The Willoughbys Hardcover – 3 Sep 2009
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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.
Top customer reviews
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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.
I recognised the spoofing of my childhood library, and as my little sister (11 years-old) has inherited and read that library, I don't think that the references will go over her head. I think most adults tend to forget that 9-12 year olds (who I think this book is aimed at) do have a well developed sense of irony, and an appreciation of the ridiculous (e.g. Roald Dahl's enduring popularity). My sister has yet to finish reading it, but once she does I'll post her thoughts as well.
(Even if I'm wrong about her 'well developed sense of irony'...)
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
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 !
I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoyes The Series of Unfortunate Events and the Eddie Dickens trilogy.
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.
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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