By Lois Lowry
Published by Yearling/Random House in 2008
Reading The Willoughbys had me laughing out loud. The whimsical and sometimes sardonic wit of Lowry was the perfect relief from any classic children’s tale. The preposterous notions of the Willoughby children and their parents were so unlike any fairy tale I have ever read. The characters in the story are proper children who inspire to live appropriate lives such as the ones in storybooks. However, much like Tom Sawyer in Mark Twain’s classic novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” The Willoughby children resemble public admiration of such nonsensical clichés in romantic children’s literature such as orphans. This often does not follow the logical assumptions of today.
The novel tells of the four Willoughby children and their parents, neither of whom like the other. Odious plots formed by both the parents and children generate a hoard of adventures. Old-fashioned adventures of course, the Willoughbys must be proper after all. All of these end in one marvelous conclusion, which I will not tell you. Just read the book. It’s worth it.
I loved best the characters. I especially liked the children as their innocent, yet corrupted logic led to every journey and turned-upside-down take on classic children’s literature. I also loved the vocabulary. I was challenged enough to keep my dictionary close by in case a new word popped up (and I admit there were one or two). Thankfully a hilarious yet helpful guide was written in the back of the book.
The large vocabulary words may make this difficult for children to read, but I do not by any means discourage it. A handy glossary is included, and without the superbly clever vocabulary, the novels irony would be lost.
I recommend this book for all ages and all people. It’s a perfect little parody you can read on a Sunday afternoon!
I give this a four and a half foxes because it is a worthwhile read and enjoyable for all ages. Also, The sly wit and parody made for a refreshing and hilarious read.