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The Willoughbys [Hardcover]

Lois Lowry
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 8.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Hardcover 8.29  
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Audio, CD, Audiobook 16.10  

Book Description

3 Sep 2009
“Shouldn’t we be orphans?” one of the Willoughby children suggests one day. The four are, after all, part of an old-fashioned kind of family, and their parents – well, their parents are not all that one would hope for. Recalling literary heroes like Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna and James with his giant peach, the Willoughbys concoct a diabolical plan to turn themselves into worthy and winsome orphans. Little do they know that Mr and Mrs Willoughby have already begun to formulate their own thoroughly despicable plan inspired by another favourite bedtime story: The tale of Hansel and Gretel...

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Boxer Books (3 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906250960
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906250966
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 781,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


It's recommended for eight-10 years but anyone up to treble digits would enjoy the black humour of Lowry's novel. (Bookseller )

About the Author

Lois Lowry was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania and Japan. She has written more than thirty books for readers for all ages, including the Newbery award winning Number the Stars and The Giver. She has recieved many awards for her work, including the Boston GlobeHorn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader Medal, the Mark Twain Award and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for a lifetime contribution to young adult literature. Lois divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark humour 25 Jun 2009
By Rubbah
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
An amusing satire on children's literature about orphans, complete with wicked parents, millionaire recluses and abandoned babies. IIt would probably help to have read some of the books that are referenced in order to get some of the jokes, but I think most children would simply enjoy The Willoughbys for the darkly humourous plot and characters. I especially liked the list of books at the back that are mentioned throughout, for young bibliophiles to be.

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoyes The Series of Unfortunate Events and the Eddie Dickens trilogy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you enjoyed Lemony Snicket's dark and dismal take on childhood adventures, this book may be right up your street. It is clever, well-written, and contains lots of knowing references that adults and more experienced readers will appreciate.

My only complaint with it is that the territory is well trodden at the moment, with the aforementioned Lemony Snicket and others that have followed in his wake, so the approach doesn't feel as fresh as it might. Which is a shame, as this is a very well executed little story and well worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dysfunctional Delight 28 July 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Willoughbys are a dysfunctional family.
Of this there can be no doubt.

Their history, as recorded by Louis Lowry, is a tale
of four, decidedly odd, childrens' struggles with one
another and with their distant, neglectful parents.

Their maladaptive, insular, world is vividly brought to life.

The serendipitous arrival of a warm and tolerant Nanny
(cast very much in the McPhee mould) and an unusual
chance discovery, triggers a series of events in which
good deeds and kindness and more than a little luck
overcome adversity.

The story is also a clever and playful manipulation
of idiomatic convention in which the "real life" of
an "old fashioned" family echoes themes encountered
in childrens' literature over the past century and more.
(Heidi, The Secret Garden and Mary Poppins
to acknowledge but three examples).

Whether this will be self-evident to the younger reader
will depend on their exposure to those other narratives.

The story reads very well out loud.
(Always a good measure of a worthy childrens' book !).

The whimsical glossary is a thoughtful addition.

I Loved It !
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An instant hit with my 9 year old daughter 23 Aug 2009
By purplepadma VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It was difficult for me to read and review this book because it was instantly snatched away by my nine year old daughter, who thought it was wonderful. Paying direct homage to many of the greats of children's literature, "The Willoughbys" follows the four eponymous siblings as they deal with their selfish neglectful parents - who make the twins share a jumper between them, while knitting one for the cat - and the odious nanny employed to watch over them while Mr and Mrs Willoughby set sail with the Reprehensible Travel Agency. The children can only hope that they never return, so they can be orphans, like proper, old fashioned figures in children's literature.

Once the plot has sucked young readers into the world of the Willoughbys (my daughter particularly revelled in the dreadful oppression meted out by Tim to his younger siblings), they are provided at the end with a glossary, which is perhaps useful since nearly everyone and everything in the story is saddled with an adjective from "affable" through to "winsome". A bibilography follows, listing every work of fiction the Willoughby children make use of as the template for proper, old-fashioned life. I fear, however, that my daughter resisted the attempts at education and ended her reading when the story concluded.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkly charming 3 Aug 2009
By S. J. Mitchell VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As a fan of Lemony Snicket, I was pleasantly surprised when I turned the first few pages of this book as the style is vaguely similar. The story of the Willoughbys and their parents' treatment of them is slightly uncomfortable reading, until it becomes apparent that the feeling is mutual! The plot itself is reasonably straightforward but the clever writing is what makes this book stand out. The author is not afraid to use long words, something that a lot of children's writers shy away from and, for those having difficulty, there is a very entertaining glossary at the end. The book is clever, funny and very refreshing, but owing much to stories of other famous orphans so some things will ring bells with older readers.

My only disappointment was in finding that the loose ends were tied up neatly at the end, thus ruling out the possibility of a series. A great read for both children and adults.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun satire of old-fashioned children's classics 30 July 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is fun, especially for adults who have read and enjoyed all the really old-fashioned children's classics; books like Pollyanna, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, The Bobbsey Twins etc. The story satirises these old fashioned tales delightfully, with a family of very knowingly self-ironic children. Despised and neglected by their parents the children devise a plan to get rid of their parents, not knowing of course that mother and father have already hatched a plan to get rid of the children.

You'll find here the bossy controlling boy child, the undermined (and not allowed to play boys' games) girl, twins with the same name, an abandoned baby (project for the children), a rich benefactor... and so on. I really love the old children's classics, but also thoroughly enjoyed this take-the-mickey tale too.

My hesitation is in recommending the book for children. Taken on one level it's quite an engaging read, is funny and travels at a good pace. However, there are a lot of literary allusions and in-jokes which the majority of children today won't get or understand. True, there are probably a good number of girls out there who might have read Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden, but the majority of jokes, or references to children's classics will pass by or confuse (or dare I say bore) many children. I certainly haven't met a child recently who's read 'The Bobbsey Twins' books. There are so many really good contemporary children's books around these days that fewer and fewer youngsters are picking up the classic stories. Try it with children (aged 10+/-) but I'm not convinced it'll be a hit.

Still, a funny and clever read for adults who love the classic children's stories. I enjoyed it enormously.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Story like stories used to be!
This is a lovely book written by someone with an obvious fondness of children's stories in the past - I really enjoyed reading it as an adult as it had knowing references to the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mr. J. A. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars My daughter loved it.
This is quite a different story, particularly as a children's book it starts out with parents who would much rather not have their children at all, so much so that they don't even... Read more
Published on 19 Sep 2009 by DavyA
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh-aloud funny for children and their adults.
This is a very funny combination of black humour for children, the popular "Lemony Snicket" dark take on life combining modern humour with the traditional abandonment theme of... Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2009 by ELH Browning
4.0 out of 5 stars A Well Crafted Tale
The Willoughbys captures the imagination of children with a flowing narative that owes a lot to Roald Dahl and a retro sense of absurd fun. Read more
Published on 4 Aug 2009 by Sunglasses
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Amusing
I thought that this was a highly amusing childrens story. References were made to literary classical tales and the subtle humour, though may be lost on children was entertaining to... Read more
Published on 4 Aug 2009 by Free Spirit
5.0 out of 5 stars funny and easy reading
great book. combines an old fashioned style with modern life. funny, entertaining, makes you want to keep reading. my daughter loved it and had me chuckling. a very good story
Published on 3 Aug 2009 by Syd
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a typical children's book; darkly humourous
It took me quite a while to decide what I thought of this fascinating book. It is absolutely not your typical piece of children's writing, but would probably be suitable for those... Read more
Published on 30 July 2009 by Beansmummy
2.0 out of 5 stars not exctly riveting but...
this is a darkly funny, snide, & arch little story, about 4 children who plan to get rid of their parents so that they can be orphans in the great literary tradition of Pollyanna,... Read more
Published on 29 July 2009 by J. Turner
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a mish mash
In the way that this book knowingly plays on the long tradition of children's literature and exploits the ironies and humour in the seemingly endless supply of wicked... Read more
Published on 29 July 2009 by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley
5.0 out of 5 stars A cautionary tale for bad parents!
The four Willoughby children have parents who are so neglectful that the couldn't even be bothered to give the twins separate names. Read more
Published on 29 July 2009 by Voracious for Books
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