Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

This is a strange little book. It's a spoof of old-fashioned stories in which plucky orphans triumph over nasty adults with the help of equally plucky nannies. The four Willoughby children aren't yet orphans, but they wish they were since their parents are so horrible. When a baby is abandoned on their doorstep (another old-fashioned story element) they take it to a decrepit mansion and abandon the baby all over again. This sets off a chain of events leading them to a predictably happy ever after ending. It's not a book with deep ideas or character development. Rather, it seems that the author is just enjoying herself and reveling in telling a quirky tale. Lowry is writing for adults as well as kids--she frequently mentions other old-fashioned stories such as The Bobbsey Twins, The Secret Garden, Little Women, and many more. In this satire, some of the adults are truly evil or truly stupid (ala Roald Dahl and Lemony Snickett), and kids will enjoy the dark side of this tale. The Willoughbys could be read by kids from 4th-7th grades. Younger kids will enjoy the story while older kids will see more of the humor.

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