The Whipping Boy: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Valerie Keenan

Valerie has taught elementary school and has her master's degree in education.

Join Jemmy and Prince Brat as they embark on a journey and together face villainous crooks, dancing bears, and sewer rats. Two seemingly opposite boys will have to work together and overcome their dislike for one another to get home.

An Unlikely Pair

The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman, is a story of adventure, courage, and friendship. In the beginning of the book, we are introduced to the main characters: Prince Brat and his whipping boy, Jemmy.

Prince Brat lives up to his nickname by causing trouble on a daily basis. He does whatever it takes to get his papa, the king, to notice him. Jemmy, once a rat catcher in the sewers, serves as the whipping boy for Prince Brat. This means that he takes the punishments for the mischievous prince because it is forbidden for anyone to lay a hand on the heir to the throne.

The whipping boy took punishments in place of the prince.

Runaways and Bandits

On a foggy night, the action of the story begins. Prince Brat commands Jemmy to help him run away from the castle, and Jemmy obeys with the secret plan to abandon the prince at his first chance. Before they can get too far, the boys are kidnapped by a pair of bandits named Hold-Your-Nose-Billy and Cutwater.

When the crooks discover that one of their captives is the prince, they immediately begin plotting how they will get rich. Jemmy devises a plan of his own that he believes will serve both himself and Prince Brat well: He convinces their captors that he is actually the prince, because, unlike his companion who has never paid attention during school, he can read and write very well. Despite Prince Brat's protests and disgust, Hold-Your-Nose-Billy and Cutwater are convinced.

Jemmy writes a ransom letter, and when Hold-Your-Nose-Billy leaves to deliver it, he escapes with Prince Brat on his tail.

A Change of Heart

While they are on the run, the boys encounter their captors once again, and Prince Brat is whipped severely because the villains still believe that he is the whipping boy. Although Jemmy himself has never cried or screamed during a whipping, he is amazed when the prince shows the same courage.

A woman named Betsy and her dancing bear, Petunia, end up saving the boys and scaring the scoundrels off. They also meet Captain Harry Nips and his hot potato cart. Together, this group makes it to the fair. Here, Prince Brat learns what the commoners really think of him and what life is like outside the castle walls. He also gets to meet people from Jemmy's life on the streets like Smudge and 'Ol Johnny Tosher.

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