Thursday, November 6, 2008

Review: The Willoughbys

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
3 stars

Reasons for reading: assigned it to our kids' book club at the library (without reading it first, oops!); Lois Lowry = children's lit queen; sounded funny

Description: Abandoned by their ill-humored parents to the care of an odious nanny, Tim, the twins, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and their sister, Jane, attempt to fulfill their roles as good oldfashioned children. Following the models set in lauded tales from A Christmas Carol to Mary Poppins, the four Willoughbys hope to attain their proscribed happy ending too, or at least a satisfyingly maudlin one. However, it is an unquestionably ruthless act that sets in motion the transformations that lead to their salvation and to happy endings for not only the four children, but their nanny, an abandoned baby, a candy magnate, and his long-lost son too.

Heather J asks:
Would an almost-7-yr-old boy enjoy this as a read with mom book?

My first thought was, probably not. But then, I think that it depends on your son. If he's got an amazing vocabulary and has already enjoyed longer stories - classics, Roald Dahl, and/or Lemony Snicket, for example - he might. But I found it to be one of those books that's actually aimed more at adults. It is a funny book with kid appeal in that Snickety sort of way, but it's definitely a parody of old-fashioned children's stories like Heidi, The Bobbsey Twins (which I enjoyed - I sneered at the BT's when I was a kid), Anne of Green Gables and many others, including a few I'd never actually heard of, from the 19th century. There are tons of ten-dollar words and even the glossary at the end isn't overly helpful (though it is funny). We haven't had the meeting of my library's 10-13 book club yet, so I'n not sure what their reaction will be, but one girl did tell my assistant that it had too many big words. It was a quick read and I did enjoy it, but I was so conscious of the parody aspect that I found it hard to see as a children's book. But I think that the right, 9-12 year-old reader who gets the joke and who has maybe read a few of the books referenced will get a kick out of it. But I'd say that most almost-7's that I know would be too young.

Here's a post from someone else who found it rather adult-aimed.

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