Newbery Book Review

The Whipping Boy

This week I’ve especially felt the Christmas cheer.  It’s December and with the induction of its first week the weather has dutifully obliged to give us below freezing temps.  Brr.  But the weather is not the reason for my cheer.  Forrest and I had decided this year that we were going to go a-hunting for our Christmas tree at an honest to goodness tree farm instead of picking one out from a lot or purchasing a plastic one (are they plastic?) from Wal-Mart.  My dear co-worker allowed us to come pick one out from her beautiful tree farm this morning, and even though she thought it looked like a Charlie Brown tree, I fell in love with it.  Rufus is his name.  (I don’t know why.  It just is.)

Then, earlier this week Forrest and I got home pretty late from work and there was a HUGE package outside of our door just begging to be opened.  In it were treats from his relatives, the Brown’s, which included: homemade caramel corn, yogurt covered pretzels, gifts to be opened on Christmas, and…a gorgeous wreath for our door that smelled divinely of pine.  Thanks guys!! Our house looks all the more festive because of this generous gift of love.

And now to the best reason for my cheer: MY PARENTS ARE COMING FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!  (Whew.)  My current employment doesn’t really encourage long Christmas holiday’s so I told my parents they should come here.  But money is tight so all of us were just praying for a miracle.  Well, miracles do happen because they’re coming!  It was the best news I’ve had all week.  (wish I had a picture to put here but i don’t.  after the holidays.)

It’s been a good week.  Trees, wreaths, family, knitting projects wrapping up, and Newbery books.  Always Newbery books. :)  I actually got up the nerve this week at my Library volunteer hours to chat with one of the children’s librarians about Newbery books, and I got so much more excited than I’ve already been about the upcoming decision for Newbery 2010.  The conversation also gave me a little encouragement with regards to my current plodding through past winners.  I think everyone can relate to starting a project with gusto and then petering out after a few weeks.  I’ve been going strong for eight weeks now (wow) and the petering out is starting to settle in.  Thankfully, I’ve been reminded a few times this week that I do want to keep going and it only feels like a lot right now because I’m trying to tackle so many other things.

But let’s get down to brass tacks.

This week’s winner was The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman.  It was…interesting.  The question I’d like us all to ponder is: why was this one chosen?  It’s got some historical background in that whipping boys did exist.  When a prince misbehaved his whipping boy received the punishment instead of him.  Horrific.  I know!  Let’s make a kids book out of it.  I’m sorry for the sarcasm, but I’m really puzzled by this Newbery choice.  It was really short so I kind of got attached to the characters.  Kind of.  I was glad when Prince Brat turned out not to be a brat at the end, and I was glad that Jemmy, the whipping boy, didn’t have to be a whipping boy at the end.  But  I still don’t really like it all that much.  There were actually several things about it that made me uncomfortable.  First of all, the reality of a kid being beaten for someone elses behavior makes me sad.  It reminds me of slavery and the idea that certain people were, and still are, regarded as less than human.  Secondly, some of the illustrations were disturbing to me. I know it probably wasn’t intentional but one of the pictures is very sexual and immediately made me feel sick to my stomach.  I’m probably painting a horrible picture of this book for you so I ask that with this book, and all the other books I review, that you read the book yourself to determine what you think.  It’s just my opinion, not fact.

Anyway, there you have it.  I’m not a fan of 1987.  But if I recall my childhood correctly Year 1986 is a winner.  Um, pun not initially intended.

Till next time…

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4 thoughts on “The Whipping Boy

  1. Hooray for miracles!! I do believe in them and yet life has a way of jading my heart at times. But this week my jaded heart melted when friends called to say they had purchased two tickets for us to fly to the NW to celebrate Christmas with you and Forrest. A true miracle! Wow!

    I have to say I don’t want to read this particular book. It does make my heart sick to think of a whipping boy. As I read your review it caused me to think of Jesus and how He became wounded for our sin. That He took our punishment and gave us grace instead. As I thought of that I thought of how grateful I am for Christmas. For the Baby born in a stable. For His sacrifice on the cross…taking my punishment and making me clean…with the promise of eternity with Him. Now that’s a real miracle!

    We can’t wait to see you guys!!! Just writing that makes my heart soar with pure delight!

  2. 1) I just spouted off to Chris and my cats about the aesthetic beauty of your writing voice – I can’t hold it in. You really have a gift of weaving eloquently phrased, poetically constructed sentences with deadpan one-liners and terms from left field. It keeps a reader engaged, thinking, and entertained. Please always write.

    2) Can your dad, along with everyone else, relate to starting a project and then petering out? Is he particularly familiar with petering out, or is he exempt?

    • He feels very picked on:)…from “petering out” to “rob Peter to pay Paul” to “the Peter principle”. I say “hooray for having a name everyone can pronounce on sight! so get over it!” :)

      And I wholeheartedly concur..KEEP WRITING!!

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