Book Review: The Willoughbys

The Willoughbys
Lois Lowry

I’ve been thrusting this book into the hands of most of the adults who have come into my radius recently. While most of us, me included, think of Lowry in such terms as the author of The Giver and Number the Starsthis gives one an entirely different view of her–writing humorous children’s satire.

The Willoughbys
is a good old fashioned story about children who belong in such a story. Only, they’re not orphans. And really, they should be. For you see, in keeping with tradition, their parents wish to be rid of them. So while the children send their parents off on hopefully death-inducing adventures (crocodiles and volcanoes anyone?), the parents try to sell the house out from underneath their children. There is an abandoned baby, an odious nanny who is an excellent cook, a kindly old wealthy gentleman who has lost his family, and a number of other twists and turns. All of these are brought together with references to many children’s classics (Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, James and the Giant Peach) which, if understood, will send the reader giggling to the finish.

It’s a quick read and I highly recommend it but I will make one caveat. Lowry expects her readers to be pretty well read on those children’s classics or at least have a pretty strong understanding of the stories. For anything one isn’t familiar with, there is a glossary with summaries of the stories in the back as well as a glossary of vocabulary. While I didn’t really feel particularly as though I missed much in the couple of stories that I hadn’t read (Ragged Dick for example), I still knew and got the jokes that attended most of the stories and I wonder if someone who didn’t know the majority of the references would find it as amusing. I could see this potentially being a confusing barrier for young readers.

But as the majority of you are adults–hie thee to a library and giggle over The Willoughbys. It’s an hour well spent.