Graphic Violence

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.




Newbery Medal 1987, and more.

Discussion Topics

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

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews 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.