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The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
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May 06, 12

bookshelves: humor, juvie
Read in July, 2010

In this hilarious tongue-firmly-in-cheek children’s novel, Lois Lowry explores the world of juvenile literature cliches, and creates an easy-to-read chapter book at the same time.

The Willoughby family consists of four ordinary children — Tim, the bossy rule maker, twins Bartleby A and B, and Jane, who is easily cowed by her older siblings but still gets a word in edgewise now and then. Their parents… well… “The Willoughby parents frequently forgot that they had children and became quite irritable when they were reminded of it.” The children, after having perused classic children’s literature such as “James and the Giant Peach,” “The Secret Garden,” “Anne of Green Gables,” and other heavily endorsed saccharine-sweet stories, decide that they really ought to be orphans in order to be able to get the best out of their childhood. And their parents, after a bed-time reading of “Hansel and Gretel” decide that they would be happier without their offspring. A nanny is hired, a vacation for the parents is planned, and many books are made fun of.

Though this book is marketed to children, particularly 8-12 year olds, older teens and even adults will enjoy laughing at some of the decisions made by the Willoughby children in order to become more “like children in an old-fashioned book.” In particular, those who have read many of the alluded-to old-fashioned books will acknowledge how funny some of the cliches and idealism are when viewed through the eyes of today’s children. Best when read with a good sense of humor.
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